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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When Sex Workers Do the Labor of Therapists

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BY Carrie Weisman

Sky is a professional escort. She’s been working at Sheri’s Ranch, a legal brothel located in Pahrump, Nevada, for a little under a year. A few months back, a man came in asking for a group session with Sky, who prefers to be identified by her professional name, and one of her colleagues. He had come around a few times before. He made it a point to keep in touch through Twitter. This time, however, the session took a dark turn. He came in to tell them he was planning on killing himself.

“We see a lot of clients who have mental health issues,” she tells In These Times. Though, this experience was markedly more dramatic than her usual run in with clients who going through a depressive episode. She and her colleague were eventually able to talk the guy down. They sent him home with a list full of resources that specialize in matters of depression. They asked that he continue to check in with them through social media. 

Research suggests that upwards of 6 million men are affected by depression every year. Suicide remains the seventh leading cause of death among men in America. While it’s impossible to gauge exactly what percentage of that demographic frequents sex workers, the experiences of those in the field can offer some insight. During Sky’s last tour at the Ranch, she scheduled about seven appointments. Out of those bookings, only one involved sex. “We do a lot of companionship and intimacy parties,” she says. “The clients who sign up for those bookings are the ones struggling with loneliness.” 

And people with depression aren’t the only neurodivergent individuals sex workers encounter on the job. Those suffering from anxiety, a common accompaniment to depression, show up frequently. They also see a lot of people who fall on the autistic spectrum. In fact, Sky says she sees men who fall into the latter demographic relatively often. 

Sky first got her start in the industry working as a professional dominatrix. While she has since pivoted her position in the industry, she’s found ways to incorporate that expertise into life at the brothel. Sure, she offers standard escort services, but she also books sessions dedicated to BDSM, an acronym that can be broken down into three sub categories: Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission and Sadism/Masochism. Each dynamic refers to a specific form impact play that participants can find deeply pleasurable. That kind of tactile experience, she suspects, might offer a certain special appeal to men with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). And she might be right.

Among the many symptoms of those diagnosed with ASD is a resistance to physical contact. According to the CDC, early signs of the disorder may present in the form of an aversion to touch. At the same time, touch is an important sensation to experience. A lack thereof can lead to loneliness, depression and even a more secondary immune system. Researchers have determined that therapies designed to nurture regular sensory integration can help in this regard. 

Goddess Aviva, who also prefers to be referred to by her professional name, is a lifestyle and professional dominatrix based in New York City. Like Sky, she sees a good amount of clients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and also men dealing with depression and anxiety. She takes certain measures to screen clients. After all, violence against sex workers is an ongoing issue in the United States, and the wavering legality of the trade doesn’t exactly help combat the issue. In the wake of new federal legislation that has largely kicked sex workers offline, and with them, the ability to vet clients from afar, sex workers must be more vigilant than ever about whom they decide to take on. The clients who are neurodivergent or live with mental health conditions don’t seem to be the ones sex workers are worried about.

“You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to be a shitty person, and some of my clients who do deal with mental illness are wonderful, kind people with good intentions,” says Aviva. “I’ve never felt unsafe with a client that makes it all the way to a session. What matters most to me is that someone is respecting my boundaries, time and protocol.”

Sky, too, has encountered a number of undesirable clients throughout her career in the industry. But, similar to Aviva, these experiences don’t seem to be driven by those suffering from mental health or neurodivergent conditions. “My most uncomfortable moments in the industry have always come from men who would be told by a professional that they were completely sane,” she explains.

Fortunately, for Sky, it’s much easier to weed out problematic clients in places where prostitution is legal. According to her, the brothel has a security team monitoring the property. She also says there’s a sophisticated screening mechanism in place. Before booking a session, all clients have to provide ID and agree to an intimate screening to rule out immediate potential health risks. These aren’t typically privileges those operating independently have access to.

Throughout her career, Sky has encountered clients who have been pointed to the brothel by concerned friends, or family. She even knows of a few who have come by at the suggestion of a therapist. Though, not all mental health professionals would advise that kind of thing.

“Certainly, there are individuals that struggle with social anxiety, which prevents them from finding a real-life partner, and in those cases engaging with a sex worker can be both therapeutic and pleasurable,” says Dr. Michael Aaron, a sex therapist, writer and speaker based in New York City. “But the best option for a therapist that is looking to provide a patient with real-life experience is to seek out surrogates, who are trained and certified by the International Professional Surrogates Association.” The organization he’s referring too, also known as IPSA, operates around a triangular model of therapy involving a patient, a surrogate and a trained therapist. Together, the three work to improve the patient’s capacity for emotional physical intimacy through a series of structured, sexual experiences. The legal status of the practice is largely undefined in most of the United States. 

And maybe it’s not just in the interest of clients to see someone trained to provide the level emotional support they may be after. “It can be heavy,” says Sky. “I’ve had days where I have to take a minute for myself and get myself back together.”

Still, it seems as though few in the field shy away from providing the emotional labor that clients demand. “There’s this huge misconception that at the brothel we just have sex all day,” Sky explains. “But there are a lot of people who come in to work out some serious emotional issues. It’s really a good chunk of what we do.”

“I love my job,” she adds. “But there are certain parties that make us feel like we’re actually making a difference in the world – that we’re actually doing good things and not just providing a good time. And that can be super fulfilling.”

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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What Our Skeletons Say About the Sex Binary

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Society increasingly accepts gender identity as existing along a spectrum. The study of people, and their remains, shows that sex should be viewed the same way.

Stanislawa Walasiewicz won the gold for Poland in the women’s 100-meter dash at the 1932 Olympic Games. Upon her death, an autopsy revealed that she had intersex traits.

By

She wasn’t especially tall. Her testosterone levels weren’t unusually high for a woman. She was externally entirely female. But in the mid-1980s, when her chromosome results came back as XY instead of the “normal” XX for a woman, the Spanish national team ousted hurdler María José Martínez-Patiño. She was ejected from the Olympic residence and deserted by her teammates, friends, and boyfriend. She lost her records and medals because of a genetic mutation that wasn’t proven to give her any competitive advantage.

People like Martínez-Patiño have been ill-served by rules that draw a hard line between the sexes. In the U.S., the Trump administration looks set to make things worse. According to a memo leaked to The New York Times in October, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is trying to set up a legal binary definition of sex, establishing each person “as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.” But our bodies are more complicated than that.

An increasing recognition of this complexity by researchers and the public has affirmed that gender sits on a spectrum: People are more and more willing to acknowledge the reality of nonbinary and transgender identities, and to support those who courageously fight for their rights in everything from all-gender bathrooms to anti-gender-discrimination laws. But underlying all of this is the perception that no matter the gender a person identifies as, they have an underlying sex they were born with. This represents a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of biological sex. Science keeps showing us that sex also doesn’t fit in a binary, whether it be determined by genitals, chromosomes, hormones, or bones (which are the subject of my research).

The perception of a hard-and-fast separation between the sexes started to disintegrate during the second wave of feminism in the 1970s and 1980s. In the decades that followed, we learned that about 1.7 percent of babies are born with intersex traits; that behavior, body shape, and size overlap significantly between the sexes, and both men and women have the same circulating hormones; and that there is nothing inherently female about the X chromosome. Biological realities are complicated. People living their lives as women can be found, even late in life, to be XXY or XY.

Skeletal studies, the field that I work in as a doctoral student in anthropology, and the history of this field show how our society’s assumptions about sex can lead to profound mistakes, and how acknowledging that things are not really as binary as they may seem can help to resolve those errors. Trump and his advisers should take note.

If you’ve ever watched the TV series Bones, you’ve heard Temperance “Bones” Brennan, the show’s protagonist and star forensic anthropologist, call out to her colleagues whether the skeleton she’s analyzing is male or female. That’s because sex distinctions are very helpful to know for missing persons and archaeological sites alike. But just how easy is it to make this determination?

In the early 1900s, the U.S.-based anthropologist Aleš Hrdlička helped to found the modern study of human bones. He served as the first curator of physical anthropology at the U.S. National Museum (now the Smithsonian Institution). The skeletons Hrdlička studied were categorized as either male or female, seemingly without exception. He was not the only one who thought sex fell into two distinct categories that did not overlap. Scientists Fred P. Thieme and William J. Schull of the University of Michigan wrote about sexing a skeleton in 1957: “Sex, unlike most phenotypic features in which man varies, is not continuously variable but is expressed in a clear bimodal distribution.” Identifying the sex of a skeleton relies most heavily on the pelvis (for example, females more often have a distinctive bony groove), but it also depends on the general assumption that larger or more marked traits are male, including larger skulls and sizable rough places where muscle attaches to bone. This idea of a distinct binary system for skeletal sex pervaded—and warped—the historical records for decades.

Two pelvises with drastically exaggerated differences—a man’s shown on the left and a woman’s on the right (identified in Lithuanian)—illustrate how sex was estimated skeletally in the early 1900s

In 1972, Kenneth Weiss, now a professor emeritus of anthropology and genetics at Pennsylvania State University, noticed that there were about 12 percent more male skeletons than females reported at archaeological sites. This seemed odd, since the proportion of men to women should have been about half and half. The reason for the bias, Weiss concluded, was an “irresistible temptation in many cases to call doubtful specimens male.” For example, a particularly tall, narrow-hipped woman might be mistakenly cataloged as a man. After Weiss published about this male bias, research practices began to change. In 1993, 21 years later, the aptly named Karen Bone, then a master’s student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, examined a more recent dataset and found that the bias had declined: The ratio of male to female skeletons had balanced out. In part that might be because of better, more accurate ways of sexing skeletons. But also, when I went back through the papers Bone cited, I noticed there were more individuals categorized as “indeterminate” after 1972 and basically none prior.

Allowing skeletons to remain unsexed, or “indeterminate,” reflects an acceptance of the variability and overlap between the sexes. It does not necessarily mean that the skeletons classified this way are, in fact, neither male nor female, but it does mean that there is no clear or easy way to tell the difference. As science and social change in the 1970s and 1980s revealed that sex is complicated, the category of “indeterminate sex” individuals in skeletal research became more common and improved scientific accuracy.

For generations, the false perception that there are two distinct biological sexes has had many negative indirect effects. It has muddied historical archaeological records, and it has caused humiliation for athletes around the globe who are closely scrutinized. In the mid-1940s, female Olympic athletes went through a degrading process of having their genitals inspected to receive “femininity certificates.” This was replaced by chromosome testing in the late 1960s and subsequently, hormone testing. But instead of rooting out imposters, these tests just illustrated the complexity of human sex.

It might be more convenient for the U.S. federal government to have a binary system for determining legal sex; many U.S. laws and customs are built on this assumption. But just because it’s a convenient system of classification doesn’t mean it’s right. Some countries, such as Canada, and some states in the U.S., including Oregon, now allow people to declare a nonbinary gender identity on their driver’s license or other identification documents. In a world where it is apparently debatable whether anti-discrimination laws apply to sex or gender, it is a step in the wrong direction to be writing either one into law as a strictly binary phenomenon.

The famous cases of strong, athletic, and audacious female athletes who have had their careers derailed by the Olympic “gender tests” exemplify how misguided it is to classify sex or gender as binary. These women are, like all of us, part of a sex spectrum, not a sex binary. The more we as a society recognize that, the less we will humiliate and unnecessarily scrutinize people—and the less discriminatory our world will be.

Complete Article HERE!

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Better Sex Starts in your Gut

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By Dr. Edison de Mello

“There’s a Connection Between Your Gut Health and Your Sex Life”

What are the most common causes of low libido?

Libido and sexual arousal is, for the most part, grounded on intimacy involving the interaction of several components, including physical trust, belief system emotional well-being, previous experiences, self-esteem, physical attraction, lifestyle and current relationship.

In addition, a wide range of illnesses, such as thyroid disease, arthritis, diabetes, neurological disorders, hormonal changes and physical changes, such as High blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, menopause in women, andropause in men and pain during intercourse can cause low sex drive and/or inability to reach an orgasm. Medications, prescribed or over the counter, can also kill one’s libido.

What’s one cause that’s really surprising?  Great Sex too starts in Your gut!

“All disease begins in the gut.”  Hippocrates

Although most us do not necessarily think of our intestines or bad gut bacteria when we think of possible causes of low libido, an imbalance of Gut bacteria (microbiome) is more often than not, a significant cause of decreased sexual arousal. This is in addition to the more commonly known GI related causes, such as bloating, gas, acid reflux, bad breath, diarrhea, etc. In fact, because the gut contains billions of bacteria, the gastrointestinal tract, also known as the gut system, plays a major physical factor that has many unexpected effects on our ability to respond and perform sexually. The truth is that “gut bacteria is to our digestion and metabolism what a beehive is to honey”: Good working hive = great honey; well balanced gut bacteria = optimized gastrointestinal function and better sex! Gut bacteria are also responsible for producing hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which are essential for sexual health.

And then there is lifestyle…. although a glass of wine can get both men and women in the “mood” for sex, too much alcohol can actually have the opposite effect and not only kill your libido, but make you sleep, which can be devastating to intimacy.

10 Reasons Why you may not have a healthy gut?

  1. Bad diet (sugar and processed food based diet)
  2. Digestive Health: Unbalanced gut bacteria and lack of good probiotics
  3. Overuse antibiotics and other medications
  4. Sedentary life style
  5. Disease, including autoimmune.
  6. Mental Health and Mood.
  7. Low/ unbalanced Hormone.
  8. Vaginal Health/prostate issues
  9. Weight proportionate to height issues
  10. Decreased physical, mental and emotional energy

5 initial Steps to Take to Have Better Sex

  1. Balance your gut health,
  2. Eat a healthy diet and moderate your alcohol intake
  3. Exercise more often
  4. Do you inventory of your relationship: Are you really happy or just pretending that you are?
  5. Work on your self-esteem and body image, if applicable.

5 Ways how your partner can help you get there:

  1. Love you unconditionally
  2. Help you feel that intimacy is more than just having sex
  3. Encourage you to make the changes outlined here –  free of judgment, and instead assuring you that yes, you can.
  4. Be the change that he/she expects of you
  5. Not make sex so serious… have fun with it.

Other 10 possible causes of low libido:

  1. Mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression
  2. Stress, such as financial stress or work stress
  3. Poor body image
  4. Low self-esteem
  5. History of physical or sexual abuse
  6. Previous negative sexual experiences
  7. Lack of connection with the partner
  8. Unresolved conflicts or fights
  9. Poor communication of sexual needs and preferences
  10. Infidelity or breach of trust

Complete Article HERE!

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Almost two-thirds of women have experienced sexual discomfort…

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but only around half of men have noticed

By Jessica Lindsay

Lubrication is one of the main ingredients for a successful sexual experience.

It turns out, however, that many women are experiencing sexual discomfort, and are reluctant to use lube for a variety of reasons. What might be even sadder is that there is a big disconnect between women having painful sex and men’s awareness of it.

A study by Durex found that 73% of British women have had discomfort during sex, but only 57% of men have noticed it with their female partners.

One third of women said discomfort made them want sex less, and 9% said it had affected their relationships as a result.

Surprisingly, however, only a third would use lubricant in bed despite 9 out of 10 agreeing that sex felt better with it.

This resulted in a number of those asked saying they’d faked orgasms, hurried their partner to finish, or quit having sex altogether due to the pain.

Although the reasonings behind the discomfort range from simply feeling drier at points in their menstrual cycle to not enough foreplay, it’s odd that this taboo still exists around using lube.

This study clearly shows that lack of lubrication is a common problem faced by women of all ages, even if it is one that isn’t often publicised.


 
Durex’s campaign aims to take a stand against the idea that we’re supposed to lie back and think of England, and instead asks why we’re still putting up with pain during sex that could be easily rectified.

They’ve got a number of influencers on board to raise awareness, including author Chidera Eggerue, who says: ‘In a world where women are constantly scrutinised for existing, it isn’t surprising that so many of us choose to silence ourselves in exchange for comfort or safety. But it’s time we choose ourselves for once.

‘We’re calling for all women to stop suffering in silence and prioritise their pleasure!’

Which lube should you go for?

Steer clear of sugars in lube (if you want to try something with flavour, look for those with aspartame or stevia instead to avoid thrush).

Water-based lubes are best for use with condoms or sex toys.

Silicone lubes can be more long-lasting, which is better suited to anal. Just make sure you don’t use these with silicone sex toys, as they can make surfaces more porous and more likely to harbour bacteria.

Try a small bottle first, and stay attuned to whether your body reacts well to it. You can then decide whether it’s the one for you.

Don’t bother with DIY solutions. Although you might that think the coconut oil or petroleum jelly in your bedside cabinet will do the trick, neither of these are condom-safe, and could cause a reaction.

Use as often and as much as you need. Forget the stigma, and forget putting up with uncomfortable sex.

Hannah Witton, British sex and relationships YouTuber echoed Chidera’s statements: ‘Using lube should be a totally normal part of sex as not only does it avoid any discomfort, but it’s also really fun! The female body is an amazing thing but depending on where we’re at in our monthly cycle, we shouldn’t have to ‘grin and bear it’ by pretending we’re enjoying sex when really we’re uncomfortable.

‘I hope this campaign encourages women to put their pleasure first and enjoy sex without compromise.’

The Durex study spoke to over 1,200 people, and the breadth of those grinning and bearing vaginal dryness issues is staggering.

It shows that there’s nothing to be ashamed of, and that taking control of your sex life is something we should all be doing, whether that’s using lubrication for ourselves, or being more in tune with our partner’s needs.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

Complete Article HERE!

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Cannabis, Women and Painful Sex

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Sex can be painful for women. There, we’ve said it. Now let’s talk about natural ways to deal with it.

We’ve all heard that women experience vaginal dryness after menopause, but what some of us on the Ellementa team have experienced goes way beyond a moisture-free environment.

“It feels like jagged razor blades slicing me up inside during penetration,” she said.

“It’s like having little elves with knives inside my vagina, cutting away.”

That is what we were hearing around our virtual water cooler when the topic of menopause and sex came up.

Being on a mission to help women better understand the health and wellness benefits of cannabis and CBD, one of our intrepid founders decided to try cannabis and CBD products to address unpleasant symptoms from menopause. She confessed that for the past year she had been experiencing mind-blowing pain that put a damper on any possibility of mind-blowing sex.

“Here I was telling women how beneficial cannabis and CBD can be for our health, and I wasn’t addressing a very real health and wellness issue of my own,” she said.

One evening, she decided to try some of the sample products she had received to review. And they worked!

Here is the recipe for relief that she found useful:

  1. Use a natural vaginal lubricant daily. Many women don’t realize you can apply lubricants daily, particularly after a shower or bath, inside your vagina. We’re not talking about drowning your vagina in oil but applying it internally using a small amount on your finger. Organic coconut oil can be a natural vaginal lubricant, and can be used intra-vaginally if you’re not allergic to coconut. Other fast-absorbing oils include Jojoba and Sweet Almond.
  2. Use a THC-based sexual lubricant or topical 20-30 minutes before sex. Note that many of the THC-infused sexual aids may not be very lubricating but are more warming as well as offering the analgesic effects of THC. THC shouldn’t actually numb the vaginal area but instead reduce the sensation of pain while increasing blood flow to the vagina.
  3. Add a CBD-based lubricant. Our intrepid team member tried a sample packet of Privy Peach’s Personal Lubricant with 250mg CBD. The product claims to “help stimulate your body’s own lubrication, increase circulation, and alleviate any present discomfort.” Note: NOT FOR USE WITH LATEX CONDOMS as any oil may degrade latex.

The results? Nearly pain-free penetration, and definitely pain-free, awesome sex.

This information was a revelation for another one of our founders who went into surgical menopause after a hysterectomy.

“I was just so unprepared for menopause,” she said. “I had no idea my sex life would end, and that I’d have my own private desert.”

As with many other women, she hadn’t looked up THC- or CBD-infused sexual products.

“I’m always taking care of everybody else,” she admitted but vowed to search her market for the right products to relaunch her sex life.

It’s Not Just Older Women Experiencing Painful Sex

“I personally faced quite the battle with my vagina the minute I started having sex,” Cyo Ray Nystrom, the founder and CEO of QuimRock, recalls. “I’ve had years of awful UTIs, forcing me to take intense rounds of antibiotics that, in turn, killed off all the natural vaginal flora and caused yeast infections. It affected my life and sex life greatly as vaginal health is such an important part of intimacy and sex for so many people.”

QuimRock is a cannabis-infused self-care line for women’s intimate care.

Cyo says cannabis can be “powerful sex-medicine for anyone using it intentionally and with her own personal needs in mind.” She also notes that the shame that’s historically associated with vaginal health issues, including those related to menopause, can be “particularly scarring.”

“Personally, cannabis has always been a great tool for getting me into my body, which is essential for me to really show up in my sex life,” Cyo explains, adding, “Cannabis has helped me in many ways—from cramp relief after getting a UTI to pain relief-focused topicals to the amazing benefits of cannabis-infused lubricants.”

What Does a Medical Expert Say About Cannabis to Relieve Painful Sex?

One of our Ellementa Advisors, Dr. Elaine Burns is the founder and medical director of Southwest Medical Marijuana Evaluation Center and founder of DrBurns’ ReLeaf tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) products. Dr. Burns was working with bio-identical hormones for women before she entered the cannabis industry seven years ago. We asked her about cannabis and specifically CBD for women’s sexual health during peri-menopause and post-menopause.

According to Dr. Burns, menopause is a “multifactorial issue,” meaning no woman can expect that what worked for someone else will work for them, too. She also emphasized that cannabis is only part of an overall health-care plan that could include botanicals (such as black cohosh, evening primrose and chamomile) for women before menopause or bio-identicals—non-synthetic, all-natural hormone replacements—for women no longer experiencing menses. She told us she would never solely recommend cannabis or CBD to relieve menopausal symptoms.

THC, by the way, can also be helpful with low libido and stress related sexual dysfunction. Dr. Burns reminded us there are two parts of support during menopause:

  • Relief from unpleasant symptoms ranging from vaginal dryness to hot flashes to painful sex.
  • Prevention of diseases such as osteoporosis.

Depending on your health goals, cannabis—and specifically CBD—can be integrated into your overall care plan to alleviate specific menopause symptoms and also help with general good health as you age.

As Cyo from QuimRock explains, “It’s hugely important to figure out what turns you on and what turns you off.” And that takes time and trying different things. Just as menopause is a journey, so is naturally addressing your sexual health with botanicals like cannabis.”

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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For elders and others, drugs are available that aid sexual experience.

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But insurers and Medicare won’t pay for them.

A tablet of Pfizer’s Viagra, left, and the company’s generic version, sildenafil citrate.

By Michelle Andrews

For some older people, the joy of sex may be tempered by financial concerns: Can they afford the medications they need to improve their experience in bed?

Medicare and many private insurers don’t cover drugs that are prescribed to treat problems people have engaging in sex. Recent developments, including the approval of generic versions of popular drugs Viagra and Cialis, have helped consumers afford the treatments. Still, for many people, paying for pricey medications may be their only option.

At 68, like many postmenopausal women, Kris Wieland, of Plano, Tex., experiences vaginal dryness that can make intercourse painful. Her symptoms are amplified by Sjogren’s syndrome, an immune system disorder that typically causes dry eyes and mouth, and can affect other tissues.

Before Wieland became eligible for Medicare, her gynecologist prescribed Vagifem, a suppository that replenishes vaginal estrogen, a hormone that declines during menopause. That enabled her to have sex without pain. Her husband’s employer plan covered the medication, and her co-payment was about $100 every other month.

After she enrolled in Medicare, however, her Part D plan denied coverage for the drug.

“I find it very discriminatory that they will not pay for any medication that will enable you to have sexual activity,” Wieland said. She plans to appeal.

Under the law, drugs used to treat erectile or sexual dysfunction are excluded from Part D coverage unless they are used as part of a treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration for a different condition. Private insurers often take a similar approach, reasoning that drugs to treat sexual dysfunction are lifestyle-related rather than medically necessary, said Brian Marcotte, chief executive of the National Business Group on Health, which represents large employers.

So, for example, Medicare may pay if someone is prescribed sildenafil, the generic name for Viagra and another branded drug called Revatio, to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension, a type of high blood pressure in the lungs. But it typically won’t cover the same drug if prescribed for erectile dysfunction.

Women such as Wieland may encounter a similar problem. A variety of creams, suppositories and hormonal rings increase vaginal estrogen after menopause so that women can have intercourse without pain. But drugs that are prescribed to address that problem haven’t generally been covered by Medicare.

Sexual-medicine experts say such exclusions are unreasonable.

“Sexual dysfunction is not just a lifestyle issue,” said Sheryl Kingsberg, a clinical psychologist who is the chief of behavioral medicine at University Hospitals MacDonald Women’s Hospital in Cleveland. She is the immediate past president of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), an organization for professionals who treat women with these problems. “For women, this is about postmenopausal symptoms.”

Relief may be in sight for some women.

Last spring, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent guidance to Part D plans that they could cover drugs to treat moderate to severe “dyspareunia,” or painful intercourse, caused by menopause. Plans aren’t required to offer this coverage, but they may do so, according to CMS officials.

The NAMS applauded the change.

“Dyspareunia is a medical symptom associated with the loss of estrogen,” Kingsberg said. “They had associated it with sexual dysfunction, but it’s a menopause-related issue.”

For men who suffer from erectile dysfunction, treatment can confer both physical and emotional benefits, sexual health experts said.

“In my clinical work, I see a lot of older couples,” said Sandra Lindholm, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist who is also a nurse practitioner in Walnut Creek, Calif. “They are very interested in sex, and they feel like they’re able to embrace their erotic lives. But there may be medical issues that need to be addressed.”

About 40 percent of men over age 40 have difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, studies show, and the problem increases with age. A similar percentage of postmenopausal women experience genitourinary syndrome of menopause, a term used to describe a host of symptoms related to declining levels of estrogen, including vaginal dryness, itching, soreness and pain during intercourse, as well as increased risk of urinary tract infections.

Low sexual desire is another common complaint among women and men. A drug called Addyi was approved in 2015 to treat low sexual desire disorder in premenopausal women. But many insurers don’t cover it.

Unfortunately, medications that treat these conditions may cost people hundreds of dollars a month if their insurance doesn’t pick up any of the tab. A 10-tablet prescription for Viagra in a typical 50-milligram dose may cost more than $600, for example, while the price of eight Vagifem tablets may exceed $200, according to GoodRx, a website that publishes current drug prices and discounts.

In recent years, much more affordable generic versions of some of these medications have gone on the market.

Generic versions of Viagra and Cialis, another popular erectile dysfunction drug, may be available for just a few dollars a pill.

“I never write a prescription for Viagra anymore,” said Elizabeth Kavaler, a urogynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “These generics are inexpensive solutions for men.”

There are generic versions of some women’s products as well, including yuvafem vaginal inserts and estradiol vaginal cream.

But even those generic options are often relatively pricey.

Some patients cannot afford $100 for a tube of generic estradiol vaginal cream, said Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive medicine at Yale School of Medicine.

“I’ve asked, ‘Did you try any of the creams?’ And they say they used up the sample I gave them. But they didn’t buy the prescription because it was too expensive,” she said.

— Kaiser Health News

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Let’s Talk About (Depressed) Sex

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What to do when you have trouble maintaining a healthy romantic life while dealing with depression

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For people who have depression, even the most basic activities can seem daunting—and that includes sex. But because both depression and sexual problems are things that are difficult to talk about, even with intimate partners, the issues surrounding having sex while dealing with depression often wind up being ignored. As mental health advocate and writer JoEllen Notte puts it: “It’s the intersection of two taboo topics.” And it can lead to even more problems relating to a person’s mental and physical well-being.

Notte breaks the negative sex experience that comes with depression into two categories: loss of interest and side effects of medication. Notte says about the former: “I tend to reinterpret [it] as ‘everything seems incredibly hard and not worth doing’… Not wanting to be touched, and not wanting to deal with people.” While that applies to people who have depression and both are and aren’t on medication, the side effects specific to medication are a significant problem, too, and include, Notte says, “erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, genital numbness, delayed orgasm, and what’s usually referred to as ‘lost libido.'”

This loss of libido is symptomatic of a larger problem of depression: anhedonia, which Dr. Sheila Addison, a licensed marital and family therapist, tells me is “a loss of pleasure in ordinary things.” One of the things people with depression do to combat anhedonia is try to self-medicate and force pleasure, including through sex. Addison explains, “People with depression sometimes wind up chasing ‘peak’ experiences, little bursts of endorphins that seem to cut through the depression for a moment, but it’s a short-term fix for a long-term problem. And if it turns into having sex that they don’t really want, hoping to feel better, it can contribute to feelings of emptiness and self-loathing.”

The best thing to do when dealing with depression is to seek out a doctor, but even if you are comfortable seeking out help for depression, it can be difficult to broach the topic of sexual health, without feeling anxious. As Notte points out, “So many people have had bad experiences with doctors not wanting to deal with [sex] or prioritizing it as a topic.” My own doctor’s flippancy toward the subject was enough to shut me down for months, and it seems like this is all too common, leading to further stigmatization of this sensitive topic. Notte says, “All of the data that says these [sexual] side effects don’t happen is skewed, because people aren’t reporting them.”

Nevertheless, each person I talked to stressed that even though it’s difficult, if you are having issues with sex and experience depression, talk to a doctor first. Addison says that online forums can be the source of “a lot of unsolicited advice, pseudoscientific ‘cures,’ and supposed remedies that will lighten your wallet more than your mood.” And if you find the first doctor to be unsympathetic to your problems, then look for another one.

But how to find the right doctor? Notte recommends looking for keywords like “sex-positive” and “trauma-informed,” as it often means they’ll be more willing to discuss sexual issues or at least be able to point you in the right direction to someone who could. Addison herself is a member of LGBTQ Psychotherapy organization GAYLESTA and listed amongst kink-friendly professionals. These keywords tend to suggest the doctor has a more nuanced, whole-body approach to understanding and treating mental illness, but, of course, it may take a bit of searching to find someone whose methods you are comfortable with.

Once you find a doctor with whom you’re comfortable talking, you can also utilize them when you want to talk with your partner about any problems you might be having with regards to sex. “People often don’t know that you can bring anyone with you to your doctor visit if you want,” Addison points out. “Sometimes it’s easier to have the doctor talk directly to your partner because it’s not so personal.” Addison advises that the partner who isn’t experiencing depression seek care as well, saying, “Get support for yourself, from a therapist or from a group for partners of people with mental illness. Take good care of yourself, physically and emotionally

The main theme here, as with any taboo topics, is that talking about them is key, and the only way to remove the stigma. It’s particularly apt in this situation, though, as conversation, and communication in general, are also at the core of maintaining healthy romantic and sexual relationships no matter what your mental state.

But even though we know we should communicate openly, it can be difficult to get started. That’s why Allison Moon, sex educator and author of Girl Sex 101, recommends beginning conversations with “I statements” when breaching the topic of sexual issues. “It’s easy for people to catastrophize when partners bring up sexual issues, and they may be tempted to take responsibility for the issues of their partners,” Moon says. “It’s a good idea to use extra care when explaining one’s own experience, and be clear that the partner isn’t at fault or causing anything.” When considering the problem as a whole, Notte advises a team mentality for couples. She says, “What happens a lot is it gets treated as an issue of the healthy partner versus the other partner and their depression, and if we can be couples who are working on one team while the depression is on the other team, it’s a much healthier dynamic.”

Moon also recommends “speaking in concretes” when describing the ways depression affects your life and sexual experience to your partner. “Because mental health is so individuated, saying something like, ‘I have depression’ doesn’t always convey what one intends. Instead, I suggest discussing how something like depression manifests in a way the partner can understand. For instance, rather than saying ‘Depression makes me insecure,’ you could say, ‘Sometimes I need extra verbal validation from you. Can you tell me you find me sexy and wonderful? Can you remind me that I’m a good person?'”

Describing symptoms associated with depression can be difficult, though, and Notte often advises individuals to use what she refers to as “accessible” resources (“things that are not scary, that are not medical journals”) to work on coming to a mutual understanding of what you are going through. “Find things that are the language you and your partner speak,” she says; she sends her own partner comic strips and had them play Depression Quest, a role-playing game in which you navigate tasks as a person with depression.

We treat mental health very different than physical health,” Notte points out, adding, “If I were dating somebody and I had diabetes and wanted them to know I’d have to inject myself with insulin at some point, I wouldn’t have to be embarrassed to tell them that.” As with any disease, depression shouldn’t be treated as a liability in dating, and people who would treat it as such are not worth your time. Addison tells me, “Anybody who’s going to make you feel bad or weird about how your body works, does not deserve access to it. Disability rights folks have taught me, don’t apologize for how your body works or feel like you need to make someone else feel okay with you. If they can’t handle you, they can’t get with you.”

But that doesn’t mean it will always be easy—for either of you. So being present with your feelings and communicating them to your partner is vital. Moon says, “When you notice something coming up for you, whether it’s an emotion, a sensation, or a memory, practice giving it attention and letting it give you information.” Perhaps there is a “need attached to the emotion that you can turn into a request,” like needing more lube, or a moment to process your feelings before hooking up, etc. “If you notice that you’re going to cry, for instance, you can mention that so it doesn’t scare your partner,” Moon suggests. “Saying something like, ‘I’m having a great time, but I’m noticing some sadness come up. So if I start to cry, that’s okay, you’re not doing anything wrong. I’ll let you know if I want to stop, but I don’t want to right now.'”

Likewise, Addison recommends acknowledging the experience in the moment in a way that reassures your sexual partner that you don’t blame them for what’s happening. You can do this, she suggests, by saying something like: “This is just a thing my body does sometimes, and I”m not worried about it, so you shouldn’t worry about it either. Thanks for understanding. And I’m really enjoying [kissing you] so let’s do more of that.”

While the physical manifestations of depression in sexual relationships cannot be solved by medication, Notte recommends “workarounds” to address your specific sexual issue. Notte recommends using lubricants and not shying away from toys if experiencing anorgasmia, genital numbness, or erectile dysfunction. Exploring these types of options are especially great for people whose depression-related sexual problems manifest as specifically physical.

While all of this information is important for people with depression, it’s also essential for the partners who don’t have depression to understand how to respond in these situations. Addison tells me the best way is the simplest—nothing more than a “thanks for letting me know.” She explains, “Viewing someone as broken, or suffering, or in need of special treatment, is actually a poor way to approach sexual intimacy. If someone trusts you enough to let you know what’s going on with them, appreciate the gift that has been given to you, and treat it accordingly, with respect. [If your partner says,] ‘I don’t come through intercourse, and I might or might not finish myself off afterward,’ it is not an invitation for you to try to complete the Labors of Hercules to prove what an awesome lover you are. It’s information for you to let you know how this person’s body works, so be grateful that they trusted you enough to share something private with you, and act accordingly.”

And, she points out, “There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your climax when you’re with someone who’s said, ‘I probably won’t get off, but it’s still fun for me.'” Above all, Addison states, “Treat them like the expert on their own body, and you’ll be on the right track.”

Of course, finding people who will do that, especially at the beginning of a relationship or when dating around, can be difficult, but Addison advises to “decide what you’re looking for and what you’re willing to do or not do in order to get it… then screen your dates accordingly.” Finding someone who is comfortable with and respectful of your depression and sexual issues is a trait that can be filtered right in with your usual set of dating criteria. Addison says, “If you say, ‘Hey, I have medication that means I probably won’t come, and I’m looking for a partner who won’t be hung up about it—are you cool with that?’ and they try to inform you about how they’re going to be the one who makes you scream down the rafters, that’s a good reason to swipe left.” After all, she explains, “You can’t fuck somebody out of depression with your Magic Penis or Magic Vagina.”

If you or a loved one are seeking out further information about experiencing the sexual side effects of depression, seek out a psychologist or psychotherapist near you, and remember, as Addison says, “The only people who deserve to get close to you are people who can understand your needs and treat you with appropriate respect and care.”

Complete Article HERE!

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For survivors, breast cancer can threaten another part of their lives: sexual intimacy

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By Barbara Sadick

Jill was just 39 in July 2010 when she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Her longtime boyfriend had felt a lump in her right breast. Two weeks later, she had a mastectomy and began chemotherapy. The shock, stress, fatigue and treatment took its toll on the relationship, and her boyfriend left.

“That’s when I began to realize that breast cancer was not only threatening my life, but would affect me physically, emotionally and sexually going forward,” said Jill, a library specialist in Denver who asked that her last name not be used to protect her privacy.

When someone gets a breast cancer diagnosis, intimacy and sexuality usually take a back seat to treatment and survival and often are ignored entirely, said Catherine Alfano, vice president of survivorship at the American Cancer Society. Doctors often don’t talk with their patients about what to expect sexually during and after treatment, and patients can be hesitant to bring up these issues, she said.

Among the common problems that the cancer treatment can cause are decreased sex drive, arousal issues and pain when having sex, and body image issues (if there has been such surgery as a mastectomy), Alfano said. Many of these problems are treatable, but only if a patient speaks up. That way, the clinician can refer the person to specialists versed in physical or psychological therapy for cancer survivors or health specialists familiar with the useful medications and creams.

According to the National Cancer Institute, about 15.5 million cancer survivors live in the United States. Of those, 3.5 million had breast cancer.

Sharon Bober, a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute psychologist and sex therapist, said the biggest problems couples and single women face after breast cancer are the surprises that unfold sexually. She said chemotherapy and hormone suppression therapy can send women abruptly into menopause or exacerbate previous menopausal symptoms, such as vaginal dryness, pain with intercourse and stinging, burning and irritation. Many women are also surprised to discover that breasts reconstructed after a mastectomy have no sensation.

Betty and Willem Bezemer. Betty, 72, had been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 50. Throughout her treatment, her husband kept her spirits up. The couple maintained their intimacy by continuing their habits together, such as dancing and soaking in bubble baths.
Couples, Bober said, often can benefit from working with a sex therapist trained in breast cancer issues. “It takes time and practice, especially in the face of permanent changes such as loss of sensation or body alterations,” she said. “Women need to become comfortable in their bodies again.”

Amber Lukaart, 35, was diagnosed in 2016 with invasive ductal carcinoma in her right breast. She had no family history of the disease and found the lump herself. She had been working at the Center for Women’s Sexual Health in Grand Rapids, Mich., helping survivors navigate their sexual issues — work that turned out to help her, too.

Her treatment was 16 rounds of chemotherapy, a partial mastectomy of her right breast, 20 rounds of radiation that left the skin on her chest raw and inflamed, and six months of a hormone blocker to protect her ovaries so she could have children in the future.

These treatments affected her sexuality and marriage. The first time she and her husband had sex after the treatments was horribly painful because of dryness. The pain, plus fear of cancer recurrence and death, put a halt to their attempt to reconnect emotionally. At the same time, the partial mastectomy and radiation left her breast looking malformed. She said she felt self-conscious and uncomfortable about it.

She turned to people she knew from her work and felt lucky to have the support.

“I understood immediately that I was in a unique position to help myself and my husband understand and communicate to each other the questions and concerns we both had about our sexual relationship,” Lukaart said.

Yet even with access to sex therapists, sex counselors and treatments, Lukaart said she still felt frustrated with the relative lack of data regarding hormone use for someone like her with estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer — which about 80 percent of all breast cancer patients have, according to the National Cancer Institute. This type of the disease causes cancer cells to grow in response to the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Hormone treatments that are standard for dryness usually cannot be used after this time of cancer. And over-the-counter remedies didn’t seem to help Lukaart.

She and the co-founder of the women’s center, Nisha McKenzie, researched nonhormonal options. They came across a laser therapy that increases the thickness and elasticity of the vaginal walls. It took three sessions but eventually Lukaart said it gave her back the ability to have a sexual relationship with her husband. Three treatments cost about $3,000 and are not covered by insurance. (Lukaart’s work at the center, which now provides laser treatment, allowed her to get the therapy for free.).

McKenzie and Lukaart are focusing their efforts to help survivors recognize that they may need to do more than just ask their doctors for advice if they want to find ways to get their lives back on track sexually.

McKenzie said several organizations can provide the names of experts who can help, including the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists and the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health.

“Women need to know,” said Lukaart, “that they have to advocate for themselves and that it’s okay to want more than just to survive cancer — it’s ok to thrive, too.”

In Jill’s case, after exhausting the help of her oncologist and other physicians, she joined a clinical study run by Kristen Carpenter, director of Women’s Behavioral Health at Ohio State University, that looks at ways of improving sexual and emotional health after breast cancer.

The study of 30 women used mind-body techniques, such as progressive muscle relaxation to help with sexual intimacy, Kegel exercises to improve pelvic floor muscle tone and cognitive behavioral therapy to help them rethink negative, self-directed thoughts.

The group also had discussions about assertiveness training, communication techniques to use with partners, sexual positions, and aids that may improve comfort and pleasure.

“We laughed, cried and learned from each other’s struggles and stresses in a warm and understanding environment,” Jill said. “and it helped give me the tools for communicating my needs and challenges and to be aware that psychological and physiological interventions are available.”

A supportive partner can ease the problems of breast cancer survivors.

Betty Bezemer, 72, had been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 50. Throughout her treatment, her husband kept her spirits up. The couple maintained their intimacy by not only discussing what was happening but also continuing their habits together, such as dancing and soaking in bubble baths.

Bezemer said their relationship never suffered. And, with the help of lubricants and other remedies, they found ways to be closer sexually and otherwise.

“My husband always made me feel that he had fallen in love with my head and heart and not just my breasts,” said Bezemer, who now serves on the Houston board of the breast cancer organization Susan G. Komen.

“Obstacles may not be easy to overcome, but women need to understand and accept that problems of intimacy and sex will often follow breast cancer treatment,” said Julie Salinger, a clinical social worker at Dana Farber. “But there are solutions, and the sooner people start to ask about them, the better, as they will only get worse by waiting.”

Complete Article HERE!

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

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By Chrissy Sexton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The study is published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexual desire can spark a real connection

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

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

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

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

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

An attractive stranger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonding for baby’s sake?

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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