5 Ways Seniors Can Get Back To Having Great Sex Lives

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By Kelly Gonsalves

Sex is good for your health, and some research suggests it might be particularly beneficial to older people: It keeps your body physically active, keeps the mind sharp, encourages intimate connections with others, and instills a sense of joy and excitement into your life.

Despite the cornucopia of benefits, we don’t talk a lot about seniors having sex. Part of it simply has to do with cultural narratives about sexuality: The dominant image we all carry of what sex “looks like” (as told to us on screens big and small) always involves people who are young, thin, able-bodied, physically fit, and conventionally attractive. The lack of representation or conversation about other types of people having sex contributes to an unspoken assumption that those folks just aren’t doing the deed.

But the truth is, racking up years doesn’t mean your sexual needs automatically vanish into thin air. Sure, your sexual preferences and appetite might shift as you get older, but there’s no reason to believe all people over the age of 60 just suddenly prefer celibacy.

Are 60-year-old, 70-year-old, and older people sexually active?

Yes! They certainly can be, and many are. The 2017 National Poll on Healthy Aging found 40 percent of men and women between ages 65 and 80 are sexually active. Among people in relationships, that rate bumps up to 54 percent. Some studies suggest there might be differences between men’s and women’s sexual interest: One U.K. study found 60 percent of men between ages 70 and 80 are having sex, compared to 34 percent of women in that age group. That said, women over 70 years old report that their sex lives are way more pleasurable now than when they were in their 40s.

Of course, some people as they get older do just become less interested in explorations of the flesh. For many, that has to do with health: Your hormones, sexual responses, and general physical condition may shift with age, making some sexual activities a lot more difficult or just exhausting than they used to be. For others, losing a spouse to death or divorce later in life can also make sex seem less enticing or accessible.

Other than consent and physical safety, there are very few “shoulds” when it comes to sex. If you want to be having sex after 60, 70, 80, or 90 years old, you have every right to pursue an enjoyable and fulfilling intimate life.

The importance of talking about your sexual needs.

A recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE found nearly 60 percent of older people are unhappy with their sex lives. One big reason why? They weren’t talking about it. But those who had asked for support from others, from their doctor to their spouse, were much more likely to be sexually active and sexually satisfied.

Here’s the thing: Most things in life get easier the more we talk about them. When it comes to sex—something that carries so much stigma on its own, let alone the added invisibility of seniors having sex—talking becomes especially important. Moreover, if physical ailments, a sense of isolation, or something about your environment is keeping you from having the sex life you want, it’s important to seek help from others. There’s absolutely nothing shameful about advocating for your sexual well-being: It’s a vital part of your physical, mental, and spiritual health.

If you’re of a certain age and looking to reconnect with your sexuality or simply give a little more attention to your sex life, here are a few ways for you to get started:

1. Ask your doctor.

Especially if you’ve got a lot of other health problems to deal with, your sex life might feel like a pretty low priority and perhaps nor worth bringing up at your next doctor’s appointment. But the truth is, your doctor knows your health condition well and can offer up specific suggestions for how to help improve your ability to have sex, whether that’s prescribing medications or adjusting your health plan in a way that keeps your sexual functions thriving.

2. Find a sex therapist or other professional who works with people in your age group.

If talking to your main health care provider doesn’t feel right to you or doesn’t bear a lot of fruit, try a sex therapist or another professional who can help you feel comfortable and safe exploring your sexual needs. You might be surprised what kinds of services exist out there—sex coaches, sex educators, tantra teachers, sexual healers, some doulas, and many other professionals can all guide you and give you support exploring this part of your life.

3. Open up to your friends and romantic partners about sex.

Communication about sex, both with your partner and with others, can lead to a more satisfying sex life. If you have a romantic partner right now—even if it’s someone you’ve been with for decades—consider speaking with them about how they feel about your sex life right now and whether they’d be interested in reprioritizing it. Tell them what you’ve been thinking about, what the health benefits are, and ways that you’d like to start dabbling in this area again.

Additionally, talking about sex with your friends has been shown to improve sexual confidence and sexual self-efficacy. As you develop comfort talking about this intimate part of your life, you’ll also find it easier to talk about your needs and ask for what you want.

4. Find a community or retreat to help you explore.

If you don’t have close friends who you want to share this stuff with, seek open-minded communities of people in your age group with whom you can engage in more dialogue about sex. Intimacy retreats and workshops can be a great way to learn, reconnect as a couple, and find others who are on a similar journey. (Bonus: If you or your partner feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or shy about the idea of exploring sexually, these types of events can be very welcoming, approachable spaces to help you open your mind, get more comfortable, and shed some of your apprehensions.) If you’re not sure which events are right for you, you can always reach out to the organizer to get a sense of the target age groups.

The internet is also a vast and wonderful resource for finding such communities in your neighborhood: Google around, look through Meetup.com, or post in social media spaces you feel comfortable with. You can also try asking people in real life who are your age to see what resources they know about. While putting this article together, I spoke with several people who run private groups in their own neighborhoods for discussing senior sexuality.

5. Do some reading!

There are many excellent resources that can provide you with endless ideas, inspiration, and resources about exploring your sexuality at any age. Try these for starters:

6. Expand your definition of what sex means.

This one’s important! As we get older, some types of sex that might’ve been exciting in the past are just less feasible—but that doesn’t mean all sex now needs to be off the table. For example, if sex in the past meant a lot of thrusting and acrobatics, consider exploring other types of sexual expression and activities: Focus totally on using your hands, arms, and mouths, for example, to give and receive pleasure. Plenty of sexual acts will still yield those blissful neurochemical rewards. Cuddling is associated with significantly more sexual pleasure and more sexual satisfaction, for example, and even the brain can be a sex organ. Reading, watching, and creating erotica can be excellent ways to stimulate sexual energy.

There are so many ways to share passion, intimacy, and pleasure, both alone and with a partner, that have little to do with making the headboard shake. Find something that fits with your lifestyle, abilities, and interests.

Complete Article HERE!

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7 Books About Expanding Your Sexual Horizons

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Spice up your fantasy life without having to interact with another person with these stories of sex and exploration

By Frances Yackel

The theme of education—spiritual journeys, individual enlightenment—pervades much of the literary canon across cultures. Reading the narrative of a protagonist’s heuristic odyssey can open the eyes of the reader as it relates to their own life. Bildungsroman novels allow us to look at our own morals and dispositions, and consider the places in which we can grow. As the hero grows and learns, we grow and learn with them. This is true of novels about sexual exploration. A history of censorship has turned sex into a subject matter only disclosed behind closed doors (or during a 45 minute class in middle school), making it difficult to be comfortable with our bodies and the pleasures for which it lusts. But this prohibition only makes the conversation more relevant.

Written with sincerity and vulnerability, these seven books share the stories, both fictional and non-fictional, of sexual exploration. The characters give us insight into our own journeys; as they learn about their own sexual appetite and biological urges, we make discoveries of our own.

Open Me by Lisa Locascio

In Open Me, high school graduate Roxana, consumed with wanderlust and an awakening sexuality, goes on a study abroad trip to Denmark. Her adventure begins when she meets a beguiling Danish PhD student who woos her and whisks her away to stay with him in a remote town, where he tells her that he has only one key and she cannot leave the apartment while he is out working. Finding herself locked away in a stranger’s apartment in a foreign town, Roxana defies the “princess locked in a tower” trope. Rather than wasting away her time, dreaming of her prince or brushing her long golden locks, she takes the opportunity to explore the intricacies of her body, reflecting on her previous and current sexual experiences, to learn about her desires. Locascio writes about sex (and masturbation) with a vivid realism that no male writer could ever achieve.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

For this hydro-erotic story, Melissa Broder pulls from her own insecurities and idiosyncrasies relating to sex. According to The New Yorker, Broder “could only orgasm when she imagined people vomiting” during her developing years. With the same vulnerability she uses to tell the public about her own sexual pleasures, she develops a protagonist willing to succumb to a lust for marine carnality. An addict to the feeling of being desired and adored, Lucy recognizes the same need in her partner, whose quasi-merman body has made him believe he will never receive love.

The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn

Sexual exploration and education goes far beyond adolescence and even young adulthood, it can exist even within the boundaries of a permanent relationship, even within the time honored tradition of marriage. With the changing of bodies and situations, with lives in constant flux, growth can be incessant. When the married couple in Sarah Dunn’s novel recognize this, they make a sincere effort to progress rather than stay in place. The Arrangement tells the story of an open marriage between Owen and Lucy, in their attempt to reclaim their marriage while simultaneously sanctioning one another’s implicit sexual desires. The Arrangement plays with the periphery of what has been long considered, in many parts of the world, the conventional way to live a life alongside one monogamous partner.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Using lyrical prose that bewitches from the first page and poignant references from philosophers, pediatricians, and writers, Nelson writes about her life with a nonbinary partner. Nelson’s style, which vacillates between poetry, theory, and memoir, offers the reader a sincere look into what it means for her to love, and lust after, someone who does not fall within the confines of the binary social construction of gender.

 

 

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

Educating yourself on sex and lust is one thing, educating your children is entirely another thing. In Emma Straub’s novel, set in modern day Brooklyn, two families simultaneously explore what it means to be in a relationship, whether it’s a lifelong connection or a newly flourishing one. While Jane, Zoe, Elizabeth and Andrew struggle with their own relationships after the death of a mutual college friend and bandmate, their respective children begin a fling. The juxtaposition of experienced and inexperienced, old and new, offers an interesting perspective on the development of sex and love—of growth from the one into the other.

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

One of the first English novels about someone changing gender begins with, “He—for there could be no doubt of his sex…” Long before the public acknowledgement of gender fluidity, Woolf weaves the tale of a woman born in a man’s body—or a man who becomes a woman. Orlando lives hundreds of years, is exposed to centuries of chauvinism, and encounters the mistreatment of the female’s body from the perspective of a person who has lived on the other side of the coin. Orlando illuminates the brutal history of gender politics while recounting the experience of a person who lusts after both men and women.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Lusting after a person can inspire a passion for creation. Edna, a married woman, learns this when her appetite for sex is aroused by a neighbor at the boarding houses on Grand Isle where she is staying for the summer. When autumn sets in and Robert—her muse—is gone, Edna continues her fervency. Now, the object of her fervor is no longer a man, but art. Her romance with Robert catalyzes a desire to create beauty. Edna rides on the high of that inspiration, forgoing the social norms of women of the time to zealously chase after the feeling of bringing something beautiful into existence. A feeling not unlike creating a bond between another person where before there was only unfamiliarity.

She Came to Stay by Simone de Beauvoir

Sexual exploration can be as painful as it can be pleasurable. Simone de Beauvoir, a cited expert on the condition of human suffering and the subjugation of women, wrote this novel loosely based on her relationship with Jean Paul Sartre. She Came to Stay follows the story of Françoise and Pierre as they invite a third person into their lives. Through these three characters, de Beauvoir examines the inherent paradox of love and desire; how can we feel the freedom of individuality that love promises us when we depend on the other to give it to us? As per the deep-rooted existentialism that pervades all of her texts, She Came to Stay is an investigation into meaning through the magnificence and monstrousness of sex and love.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex ed video for teens shatters myths about sexuality and disability

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The internet has changed how kids learn about sex, but sex ed in the classroom still sucks. In Sex Ed 2.0, Mashable explores the state of sex ed and imagines a future where digital innovations are used to teach consent, sex positivity, respect, and responsibility.

By Rebecca Ruiz

Sex ed in the U.S. is often a hot mess. Teens regularly get medically inaccurate information, learn solely about abstinence, and hear only bad things about LGBTQ identity and sexuality.

Young people with disabilities can feel particularly invisible in classroom sex ed lessons, since the content typically doesn’t reflect their experience. Meanwhile, some teens may assume their peers with disabilities have no interest in sex or sexuality at all.

This new video from AMAZE, a YouTube sex ed series for adolescents and teens, takes on and then shatters the stereotypes and misconceptions about disability and sexuality.

The clip features a young character who uses a wheelchair and the pronouns they/them. They share with an inquisitive friend that yes, they are interested in dating, and yes, their “parts work just fine.” (It’s important to note that while the direct questions help start an educational dialogue in the video, young people shouldn’t similarly quiz their friends with disabilities.)

The candid conversation covers gender identity, sexual orientation, healthy relationships, and the specific challenges people with disabilities can face while trying to date. In just three short minutes, the video scores wins for representation, inclusion, and education.

Complete Article HERE!

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Asexuality: “Identity over society’s fixation with sex”

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Sexuality is a spectrum and it doesn’t matter where you fall

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Today, we recognize that sexuality and gender fall on a spectrum. Sexual orientations such as homosexuality, bisexuality, and pansexuality are well-known, but I’d like to talk about a lesser known one: asexuality. Not everyone is — or wants to be — sexually active.

I wrote to my friend, Tab*, who is asexual, asking her some questions to hopefully shed some light on the nuanced meanings of asexuality and how she navigates relationships.

The Varsity: According to Wikipedia, asexuality is “the lack of sexual attraction to others, or low or absent interest in or desire for sexual activity.” Do you agree with this definition and can you elaborate on what asexuality means to you?

T: I definitely agree with the first half, but I also make the distinction between sexual attraction and interest or desire.

A friend of mine once used the analogy of looking at a beautiful painting in a museum: you think the painting is beautiful, but you don’t want to take it home and have sex with it. That is not to say that people are ‘just objects’ to asexuals, but rather that no matter how aesthetically pleasing they are to me, I just don’t want to have sex with them. They are about as sexually attractive as a painting.

TV: I’m sure there is a stigma around being asexual, especially in a heterosexual and sex-driven society where every form of media is filled with innuendos and sexual references. How do you reconcile your own identity with society’s idea of what a person should be?

T: I think that being asexual doesn’t necessarily mean being sex-repulsed or ‘prudish.’ Nor does it necessarily mean having a low sex drive… or not having any romantic feelings at all. Society, or at least North American society, definitely puts a lot of emphasis on sexual attractiveness as a measure of value, or as something to strive for.

I think it took me a long time to kind of condition myself, or kind of learn to first accept that I won’t be like any of the hypersexual or super beautiful, stereotypical models, celebrities, and characters I often see in [media], but that was okay, and I still had value to other people.

I think that finding out that there was a sort of label for the way I felt about others, sexually, helped me out a lot in accepting that I wasn’t just strange or destined to have no meaningful romantic relationships in my life, which is something that weighs on my mind. I have other things to offer other than just being a sexual partner. Is it actually that important to me to be attractive or valued by people who only consider my sexual value? I figured the answer was no, and that it was kind of BS that I’d be considered less of a person just because I didn’t find people sexually attractive. I never really reconciled my identity with society’s idea of a person more than I just prioritized my identity over society’s fixation with sex.

TV: There’s a lot of emphasis on hookup culture especially with dating apps like Tinder. What does a relationship mean to you? How do you navigate dating and meeting people, especially in university?

T: I’ve been pretty removed from the whole hookup culture. I mean, I have Tinder, but it’s definitely more of a time-waster. To be honest, I’m absolutely trash at navigating the dating scene. I have a lot of my own personal issues to deal with, not to mention I’m the kind of person who mostly keeps to myself. Hookup culture is still definitely something I keep in mind though, and it often intrudes with whenever I get a message or match on Tinder, or some person talks to me for longer than I deem strictly necessary in a social exchange. So, even taking sexual orientation out of the equation, the dating scene is already hard to navigate.

That being said, I have an all-together probably too romantic idea of a relationship. I don’t think I’m quite made for casual dating — if I find interest in someone deeply enough to pursue some sort of deeper relationship, I definitely am in it for the long term.

I’d love for someone to be comfortable with, who inspires me to be a better person, who I change and grow with, who I trust. A person who is worth going the distance for, and who’s as committed to me as I am to them. That sounds awfully idealistic, but that’s probably my best idea of a relationship.

TV: There’s this idea that to be intimate means to have sex — what do you think about this idea of intimacy? And what does intimacy mean to you instead?

T: When I wrote cringy poetry as an edgelord high schooler, I actually wrote about this. My idea of intimacy hasn’t actually changed much since then, although it’s defined itself a bit more. There’s definitely intimacy to be had in sex… baring yourself to another person and trusting that they want you and will accept you as you are. So there’s nothing wrong with saying having sex is intimate.

I think the mistake is when people say that sex is the ‘ultimate’ form of intimacy, or even the only form. I think that as a baseline, intimacy is being able to be vulnerable around another person, not just by being able to share problems and stuff with your partner, but to be able to really experience and share the simple intimacies in life, like waking up and going to sleep in the same bed as the person you love, being able to spend time doing nothing but enjoying each other’s presence, being secure and content. It’s almost hard to describe, but like, if you’ve ever seen a couple that are just so in love… that are just so happy to be with their partner, that it’s almost embarrassing to be witnessing it? That’s the kind of intimacy I’d love to have.

TV: Do you feel pressured to be sexually active?

T: Not enough to make me actually have sex with anyone just for the sake of relieving the pressure, but I definitely feel a bit pressured… Sometimes wondering if I should just have sex with someone just to say I’ve had the experience and can surely say it’s not something I like. Most of the time, I think that’s pretty ridiculous though, because I don’t think it’ll change my attraction. Part of me feels that I should have sex just to experience some sort of intimacy… or that I should at least say yes to sex if my partner asks for it. I think some part of me still considers my lack of sexual attraction abnormal in a sense, such that I should be the one accommodating others’ sexual desire instead of the other way around. Thankfully, I’ve been lucky to have understanding and accepting people around me.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Surprising Facts About Vaginas From The ‘Gynae Geek’

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By Esther Newman

From advice about popping jade eggs down there to steaming our lady parts, we’re inundated with information about what to do with our vaginas. Unfortunately, much of this – the supposed merits of jade eggs and steam baths included – is false, headline-grabbing nonsense.

Someone who knows the importance of women truly understanding their bodies is Dr Anita Mitra, a gynaecologist and self-confessed “Gynae Geek” (as she is better known to her 45k+ Instagram followers). Her recently published book – The Gynae Geek: Your No-Nonsense Guide To ‘Down There’ Healthcare – is a bible for hard vagina facts and dispelling misguided, internet “wellness” theories.

Taking the reader from the basic anatomy of the vagina through their first period, sexual health, contraception, fertility and pregnancy, Dr Mitra explains in a straight-talking, friendly tone, how women should best look after their bodies. She shares her own experiences along the way, stories of her patients and her friends (one particular laugh-out-loud moment describes how a friend believed her cervix scab had fallen off “thanks to the most energetic dancing at the Pyramid Stage” at Glastonbury festival.

Here at Refinery29, we consider ourselves pretty knowledgeable when it comes to vulvas, vaginas and women’s sexual and reproductive health, but even we were surprised by how much we didn’t know after reading The Gynae Geek. Read on for the five most surprising things we learned from Dr Mitra.

Use an IUD and menstrual cup at the same time with caution

As Dr Mitra explains, everyone seems to have a different answer to whether or not this is advisable – some say it’s okay, some say it could be harmful. “This is because theoretically you could dislodge your coil with the… vacuum effect,” Dr Mitra explains in chapter 3, the section of the book dedicated to periods. This “suction” experience, she continues, is something that she has had confirmed by a number of “SOS message[s]” from women via social media, many of which beg her to help reinsert the saved coil. “[W]hile I’m all for recycling, you can’t reuse a coil,” Dr Mitra states, advising that if this happens to you, it is important to use a fresh coil in its place.

“If you do choose to use a cup with a coil,” she continues, “I would advise checking the strings at the end of your period. If you feel they are lower than normal, you can feel the rod of the coil or you can’t feel any strings at all, I would use condoms until you’ve had it checked by a doctor to ensure it’s still in the right place to give you full contraceptive protection.”

When you smoke, so does your vagina

“Smoking is most often associated with lung-related diseases, but nicotine and its metabolites have been found in the vaginal discharge of smokers, as well as that of women exposed to passive smoking,” Dr Mitra explains. “Smoking is known to have anti-oestrogenic effects, which can cause women to go through an early menopause, have osteoporosis, as well as vaginal dryness and higher rates of bacterial vaginosis.”

There is such a thing as a “retroverted uterus”

Also known as a “tipped/tilted uterus”, a retroverted uterus means that “the uterus points backwards (retroverted) instead of forwards (anteverted).” Dr Mitra explains that between 20–30% of women have this and often, it is just how a woman is born and many find that it never impacts their health. “In some women, however, it may be due to conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids, or the presence of scar tissue that pulls the uterus backwards,” Dr Mitra clarifies.

Though it sounds scary, Dr Mitra says a retroverted uterus – no matter its position – does not affect a woman’s chances of pregnancy because “sperm is able to swim in all directions”. “As the uterus increases in size in pregnancy, it will gradually flip forward, and by twelve weeks – when most women are having their first scan – a retroverted uterus may have corrected itself, so that many women never even find out they had one.”

A retroverted uterus can make smear tests a little trickier and uncomfortable as the cervix is harder to locate, but Dr Mitra promises that doctors know “plenty of tricks to make it easier and less painful”.

How and when you use contraception should change when you’re on holiday

Helpfully, we also learned from The Gynae Geek that how and when we take our contraception should change as we travel. If you take the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP) – the most commonly used contraception in the UK – and are changing time zones, Dr Mitra suggests that you “adjust the time you take it to be similar to when you are at home”. For example, if you usually pop your pill at 7am when your alarm goes off at home in London, the corresponding time in a different country might not be appropriate (such as the middle of the night). If this is the case, Dr Mitra advises that it is “better to take it earlier rather than later”, such as the night before.

If you’re on a long-haul flight and need to take your pill, she notes that it is important to “keep mobile, wear compression stockings and stay well hydrated on the flight to reduce the risk of blood clots.”

If you take the progesterone-only pill (POP), which works to thicken the mucus produced by your cervix so it is harder for sperm to penetrate, Dr Mitra says it is important to “[b]e mindful of the three- or twelve-hour time window for taking it,” something that can be tricky when contending with jet lag. “Don’t forget about the chance of getting a tummy bug if you’re going somewhere exotic,” she continues. “If you’re going somewhere remote, or don’t want a ‘Bridget Jones in the pharmacy’-type scene, you may want to think about taking some emergency contraception in the form of the morning-after pill.”

If, like many millennial women, you use a fertility awareness app or method, Dr Mitra strongly suggests considering a different type of contraception, just “while you’re travelling and for some time after you get back until you think your cycle is back into the swing of things”. This is because the “timing of ovulation may be incredibly difficult to predict when you’re working with jet lag, or even just a change of schedule”.

The only contraceptive methods Dr Mitra does not consider affected by travel include the two types of coil (the Mirena coil and the copper coil), the contraceptive injection, the implant, condoms and sterilisation.

There’s an STI we’ve never heard of

Thought to infect approximately 1% of under-45-year-olds in the UK, mycoplasma genitalium is an STI not commonly known or talked about. The symptoms are similar to those of many other STIs: “abnormal vaginal discharge, pain on urinating and bleeding after sex or between periods” and “it can cause long-term health complications including pelvic inflammatory disease and premature delivery if present in pregnancy”. Dr Mitra tells us that the infection is “detected most effectively using a vaginal swab rather than a urine test and is treated with antibiotics”. Admittedly not a cheery note to end on, but we’ll bet you learned something too.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why we need a new philosophy of sex

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A number of years ago, I found myself at a public sex beach in southern France for research purposes. Unsurprisingly, I experienced some ethical dilemmas. Because I was researching the ethics of sexuality, my research involved potentially having sex with men and women at the beach.

The question of whether I “should” or “could” do so was complicated by a number of factors. I am a woman. I am queer. I am an academic. At the time, I was also in an (increasingly) difficult relationship with a man who was a philosopher. Given all of these complex factors, I desperately needed ethical assistance supported by philosophy (that I read and revered) that did not judge, and was aligned to my sexuality. But this philosophy – whichever way I turned to find it – doesn’t exist.

Ethics is a field of philosophy that seeks out the foundations of how we should live our lives. It seeks to provide a framework for doing the “right” thing. This framework is founded on conventional Western philosophical ideas. For instance, conventional ethical thinking finds homosexuality to be an “issue”, rather than an inherent characteristic of bodies. The ethical theorist John Finnis, for example, recently argued that the ethics of homosexuality are still up for discussion.

Most of these philosophies are heavily influenced by Rene Descartes’s concept of dualism, which separates the substances of body and mind. This idea of dualism is at the roots of the philosophical canon, from Immanuel Kant, to Friedrich Nietzsche, to David Hume. Founded in the primacy of knowledge and rationality, these philosophies culminate in the idea at the heart of the liberal philosophy of John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin: that for a debate to be moral, it must be capable of being rational. This is so we can use our minds to judge the actions of ourselves and others.

Some Western philosophers were more radical, such as Baruch Spinoza, a contemporary of Descartes. His major work, Ethics, opposed Cartesian dualism by unifying body and mind, God and substance. This also hugely influenced modern Western philosophy, particularly big, fashionable continental thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, John Paul Sartre and Jacques Derrida, who all have sought to place the body on equal philosophical terms with the mind. Despite being a leap forward, this philosophy still does not place all women’s bodies on equal philosophical footing with the minds of the men who wrote it.

A white male canon

All of the names listed above are white men. There is, of course, the huge body of (usually white) feminist work, but this is described as feminism, not philosophy. This means that we have a philosophy built by men, put on pedestal of genius, who defined and continue to define philosophy through their rational legacy.

This is despite the fact that Kant and Hume were racist and Aristotle (“the Father of Western philosophy”) was sexist. Heidegger was a member of the Nazi party, and as a professor began an affair with his then student, Hannah Arendt. The argument is that these philosophers were not as socially enlightened as us, given their historical specificity, so we should continue to value their ideas, if not their bodies.

This Cartesian insistence that philosophy can be separate from the body that writes it, can be dangerous. Sexist, racist, powerful (and sometimes abusive) men have been endowed with an authority to create the foundations of how we judge sex. We endow this philosophy with authority over all bodies: women of colour, queer women, trans women, women who like to have sex in all types of ways, women whose oppression and assault maintains the authority of these philosophical geniuses. These philosophers are dangerous since their authority can inform our sexual tastes, and what is “acceptable”. These rules encourage us to disregard the ethical complexities of women’s lives.

How could a canon of white men do justice to the complexities of women

The pleasure of women

These philosophies were not helpful for me in my ethical dilemmas, since they were not written for me, my body and my sexuality. Thankfully, in the world outside of philosophy, core assumptions about women’s sexuality are being dismantled.

The academic Omise’eke Tinsley writes to empower the sexuality of black women generally, and against “misogynoir”, a specific sexism against black women. The writer Wednesday Martin, meanwhile, is systematically dismantling the myth that women are the monogamous ones, compared to men’s inherent sexual restlessness.

The movement to “correct” dominant ideas is not only about the sociology of women’s desire, but also the science. The OMGyes project is using research and women’s experiences to redefine a science of women’s pleasure. The Vulva Gallery is doing revolutionary work in sex education and representing women’s vulvas and their owner’s stories.

Sadly, we are not closer to finding a philosophical ethic that fits these growing understandings of women’s sexuality. There is the practical philosophy put forward by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy in The Ethical Slut, but this is geared towards polyamorous people. And such an explicit code could be seen as unsexy, not to mention that some people might think of themselves as monogamous sluts, or something in between. Maybe some of us don’t want to be called sluts. And maybe there are those who prefer to be unethical. In the present philosophical landscape, who can blame them?

Future sexual ethics

So philosophically, we have not moved on. Psychoanalytic philosopher Alenka Zupančič’s What IS Sex aims to tell us what sex is in modern psychoanalytic and philosophical terms. But this does not help us discover a new kind of sexual ethics in light of what we have discovered and continue to discover about women’s practical sexual experiences. To do so, I argue that we need to move beyond the authority of even the male continental “radical” philosophical canon.

In my own ethical dilemmas, conventional ethics did not help me. In fact, they became part of the dilemma, since somehow I valued the perspective and empowered the words of my partner, because he was a philosopher. I also sat on that beach thinking that my desires were wrong, since they did not fit within a particular category, which meant I was not entitled to ethical treatment.

Also, as an academic, not only was I supposed to be objective and non-desiring, I was supposed to value ideas over bodily sensations. I was supposed to be rational and operate ethically while having my sexuality abused. Western ethics was not in favour of the strength of my body, but its destruction.

All this is to say that conventional philosophy and research is not going to develop a new ethics for women’s sexuality. Instead, as I argue in my story of finding my own sexual ethics, we need an ethic of vivid kindness, to ourselves and others. And it needs to be founded on a wholesale, orgasmic attack: on Western philosophy.

Complete Article HERE!

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6 Questions to Ask Before Sex

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By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Despite how we see it portrayed in the media, sex is a very personal act – with both emotional and physical consequences. So, it’s extremely important that you approach it with the serious thought that it deserves. This includes asking yourself and your partner some key questions.

3 Questions to Ask Yourself

Does having sex fit with my core values? At a very basic level, it helps to be clear about the extent of emotional intimacy and commitment you believe there should be in a relationship before having sex.

There is also the question of whether being physically intimate with a particular person fits with your morals or values. If either you or your potential sexual partner is in a committed relationship with someone else, pause before acting on your desires. There are also other situations worth thinking twice about, such as sleeping with your boss. So whatever your circumstance, consider the problems you might be creating by acting on your passions.

Is this person a wise choice for me? Even if you are incredibly attracted to someone or they look great on paper, you may know in your heart that they are not right for you. Or, you may have some nagging doubts. Maybe they treat you poorly, are insensitive to others (even while they idolize you), struggle with an anger or alcohol problem, or raise concerns in some other way. In all of these situations, you may want to, at least temporarily, override your libido. When you have sex with someone, you are bringing that person more into your life and heart – a choice you may live to regret. 

Is the timing right? Sex can increase emotional closeness, so if you’re not ready to get closer, you may want to hold off. For instance, if you have just gotten out of a long-term relationship, having sex too soon could interfere with developing what could have been a good match. Similarly, acting on sexual attraction before getting to know someone might feel good in the moment, but also create problems in developing a deeper connection.

3 Questions to Ask Your Partner

What are we to each other? You want to know whether you are on the same page so that you don’t set yourself up for heartache. To clarify your situation, you might directly ask about whether they are single or romantically involved with someone else; and whether they are looking for a fling or a committed relationship.

When were you last tested for STDs and HIV? This may be an uncomfortable question to ask, but you need to be sure that you’re safe from these potentially serious health risks before you move forward.

What will we use for birth control? Whatever you decide to use, make an informed choice to prevent a possible unwanted pregnancy or disease.

These questions are just a start. From there you might want to get to know each other better, deepening your emotional and sexual intimacy. But these basic questions are an essential starting point for any new sexual relationship.

Complete Article HERE!

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Let’s Stop Ignoring the Truths of Puberty.

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We’re Making It Even More Awkward.

Sex education in U.S. schools is lacking, but new efforts to broaden its scope are bubbling up.

By Maya Salam

“I’d rather they just don’t teach anything if they can’t be honest.”

— Susan Lontine, a Colorado state representative who introduced a bill that would mandate teachings about safe sex, consent and sexual orientation in the state’s public schools

By the time I was 15, most of my knowledge about puberty was gleaned from one-dimensional tales on TV and in movies. I learned what it meant when a pubescent boy carried a book in front of his body (cue laugh track) and that when girls develop breasts, boys (and men) “can’t help but” ogle them. That’s about it.

In the last year or so, TV and film have made strides in representing pubescent girls as complex and awkward beings who also happen to be sex-obsessed (a trait normally reserved for adolescent boys), my colleague Amanda Hess pointed out in a recent piece about the shows “PEN15” and “Big Mouth” and the movie “Eighth Grade.”

“The lustful adolescent girl is having her moment,” wrote Hess, a Times culture critic. “It is not, to be clear, an altogether glorious time,” she said, adding that “girls’ feelings matter, too. And these girls feel so much.”

Such nuances and acknowledgments of female sexuality are largely missing from sex education in U.S. schools, where curriculum is lacking over all.

The majority of states don’t mandate sex ed at all, and just 13 require that the material be medically accurate. Abstinence education remains a pillar of most programs. And that is saying nothing of more complex issues like consent, sexual orientation and gender identity. (In seven states, laws prohibit educators from portraying same-sex relationships positively.)

Simultaneously, the influence of pornography is growing. “Easy-to-access online porn fills the vacuum, making porn the de facto sex educator for American youth,” Maggie Jones wrote in The New York Times Magazine last year. Her article pointed to a study in which high schoolers reported that pornography was their primary source for information about sex — more than friends, siblings, schools or parents.

“There’s nowhere else to learn about sex, and porn stars know what they are doing,” one boy told Jones.

But to keep up with the times, new efforts to broaden the scope of sex ed are bubbling up.

A pornography-literacy course, titled The Truth About Pornography, was a recent addition to Start Strong, a peer-leadership program for teenagers headquartered in Boston and funded by the city’s public-health agency.

In Colorado, a new comprehensive, student-supported sex education bill is working its way through the state’s Legislature. It would require the teaching of safe sex, consent and sexual orientation, as well as bar abstinence-only sex education. If passed, Colorado would be the ninth state to require that consent be taught.

And today, the first guide to gender-inclusive puberty education was published by Gender Spectrum, a nonprofit organization that works to create gender-sensitive and inclusive environments for children.

Among other principles, the guide — intended to give educators tools they can incorporate into existing course materials — stresses the complexity of gender as the interrelationship between one’s body, identity and expression. The point, according to Gender Spectrum, is to “ensure that no student’s passage through puberty is stigmatized or made invisible.”

Perhaps leading the way is the British government, which last week announced a major change to the nation’s sex education curriculum, the first revision in decades. Starting in 2020, it will cover topics including same-sex relationships, transgender people, menstruation, sexual assault, forced marriage, pornography and sexting.

Complete Article HERE!

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Lube, Butt Plugs, and Bondage, Oh My!

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Just another day at your friendly neighborhood sex shop

By: Emma Chekroun

Having a part time job in college isn’t uncommon. Some students wait tables, others have jobs through their university, and some, like Haydin Wellens, a junior at the University of Minnesota, work as a cashier at a sex shop. Similar to other students, Wellens goes through his week’s worth of classes before working eight to nine hours on the weekend. Wellens fights exhaustion and tries to keep up with homework while working his late night shifts. The highlight? Much better party stories.

Wellens revels in the opportunity to talk about his job. “People will be talking about their jobs, and I usually start out with I work at a sex shop and…” pause for reaction. What usually comes next is smiles and stares of anticipation.

That anticipation lingers. There is something exhilarating in talking about and going to sex shops. Staring wide eyed at all the toys and tools that decorate the walls is enough to make anyone feel eager and anxious. 

While customers may only dedicate a few hours to browsing a sex shop, for those maintaining these glimmering palaces of self-love, it’s a lifestyle. 

Not Just a Job

Vincent Valcroft, assistant manager at Bondesque near Uptown, said he loves building people up through his work at the BDSM and fetish wear specialty shop. “I get to contribute to something that helps people,” he adds, “to bring greater wellness, meaning, and pleasure into their lives and relationships.”

Wellens, cashier at Lickety Split, and Cat Charles, website manager at Smitten Kitten, both said the best part of their jobs was answering questions and giving customers a safe space to ask them.

Charles said it’s “delightful and fun” to have sex as the subject manner of work. They enjoy making sex a normal and comfortable topic for shoppers.

Education also takes an important role in working at a sex shop. At Smitten Kitten, every employee is trained in the store’s sex ed curriculum. The shop also holds periodic free sex workshops, such as “Anal 101.”

Bondesque also holds workshops centered around BDSM, which Valcroft hopes contributes to a “holistic kink experience” in the store. Meanwhile, Wellens takes on an informal education outside of work, utilizing the internet to be better informed.

“I love figuring out how the different toys and interests work,” Wellens said. “Doing research into products on my own time doesn’t really feel like work.”

Education is a major way these sex shops pay it forward to the community. A shop’s attitude also has a big impact on its workers and the community. Wellens described how his manager created a position for him when he applied to Lickety Split back in June of 2018 and how that contributed to the family-like workplace he enjoys so much.

Valcroft went as far to say at Bondesque it’s “not a sale, it’s a celebration” and described the fun and explorative setting he strives to achieve at the store. When the community you and your store are a part of branches off into a spectrum of gender identities, orientation, and age groups, it’s important to “celebrate people,” Valcroft said.

Funny Moments

Even a community saturated with pleasure and support has its occasional negatives. From drunken shoppers to more dangerous exchanges, it’s not always easy being the purveyors of pleasure.

Wellens has had his fair share of run-ins that range from hilarious to horrifying. One particularly frightening story involves a knife and customer named Jelly; “we learned he was called Jelly after the fact,” Wellens clarifies.

Jelly became irate, yelling slurs at Wellens’ co-worker. Wellens went on to say, “He got super frustrated and pulled out a knife.” He adds, “It was more funny after the fact,” although that seems hard to believe.

Wellens’ stories only get wackier from there. At one point, a man came in waving around a sizeable chunk of marijuana for no apparent reason. Drunk frat guys have played leapfrog, Wellens added. “One time a guy bought a cock ring,” Wellens continues, “and tried to put it on in the store.” This patron wasn’t drunk or high—just “very excited,” Wellens clarified.

For Valcroft, there hasn’t really been one defining hard part of his job, except maybe when “the gimp gets loose,” he explained, only half kidding while a devilish smile spread across his face.

But all laughs aside, the world of sex shops, is just that: a world.

There’s a Whole World Out There

Even sex shop workers encounter kinks they’re not familiar with. A resounding response from all three sex workers, no matter the kink, is that sex shops are a judgment-free zone. Don’t be afraid to have questions, just leave the nitty gritty personal experience out, according to Wellens.

Your kink isn’t that weird, Charles assures. They also encouraged beginners to be open to new experiences and not be discouraged if something doesn’t work out for you.

Valcroft described BDSM and fetish as a “journey,” which the other sex workers agreed with—it’s a journey to find what you like.

Lots of communities are included, so there is a good chance you can find what you are looking for. Smitten Kitten specifically identifies as “queer-centered.” Every shop mentioned here has some form of gender expression or cross dressing inventory, gender expression involving toys, and other items for persons in the transgender community to express their identity. This can include strap-ons or realistic artificial penises.

A tour of Bondesque illuminates several kinks that fall under the radar of popular culture, such as sex toys for electrosex, which involves electrostimulation, and is surprisingly safe. There are also tools/toys for medical fetishes and latex fetishes.

And yes, for those interested in feet, Lickety Split sells silicone feet, according to Wellens.

Aside from kinks, a few new things discovered this week through interviews, an anal workshop, and a sex shop tour: silicone lube is not good for silicone sex toys, fetish parties are like raves mixed with fashion mixed with latex, and there is something out there for practically everyone. Most importantly, sex shop workers make a rewarding career not only out of selling toys but also out of making comfortable environments for sexual deviants and newbies alike.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why — and how — parents should help teens develop a healthy understanding of sex

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By Ellen Friedrichs

Recently, I attended my 12-year-old daughter’s instrumental concert. The group sounded lovely, and you could tell how much work the kids had put into their performance. My daughter has been playing viola for five years. She has an ensemble class twice a week in school and takes weekly private lessons. She is also supposed to practice on her own.

When it comes to learning an instrument, or mastering driving, cooking, playing a sport, or becoming fluent in a foreign language, this type of training is the norm. We would never expect someone to instinctively excel at, let alone enjoy, these things without at least some routine instruction or study.

Yet when the topic is sex, something that is arguably more nuanced and complicated than many other life skills, we often assume that putting similar structures for instruction in place will be harmful to young people, or will encourage risky behavior. Or we’re just too uncomfortable to talk to them about it at length. But having worked as a health educator for the past 15 years, I have seen how harmful this misguided approach can be.

The United States’ high rates of adolescent pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections are well documented. But what isn’t discussed as often is that the actual experiences of teen sex can be really negative. Frequently, teens hook up in secret, without a committed partner, maybe under the influence of substances and often with the fear of getting in trouble. Many are pressured into things they would rather not do. Others are having experiences that aren’t consensual. And even when it’s consensual, a lot of the sex happening among teens doesn’t feel great, particularly for girls with male partners.

This bleak picture contributes to an understandably common view that teens are just too young to have sex in a healthy manner, and that the best choice is for them simply to abstain. Certainly that assumption is fair for many.

But this view ignores the fact that plenty of these negative experiences are not the byproduct of youth, but rather the result of the conditions under which many teens are having sex. In a culture where abstinence-only programs have taken the place of real sex education, and where many teens lack the resources to prevent pregnancies or STIs, let alone the ability to deal with these situations if they occur, it is common for teens to feel shame, fear and anxiety about sexuality. And many feel like they cannot turn to adults for help when they need it.

So what would it look like if we gave teens the tools to help them succeed? For one thing, we know that accurate information about sex and access to reproductive health care makes teens less likely to become sexually active in the first place. Then if they do have sex, these supports mean they are far more likely to use condoms and contraception, and are at significantly lower risk of having nonconsensual experiences.

It might feel counterintuitive, but parents who want to help teens grow into sexually healthy adults are going to need to step up to the plate. Here are six ways to do that,

Actively support comprehensive sex education in your community and oppose abstinence-only programs. Attend school board meetings where the issue is being discussed, and share your opinion with school officials. Many studies (including one published last month in the American Journal of Public Health) have found that abstinence education has not only failed to prevent teens from having sex, it has also put teens who receive it at greater risk for STIs, pregnancy and even sexual assault than those who get comprehensive sex education.

Make sure teens understand consent. They need to know that sex can’t be truly consensual if there is pressure involved, or if either person is inebriated. It should be clear that if they aren’t completely certain that someone wants to have sex, or if they are questioning how far someone wants to go sexually, they don’t have consent. Teens should also be aware that while many people assume that a lack of a verbal “no” constitutes consent, that is not the case. Teens should be encouraged to clearly state their desires and boundaries.

Support healthy teen relationships. Get to know your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend. If you have concerns about their relationship, share them. But if the relationship seems solid, make it comfortable for the couple to spend time in your home and allow them privacy. Doing this won’t cause teens to have sex if they otherwise wouldn’t, but we do know that if young people choose to become sexually active, doing so in the context of a loving relationship is far safer than a casual hookup. In fact, studies have determined that for older teens, being in a respectful sexual relationship with a caring partner can help them develop better social relationships in early adulthood, can increase self esteem and decrease delinquent behavior.

Teach them to communicate. Make sure teens understand that they should express their limits, likes and dislikes to a partner, and that the expectation should be that both people enjoy the experience. That means that in opposite gender encounters it isn’t only about a boy’s pleasure.

Create an environment in which your children can talk to you. Many parents fear that a conversation about sex will be uncomfortable or will make them seem overly permissive. But letting these fears prevent open dialogue tends to do more harm than good.

Help teens access reproductive health care. Putting barriers in the way of teens’ health care can be dangerous, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has advocated for all teens to have access to confidential reproductive health care, saying it greatly improves health outcomes for adolescents. If you live in one of the many places where teens cannot independently access health care, help them make appointments and ensure they have time alone with their doctors.

The idea of helping teens develop sexual skills may feel like parents are condoning something that they should actually condemn. But American teens face a lot of hurdles on the path to developing healthy sexuality, and when we look at the research, it becomes clear that the best thing we can do for our kids is to help them become sexually informed and proficient long before they become sexually active, and then to help them stay safe and informed once they do.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Make Sex More Dangerous

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Refusing to provide children with medically accurate sex education isn’t ideological — it’s negligent.

By Andrea Barrica

I cried the first time I saw a naked man. As a young woman growing up in a conservative Catholic household, I couldn’t even look at my own genitals, and thought I would go to hell for masturbating. The abstinence-only education I received — at school, at home, in the church — left me with years of shame, isolation and fear.

I’ve watched the recent battles over allowing comprehensive sex ed in Colorado, Utah and Idaho, and I know how much is at stake for children. As a sex educator and entrepreneur, I’ve spoken with thousands of similarly miseducated young people, and I know the mental and physiological damage it can inflict.

Americans laugh at the embarrassment parents face in talking to kids about sex. But it’s not a joke. Fewer students now receive comprehensive sex ed in our country than at any time in the past 20 years. Since the late 1990s, conservative activists — often with the help of conservative presidents — have steadily chipped away at sex education by funding and mandating abstinence-only policies in schools.

Only about half of all school districts in the United States require any sex ed at all. Of those that do, most mandate or stress abstinence-only instruction. No birth control. No sexually transmitted infection prevention. No consent

In fact, 18 states require that educators tell students that sex is acceptable only within the context of marriage. Seven states prohibit teachers — under penalty of law — from acknowledging the existence of L.G.B.T.Q. people other than in the context of H.I.V. or to condemn homosexuality. Only 10 states even reference “sexual assault” or “consent” in their sex education curriculums.

And in districts where comprehensive sex education is provided, parents are largely allowed to opt out of such instruction for their children.

Conservatives often frame sex ed as government overreach, arguing that lessons in sexuality and relationships are best provided by parents. But most parents can’t or don’t provide such guidance. Refusing to provide children with medically accurate information about their own sexual development isn’t ideological; it’s negligent.

It’s not even effective. States that place a heavy emphasis on abstinence-only sex ed have seen much higher rates of teen pregnancy, even when studies control for factors like income and education levels.

During the Obama administration, funding for abstinence-only sex education was shifted toward more comprehensive sex education — and teen pregnancy dropped nationwide by 41 percent. The Trump administration, embracing an abstinence-only approach, has reversed course, cutting more than $200 million in funding for the program.

Despite the dreams of social conservatives, few teens actually practice abstinence. Nearly 60 percent of students have sex before they graduate from high school, according to some surveys. Many do so without any instruction from parents or schools on condoms, infections or consent.

Perhaps that’s why one in four American women will become pregnant by the time they turn 20.

Or why a quarter of all new cases of sexually transmitted infections occur in teenagers — and the number of S.T.I.s has been at all-time highs.

Or why only 41 percent of American women have described their first sexual experience as wanted.

When we refuse to teach students about sex, we don’t stop sex — we just make it more dangerous. And it’s not just because of S.T.I.s.

Kids who lack information and ownership over their bodies are more likely to be taken advantage of. When children are taught that all premarital sex is negative, it’s harder for them to fight, or report, abuse or coercion.

Abstinence education negates the possibility of consent. When I was a teen, I was taught that men would try to get sex from me, and that my job was to say no. That made me feel as if the coercion and violations that happened to me were my fault. All sexual acts are equally wrong, so if a boy went too far on a date with me, it was my fault for letting him touch me at all.

Keeping children in the dark allows predators to set the narrative. They count on the culture of silence and the sense of shame. When virginity is prized as the highest honor, those who are assaulted can feel even more worthless — and may avoid reporting abusive or predatory behavior out of shame and confusion.

For L.G.B.T.Q. children, things can be even more bleak. A lack of inclusive sex education contributes to feelings of isolation and shame, while enabling bullies. L.G.B.T.Q. kids have even fewer resources, and face more drastic consequences — from physical abuse to homelessness — when they attempt to report assaults.
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When we promote abstinence over medically accurate sexual health, it inflicts a lifetime of physical and psychological harm on young people.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In many countries, the right to accurate information about sexual health is deemed essential. Children raised in the Netherlands, for example, begin sex ed in kindergarten. American teens give birth at a rate that is five times higher than that of their Dutch counterparts. Most Dutch teens report their first sexual experience positively.

We joke about sex because it’s difficult for us to talk about. And in part because our parents weren’t able to talk with us about it, we’re unable to talk with our kids. We can break the cycle for the next generation of young people by fighting for accessible and comprehensive sex education.

Their safety is more important than our shame.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Doesn’t Sex Ed Cover Body Image?

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By Tiffany Lashai Curtis

Without a doubt, American sexual education needs a lot of work. Only 25 states even mandate that it be taught in public schools, and only 13 states require those sex ed programs to be medically accurate. In 2016, a study published by the Guttmacher Institute found today’s teens are actually receiving less education on topics like contraception and STI prevention than they did in years past.

In addition to improving access to this kind of basic sexual health information, a new paper published by the American Journal of Sexuality Education suggests we also need to expand the very definition of sexual health. One big addition that the researchers behind the paper recommend: make body image a core part of the curriculum.

How body image affects sexual well-being.

We don’t often think of body image as being directly related to our sex lives, much less our sexual health, but a growing body of research shows the two are actually intimately related. Led by Virginia Ramseyer Winter, Ph.D., MSW, director of the University of Missouri Center for Body Image Research and Policy, the researchers outlined dozens of past studies that demonstrate this connection.

Most prominently, several studies have found negative body image is often associated with increased participation in risky sexual behaviors among girls and women, including not using any contraceptives, having more unprotected sex with casual partners, and tending to be drunk before sex. Meanwhile, women who are more satisfied with their bodies are more likely to use condoms and less likely to have unprotected sex after drinking, Dr. Ramseyer Winter’s team reported: “Increased body image satisfaction acted as a protective factor for this population.”

Why would having poor body image lead girls to having more unsafe sex? One 2002 study that surveyed 522 black teen girls suggests part of the problem is the sexual beliefs and attitudes that tend to come with having a negative view of one’s own body: These girls tended to deal with a nagging fear of being abandoned while asking their partners about using condoms, and they also worried about things like not having a lot of “options” for sexual partners and not having a lot of control in their relationships. They also tended to have generally low self-esteem and more symptoms of depression.

It seems that this concoction of negative beliefs about one’s own sexual and personal worth can lead to difficulties with communicating, the researchers explained: “Self-objectification and poor body image may interfere with a young woman’s ability to advocate or negotiate on her behalf regarding her sexual health.” But Dr. Ramseyer Winter’s past studies have demonstrated the opposite is also true: Women who feel better about their bodies tend to be more comfortable talking about sex in general, which likely allows them to better negotiate their sexual boundaries and needs and thus make better decisions regarding their sexual health.

In other words, being able to comfortably talk about sex is crucial to being able to advocate for oneself in bed, and that comfort is usually closely related to how comfortable a person is with their own body. That makes sense—sex involves a person being naked and exposed, and if the idea of their body being viewed like that is frightening to them, it’ll be harder to confidently talk about sex without all those negative feelings getting in the way.

Indeed, just this month another study found that your perception of your partner’s appreciation of your body can affect your own sexual functioning. If you perceive your partner as loving your body, you have more sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasms, satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction.

Why we need a larger definition of “sexual health.”

Part of the problem is our conceptualization of sexual education as primarily a means of preventing negative health outcomes without talking much about how to promote good sexual outcomes—things like more sexual pleasure, confidence, and overall well-being.

“Instead of considering overall improved sexual health of the individual, sexuality education curricula tend to focus most heavily on reducing unplanned or teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections,” the researchers point out in the paper. “While results from curricula with the aforementioned focuses provide significant immediate results showing improved condom use or abstinence, the results are not significant over time. To work toward a model of sexual health that is more than the absence of negative sexual-health-related outcomes, we must approach sex education from a theoretical perspective that is congruent with this definition.”

The researchers recommended an assessment of current sex ed curriculum and the addition of body image as a core topic for all kids. While people of all genders struggle with body insecurities, the researchers noted that girls tend to be more prone to “self-objectification,” or internalizing other people’s views of their physical appearance, which makes them particularly susceptible to body image issues. A 2006 study found upward of 80 percent of young women reported experiencing dissatisfaction with their bodies, and a 2012 study on girls in the eighth, 10th, and 12th grades found girls experience a decrease in satisfaction with their bodies as they move through adolescence (with Latina girls particularly experiencing this hit to their self-esteem as they got older).

“New curricula should begin prior to puberty, as girls experience intense negative shifts in their body image during puberty and should be delivered in all settings (e.g., churches, schools, community centers),” the researchers recommend. “We can truly make sexuality education comprehensive and reflective of theoretical constructs relevant to girls. New curricula [would] incorporate topics beyond the traditional birth control and STI prevention messages, such as body image, race, gender, relationships, and more.”

If body confidence can begin in the classroom—with young people being actively encouraged to love their bodies—it might help set a precedent for healthier intimate relationships as adults.

Complete Article HERE!

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Where Sex Education Fails, Technology Can Help

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The Juicebox app connects people with sex coaches to get their questions answered—anonymously.

Juicebox, along with similar apps, has made it a mission to take the awkwardness and shame out of the “birds and bees” talk and encourage more sex-positive conversations.

By

One day last year, Evan Conaway realized he had a problem. He’d been through a series of breakups in a short span of time, and the ensuing stress manifested with the onset of erectile dysfunction.

He didn’t know what to think. And he felt embarrassed even talking about it.

After trying to research solutions to his problem online, he discovered Juicebox, a smartphone app that connects anonymous users with certified sex coaches to ask questions about sex or relationships.

Working with a coach motivated him to talk about the issue with his sexual partners. “She made it seem like a normal thing to go through,” Conaway said.

Conaway said he didn’t know how to talk about what he liked or expected out of a sexual encounter. In his home state of Georgia, sex was treated as a shameful subject, especially for gay people like Conaway.

“Before I was talking to the coach, I don’t think I would’ve had the confidence to express myself,” he said. “The way I approach sex is way more open and transparent.”

The slow process of public policy making means that technology has become a resource for filling in the gaps left by sparse sex education curricula that dominate U.S. schools. Juicebox, along with similar apps, has made it a mission to take the awkwardness and shame out of the “birds and bees” talk and encourage more sex-positive conversations.

While an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee, Brianna Rader, Juicebox’s founder, saw her peers enduring the consequences of a poor sex ed curriculum. She’d grown up in the state and also had to educate herself, especially as she came to identify as bisexual.

“Being queer in the South made me question the information I was given more critically,” Rader said.

Many students who had come through Tennessee’s mandated abstinence-only curriculum had a general lack of knowledge about sex and sexual health that, combined with newfound freedom at college and the ready availability of alcohol, led to disastrous situations.

Rader saw other schools like Yale and Harvard organize Sex Week, a campus event that held workshops and talks from sex educators, plus free HIV testing. But when Rader decided to organize Sex Week on the Tennessee campus, the ensuing controversy across the state led the university to succumb to political pressure and defund the project. Rader and her co-organizers kept Sex Week running for two years solely from their own fundraising.

Founder and CEO of Juicebox, Brianna Rader.

The experience sparked Rader’s newfound passion for sexual health. It also led her to seek solutions that would address people’s needs immediately, and not have to wait for policy makers to come around in their thinking.

Rader later moved to San Francisco and got a master’s degree in global health. The proximity of Silicon Valley helped her realize technology’s ability to have a faster and more wide-ranging impact.

This lack of education about sex in many parts of the U.S. has led to some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections when compared to other industrialized countries.

Only 24 states require sex education be taught in public schools, and even when sex education is offered, the curriculum varies from state to state.

A 2017 report from the Guttmacher Institute said that 20 states require information on contraception, but 27 states also must stress abstinence. HIV education is required in 34 states, but only 12 states discuss sexual orientation. And out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, only 13 require the information presented to be medically accurate.

Research published by the Public Library of Science found that abstinence-only education does nothing to prevent teen pregnancy. In fact, it actually contributes to higher pregnancy rates in the U.S.

The LGBTQ community has suffered the brunt of poor sex education. The exclusion of sexual minorities from curricula has contributed to higher rates of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and unwanted pregnancies among the group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even with this data available, comprehensive sex education has yet to be universally adopted in the U.S.

Conaway didn’t receive much of a sex education growing up in Georgia, a commonplace situation throughout the South.

He said that when he began questioning his sexuality in middle school, he had to resort to the internet for information. At first, Conaway thought he was bisexual. Without anyone in school talking about LGBTQ identity positively, he assumed that something must be medically wrong with him.

“The first thing I Googled was ‘the cure for bisexuality’ because I’ve only heard of that as a disease, so it must be something that I can get rid of,” Conaway said.

Karen Rayne, a sex educator from Texas, has seen firsthand the result of a dearth of sex education. Much like Rader’s native Tennessee, Texas’ curriculum stresses abstinence. Texas also is one of the few states that forbids the curriculum from portraying LGBTQ identities positively.

Texas has some of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. About 35,000 teens get pregnant each year in the state. Rayne said that teens in other states have access to more progressive and medically accurate information, and the lack of that in Texas is largely to blame for the state’s high rate of teen pregnancy.

Juicebox initially launched as a resource for teens to ask the questions that couldn’t get answered in sex ed class. But then Rader noticed more adults using the app to get answers for much different questions. Users needed help with topics like erectile dysfunction, the female orgasm, or couples’ issues, for example.

An example of how the chat function on the Juicebox app is used.

Influenced by the reality of that additional demographic, Rader relaunched Juicebox last spring with an option that pairs users with a certified sex coach so they can receive personalized attention.

Rader now wants to help users move past sexual shame and learn to communicate openly about sex—both lingering effects of inadequate sex education.

“We’re helping address the trauma that comes from our country’s horrible sex ed system, pornography, and the way media discusses sex,” Rader said.

Juicebox users span across the country—they’re even in big cities like San Francisco and New York City, where sex education is more comprehensive than Texas or Tennessee. Rader said that despite how good the education system can be, there’s still a lot of confusion around sex.

That’s why Rayne stresses that nothing can really replace comprehensive sexuality education earlier in life. Without a template to understand sex, it’s hard to know how to broach the topic with a teen.

Both Rader and Rayne believe open communication will be key in addressing an epidemic of teen pregnancies and STIs and helping people feel comfortable in their sexuality.

“Sex education is fun—or at least it should be,” Rayne said. “Our sexuality should be forces of joy and pleasure, whether we’re actively engaging with sexual partners or not.”

Even though apps like Juicebox can serve as a supportive tool in developing a comprehensive curriculum, Rayne said a face-to-face education must still be the priority. Without it, people often don’t know what questions to ask. She sees tech working more in conjunction with sex education programs rather than substituting for it.

Rader hopes Juicebox can be an accessible resource for people wanting to learn more about sex and adopting a more sex-positive attitude.

“I believe we’re at the very, very beginning of a hopefully larger movement,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why are we so coy about sex education for gay teens?

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For novelist Lev Rosen, school sex ed involved putting condoms on fruit. We need to be much more creative – and fun, he argues

By Lev Rosen

When I was 13 years old, when I knew I was queer but wouldn’t be saying so for a year, I remember some boys at school during lunch talking about gay sex. They called it “gross”, they laughed about it. That’s what I heard from my peers about the topic. I heard nothing from my teachers; I wasn’t about to ask my parents; and the gay people on TV never did more than peck each other on the lips.

Sex education for teens is one of those topics we tend to dance around. No one wants to talk to them about sex. It sounds pervy to tell kids how to have sex – as if you’re ruining their innocence or, worse, grooming them. I don’t know what your sex education was like, but I remember mine: it was putting condoms on bananas.

Fun fact about bananas: they’re all genetically identical. Every banana you’ve eaten is the same as every other banana you’ve eaten. And many of the sex-education classes taught today are exactly the same as the one I attended more than a decade ago. Condoms on bananas, STDs, reproduction – no talk of pleasure or consent, much less gay sex.

So, I wrote a novel for teens that features guides to oral sex, anal sex, and basic BDSM. I didn’t do this just so people had someone new to send hate mail to; I did it because teens have heard all this already from TV, playground talk, and online porn. Even sheltered teens already have some idea about how sex works; pretending they don’t isn’t going to help anyone. And while not all of them want to try these things, those who do, need to know how to do it safely, and with consent. Instead, they learn all of that from the media.

In most media aimed at teens, queer men tend to be sweet and sexless. You’ve seen or read the gay best friend character who talks about how hot guys are but never touches one. Or you’ve experienced mainstream gay romance – with gentle kissing, hand-holding, maybe a hug (fully clothed). Even when they get to say what they want, these boys on TV or in film rarely long for more than a kiss and a cuddle. We never see the mimed, under-the-covers sexy-and-shirtless making-out that our straight peers are treated to. Straight teens get to have sex on TV. Gay ones, not so much.

There’s this thing I call the glass closet: the idea that liberal-minded, well-meaning folks who genuinely don’t think they have a problem with queer people tend to confine them to a rigid definition of “good” queerness. For women, this means not going too butch, usually. For men, it means not going too femme, and also, not being too slutty. “I love gay people, but do they have to be so in-your-face about it?”; “I love gay people – but not being ‘too gay’, OK guys?”

And gay sex? That’s way too gay.

Society likes to keep gay teens sexless. It likes to maintain that gay content (even something non-sexual, like the representation of gay parents) is inappropriate for children’s TV or books. Those who complain say it’s too adult – implying that queerness, essentially, is all about sex, while straightness is just what a normal relationship looks like. It’s a weird dichotomy: straight people holding hands are non-sexual, while queer people holding hands is somehow the same as broadcasting pornography. The message is clear across all media: gays have to be kept sexless because they’re already too much about sex.

And so, if all the gay teenagers on our screens are portrayed as “good” gays, kept safely in the confines of the glass closet, and sex-ed doesn’t discuss more than bananas and STDs, then real queer teens turn to the one place they can see their desires: porn.

If you haven’t seen any gay (male) porn, let me describe most of it: everything is clean and polished (yes, even most of the dirty stuff). Everyone has lots of vocal fun. No one ever flags until they finish.

Of course, porn is fantasy, and the men in these videos do massive prep for these scenes. It looks much easier than it is – that’s half the fantasy. And as fantasy, it’s fine. But as a primary source of education, gay porn leaves young queer men with an idealised, routine set of acts that suggest a (wrongly) regimented set of requirements for “real” queer sex. Standardised sexual imagery, it turns out, is just bananas with abs.

I’ve also spoken to queer women about their sexual education. They didn’t always go to porn for their sex-ed, but they didn’t find it at school or home either. Those who did look for it in porn had the additional problem that the fantasy being presented wasn’t even being presented for them.

“Many young women will encounter lesbian sex through mainstream porn,” says Allison Moon, sex educator and author of Girl Sex 101. “This means everyone, not only girls, can get some very wrong ideas about lesbian sex, because the lesbian sex in mainstream porn is designed for male visual pleasure. So queer women have to navigate male sexuality whether or not it interests them.”

And that leaves queer teens in sex-education classes in an awkward place. Straight teens can ask about things they’ve seen on TV, they can apply condoms-on-bananas to what they learn from the media, and come away with a basic framework of sex. Queer teens can only turn to porn.

The good news is that, in some places, things are changing. When I contacted my old high school to find out how the condom bananas were going, I spoke to the director of health and wellness about how the sex-education curriculum has changed, and how it’s about to change even further.

“We can do better, and we’re on the cusp,” she told me, before going into future plans: a curriculum that covers the usual safe-sex issues, but also talks about consent, healthy relationships, porn literacy and queer sex. I was thrilled to hear it. I may have even become a little teary, thinking about a class of young queer people who get a real sexual education that applies to them.

But not every school does this. And they need to, because queer people are everywhere. We’ve made strides in acceptance, but today I still see gay men in their 20s and 30s online saying they don’t know how things work. I get emails from men saying my book taught them things they wish they had learned as a teen. Teens today tell me that it’s so nice to hear someone talk about gay teens having sex, about how they feel, as though, even if they’re out, they’re still not allowed to act on their desires – or are unsure how.

Right now, teenagers’ choices for learning are two extremes (the “good gay” or the “bad gay”) – neither of which is helpful. Either way, these teens end up feeling as if they’ve done something wrong. And we can fix that so easily. Just start talking about it, teaching it. We do it with straight sex. We can fix this the way we can fix most things in life: just gay it up.

What gay teens should watch and read

Another Gay Movie (2006) A raunchy teen sex comedy about four gay guys trying to lose their virginity before graduating. There are gross sex gags, some nudity, and the pressure to lose one’s virginity is problematic, but if you wanted a queer male version of the American Pie movies (or the more recent Blockers), this is it.

I Killed My Mother (2009) A French-Canadian film that features young gay men having fun, sexy sex without being porn – like many of the straight teens you see on TV today.

Release, by Patrick Ness There are plenty of graphic, but beautifully wrought sex scenes in this book about a queer teen trying to find some freedom for himself in a small American town and with his deeply religious family.

Under The Lights, by Dahlia Adler This fun romp on the set of a Hollywood television show has explicit lesbian sex behind the scenes, as the character deals with who she’s playing on TV, and who she is when she’s with her publicist’s daughter.

Princess Cyd (2017) In this quiet and beautiful film about a teen girl (Cyd) spending the summer with her aunt, there’s one great scene between Cyd and Katie, who is a “little bit boy” (and played by a non-binary actor). It’s exactly the sort of sex we should be seeing everywhere.

Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by LC Rosen is published in paperback by Penguin on 7 February at £7.99.

Complete Article HERE!

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This Empowering Art Confronts The Awkwardness Around Sex

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By Jazmin Kopotsha

If you’ve not watched Sex Education yet, no doubt you’ll have heard about it. The teen-focused sitcom starring Gillian Anderson landed on Netflix in January and quickly captured the hearts and minds of its audience. We follow Otis (Asa Butterfield) as he attempts to navigate the usual pressures of sixth form – mates, dates, bullies and deadlines – with the added pressure, knowledge and delightful adolescent awkwardness that follows from having a sex therapist for a mother (that’s where Anderson comes in).

Besides being really funny and introducing us to an exciting lineup of rising stars, the series has been praised for tackling love, sex and romance in all their complicated glory. In tandem with the release, Netflix partnered with women artists whose work speaks to the themes explored in the show and asked them to create a new piece that specifically tackles the awkwardness surrounding sex. Multimedia artist Stephanie Sarley focused on genitalia; ceramicists, illustrators and identical twins Liv and Dominique Cave-Sutherland explored Sex Education‘s prevalent topic of virginity; and illustrator Alison Rachel (the talent behind the Recipes For Self Love Instagram account) focused on body acceptance. The pieces produced are great, obviously, and celebrate a lot of the intimate things we’ve all felt uncomfortable addressing before.

Stephanie Sarley (@stephanie_sarley)

“Grapefruit”

Sarley’s earlier piece is all about exploring your sexuality. Here we see how her fun and at times absurd work, which challenges how sexuality is defined and understood, fits so closely with the conversations Sex Education is encouraging. “Sex Education has a humorous way of talking about sex, which is something I do in my art,” Sarley says.

“Fruit Salad”
Inspired by Sex Education

Mirroring many of the key themes explored in the series, Sarley’s new piece “Fruit Salad” celebrates the fact that all our bodies are different. Both the show and Stephanie’s work aim to move us into a more sex and body positive society. Speaking about the work she created for the occasion, Sarley says: “Sex Education demonstrates the complexities of sexuality in all its awkwardness, but in the funniest way possible.”

Liv and Dom (@livanddom)

“Girls Masturbate Too”

This work by sisters Liv and Dom encourages us to embrace sexual expression. They explain that this piece “is depicting how fun and freeing it can be to explore your sexuality alone for the first time, to gain confidence and understanding in your own body as a young person.”

“The First Time”
Inspired by Sex Education

This newly commissioned piece is pretty self-explanatory. They use clay models to suggest the awkwardness and insecurity surrounding virginity – which we all know is reinforced by societal and peer pressure. “It’s something that so many people relate to when recalling their first time or thinking ahead to how it could be,” Liv and Dom explain. “We’re looking at the insecurity and timidity that come with losing your virginity.”

“It was interesting to take a step back from our usual work where figures are more comfortable with their nudity – and to recall what it was like to be a teenager. We’re excited to see how much the series pushes the envelope.”

Alison Rachel (@recipesforselflove)

“Be Sex Positive”

Quite plainly, we should all be more sex positive and Rachel’s illustration encourages us to do just that. Her outlook on sex has much in common with Sex Education’s honest and humorous love letter to human connection, closeness and vulnerability. “I believe that so many of the world’s problems can be addressed through sex positivity and sex education,” Rachel explains.

She adds: “The world is in desperate need of sex positivity that encourages people to embrace their own and others’ sexual expression while being conscious of consent and safety, that shows us how sex can be a tool used to explore intimacy.”

“Masculinity Is Multidimensional”
Inspired by Sex Education

This new illustration explores masculinity in the modern world. Fans will immediately recognise the theme in a number of Sex Education‘s storylines, and Rachel hopes to break down patriarchal views of masculinity and create a safe environment for exploration. “There are so many unconscious lies about sex and sexuality that we are led to believe over the course of our lives and it’s great that this is shedding some light on these very important topics.”

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