How Sexual Assault Can Impact Your Physical Health, Even Years Later

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The body’s natural reaction to dealing with the trauma of sexual assault can have negative effects on a person’s long-term physical health.

Sexual assault can affect a survivor’s health in a number of ways.

by Leah Campbell

When Amber Stanley was 23 years old, a friend’s boyfriend raped her.

They had all been at a party together. She had fallen asleep in one of the spare rooms. When she woke up, he was on top of her.

“There were children asleep in the house, so I was afraid to scream,” she told Healthline. “I didn’t want to scare them or for them to see what was happening if they woke up.”

She told her friend what had happened the next day, and then went to the police. But there, she was essentially revictimized when the police officer with whom she filed her report questioned her story and credibility.

“He flat out told me that if he could prove I was lying, he would press charges against me. My rapist was in the army, a ‘national hero,’ so my word wasn’t good enough and he was never prosecuted,” she said.

Stanley says she’s been in therapy on and off for the last 13 years, trying to deal with what happened to her that night. And she still struggles with anxiety today.

“I don’t like feeling like I’m not in control of things. And I don’t like being around groups of people who are drinking, or alone at night doing things like shopping. I’m highly suspicious of strangers, even more so now that I have three daughters,” she said.

For Stanley, one of the worst nights of her life has turned into a lifelong struggle. And she’s not alone.

The many effects of sexual assault on health

A recent study presented at The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) annual meeting in October revealed that a history of sexual harassment was associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and clinically poorer sleep quality.

For survivors of sexual assault, there was an increase in depressive symptoms, anxiety, and sleep issues consistent with clinical disorders as well.

In other words, experiencing sexual harassment or sexual assault contributed to negative long-term health outcomes for survivors.

Sexual assault survivor advocates also report that survivors may be more resistant to going to the dentist and doctor, as both can require a fair amount of trust and invasiveness. This can contribute to health complications as well.

Out of 300 study participants, 19 percent reported workplace sexual harassment, 22 percent reported a history of sexual assault, and 10 percent reported having experienced both.

In light of the recent #MeToo movement, those numbers are only surprising because of how low they are.

A national study on sexual harassment and assault released by the organization Stop Street Harassment in February 2018 reported that 81 percent of women would experience some form of sexual harassment or sexual assault in their lifetime.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center also reports that 1 in 5 women will be raped at some point in their lives, 1 in 3 women will experience some form of contact sexual violence, and nearly two-thirds of college students will experience sexual harassment.

This means there are a lot of women potentially susceptible to a host of long-term health complications.

What experts say

Lisa Fontes, PhD, is a researcher, activist, author, and psychotherapist. She told Healthline that sexual assault and sexual harassment are both considered trauma. During trauma, the body releases hormones that help a person cope with the emergency.

“The body releases cortisol to avoid pain and inflammation, and it raises our blood sugar to help us flee from danger. Unfortunately, these physical responses become long-lasting for many survivors of sexual assault and harassment, contributing to poor health,” she said.

She explains sexual harassment is considered a “chronic stressor,” because it’s typically sustained over time. Child abuse and intimate partner sexual abuse also often involve repeated assaults, leading the survivor into a constant state of hyperalertness.

“Even a one-time sexual assault can produce long-term consequences as the survivor copes with intrusive memories that make her feel as if she is enduring parts of the assault again and again,” Fontes added.

Healthline also spoke to Elaine Ducharme, PhD, a board-certified clinical psychologist. She talks about the repeated trauma that occurs even with singular assaults.

“You have the trauma at the time the event happens,” she explained. “Then if it’s reported, there is repeated trauma because you are talking about it and dealing with it again and again throughout the process of pursuing charges.”

But even for those who don’t report or press charges, the trauma can continue.

“For people who have children, we often see a flare-up of trauma when the child reaches the age they were at the time the assault occurred,” Ducharme explained. “And even for women who think they are fine, years down the line they may see a movie with a rape scene and suddenly feel like they want to throw up.”

A recent national survey estimates 81 percent of women will experience some form of sexual harassment or sexual assault in their lifetime.

For many women, the recent #MeToo movement has proven to be empowering and healing. But for some, it’s resulted in having to relive those memories and experience the trauma all over again.

For those women, Ducharme suggests taking a break from media and considering a return to therapy.

“They may need to learn ways to manage the anxiety that can be triggered by some of this, and using mindfulness can be helpful,” she said. “I’m a huge believer in working with my clients to help them settle themselves down and be mindful and in the moment, trying to learn to stay present.”

“I don’t blame the #MeToo movement for the fact that we are hearing more about sexual assault these days,” Fontes added. “I blame the assailants and the years of cover-ups.”

Getting help

When asked what advice she would have for women struggling with the mental and physical health implications of their past experiences with sexual harassment or sexual assault, Fontes said, “There is power and healing in numbers.”

If you’re currently struggling, Fontes suggests the following:

  • See if your local women’s crisis center has a discussion group you could join.
  • Seek psychotherapy.
  • Speak with trusted loved ones about how you’re feeling.

She says those who return to therapy may not need a lot of sessions — just a few to figure out how to cope with the new landscape.

“Sexual abuse is so common. There is no reason any woman has to feel like she is alone, or to suffer alone,” Fontes said.

Organizations like the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) can also provide resources and support. You can call RAINN’s 24/7 national sexual assault hotline at 800-656-4673 for anonymous, confidential help. You can also chat with them online.

Complete Article HERE!

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Recovering the Beauty of Sex

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By Joseph A. Barisas and William F. Long

Last week, a group of students hosted Harvard Sex Week, a series of widely-publicized events with titles ranging from “Hit Me Baby One More Time: BDSM in the Dorm Room” and “Bloody Good! An Intro to Period Sex” to “One is Not Enough: Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy, & Polyamory.” The Undergraduate Council and the Harvard Foundation shared the distinction of sponsoring these talks with, among others, various retailers of exotic sex toys, lubricants, and condoms.

Over our years at Harvard, we’ve seen our fair share of the extreme and the avant-garde, but this year’s programming managed to shock even us. The idea that a week including BDSM and polyamory could possibly contribute anything to a healthy understanding of sex struck us as entirely backward. Why has our dialogue about sex, something which should be considered intimate and reverent and profound, become simply an outlet for our unrestrained desires and debased passions?

The answer, we suspect, likely has something to do with the fact that Harvard teaches us from our very first week on campus an oversimplified attitude towards sex that we might call the “consensual” philosophy of sex. Each year during Opening Days, freshmen sit through a mandatory theatrical production called “Speak About It” in which, over an hour of sexual reenactments, they learn that as long as they have “consent,” they are free to engage in whatever with whomever they please. What matters is not the act consented to, but the consent itself. While consent is obviously essential to the very nature of sex, there is so much more to it than just a verbal assent extracted from the other party in order to do whatever one desires.

Because there are no other normative guidelines on what true and good sex is, this ambivalence inevitably reduces sex, one of the most powerful and meaningful components of the human experience, to what many young people invariably want it to be: a purely physical act whose primary function is to produce pleasure and satisfy passions. It matters not with whom one engages in it, neither the duration or depth of that relationship, nor yet the further continuance of the relationship. To speak of its emotional and spiritual aspects feels awkward and anachronistic, and discussion of its procreative nature, arguably the most essential characteristic of sex, is avoided like the plague.

But the consequences of this cheapened, hollowed-out view of sex are heartbreaking. They can be seen in a culture of one-night-stands and hook-ups, fueled by alcohol, often ending in indifference and, occasionally, emotional trauma. Young men and women learn to see one another as means to gratification and not ends in themselves, infinitely valuable and unique. A woman who had suffered the emotional toll of being ghosted once too many times asked in a New York Times column whether by consenting to hook-up culture, she had also consented to its premise of detachment and self-centeredness. When we lower our standards of acceptable sexual behavior to merely what is legal, we should not be surprised to see our personal standards of sexual morality drop and unbridled license expand to fill the void.

A sexual ethic that bases its standards solely on what is allowed teaches students that they are being moral by merely staying within the bounds of the law. A robust ethic has positive rather than solely negative norms. Students learn implicitly a definition of sex as allowance, where anything not prohibited is good, instead of realizing that boundaries and reason help make sex the entirely unique and wonderful thing it is. Paradoxically, this prohibitive ethic in which we are currently immersed destroys the possibility of allowing people to see sex as a good and honorable and beautiful thing.

One of the self-proclaimed objectives of Sex Week was to “connect diverse individuals and communities both within and beyond Harvard,” and the group that runs it aims to “open up campus dialogue.” This is an aspiration we can certainly agree with, and we want to begin engaging in this dialogue by rejecting the premise that the ethic of “consent” is sufficient to create a culture of sex that truly empowers and connects.

Couldn’t we all agree that true sex requires genuine care for the other party and to have their best interest at heart? The moment we impose this reasonable requirement, we recategorize a wide swath of sexual behavior — drunken one-night-stands for instance — as instead a sort of glorified mutual masturbation. As we continue to positively construct sex by considering its many natural and valuable facets, we begin to elevate its dignity and purpose and reestablish a philosophy of sexual ethics that we believe benefits everyone. At the Harvard College Anscombe Society, we believe among other things that true sex should be a total and unreserved giving of oneself to another, physically, emotionally, psychologically, biologically, and spiritually. Its primary function is unitive, tying two people in an indissoluble bond, and procreative, wherein the love shared between the two manifests itself in the miracle of human life.

Only when we take every aspect of sex seriously and consider it in its proper framing, can we recover its natural beauty and value. Admittedly, constructing a full alternative vision of sex is not something that can be easily done in an op-ed, and the Anscombe Society — through meetings and public talks, including one with world-renowned moral philosopher Dr. Janet E. Smith this week — hopes to continue this ongoing dialogue about true love.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Ways to Be More Sexual…

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Even When You’re Not in Bed

By Amy Stanton & Catherine Connors

Getting in touch with your erotic self can help you feel more authentic, and confident too.

This may seem counterintuitive in a culture that celebrates the Kardashians and made 50 Shades of Grey a bestseller, but female sexual power has always been controversial.

Women who own their erotic power have, for pretty much all of human history, been seen as dangerous and disruptive. (Who is Eve, after all, if not a brazen woman who tempts an otherwise innocent man? And she, apparently, caused humanity to be kicked out of paradise as a result!) History and theology are full of tales of women whose sexual power caused the downfall of nations and peoples. From the Hindus’ Mohini to the Greeks’ Sirens to the Old Testament’s Jezebel, Delilah, and Salome to Stormy Daniels—sexually confident women have been long characterized as capital-T Trouble.

It’s not hard to figure out why: women’s sexual power has long been directly associated with men’s sexual weakness. Delilah’s cutting of Samson’s hair is a figurative castration: a sexually powerful woman can rob a man of his strength and will and render him vulnerable. Other cultures viewed a man’s falling under the influence of a woman as so disempowering that it could only be the work of demons or other supernatural forces. And we all know the tragedy of the cuckold (who persists to the present day in the idea of the “cuck”): sexually duped by a woman, the cuckolded man can’t know who his real children are, and so is effectively impotent. (That this became the basis for The Maury Povich Show is arguably a compounded tragedy.)

The idea that women shouldn’t be sexually empowered runs so deep that we often don’t realize how much it influences us. Take the notion of the “slut” and the double standard it purveys. According to author and journalist Peggy Orenstein, “A sexually active girl [or woman] is a slut while a similar boy [man] is a player.” Apart from “player,” we don’t really have words to describe the sexually active boy or man. Girls and women are called “sluts,” “whores,” “slags,” “slatterns,” and (for older women) “cougars,” to name a few. And although we shame unabashedly sexual women (think of how much vitriol gets aimed at Kim Kardashian), we also vilify the so-called prude who suppresses her sexuality. To say that these double standards and contradictions create a confusing landscape for girls and women is an understatement.

It’s not only confusing… it’s also a dangerous landscape. In the era of #metoo, #BelieveHer, and #WhyIDidntReport, we are more aware than ever that our confidence—sexual or otherwise—won’t protect us from the risk of assault. And even though we know that the arguments about constraining women’s sexual freedom for our own protection are completely bogus–even dangerous—it’s hard to not absorb the chill of those messages. So how do we claim and own our sexual power? How can we use it in a way that promotes our emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being?

We think the starting point is to get in touch with your erotic self. Explore your sexual identity so that you can get to know it better. As Amy discusses in our book, The Feminine Revolution, one of the ways she does this is by embracing her love of lingerie—a love that started for her, because it made her feel great and then if men appreciate it, even better. For Catherine it’s been a process of embracing sensuality in all its forms—not just sexual—and getting to know what moves and inspires her senses. For you, it could be something completely different—what matters is only that you get started. Ask yourself, What makes me feel good? What makes me feel sexually and sensually gratified—and confident? And consider trying a few of these tricks:

Practice the skill of erotic observation

Explore what it feels like to “love” a sunset or the curve of smoke above a fire—and cultivate connection to beauty everywhere you find it. Your erotic self is defined by its connection to beauty and spirit in all forms, so being in touch with your erotic—and, by extension, sexual—power requires practicing appreciation of those things outside the sphere of sex and romance.

Use your senses

Sexuality is a power of the mind, but also, of course, of the body, and so the practiced exercise of sexual power requires connection to the senses. But this isn’t restricted to the sexual experiences of the senses—on the contrary, honing your senses more broadly can only enhance more, um, specific sensual experiences. Pay attention to what delights your senses. Is it the taste of fine wine or great chocolate? Is it the warmth of crackling fires, the feel of wind in your hair, the tingling of your muscles after a run? Do more of that. Find more of that.

Own your physicality

The way you sit, the way you walk—every movement plays into your sexual power. How can this work to your advantage? How can you express yourself intentionally through your movement? Pilates is a great way to get really specific with your various body parts and learn how to move and control them. Dance allows you to free and express yourself. Bring attention to how you’re walking down the street and how you feel.

Experiment

Try different ways of expressing and feeling your sensuality and sexuality. See how it feels. Play with it—visit extremes and fantasies. What feels right? Perhaps you’ll find you’ve been playing it too safe, and there’s room to indulge. Or maybe you’ll find that you want to dial it back. No matter what, the result is clarity and power.

Find inspiration in others

Look to sexual/sensual/erotic role models as a way to find your own approach to sexuality. Consider people across the gender spectrum: Whom do you find sexy? Why? What about that person is sexually or erotically compelling? Is it his or her physical beauty or sense of style, intelligence, or charisma? Understanding what we find erotic—what we desire—can help us find our own sexual being.

As we explore our femininity, our feminine power and, as part of that, our sexuality and sexual power, let’s not forget it’s a journey. A journey of freeing ourselves, learning what makes us feel our best and most confident and moving towards true authenticity. Towards a better world for us and for those around us.

Complete Article HERE!

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For the Best Sex of Your Life—Ask Old People

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Not only is senior sex better than younger sex, reveals sex expert Joan Price, but millennials could actually master a more fulfilling iteration of lovemaking from their elders—one that’s based on extended arousal and less pressure to perform.

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Most of us are scared to get old, anxious that silver hair, crinkly eyes and the looming possibility of needing a walker signal the end of life as we know it. More secretively, many of us fear that the outward signs and symptoms of a life long-lived make us less desirable—not just as people, but as partners.

Not surprisingly, one of the most common anxieties people of all ages harbor about growing older is the death of their sex lives.

“I genuinely fear the day I’m old and wrinkled and my boobs are saggy,” Sophie, a newly married 30-year-old fashion executive, tells me. “I wonder, ‘Will my husband and I still find each other attractive? What is sex going to be like for us after 40 years together when I used to be hot and now I’m 70

The answer to that question will vary depending on who you ask, but pose it to Joan Price and she’ll give you one you might not expect.

“At 70?” she laughs. “Sex can be amazing. Expiration dates are for milk, not for pleasure.”

At 74, Joan is the nation’s leading and most outspoken expert on senior sex. A prolific public speaker and the author of three critically acclaimed books, a bevy of free webinars and a popular blog on the subject, Joan traverses the globe, spreading the good word that for people over 50, sex can be not only just as good as it was during a person’s fertile, more flexible years, but better.

“With the right education and sense of humor, the so-called limitations of sexuality in your golden years can actually be reframed as benefits,” Joan argues from her sunny home in Sebastopol, California. “Later-life sex can mean more intimacy, more time spent giving and receiving arousal and pleasure, and a delicious expansion of what people thought they were capable of in bed.”

Truth be told, much research has found sex gets better with age. As the years add up, people become more comfortable in their bodies and are often more adventurous when it comes to trying new things. And while sex in a person’s later years is more often defined by quality rather than quantity, rates of sex amongst the elderly are nearly indistinguishable from those of younger generations: nearly 75 percent of people between the ages of 57-64, and a quarter of those aged 75-85, are still getting it on roughly three times per month, which is only slightly less than those aged 30-49.

Joan is also happy to report that seniors are doing a lot more exciting things with their time than chastely knitting in the warm glow of The Price is Right—they’re watching porn, having kinky sex, dating online, using sex toys and happily engaging in consensual non-monogamy. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that a recent survey by Match.com found that age 66 (not 26) is the age at which women report having the most pleasurable sex. For men, it’s 64.

This would have been valuable information for Joan to know when she experienced the best sex of her life at 57 with the 64-year-old man who’d eventually become her husband (the late and great Robert). It might have reassured them both that the “glorious” sex they were having wasn’t actually that uncommon for people their age. It might have confirmed her suspicion that, despite the messages mainstream media beats into all of us, a few gray hairs and a few less hormones aren’t actually obstacles to a long life of great, post-retirement sex.

At the very least, it would have been nice to have a resource that could explain the unlikely passion she was experiencing because she and Robert were having mind-blowing passionate sex during a period in their lives where they were supposed to focus on getting their hips replaced. She wanted help understanding why, after a menopause-induced dry spell that left her thinking her sex life was caput, she and her new lover were suddenly more sexually voracious than they’d ever been.

But that sort of information didn’t exist 14 years ago. In fact, hardly anyone even dared to broach the topic of old-age sex. Apart from the odd book that did little more than admit old people were sexually active, there weren’t many examples that Joan could find in literature, TV, film or research that portrayed old-age sex as healthy or normal—let alone hot. The long-lived stereotype of an old-married couple passing their sexual prime and living out their remaining years as platonic companions prevailed, and without role models or media representation willing to prove it wrong, it had run rampant.

“People didn’t want to hear about this stuff back then,” Joan remembers. “Publishing companies wouldn’t publish books about old-age sex. People wouldn’t hire speakers who wanted to talk about it. There was very little information.”

It was actually Robert who suggested that, since there was such little information in the arena of elderly sex, she should fill it herself. Why not write a book of her own that not just documented, but actually celebrated, senior sex? At age 61, she released her first book on senior lovemaking, Better Than I Ever Expected, a straight-talking ode to old age that detailed the passion she and Robert shared, chronicling in no uncertain terms the delights and challenges of sex after 60. The book attracted so much attention that she started a blog by the same name, which quickly became one of the only places on the internet where seniors could go for sex education that catered specifically to their needs.

No topic is too racy for Joan—she flits from masturbation to sex toys to non-monogamy with a fearless directness refreshingly uncharacteristic of someone with her mileage. She’s disarmingly buoyant too. Her voice conveys a certain brightness one might not expect during discussions about how Alzheimer’s affects a person’s sex life or how sex toys can facilitate orgasms when it’s no longer as easy.

While Joan says older folks are typically relieved by her willingness to go there, younger people are surprised to hear her talk like that. Why wouldn’t they be?

Apart from the stray sex-positive TV show (see: Frankie & Grace, Transparent, and, to a certain degree, Golden Girls), senior sex, if it’s shown at all, is almost always depicted as ridiculous, gross, or non-existent. Ever seen Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton’s 2003 film Something’s Gotta Give? There’s a sex scene in which they attempt to consummate their love, but that in itself is a punchline—Nicholson, it appears, can’t get it up without Viagra.

Likewise, films like Quartet and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel have tried their hands at septuagenarian romance, but whatever sex the characters are supposed to be having must have taken place just out of the camera’s frame, because we never actually see these people, in all their aged glory, making love.

Hollywood has never been good at depicting sex accurately, regardless of how old the people are on screen, but at least sex between people under 50 is acknowledged. Pass that age threshold, though, and it would seem audiences are being spared depictions of aged sex. This lack of visibility and its false representation as “gross” or embarrassing only contributes to the stereotype that older bodies are not worthy of desire, which stokes the fear of younger people who fall prey to the idea that good sex belongs to the taut.

“Although mainstream media tells us younger people are objectively sexier, that’s not necessarily true,” Joan says. “We need to unlearn our society’s attitude that only young, firm bodies are desirable. We are capable of sexual pleasure at any age, and we are also capable of inspiring sexual desire. If we feel sexy and see ourselves as sexy, we project a juicy attitude that is appealing and desirable. Our negative body image is our own worst enemy—that’s what we need to battle, not the wrinkles or sagging body parts!”

Many older people do see themselves and their partners as sexy. In fact, one 1999 survey conducted by AARP and Modern Maturity magazine revealed that the percentage of people age 45 and older who consider their partners physically attractive actually increases with age—a reassuring finding, no doubt, for the many young people biting their nails about growing old.

More soothing still is Joan’s point that it’s not just looks that matter when it comes to attraction. Non-physical qualities like humor, intelligence, kindness, communicative skills, thoughtfulness, sex technique and romanticism factor in equally, if not more, into a person’s allure. More importantly, these qualities—not a really thick head of hair and a glistening set of six-pack abs—are what creates the intimacy and connection that makes sex good. Of equal importance is technique, but even that is ageless. In fact, Joan, and many others, would argue that age only improves and refines a person’s bedroom aptitude.

“That’s why I say sex has no expiration date and that it’s better than anyone expected,” says Joan. “In general, we know ourselves pretty well by the time we hit 50. We know what we like, and we know what we’re looking for—not just sexually, but in life. We’ve already made the requisite mistakes in past relationships, and we’re more aware than ever that we’re not invincible. This makes us less inclined to settle and more interested in the idea of pursuing something, and someone, that works right for us.”

Joan’s message is not that sex-while-70 is fancy-free. Far from it. Those willing to brave it often, though not always, grapple with challenges like decreased libido, difficulty becoming aroused, erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, painful sex, a lack of mobility, depression and hormonal changes that can make the idea of sex seem like a lot more effort than it’s worth.

“One reason people give up on sex as they age is they don’t feel the same hormonal urges as they used to,” Joan explains. “We also may have medical or mobility issues, or we’re on medications that dampen our responses.”

Insecurity about the aging body’s appearance and physical abilities can also make older folk withdraw from sex. Many people Joan’s age retreat from the world of romance over anxiety about having sex with a new person, and many more are overly cautious about exploring pleasure in their older years because of lingering damage from a past relationship. New and unfamiliar feelings also come up as people age—a person’s sexuality, after all, is dynamic and often in flux across their lifetime. Not surprisingly, Joan says one of the most common things she hears from people is that they want a different kind of touch than they used to, in a different place, and by a different person (even by a different gender)

“Any combination of these things can lead us to assume that part of our lives is over,” she says. “But that doesn’t have to be true!”

What’s important for people her age to remember, she says, is that these changes and challenges are not insurmountable obstacles to satisfying sex. They just mean seniors have got to learn to work with what they’ve got.

Thankfully, Joan’s got an arsenal of reassuring tips to help them do that.

One of her favorite and most effective nuggets of wisdom is a concept called “responsive desire,” an idea popularized by author and sex researcher Emily Nagoski in her book Come As You Are. Responsive desire describes a simple method for getting in the mood when you’re not feeling aroused: stimulating yourself physically before you’re feeling randy. A diametric reversal of how pleasure works in a person’s younger years—arousal first, then stimulation—responsive desire is a game-changer for vintage bodies who, for the myriad reasons listed above, may not feel as lusty as they used to.

“Many seniors think, ‘If I don’t have the mental urge, it means I don’t want or need to have sex’,” says Joan. “Not so. You just have to create that urge yourself by getting revved up physically even if you don’t feel desire at that moment. Once you do, the desire will follow.” In other words, senior desire is there, it just needs to be awakened in the body first.

This is a life-altering revelation with real effects. One of Joan’s readers wrote in to say that learning about responsive desire saved her marriage. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to have sex, she discovered, it was just that she was waiting for desire to occur rather than creating it herself. Once seniors learn they have more control over desire than they think, explains Joan, an entire world of passionate and pleasurable sex opens up.

This is especially true if they’re willing to evolve their understanding of what the word “sex” actually means. As opposed to its standard definition of “penis going in and out of vagina,” Joan urges the people she speaks with to see sex as “anything that arouses them and brings them sexual pleasure.”

Defined in those terms, sex becomes more than just a single, penetrative act by which to judge the success of a romantic undertaking. Instead, sex can be viewed as a whole spectrum of acts: masturbation, using sex toys, kissing, a BDSM power exchange, watching porn together, the stroking of a partner’s newly replaced knee under the table. It all counts as long as it’s pleasurable.

Often, what feels good need not include orgasm or an erection to occur. In fact, taking the emphasis off both these things can provide an opportunity to explore a new, more intimate and more fulfilling iteration of lovemaking—one that’s based more on extended arousal and foreplay, an elongation of the pleasure process and less pressure to “perform.”

And while many younger people may gawk at the prospect of orgasm-less, erection-free sex, this expanded-definition approach has worked wonders for Joan’s senior readers (it can for people of all ages, actually—you don’t need to wait until you’re 75 to realize that goal-less, more full-body sex can be beyond pleasurable). One older gent who viewed one of Joan’s Great Sex Without Penetration webinars wrote:

Joan is flattered but not surprised by success stories like this. “Sex really opens up for us when we realize it doesn’t have to take a particular form, go in a particular direction or have a particular outcome,” she says. Viewed like that, it’s no wonder so many older people are maintaining healthy and active sex lives. They might not be having intercourse per se—though many are—but they are sure as hell having sex.

“We don’t have older-age sex ed, so when we start not being able to have orgasms with penetration or enjoy sex at all because of vaginal pain or erection problems, people are usually relieved to find out that sex isn’t over for them,” says Joan. “People just need the right education and a spirit of adventure.”

“That,” she adds, “and a sense of humor. If you can’t laugh at sex at our age, what can you laugh at?”

Complete Article HERE!

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A strong libido and bored by monogamy:

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the truth about women and sex

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When a heterosexual couple marries, who’s likely to get bored of sex first? The answer might surprise you…

What do you know about female sexuality? Whatever it is, chances are, says Wednesday Martin, it’s all wrong. “Most of what we’ve been taught by science about female sexuality is untrue,” she says. “Starting with two basic assertions: that men have a stronger libido than women, and that men struggle with monogamy more than women do.”

Martin pulls no punches. Her bestselling memoir Primates of Park Avenue cast her as an anthropologist observing the habits of her Upper East Side neighbours. She claimed among other shockers that privileged stay-at-home mothers were sometimes given a financial “wife bonus” based on their domestic and social performance. The book caused a furore, and is currently being developed as a TV series, with Martin as exec producer. Her new book, out this week, should be equally provocative. Entitled Untrue, it questions much that we thought we knew about women’s sexuality.

Her starting-point is that research into human sexuality has been, historically, overwhelmingly male-centric; “notable sexologists”, starting with Carl Friedrich Otto Westphal (1833-1890) are mostly male. You have to scroll through another 25, including Sigmund Freud and Alfred Kinsey, before you arrive at a female name: Mary Calderone (1904-1998), who championed sex education. And even in the subsequent 30 names there are only five women, including both Virginia Johnson (partner of the famous, and male, William Masters), and Shere Hite.

All these men made certain assumptions about women’s sexuality. It’s no surprise that it was Hite who revolutionised thinking on female orgasm, arguing that it was not “dysfunctional” to fail to climax during intercourse. Crucial, too, says Martin, has been the work of Rosemary Basson, who realised that spontaneous desire, the kind sexologists had measured for years, was only one type of relevant desire, and that responsive or triggered sexual response is much more important for women. Measured on that scale it turns out that women are, in fact, every bit as sexually arousable as men.

New findings showed that women reported similar intensities of desire and arousal to men, and “a real shift in thinking” about females and monogamy. “We were taught that men were the ones who needed variety, but the exact opposite turns out to be the case,” says Martin. “Overfamiliarisation with a partner and desexualisation kills women’s libido. We used to think it’s only men who became sexually bored after marriage; turns out that’s not true. It’s when women get married that it’s detrimental to their libido.”

Martin isn’t here to talk about her own relationship, but for the record she’s 53, has been married for 18 years, still lives in New York, and has two sons aged 17 and 10 who are, predictably enough, “mortified” at what their mother writes about. She hopes her work will help validate the feelings of the next generation of young women: “It’s not about giving them permission to ‘cheat’, not even giving them permission to refuse monogamy, but I hope it does give them permission to feel normal if they don’t like monogamy,” she says. Because that’s the central fallacy: the belief that monogamy is harder for men than for women. In fact, argues Martin, the exact opposite is the case. “Women crave novelty and variety and adventure at least as much as men, and maybe more.” She talks me through what she says is the classic pathway for women when they marry or commit to one heterosexual partner long-term (the research has so far concentrated on heterosexual couples; more work is needed on gay women’s sex lives). “A couple live together, their libidos are matched, and they have a lot of sex. But after a year, two years, maybe three years, what tends to happen is that the woman’s desire drops more quickly than the man’s. At that point the woman thinks, ‘I don’t like sex any more.’ But what, in fact, is happening is that she is having a hard time with monogamy; because women get bored with one partner more quickly than men do.”

So women are socialised to believe that they’ve gone off sex, when in fact they’re craving variety. Instead of being the brake on passion, says Martin, the female half of the long-term partnership is the key to a more adventurous and exciting sex life. What it’s all about, she explains, is the existence of the only entirely pleasure-seeking organ in the human repertoire, the clitoris. For her portrait, she wears a necklace shaped like one. “Women evolved to seek out pleasure, women are multiply orgasmic, women’s biology sets them up to seek out pleasure,” says Martin. “The clitoris has a very important back story about female human sex which is that our sex evolved for the purpose of adventure.”

Another element in the mix, she says, was the finding that a third of women who are having an extramarital relationship say their marriage or long-term partnership is happy or very happy. “So we need to understand that women aren’t just seeking variety because they’re unhappy, they’re seeking it because they need variety and novelty,” she says.

What does all this mean, in a practical sense, for our sex lives? Martin doesn’t like the word “cheating” – she prefers to use the term “step out” – and that’s what some women decide to do. But it’s not the only solution. “There are many women who are suffering but don’t want to leave their relationship or to step out, and they’ve not yet discovered vibrators,” says Martin. “I can’t tell you how many women have told me they never had a vibrator – there’s a generation in their 40s and 50s who missed the vibrator revolution and never caught up. And there are all these new vibrators out there – and anything new you can introduce will make a big difference to your sex life.” Another way forward can be for a couple to open up their relationship in some way, and invite someone else in. And she has other ideas up her sleeve that seem a lot less risqué, like going on a zip wire, taking up dance lessons or going scuba diving together. Why does that help? “Research on the neurochemicals has found that our sexual desire is triggered when we do something new with a long-term partner. A thrilling activity is ideal: it can give you a wash of hormones that makes you feel new to each other again.”

Indeed, part of the narrative seems to be that men are too quick to settle for “the usual” (which makes sense now we know they’re not the ones who are bored); but opening up the conversation about what else they could try can relight the fuse. The trick here, counsels Martin, is for them to keep on and on asking. “Men really caring about what women want sexually makes a huge difference. You might need to have the conversation over and over, and women might keep saying they’re happy with things as they are – but keep asking, and eventually women will open up about their sexual fantasies. We find that their menus are more varied than men’s. Men are shocked, but also gratified and thrilled, when they find out how sexually exciting we can be when we get past the inhibitions that have been socialised into us.”

Paradoxically, there’s been a parallel shift in attitudes towards extramarital affairs and divorce alongside the growing studies into women’s sexuality. Martin quotes the US statistics: in 1976, fewer than half of well-educated Americans thought having an affair was always wrong; by 2013, that figure was 91%. “We’ve become a lot less tolerant of infidelity in recent years,” says Martin. “And meanwhile divorce has become much more common: a large number of people in the 1970s who thought affairs were OK, thought divorce was wrong.”

So at the precise moment science reveals women have the bigger “need” to be sexually adventurous, society clamps down on infidelity. And that, says Martin, is hugely significant. “The way we feel about women who refuse monogamy is an important metric for how we feel about equality.” She’s talking, she says, about women who openly refuse monogamy by being polyamorous. The overwhelming story we buy into, after all, is that men who “cheat” are just “men being men”; women who “step out” are far more likely to be criticised and shamed. Ultimately, though, they’re challenging something very deep in society’s expectations of them – and perhaps their stance is the most radical female stance of all.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Have the Sex Talk During and After Cancer

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One expert shares advice for opening the line of communication between patients and health care providers, as well as their partners.

BY Katie Kosko

Sex and intimacy after cancer can often become an afterthought. Many people are focused on fighting their disease, but don’t realize that sexual health matters, too. And it’s not a challenge that is hopeless.
As more and more people are becoming cancer survivors, cancer centers now have health care professionals who can aid those in need of sexual health advice following treatment. Sharon Bober, Ph.D., founder and director of the Sexual Health Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, understands these concerns. In an interview with CURE during the 11th annual Joining FORCEs Against Hereditary Cancer Conference held Oct. 19-20 in San Diego, she shared tips on how to have patients’ voices be heard and debunked those “magic pill” myths.

What questions should a patient ask before, during and after treatment?
I think it’s very important that patients feel comfortable asking someone on their medical team whether it’s a doctor or a nurse about sexual health. I say that because often providers do not bring up the topic first. We know that it can be a topic that may feel taboo or uncomfortable, including for providers, and often patients get the message that if nobody’s asking then it might not be something that they should talk about. I’m here to say that that’s not the case. Patients really need to bring up the topic even if nobody else is, especially if they have any concerns or changes that are bothersome or distressing in sexual health.

I think we need to think about sexual health like any other review of our system. So, when people go for treatment and are asked about nausea, pain or fatigue, they should also be asked about sexual health. That’s not always the case and that’s where it’s perfectly fine for a patient to say, “Actually, there is something else we haven’t talked about. I’m concerned about changes in sexual health or changes that might be coming or changes that have happened and I’m not sure what to do about it.”

Are there ways couples can overcome the sexual side effects of cancer? What about single people who may be dating?
It’s important to think about sexuality and sexual function really at the intersection between mind, body and relationship. It is not typically only about one factor but when a couple, whether they are married or dating, is dealing with changes in sexual function as a couple they are also dealing with changes in roles and changes in styles and patterns of behavior. There may be an expectation or worry that you don’t want to make your partner feel bad but on the other hand it’s hard to talk about. It’s very important for couples to take time and say, “Listen, this is a part of our life which is different and it is OK for us to talk about it.” That’s really the first step.

For single people, it is important to appreciate that we are not only about our body parts. Sexuality is more than just one body part or any one part of something that has changed. And that recognizing when we go dating and we start to meet people everybody brings something to the table whether it’s cancer, depression or something in the family — all of these things are part of what makes us human. It’s important to realize that because you may have had cancer that is not going to be the reason why you can’t have a successful relationship. It just means that you are going to want to find a partner who is sensitive, who is going to be caring and who is going to be open to hearing about this.

Are there any proclaimed sexual health “cures” that patients should stay away from?
We live in a culture where everything is focused on a pill. We live in a culture where we want everything in 140 characters in a Tweet or we want to have something quick and easy. The truth is when it comes to sexual function it is often at the intersection of a variety of different things that are going on. From my point of view, that’s great news because it means that there are ways we can improve the relationship, we can improve how someone thinks and feels about themselves, we can also improve the mechanics around, for example, vaginal dryness or erectile function. But it doesn’t have to be only one thing that you have to find or that there is a magic pill. It’s important for people to focus on communication and intimacy and enhancing desire. It’s important, for example, for women on the other side of menopause, they are not expected to have spontaneous desire. Desire becomes something we have to cultivate. We need to stick with evidence-based intervention. And although we sort of would like to think if I could just go with the magic cure, that will work, but there’s no magic. On the other hand, it is powerful and magical to have an intense sexual relationship with someone that you love.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?
There is help available. The good news is that there are a number of resources that people can access online, such as the National Institutes of Health and American Cancer Society. We now have much more to offer than we used to.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex & Accessibility 101:

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How to Have Super Hot Sex with or as a Disabled Person

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I was once a horny and confused disabled teenager, and somehow managed to come into my own as a horny and downright pervy disabled adult. Growing up, no one ever talked to me about sex or sexuality. Outside of my peer groups (and often times even within them), sex was a touchy issue. Doctors, educators, family — they all functioned from a place that sex wasn’t for someone like me. And woof, how do you feel good initiating conversations about your bod and all the things you find yourself wanting to do with it when even your doctor seems squeamish about it?

Fast forward to 2018, and doctors are still garbage. But I like to think that we queers of the world are ever-evolving, and as result, getting pretty hip to the concept that all different kinds of bodies want to connect with other bodies. With that in mind, I’m not going to waste any time defending the desirability of disabled folks. Disabled folks are desirable. Period. Disabled bods and access needs are still left out of the conversation when it comes to S-E-X and well… f*ck that. So settle in and hang out for a minute. We’ve got a lot to talk about.

Disability Sexuality

Disabled folks make up the largest minority population in the world; upwards of 20% of people in the US are living with a disability. This means whether you, yourself, are disabled or not, disability touches everyone in some way or another. Our genders and sexualities vary as much as anyone’s, but our access to communities that affirm (or allow us to explore) our genders and sexualities is frequently lacking. Navigating sex and disability as a queer person has its challenges, but outside of societal misconceptions and misinformation, it’s not necessarily any more (or less) complicated than navigating any other body or sexuality. Bodies are weird. Sex is weird. Weird is good.

While the information here can be useful for anyone, this guide primarily focuses on physical access needs in sex. Disability is an incredibly broad umbrella term. There are a lot of different ways that disability exists in the world, and needs and considerations vary greatly. This is in no way meant to be definitive or all-encompassing. All bods are different and need different things. That’s kind of the point. As always, take what applies and feels good for you.

Communication

Inarguably, communication is the key to good sex, period. But, for disabled folks (and the babes that love them), those conversations may feel a little more vulnerable than conversations some able-bodied folks are used to having, and it helps to learn better ways of navigating them.

It should go without saying, but assumptions never do anyone any good in the bedroom (or anywhere, really). It’s important to find ways to communicate your wants and needs without ambiguity. Knowing what you want can be half the battle whether you have accessibility needs or not, so don’t be afraid to do a little work in finding that out for yourself. Handy worksheets like this old gem from our own Austen, Ara, and Geneva can help you not only brainstorm your own wants and needs, but find common ground with your partner. Talking about you want to do with your partner, also opens up the line of communication to advocate for the things you may need in order to do it. If you’re feeling anxious, try to remember that these conversations feel vulnerable for all bods involved, so be kind to both yourself and your partner! Initiating potentially vulnerable conversations about sex and bodies can work best outside of the bedroom. Talking about sex can feel daunting enough; changing up the space and talking it out before you’re in the bedroom can help ease some of the pressure and help you connect.

If you’re able-bodied and your partner isn’t, remember that when your partner is opening up to you about their body, it’s a conversation, not an inquisition. Make sure you’re meeting them in the middle, not putting them through an interview. Talk about your own boundaries, needs, hopes and expectations. Rather than “How do you…?” or “Can you…?” lines of questioning, focus on pleasure (i.e. “What are you into?” “What feels good for you?”). Your interest is in finding out what makes them feel good, not unraveling the mystery of their body. Good conversation topics to consider: preferred words/terms for parts, parts of the body you do or don’t like to have touched/seen/etc., body sensitivity or pain.

A common don’t that comes up all too often is the dreaded “I don’t even notice,” “You’re pretty/handsome for a disabled person,” or “You’re not disabled to me!” Able-bodied folks tend to think these are compliments, but I can assure you as a person who’s heard it all, they aren’t. The last thing anyone getting down and dirty with you wants to hear is that you don’t see them, or that you have to avoid parts of them to feel attraction for them.

If you’re disabled and wanting to open up communication, remember that communicating with your partner is a back and forth. You’re not responsible for sitting under a spotlight and disclosing your medical history, and you should never feel pressured to say or do anything that doesn’t feel right for you. Everybody’s got needs and expectations in physical and intimate relationships! Try not to feel weighed down sharing yours.

Communication while getting down is important, too. Tell your partner when they’re making you feel good, and be open to vocalizing (and switching things up) when something’s not working for you. Likewise, be open to hearing from your partner when something isn’t working for them.

The effort it takes to hone your communication skills really pays off; it feels good to know what you partner needs and expects from you, and it feels really good to know that your partner cares about what you need. Besides, talking about sex is great foreplay, pal!

Getting Down

Setting the scene

One thing disabled folks with physical access needs are beyond familiar with is the need for preparedness. Sometimes we can get bogged down by all the little details needed to make a space accessible; sex is really no different in that regard. Setting the scene for the sex you want helps ease anxiety surrounding unwanted interruptions or time-outs. It helps keep things flowing, and builds up the anticipation — which can be exciting!

Making sure that your harnesses, toys, positioning furniture, lube, and clean up supplies are within reach is a great start, but there’s more you can do to set the mood. Don’t underestimate the power of intention!

For folks who experience incontinence, waterproof pads and blankets can help with anxiety surrounding unwanted (or wanted!) messes.  While any mattress pad could do the trick, items made for play such as the Liberator Fascinator Throw, or the Funsheet can make the playspace feel less sterile and more sexy. Think about what kind of material makes you feel best in these situations. Throws like the Fascinator absorb fluid without leaking through, whereas items like the Funsheet do not absorb fluids (which can potentially feel overwhelming for some folks). Regardless of your preference, when sexy time is over, just toss your sheets/throws into the washer and you’re good to go. Anxiety surrounding incontinence can feel like a lot, but try to remember that honestly all sex is messy and that’s often half the fun.

Lube & Barriers

Lube is f*cking important! This is true for everyone, but especially when stimulating a part of the body that has limited or no sensation. Apart from wanting to avoid general injury, many conditions can make it difficult for a body to produce its own lubricant. Find a lube that works well for you and your partner and use that lube generously.

I won’t go too ham in talking about barrier methods, but I will note that there are a lot of options to consider, from a proper fitted condom on penises and dildos/vibrators, to dental dams, and the very poorly named “FC2 female condom.” Be sure to be conscious of sensitivities to frequently used materials such as latex (and less commonly allergenic) nitrile/neoprene. It’s best to stay clear of barriers with added flavoring or spermicides. Always remember to check your lube is safe for use with the barrier method you’re using!

Positioning

There are an infinite number of ways to get two bodies to connect in just the right way. Shaking things up and exploring the way things feel best not only ensures you and your partner’s comfort, it’s also just hot and fun. There are gender- and sexuality-inclusive online quick guides like this one from The Mighty that may help get your creative juices flowing. There’s also positioning harnesses and slings like Sportsheets’ Super Sex Sling and Doggie Style Strap that can help take some of the pressure off of strenuous positioning. Sportsheets is a disability-inclusive brand also offering items like shower suction handles and foot rests, and other positioning tools that can aid in accessible play.

If your partner needs help transferring out of a chair or another assistive device, let them guide you in helping them properly. Don’t ever lift or move a partner without being asked to, and don’t ever move assistive devices to unreachable places unless your partner asks you to.

Harnesses

For some with limited mobility, spasticity or pain in the pelvic/hip region, standard harnesses may not be an option for strap-on sex. Fortunately, there are multiple harness options for those looking for accessible ways to engage in penetrative play, and getting creative in the harness department can be just as hot as it is practical! Sportsheets offers a thigh harness and the La Palma from SpareParts offers a gloved hand option. For folks with penises using strap-ons, SpareParts Deuce is a great option. Designed to be wearable regardless of ability to achieve erection, the harness has an upper ring for use with a dildo, and a lower ring for penis access.

Toys

This is the part where I might as well start by throwing my hands in the air praising the Hitachi Magic Wand. As a stubborn contrarian I’d love to find a reason to tell you why it doesn’t live up to its hype, but I’d be lying. Apart from being probably the greatest sex toy on earth, with its strong vibrations, large head, and versatile modification options, it’s also probably one of the most accessible. There are hitachi toy mounts like this one from Liberator, various head attachments, speed controllers (which do need to be plugged into the toy/wall, but also extend the range quite a bit), and good ol’ DIY mic stand setups. The rechargeable wand does away with the need to stay plugged in and is worth every penny for the upgrade.

For anal stimulation, b-vibe offers a wide selection of remote vibrating anal toys in a variety of sizes and shapes, eliminating the need to reach down to adjust or change settings on the toy during use. For comfortable wear in seated positions, try options with a thin base like the snug plug or the pleasure plug from Fuze.

For folks with penises who may be experiencing what sex expert Joan Price refers to as erectile dissatisfaction or unreliable erection due to paralysis, but want to engage in penetrative sex, ppa/extenders like Vixen’s Ride On paired with a comfortable harness can be helpful in achieving penetrative sex with a partner. The Pulse 3 Duo is also a great partner toy option for folks with penises of varying functionality.

If you can, skip the ableist toy manuals that come with most sex toys and instead, talk to a sex educator at your local progressive sex shop about your prospective products and how to use them safely and care for them. It’s well-documented that there’s historically been (and continues to be) a problem with unfavorable language in a LOT of sex toy user manuals and packaging. If you don’t have access to local progressive sex toy shops, shops like The Smitten Kitten, She Bop, Early To Bed, and Babeland all have online stores and customer service options that can be really helpful.

After Care

Lastly, be sure to check in. After care isn’t an option; it’s a major part of play. Talk to your partner about what feels good for both of you when play is over. Maybe you or they need to be held, or like a glass of water when things are winding down. If incontinence is a concern, it may help to have a course of action pre-planned for cleaning up in a way that helps to relieve stress or discomfort.

Ultimately, there are plenty of tools and tips to achieve the sex you want, but the bulk of the work relies on successful communication. Remember to think beyond speaking, and consider how you’re listening. Are you doing what you can to create a connection that supports your partner in voicing their wants and needs? Supporting your partner through the vulnerable parts paves way for the creativity that comes with engaging and fun sex.

A few quick references:

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability

Disability After Dark Podcast

Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, & Liberation

Complete Article HERE!

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If You’re Not Talking About Sex, You’re Not Good At It

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Good sex can’t happen without good communication. Here’s how to talk the talk with your partner.

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Good sex is hard to find. Maybe it’s a chemistry thing. Maybe it circles back to attraction. Or, maybe, it has more to do with our inhibitions around talking about what we like and want in bed with the people we like and want in bed. That’s at least where Stella Harris has landed.  A sex educator, intimacy coach and BDSM instructor, Harris unpacks this argument in her book, Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink and Relationships. Within it, she discusses the prevalence of American non-communication and the reasoning behind it. She also provides insights and exercises designed to steer audiences away from this unsatisfactory standard. We spoke to Harris about how, exactly, couples can up the intimacy by way of communication.

Why is it so essential to talk about sex regularly with your partner?

All bodies are different. And there’s only so much you can figure out through trial and error. There’s no way to guess what someone is going to be into or what fantasies they have. When you aren’t talking about sex, you’re only scratching the surface of what experiences you could be having and the amount of pleasure you could be experiencing. We aren’t mind readers, and honestly, that’s probably for the best.

Was there anything, in particular, that inspired you to write this book?

People so badly want that quick fix, or that “one move” that will blow their partner’s mind. And they hate it when I tell them they have to talk to the person they’re touching. There’s nothing I can teach you that will get you out of having to talk to the person you’re having sex with. People are just so horrified by that. They think it’s going to “ruin the mood.” Other folks will come into my office and tell me about a secret fantasy they’ve been sitting on for 20 years but they won’t tell their partner. It’s too high stakes. If someone you’re partnered with rejects you or thinks you’re weird after you’ve told them about your fantasy, well, that’s really hard to live with. So much so that telling a stranger feels easier.

How can partners help each other find comfort in communication?

Part of what the book talks about is not just communicating your own interests but how to hear about other people’s desires in a way that is full of compassion; in a way that won’t shame them, even if you’re not into what they’re into. If you want someone to be vulnerable and upfront with you about their interests, you have to listen and answer compassionately. You have to think about what you’re putting out there. You have to figure out your own biases so you know what you have to work on before you accidentally hurt someone’s feelings. If you’re making fun of things, like, say Trump and his urine play, and it turns out that’s something your partner is into, they’re never going to mention it to you. We do a lot of offhand shaming. Sex makes for an easy punch line. Sometimes, I have to remind clients that certain behaviors are okay.

You do a lot with the kink community. What do you think more mild audiences can gain from the way they conduct themselves around sex?

I like to bring in some examples from the kink community when dealing with folks who think talking “ruins the mood.” Think about planning play-parties, for example. It’s not ruining the mood; it’s like planning a vacation. It’s part of the excitement. I try to bring them away from the mindset that anything that isn’t entirely spontaneous is “boring” or “unsexy.”

How can couples in long-term commitments benefit from better communication?

The best way to keep a long-term relationship strong is by experiencing novelty together. Sex is an amazing place to keep adding novelty. It doesn’t have to be kink or anything you might consider weird. Adding sex toys, adding role-play, even just adding a new position can help. There are so many ways to change things up. But you can’t surprise somebody with that stuff. You have to make sure they’re up for it.

What about parents?

Communication is especially important after having kids. Bodies change. Even if you thought you knew what you’re partner was into before, there’s a good chance what they’re body is up for has changed. This is really the time where you need to talk about maybe doing new things. You’re not going to stumble into it by accident.

How can people get the ball rolling? Where is a good place to talk about, well, talking?

I suggest people schedule conversations. Tell your partner you want to talk to them about some fun, new and sexy thing you want to try.  You want to make sure they’re in a receptive place before you open up that conversation. Sometimes it helps to be in a more neutral environment than at home. I often suggest people go out to dinner and discuss things. There’s a saying, “don’t negotiate naked.” And I think that works really well here. The idea is that, if sex is imminent, you’re not going to have as clear a head going into the conversation, as you should. If you’re in the moment you’re not going to think of all the questions and all the caveats that you might want to cover. It really helps to do it outside of a sexual setting.

So, ideally, how should people communicate during sex?

I actually quote Dan Savage’s formula in the book. He says the best way to ease people into dirty talk is by telling your partner what you’re going to do, what you’re doing, and what you did. I basically encourage people to narrate. Coming up with what to say seems to be the most terrifying thing for people. It’s easier when you simply narrate what’s happening. Say how attractive your partner looks, or how good they look against the sheets, how they look under the light, how they feel against your body… Take your imagination out of the equation, at least at first. Just throwing out positive affirmations can go a long way.

Complete Article HERE!

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How To Have More Intimate Conversations

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This Simple Shift Will Immediately Spark Intimacy In Your Conversations

By Danielle Dowling, Psy.D.

We’ve all been in a situation where we’re uncomfortably asking questions of the person we want to impress or connect with, only to find ourselves running the conversation into a brick wall.

Connecting through conversation is an integral part of any healthy relationship. But while we all talk with other people nearly every single day, that doesn’t mean each and every one of our conversations is a quality, connective, engaging experience. Far from it. We all have conversations with people who are not gifted in connecting—and we all at times struggle ourselves to create that intimacy.

You’d think the proliferation of social media technologies and seemingly more and more ways to communicate with anyone at any time would help alleviate this issue, but instead the opposite is true. With research showing that only 7 percent of communication is based on the written word (and 93 percent on nonverbal body language), social media actually makes us less social and likely to truly connect. Without that true communication and intimate connection, it’s no wonder that feelings of loneliness have reached epidemic levels in America (and no doubt, throughout the rest of the world too)—with at least 46 percent of Americans reporting they always feel alone and 43 percent feeling like their relationships are not meaningful.

With communication being so closely correlated to relationship satisfaction (and to long-term compatibility in romantic relationships), this is one relational concern you won’t want to let slip. But don’t worry! Connecting through conversation doesn’t have to be hard. There’s one simple shift you can make to immediately pique your partner’s (or anybody’s!) interest and have meaningful conversations that build deeper connection and intimacy:

Ask better questions.

Here’s the thing: “Did you have a good day?” just isn’t going to cut it anymore. While it’s always valuable to check in with your partner and indicate your interest in their lives and well-being, not asking the right questions can shut down a conversation before it even starts. The questions you ask (and field) in conversation often determine the quality of your engagement.

So, what sorts of questions should you ask—and how should you handle the answers?

The straightforward strategy that will enhance your ability to create better, more intimate conversations—especially with your partner—is to ask open-ended questions.

What exactly does that mean?

Start with no end in mind.

You should begin your conversations with no end in mind—don’t presume you know how your partner’s day went or how they’re feeling or even what they want for dinner. That’s where open-ended questions come in: They’re the types of questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no,” so they open up the conversation and welcome in any number of possible answers from you or your partner. They’re your best bet for sparking truly inviting conversation.

Open-ended questions usually begin with words or phrases like:

  • How did you…?
  • Why…?
  • Can you share…?
  • Tell me about…?

…or some variation thereof.

They open the door for your partner, giving them the opportunity to truly think about their response and share with you on a deeper, more honest level.

Offer them that invitation—and ask for it in return if need be—and witness the added intimacy and connection that comes from holding space for their true thoughts.

Importantly, you’ll also have to hold space for any answer.

When you open up your conversations with open-ended questions, you create space for answers and topics you might not have anticipated—and may not even like.

While you don’t have to agree with everything your partner says, does, or believes, it’s important to hold space for them to respond to your question with openness, honesty, and authenticity (and for them to offer you space to do the same). That means their response may not always be pretty, it may not always be happy, and it may even trigger something deep in you.

That’s OK. Intimacy springs from this vulnerability—from your partner’s ability to share openly and honestly with you, and from your ability to witness that.

It can feel safer to have more surface-level conversations—those conversations where you ask, “Did you have a good day?” and leave out the deeper, tougher answers that you may not want to hear. But true connection—the intimacy we seek to spark in our relationships if we want them to be truly meaningful—can only be found in this more engaging and honest way of communicating.

Struggling to connect through conversation is natural (very few of us are ever taught to do it well!), but it doesn’t have to be your reality forever. Expand your relationship by expanding the content of your conversations and deepening your connection through your communication. You’ll be so glad you did.

Complete Article HERE!

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What’s A Prostate Orgasm

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—And How Do I Make It Happen For A Guy?

First of all, he’s got to be okay with butt stuff.

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Butt stuff has been taboo probably for as long as there have been taboos. But thanks to a growing conversation on anal play (hello, pegging!) you and your partner might find yourselves ready to, erm, enter new territory and attempt a prostate orgasm.

Rewind: What is a prostate orgasm?

The prostate—a gland about the size of a walnut which sits deep in the groin between the base of a guy’s penis and his rectum—is to men what the G-spot is to women. For some men, it can potentially be a total pleasure center.

Biologically, the prostate produces semen, but “sexually and erotically, it can function to heighten pleasure,” says Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., founder of The Intimacy Institute in Colorado. “What prostate stimulation does is press upon the urethra in such a way that it can actually prevent ejaculation,” Skyler says—a.k.a. it can stretch out that just-about-to-orgasm feeling even longer.

“If your partner is comfortable with prostate contact and is able to relax and enjoy anal stimulation”—the only way to get to the prostate is by sticking your finger or a toy about an inch and a half into his butt—“it adds this sensation of fullness and pressure that maximizes the intensity of an orgasm for a man,” Skyler explains.

Aside from the prostate stimulation itself, the anal action that’s part of the process can also boost a guy’s pleasure. “It’s hard to know how much of ‘prostate pleasure’ actually involves the prostate at all and how much is related to the fact that the only way to get to a man’s prostate is through his anus,” says Stephen Snyder, M.D., a sex therapist and author of Love Worth Making. “A lot of people enjoy anal stimulation, which makes sense—like the genitals, the anal area is richly supplied with nerve endings and blood flow.”

That said, “Some men don’t enjoy it—it can be a psychological lack of enjoyment or it could be a physiological one,” says Skyler, adding she’s had patients in both categories. Or maybe he’s just not interested in exploring (and that’s okay). Either way, as with any sex act, it’s important to communicate and make sure both parties are game—that includes you, btw.

How do I help my partner have a prostate orgasm?

If you’re intrigued by exploring this new territory, Skyler has some tips for how to make a prostate orgasm happen.

1. Help your partner relax.
If you are both jazzed to poke around his prostate, it’s important to start by getting super-relaxed. “The anus has two sphincters and they can tighten up and close,” Skyler says. “The way to get entrance and invitation is to really deeply relax the whole body.”

Start with a sensual massage, the goal of which isn’t necessarily to turn your partner on, but to help him feel totally comfortable.

2. Try some anal foreplay.
Once your partner feels chilled out, ease your way in. “If you’ve never done anal play, approach the anus respectfully and slowly,” Sklyer says. “Play with the full buttocks and inner thighs first and then move to play with the outer rim of the opening of the anus

3. Get some lube.
“The anus is not self-lubricating so make sure there’s a lot of lube, no matter what,” Skyler says. She recommends picking up a lubricant that’s specifically designed for anal play since these formulas tend to be a little thicker and last a bit longer. (Here are the best lubes for anal, FYI.)

4. Choose your tools.
The best way to stimulate the prostate is either with your finger or a prostate toy (basically a slim butt plug). If you’re hesitant about using your finger (even if he just took a shower, it’s okay if the idea still makes you feel a little squeamish) a toy is an awesome alternative.

“Sex toy retailers like Adam and Eve sell a lot of beginner prostate toys,” Skyler says. “Most of them even have a rounded edge like a finger.”

5. Slowly massage the prostate.
To make a prostate orgasm happen, go super-slowly—especially if this is the first time you and your partner are trying the technique. Once you’re inside, feel for the prostate gland, which is about “one knuckle’s worth” into the rectum in the direction of his penis (as opposed to his lower back), Skyler says. “It feels like a soft pillow-y ball,” she says.

Once you’ve found it, apply soft pressure or try stroking it slowly, and keep communicating with your partner about how it feels. Take your cues from him on whether to stroke or apply even pressure, go slower or faster, press more or less intense, etc. Whatever way you do it: Prepare for a whole new type of O.

Complete Article HERE!

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Questions you should ask before you get into a new relationship

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By Simone Paget

When I was younger, attraction, desire, love and sex were all tangled together in one big elastic band ball of feelings. I equated physical attraction with romantic love and found the two nearly indistinguishable. If I was attracted to someone, I’d immediately make it my goal to date them, often sacrificing my heart and mental well-being in the process. As a result, I frequently found myself in relationships (or if we’re being completely honest, “situationships”) with people who weren’t necessarily good for me.

I imagine my younger self scoffing at the way I manage my love life as a thirty-something single woman. I’ve dated a lot over the past few years (and even met some really wonderful people), but it takes a lot for me to want to enter into a serious relationship with someone. I’ve seen what happens when you throw caution to the wind and I’m not interested in repeating old mistakes.

“Getting back into the swerve of dating can be tough, especially coming out of a long-term relationship. It can be so easy to start a relationship into the first person you meet or heck, even match with on a dating app. But without knowing someone well, jumping into a relationship too early can spell disaster,” says author and life coach, Carole Ann Rice.

Instead, here’s a few things you should ask when considering a new relationship.

1. Are there any deal-breakers?

When I was nineteen, I went out with a guy who revealed he had a history with substance abuse and a criminal record within the first few minutes of our initial date. Despite the din of warning bells, we dated for two years.

I used to see dealbreakers as “negotiables” — things that might change if I just loved the person enough. However, some deal-breakers are just that. As Rice notes, “if you know what your deal-breakers are, such as marriage, kids, location, etc., you should find this out early on. Sketching out your expectations of your partner (and, in turn, yourself) will build a lot of transparency and trust. It’s important to know that if you aren’t willing to change something, and they aren’t either, it won’t work at all.”

 

2. Are you comparing them to past relationships?

As you may have surmised from the story above, my dating past is colourful. It’s easy for me to compare past relationships to new ones. But as Rice reminds us, it’s important that we give the other person the benefit of the doubt — at least at first. “A new relationship is best started with a blank slate – don’t tarnish them with your old thoughts and bad expectations,” says Rice. If you have emotional baggage, confront it and find a way to leave it behind.

3. Do you share the same values and lifestyle?

This, more than anything is something that I overlooked when I was younger.

As Rice suggests, “assessing how well your values and interests align should be done so early on, to avoid wasting time. If you and your new beau have extreme differences, and neither of you are willing to budge, it’s not going to work. For example, if they live and breathe football, taking up most weekends – is that something you can deal with?”

4. How do they talk about their past?

Have they ever been in a serious relationship before? How did it end? I’m less interested in the nitty, gritty of what they did with whom, but rather the wisdom they’ve garnered in the process. Whether it’s a past romance, career or family relationship,” Rice says, “be sure to let them explain their past – being mature about how the person describes their dating history is a large indicator of how they can perform in the future. Maturity is also a great sign that they’re emotionally ready to begin another relationship.”

Complete Article HERE!

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What even the most vanilla among us can learn from the BDSM community

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by Natalie Benway

“Sex is not what you do, it’s a place you go.” —Esther Perel

Americans carry a lot of anxiety about having an exciting sex life. This anxiety inspires Cosmopolitan, Redbook and the like to publish a steady stream of articles flouting “100 ways to spice up your sex life!” and “The top six ways to add more color to vanilla sex!” Shame about having “boring” sex is used to sell magazines as well as drive sales of sex toys, fluffy pink handcuffs and sexy nurse costumes, bought in half-hearted attempts to “spice things up.”

But these articles and products usually fall short of providing real avenues for change because they don’t address the mindset we need to have a fulfilling sexual experience. Many of us are afraid to ask our partner for what we are interested in exploring, or don’t know how. We need to feel safe in order to have a positive sexual experience, and sometimes “safe” can be limiting to sexual expression.

Insecurity around sex is a common issue I see in my psychotherapy practice. My friend Alison Oliver (sex educator and all-around epic woman) and I discussed the results of an exercise she has asked her students to complete in which they describe an average sexual encounter from start to finish. The formula was most often as follows: touching, kissing, light petting, heavy petting, oral sex, penile/vaginal contact, coitus, orgasm.

A common frustration among more vanilla folks is the pressure felt to spice up a basic or “boring” sex life. There is absolutely nothing wrong or pathological about wanting a vanilla sexual experience, but if you’re not satisfied, don’t have the skills or feel pressured to get kinky, what do you do?

“The frustration of vanilla — this constant quest to kinkify normative sexual relationships — seems to be the result of people’s actual sexual practices and desires butting up against the idea that there is one unified, normative way that ‘most’ people have sex,” Gawker’s Monica Heisey wrote in the 2014 article “Vanilla Sex: A Perfectly Fine Way to Fuck.” “If I’m supposed to be the default, the married man wonders, why do I want my wife to peg me sometimes? If I’m not kinky, a 22-year-old straight woman who only watches lesbian porn asks, why am I so interested in the idea of a threesome? The danger of vanilla is seeing it as ‘default’ when it’s as amorphous as any individual kinky person’s sexual preferences.”

How do we reframe our expectations so we are not constantly critical of ourselves or our partner? Let’s move away from who-does-what-to-whom and towards a curious and honest exploration of guiding principles that impact mindset. How do I get into the mindset of sex being a place we go, instead of what we do to each other? How do we explore our sexual appetite without anxiety or the pressure of an outcome?

It starts with pondering what we like — what brings us pleasure, and what mood we must be in to explore it — and being open about this with our partner or partners. When we reframe the erotic experience to focus on presence as opposed to performance, we can draw on erotic communication tools within the kink/BDSM community.

The guiding principles of kink/BDSM make no assumptions about what your appetite might be and are not limited in the menu of possibilities. Kink culture is grounded in safe, sane and consensual communication.

Oliver draws on kink/BDSM principles by supporting her students in communicating their sexual boundaries, interests and erotic preferences with an exercise in which they divide sexual menu items into three columns:

  • Yes, please — Favorable activities you’re always or often in the mood for in a sexual/erotic encounter.
  • No, thank you — Activities that are out of bounds for whatever reason, and are off the menu.
  • Maybe? — Activities that have conditions necessary, or you would enjoy under specific circumstances. These are menu items you are curious about and might be open to trying.

These erotic communication tools allow us to express, negotiate and explore our appetites. We can also access the tools of mindfulness to explore presence as opposed to performance. In mindfulness, we are not eating to get to the end of the meal, but to enjoy and experience the food. This can easily be translated to an erotic or sexual experience.

During a mindful eating exercise I do with clients, they are asked to eat a raisin or a nut and act as if they are an alien from another planet and have never seen or experienced the object in their hand. They are prompted to explore it with all their senses and notice not only what they see, hear or smell but also what they think. If their mind wanders, as it often does, they are prompted to gently bring their awareness back to the object of attention. Then they are asked to put the food in their mouth and explore it without biting it, then chew and swallow it and notice how many stages of the experience are automatic or intuitive.

What if we had this kind of presence of mind during a sexual encounter, instead of being distracted wondering if the other person is looking at the size of our ass or critiquing our performance? What if we could be brave and vulnerable in expressing our yes, no or maybe interests to our partners?
Sounds kinky.

Complete Article HERE!

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Rekindling the spark

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– how older couples can rediscover the intimacy of the early days

‘Poor communication is one of the main causes of discord’

A lifetime together can make some couples complacent, uncommunicative, or changed so much that they no longer recognise the person they first fell for. Here, in week three of our Be Your Best You series, Claire O’Mahony asks the experts how older couples can revitalise love and rediscover intimacy

By Dr Damien Lowery, Annie Lavin, Margaret Dunne

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus maintained that change is the only constant in life, and this is clearly evidenced in romantic partnerships: they are not static entities. If you’ve been part of a couple for a long time, neither of you may recognise the people you once were, and likewise your situation will have changed, all of which is played out in your relationship.

It’s also a truism that good relationships require work and that they take an effort to maintain. Long-standing couples can potentially face a variety of challenges: they may have grown apart or they might have communication issues. Even couples who are very much in love sometimes acknowledge that an element of complacency can be found in their relationship and that a certain frisson is lacking. For those in the 55+ demographic, other factors can emerge, affecting how partners relate to each other. For women, menopause can bring side effects such as loss of libido and weight gain resulting in negative body image. Men’s sexual function, meanwhile, can be affected by declining testosterone levels and sometimes ill health. Major life changes at this time can impact on relationships, whether that’s dealing with empty nest syndrome or adjusting to the dynamics of retirement. “There is a lot of change occurring and we aren’t accustomed to change,” says consultant psychologist Dr Damien Lowry, whose practice is in Rathgar, south Dublin. “We are highly adaptive individuals and capable of adaptation and adjustment but it doesn’t come easily and it really puts a strain on our capacity to cope. If there are any cracks in relationships, it’s likely that it will be exposed by these marked changes in our lives.”

However, there are strategies that can be employed that can help older couples revitalise their union and strengthen their relationship, and some of them are even fun:

Better communication is key

Many studies have indicated that poor communication is one of the main causes of discord in relationships. According to Dublin-based dating and relationship coach and psychology lecturer Annie Lavin, clients often have a particular need that they want to express but in trying to do so, end up criticising the other person instead. “Generally when it comes to the effectiveness of any conversation, it’s determined by the tone that we set,” says Lavin, who works to empower people to achieve relationship success by transforming their relationship with themselves. “There’s a huge difference between saying something like, ‘I’m sick of doing everything’, and explaining to your partner that you’re feeling whatever that might be.” She suggests coming to the conversation with a calm demeanour and starting with how you feel but not attributing blame. “Instead of saying, ‘You don’t care about me’, it’s better to say, ‘I’m really upset and I’m really hurting about this’. We have to describe the problem neutrally without criticising the person, so you have to be specific.” Dr Damien Lowry agrees that the use of ‘I-messages’ is an effective way of communicating your needs. “An I-message is saying, ‘I am struggling’ or it’s even linking to behaviour – ‘I feel upset or ignored when you arrive home and ask where your dinner is’. Ultimately, it’s a way of avoiding falling into the trap of criticism.”

Getting Sex back on track

Growing older does not necessarily mean a decline in sexual activity and intimacy. The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing 2017 found that the majority of adults aged over 50 in Ireland are sexually active, with 59pc reporting they had sex in the past 12 months. The study noted that those who are sexually active have a higher quality of life and tend to have more positive perceptions of ageing. Margaret Dunne is a specialist psychotherapist in psychosexual, fertility and relationship therapy, based in Glenageary, Co Dublin. She has found that couples often come to her because they hadn’t been making time for each other, as life might have been so busy with children, which led to an absence of sex. These couples almost need to know how to start again. “When people come to me and say they want to get their sex life and their relationship back on track, it can be very exciting but it can be daunting as well,” she says. The first thing she will ask clients to do is to get tested medically – erectile dysfunction, for example, can be a sign of a heart complaint, high blood pressure or diabetes – before progressing any further.

“The challenge is to change what they have been doing all the time, which may not be working anymore and as our body and mind develops, our sexuality develops too and sometimes people forget and think, ‘If I do A and B, I’ll get to C’ whereas in actual fact, sometimes things change and what worked once mightn’t anymore,” she says. The intimacy aspect is also crucial. Dunne explains that there are four stages of intimacy: operational, where two people live in the same house and divide out tasks; emotional intimacy, where they feel close; physical intimacy and sexual intimacy. It’s difficult for couples to move onto sexual intimacy if there is a disconnect between any of the other three areas. The psychotherapist gives couples a series of exercises called sensate focus where they will touch without having sexual intercourse. “It works very effectively because it almost brings them back to maybe years previously when they were going out together and it was a little bit of touching and being quite intimate but not maybe going the whole way, as it used to be known. It brings back that sense of excitement, and they explore each other’s bodies,” she says. “If you’ve someone who’s not really in the mood or worried that they’re not able to perform, this takes that pressure off, and there’s a huge amount of trust involved.” She also gives couples individual exercises where they explore their own bodies and realise what’s sensitive for them, something that can change over time.

What constitutes a healthy sex life at this stage in life? “Whatever the couple are happy with,” says Dunne. “It’s when one or the other isn’t happy with it and doesn’t enjoy it, that’s when it becomes problematic. I often encourage them at the same time to push themselves out of their comfort zone. They may have never discussed their sex life before and it’s a chance to almost reinvent themselves and to be able to enjoy sex. A lot of them mightn’t have been having sex before marriage, maybe there wasn’t a huge amount of experimenting. For some, they’re at the stage where it’s become very mundane, repetitive and functional. I know there’s a hesitation in talking about it, but it helps tremendously if they can instead of looking outside of themselves for how to earmark whether their sexual relationship is healthy or not.”

Accentuate the positives

We will often hone in on the ‘don’ts’ of relationships – don’t get defensive, don’t give the silent treatment, don’t go to bed angry. But it’s vital to focus on introducing positivity into relationships too. Relationship coach Annie Lavin points to the work of author Gary Chapman who categorises the expression of love into five love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. “Some of us can rate highly in maybe one or two of those love languages, so if we understand how our partner likes to be appreciated, then we can meet them there, and that goes both ways obviously,” says Lavin. “Expressing appreciation is something we sometimes forget in partnerships and to be thankful for the littler things that your partner does for you. Affection can wane over time and that may need to be reintroduced and to realise that they still admire their partner and what is it about their partner that they now admire, which may have changed from the beginning.” The same goes for establishing caring behaviours such as showing encouragement. According to Lavin, the three universal needs of any relationship are belonging and companionship; affection, either verbal or physical, and support or validation. “The most caring thing you can do in a relationship is to discover your own patterns and really know your own relationship history, to know the things that can really set you off or trigger you. Having this knowledge will help shortcut any relationship issues that can show up so you can then begin to realise, ‘Is this my issue and is this something I’m bringing to this relationship?’ Once you’re then aware of any variations you might have under those three needs, you’ll be less likely to blame your partner when you feel they’re not giving you that extra thing you need.”

Re-establish your identity as a couple and not just parents

Once the children have left home, parents may struggle in their new configuration as a unit of two. Lavin says that the key here is to remind yourself what made your partner tick before children came along, and to become an expert in your partner again. Finding an activity that you both enjoy whether that’s golf, cinema nights or any other, is a good step towards strengthening your connection. It’s something that you can both revel in. “Make sure that you have the time to spend together that’s enjoyable as opposed to just the chores and the routines,” says Lavin. “The idea of dating could be long gone for couples who have been together for a long period of time, so set aside some time every week, even if it’s just to sit down together, have a dinner together. Make it a time where they bring a newness to the relationship by reflecting on their past, how they got together, and maybe just getting to know how the other person thinks. It’s about getting curious again about the other person as opposed to thinking they know everything about them already.”

Complete Article HERE!

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The Kavanaugh allegations show why we need to change how we teach kids about sex

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By Sarah Hosseini

When I was 13 years old, I met a guy at the gas station right outside my suburban neighborhood in Upstate New York. Other neighborhood kids and I would go there to buy sodas and smoke cigarettes behind our parents’ backs. He was a friend of a boy I went to school with. He flirted with me and said I looked “so mature.” He was 20 years old.

He started regularly showing up at my house after school while my mom was at work. I don’t remember ever inviting him there. I told him my mom didn’t allow boys in our house. “But I miss you. It will just be for a few minutes,” he pleaded.

I shared a red metal bunk bed with my sister. We had matching comforters and stuffed animals neatly placed next to our pillows. He crouched under the low beams and jerkily groped me up and down, including beneath my underwear and training bra. I implored him to stop and pushed his hand away, but he whined, “A few more minutes.” He wouldn’t take no for an answer. And so, these encounters continued for weeks. I never told anyone until typing it for this article.

There were more violations of my body, with different boys and men, in varying situations. One was when I was as young as 7, and they continued all the way up through adulthood. Some were more terrifying than others.

While watching and listening to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, my own sexual attacks played in my head. The harrowing details she recounted are familiar to many women: nonconsensual groping, mouth-covering, the fear of rape, the fear of death and the laughing. The indelible memory of laughter.

This is the sexual landscape faced by girls and women in our country, but it doesn’t have to be. We have unprecedented access to information about sex thanks to the Internet, yet sex is still a taboo topic, especially with children. As a mom of two daughters, ages 7 and 8, I used to cringe thinking about sex talks with them. Now, I can’t think of anything worse than not starting the conversation.

“Parents sometimes think they’re ‘protecting kids’ innocence’ by avoiding sexual topics and questions when they come up. Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t mean kids don’t get sexual information; it means they get it from less reliable sources like peers and unhealthy sources like pornography,” Connecticut-based marriage and family therapist Jill Whitney says in an email. Whitney also writes for the website Keep the Talk Going, which provides “talk starters” and tips for parents.

One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). One in five women in college experience sexual assault, as reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“When young people are taught by omission that prowess on the sports field is more valuable than negotiating a mutually fulfilling sexual relationship, we realize we have our priorities wrong and women bear the brunt of such disorienting tactics,” New York City-based therapist Cyndi Darnell says in an email.

Many experts have ideas on how to combat sexual violence, but one particularly compelling option is the call for more comprehensive sexual education. A 2014 study from Georgetown University shows that starting sex education in primary school reduces unintended pregnancies, maternal deaths, unsafe abortions and STDs. Several psychologists, clinicians and educators also believe early sex ed could perhaps help reduce sexual assaults and rapes.

So where do we start?

Fundamentally, we must believe access to sexual health information is a basic human right, as outlined by the World Health Organization. We must also believe that sexual health extends beyond reproduction and disease. It needs to encompass the physical, emotional and social construction of sexuality. And it has to start when kids are young.

“The power and majesty of human sexuality must be respected and taught with the same reverence we use to teach children about how electricity works. It can be used to power our homes or destroy lives, it’s the user that determines its outcome,” Darnell writes. She believes that in our culture, the burden is unfairly placed on the individual to know better, rather than on society to support, care and educate.

“This is a systemic problem that must be changed,” she adds.

The current standards for sexual education in America leave much to be desired. Only 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and the curriculums are highly variable. Many programs are abstinence-only and omit crucial information about contraception, sexual orientation and consent. They don’t even touch the topic of pleasure.

“Unfortunately, sex education is largely approached in a fear-based, sex-negative way in U.S. schools, and the curricula are rarely honest with children about the reasons people have sex,” says Brianna Rader in an email. She’s a sex educator and founder of the sex and relationships advice app Juicebox. “We teach young girls that they are more responsible for sexual mistakes and that men are going to one day give them their sexual pleasure instead of empowering them to claim it for themselves. We don’t even discuss the clitoris,” she writes.

The United States has a long way to go toward establishing an all-encompassing model. In the meantime, there are great private sector and nonprofit resources to help parents fill in the gaps. Scarleteen is a website providing inclusive sex information for parents and teens, including message boards where users can anonymously ask questions and seek advice. The site is also highly dedicated to gender identity and sexual orientation topics. Our Whole Lives, or OWL, is a sex education program founded by the Unitarian Universalist Association, which operates under the belief that informed youth and adults make better and healthier decisions about sex. Their curriculums and workshops start in kindergarten and continue to adulthood.

Preparation is great, but what if you get caught off guard by a curious little one?

“When little kids ask about something sexual, they’re just trying to learn about the world. They’re curious about how bodies work, just as they’re curious about everything. We adults may freak out — omg! this is about sex! — but for young kids, it’s just a matter of fact,” Whitney writes.

She suggests answering their questions with simple but honest facts. Which is really the basis of all sex talks, no matter the age.

I can’t say for certain whether more comprehensive and honest sex education would’ve prevented what happened to me. But I can say that I wish I had been empowered with self-knowledge, because it would’ve given me what I didn’t have in those moments: assertiveness, alternatives and options. I deserved more, and our kids do, too.

Complete Article HERE!

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How To Make Consent Sexy, According To A Dominatrix

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By Kasandra Brabaw

When Mistress Velvet, a BDSM dominatrix in Chicago, spanks a client, she demands that they tell her how much it hurts on a scale from 1 to 10. “I have to be careful and not just ask them, ‘Do you like this?’ Because I need them to feel submissive to me,” she says. That means she’s continually asking clients for their consent to hit them and tie them up, which can be tricky when the whole point is that they feel submissive to her. “When I ask for a scale, I’m gauging where they’re at so I know how to play with them next time.”

Mistress Velvet calls covert questions of this sort “consent training,” because even though people seek her out to dominate them in a sexual manner, getting consent from her clients is paramount to everything that she does. People who don’t engage in BDSM may assume that consent isn’t a huge part of bondage and masochism. How much can you really care about what a person feels if you’re intentionally causing them pain, the thinking may go. But purposely inflicting pain is a delicate task, especially when struggles, shouts, yelps, and begging someone to stop are all part of the experience. That’s why dommes and their submissives establish safe words before a BDSM scene even gets started, and why consent is so vital to the work Mistress Velvet does. It ensures that both she and her clients have a safe and satisfying experience. The argument that asking for consent “ruins the mood” is infuriating to her. There’s never a reason to risk someone’s bodily autonomy, she says, and it’s 100% possible to ask for consent while keeping the sexy mood alive — in fact consent can heighten the erotic energy in both BDSM and non-BDSM exchanges in ways you might not expect.

Just because someone let you put your hands up their shirt, doesn’t mean that they want you to put your hands down their pants.
Mistress Velvet, BDSM Dominatrix

In both Mistress Velvet’s work and personal life, she’s a huge proponent of affirmative consent, the idea that you should be asking for a verbal “yes” at every step (from kissing to caressing to penetration) of intimate and sexual encounters. “Just because someone let you put your hands up their shirt, doesn’t mean that they want you to put your hands down their pants,” she tells Refinery29. “Just because my client is okay with me spanking them in some ways doesn’t mean they’re okay with me spanking them in other ways.”

Similar to sex, consent should be fun, even if you’re not into BDSM. Asking someone, “Can I kiss you?” isn’t a mood killer, it’s an important step for intimacy to continue in a way that confirms everyone is on the same page, comfortable, and safe. You can also get creative with how you say it by lowering your voice or throwing some sexy eyes your partner’s way. As long as you remain clear and give the person you’re being intimate with the space to object or say “no,” asking for consent shouldn’t be much different from other communication during intimacy.

You can use the same kind of language throughout a sexual experience — saying things such as, “I’m going to rip your clothes off now, okay?” or “What do you want me to do to you?” — so you don’t have to stop having sex in order to obtain ongoing consent.

“If I was having sex with someone for the first time, I wouldn’t want them to assume that I like to be choked,” Mistress Velvet says. “But there’s a way to ask when they’re pounding me and they’re like, ‘Do you like to be choked? And then I can be like, ‘Yes, choke me daddy.'” The same scenario works in the reverse if you want to offer consent. So, if you like to be choked, but aren’t sure that your partner will ask, then you can say, “Can you choke me?” during sex. Asking for what you want — whether it’s choking, oral, or a simple ass grab — won’t ruin the moment, it’ll make things even more steamy.

If I was having sex with someone for the first time, I wouldn’t want them to assume that I like to be choked.
Mistress Velvet, BDSM Dominatrix

Of course, you might feel as if you’re being thrown out of your sexy headspace at first if you or your partner aren’t accustomed to asking questions before, during and after sex. But practice makes perfect, and eventually you’ll not only get used to it, but also come to appreciate the benefits of getting exactly what you want, and being able to give someone else exactly what they want.

Mistress Velvet says that she struggled to make consent sexy at first, too. “Definitely at times [in my vanilla sex life], people would say, ‘Why are you asking me so many questions?’ and it would sometimes pause things,” she says. In those moments, she would explain that she has a history of sexual trauma, and so it’s important to her that her needs are being heard.

Maybe there’s no trauma in your past, but it’s still important to ask for and give consent regardless of your sexual history. When you’re first starting to have these conversations, you’re likely not going to be good at it. And there’s a chance that starting the consent convo will take you out of the mood, or that someone might no longer want to have sex with you because they feel that you’re making it too complicated. Those are moments to ask yourself: Is it more important to have sex or more important to learn how to stand up for my needs?

“If someone doesn’t make the space to have that kind of conversation with you, I would question if they’re a person that you feel safe with,” Mistress Velvet says. “A conscious and aware person would be like, ‘Yeah, this feels really awkward and I don’t have experience with this. Let’s just try it out.'”

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