What Counts As ‘Sex’?

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Why We Should Stop Focusing So Much On Intercourse

By Gigi Engle

In the last several months, lots of research has emerged showing that young people aren’t having as much sex as prior generations. Many people interpret this trend as an indication that people aren’t connecting with one another as much as they did in decades prior.

But one big problem with many of these studies is their definition of the word “sex.” The standard barometer of whether sex is happening is whether there’s a man with a penis inserting it into a woman’s vagina.

That’s not accurate.

Intercourse (i.e., a penis being inserted into a vagina) is not sex. Well, it is—but it’s not the only sex there is. It is one act that is a part of a larger umbrella of “sex.” And there’s a lot of sex that happens that doesn’t involve intercourse at all.

Every sex act is sex.

It’s everything from masturbation to manual stimulation to cunnilingus, breast play, nipple licking, blow jobs—all of it. It is all sex.

Sex is everything we do sexually with one another, involving any acts that make us feel sexual pleasure and that we pursue for that explicit purpose. It doesn’t matter how you “get there”; it matters that you enjoy yourself.

It’s time we stop referring to “intercourse” as sex and start moving into a better, more well-rounded understanding of what constitutes sex. By placing all our eggs in the intercourse basket, we’re not only leaving out people in relationships other than heterosexual cis ones; we’re also robbing ourselves of better, more frequent orgasms.

The false hierarchy of sex.

When we claim that intercourse is sex, we automatically place all other sex acts below it. Intercourse becomes “the big show” and the “main event” of a sexual experience. Every other sex act, such as oral sex, anal sex, and hand sex, are considered “less than” or “not quite sex.” This puts nearly everyone at a sexual disadvantage.

For female-bodied people, it completely ignores the clitoris, a crucial sex organ that is central to the female orgasm. Nearly every woman requires external clitoral stimulation to experience orgasm. This rarely, if ever, happens during intercourse without a hand, toy, or tongue involved in tandem. Yet we call oral sex and hand sex “foreplay,” meaning it is the thing that comes before the “big show.” To add fuel to the fire, it is also widely considered optional, providing yet another damaging effect on female sexually.

The term “foreplay” enforces an unequal gender hierarchy: A female orgasm is secondary to a male orgasm. In sex between men and women, defining sex as “intercourse” makes female orgasms an afterthought.

For male-bodied people, it adds a ton of pressure to “perform.” When “sex” is made to be all about a person with a penis being able to thrust it into a vagina, hard erections that last a long, long time become vital to being a satisfactory partner in bed. What if you tend to orgasm quickly from penetration? What if you have a small penis? Suddenly you’re a lackluster lover. This sets the stage for feelings of inadequacy, performance anxiety, and general discomfort around sex. But these negative narratives are all based around an incomplete picture of what sex really is: After all, a guy with a smaller penis who can use his tongue, hands, or a toy is far better equipped for delivering orgasms than one with zero skills and an enormous penis.

And of course, for same-sex couples, intercourse may not even be on the table. What is sex then if there is no P in the V in the game? It leaves same-sex people out of the equation completely.

Where does this misconception come from?

A lot of the confusion stems from inadequate sex education programs, many of which reinforce tired stereotypes, gender norms, and narratives about sex being inherently “dirty” or “bad.” According to the 2018 SIECUS report, “21 states do not require sex education or HIV/STI instruction to be any of the following: age-appropriate, medically accurate, culturally appropriate, or evidence-based/evidence informed.” Furthermore, 32 states require abstinence-only education if HIV instruction is provided.

Even many more thorough sex ed programs primarily focus on pregnancy prevention and STI prevention through condom use, which reinforces that “sex” means “intercourse.” And you’d be hard-pressed to find many sex ed programs that actually talk about sexual pleasure, which might allow for broader definitions of sex. All of this together means the only sex we ever hear about in an academic setting is heterosexual intercourse.

Additionally, part of our stubborn adherence to making intercourse the definition of sex is in service of the virginity myth. Society wants to maintain a clear-cut definition of what makes someone a “virgin.”

Virginity is simply a social construct we created long ago based on the idea that sex is inherently shameful. It was used to differentiate between the “pure” people who haven’t had sex and the “dirty” people who have, and today many conservative cultures around the world still embrace this harmful and false dichotomy.

Sex is a part of the human experience. All people are born with sexuality. It is as normal and natural as eating and sleeping. By placing emphasis on virginity, it inherently makes us feel ashamed of and uncomfortable with our bodies and feelings. This is objectively not a healthy way to live.

Broadening the definition of “sex.”

Would the results of research on sexual activity trends look different if we specifically asked about sexual acts other than heterosexual intercourse? It’s possible. After all, if our fear is about people connecting, shouldn’t we acknowledge that a couple giving each other pleasure through oral alone regularly is just as connected as a couple that has intercourse regularly?

Everyone benefits from new understandings of what makes sex sex. When we recognize all sex acts as equal—part of a beautiful patchwork of human sexual expression—we open up new avenues for education, exploration, and the ability to secure a less shame-laden future for younger generations.

Complete Article HERE!

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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 Sex Positions For Beginners

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By Erika W. Smith

If you’re considering having sex for the first time, you’ve recently become sexually active, or you’re with a new partner, you might want to begin with some simple, fun sex positions and activities. Some situations, like standing sex, take a bit of practice, after all — and sex should be all about pleasure rather than stress or intimidation. So we talked to a few experts to find out which sex positions and activities they suggest for people new to sex.

“If you’re a beginner at having sex or deciding to partake for the first time, first things first, welcome!” says Penda N’diaye, creator of PRO HOE, a brand and blog that aims to eradicate sexual stigma and debunk myths surrounding sexual pleasure and exploration in communities of color. “It only gets better as you discover which positions (and partners) are best suited for your body and sexual desire.”

When you read through these positions, remember that they’re just suggestions — feel free to modify them to figure out what feels best for you and your partner — experiment, and most of all, have fun.

Missionary, or one person on top

“With one person on their back and the other penetrating on top, small rocking motions of the hips can create a rhythm that syncs you with your partner and also allows easy exploration of which internal areas like the most attention,” says N’diaye.

Spooning

“[Spooning brings] a little extra closeness,” N’diaye adds. “While both lying on your side, have your partner enter you from behind while you slightly lift your leg. It feels like two puzzle pieces in the right place. It’s a great opportunity for G-spot or prostate stimulation and can be a calming, intimate position.”

Mutual masturbation

Rachael Rose, founder of sex education platform Hedonish, suggests, “Mutual masturbation is one of the most underrated, but awesome, ways to play with a partner. You get to watch your partner doing sexy things, and it can be especially useful for folks newer to sex or who are playing with a new partner because you get to see how they like to be touched

Rose adds, “Laying side-by-side offers a more intimate experience and allows for kissing, and laying head-to-feet can offer fantastic views. Mutual masturbation also works great regardless of genital configuration, body size, and height differences, plus it’s easy to incorporate toys and allows folks with physical limitations to position themselves however they’re most comfortable.”

Genital rubbing

Debby Herbenick, PhD, professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health and author of The Coregasm Workout, suggests, “there’s genital rubbing/scissoring, which can be done by any gender sex partners, though it’s more often called scissoring when between women. People with penises often enjoy rubbing their penises together, people with vulvas often find it arousing if not orgasmic to rub their vulvas together, and of course penises-vaginas sometimes fit together as with intercourse, but other times partners rub one another (for example, sliding a vulva up and down a penis).”

Using a vibrator

Vibrators can enhance pleasurable sensations along the vulva, inside the vagina, outside of the anal opening, inside the anus (assuming it’s an anal-friendly toy with a wide base), along the penile shaft, around the scrotum, and some people even like breast/nipple vibration,” says Dr. Herbenick. “For some people, vibration is sufficient. Others pair a vibrator with intercourse or finger-stimulation.”

Modifying familiar positions to find out what feels best

Emily Morse, doctor of human sexuality and host of the Sirius XM radio show and podcast Sex With Emily, says, “If you don’t like a position once, then there’s always modifications. You can get pillows to prop yourself up, you can try it on the side of the bed, you can use a toy. I think we’re so limited in the way we think about positions that have to be done in one way.”

She adds, “My main tip is to go easy on yourself. Great lovers are not born, they’re made. So if you’re just starting out sexually, every time is a learning opportunity. You can’t really fail if you’re present and you’re really listening to yourself and your body — and that will help you connect to your partner as well.”

Forgetting positions and just exploring

“There is no single best sex position, since it depends what people like and how their genitals fit together, as well as other aspects of their bodies like body size, genital size and shape, (dis)ability, and height,” says Dr. Herbenick. “Side-by-side works great for some couples and not at all for others. The same is true for other sex positions. The only ‘best’ is what works for partners… which is why I encourage exploration

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

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You Can Teach Yourself How To Orgasm

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— Here’s How

By Erika W. Smith

In one of my favorite scenes in the Netflix series Sex Education, Aimee goes to Otis for advice because her new boyfriend has what she thinks is a weird kink. “Steve says his ‘thing’ is girls properly enjoying sex,” she says with an eye-roll. After Otis asks her a few questions, Aimee shares that she’s never had an orgasm and she’s never masturbated. Otis, as Aimee puts it, “prescribes a wank.” Cue a montage of Aimee masturbating in various positions all around her bedroom. The next time she’s with her boyfriend, she has very specific instructions: “I want you to rub my clit with your left thumb. Start slow, but get faster, but not too fast. When I start to shake, blow on my ear and get ready for fireworks.”

While it might be a touch exaggerated, there’s a lot of truth in this scene. Never or infrequently orgasming is common, particularly for women, about 10-15% of whom have difficulty orgasming (though it can happen with people of any gender). And if you’ve never had an orgasm — or if you orgasm infrequently — and you want to, the best way to have one is to spend some quality time masturbating

Let me stress that part again: if you’ve never (or rarely) orgasmed and you want to, you should start with masturbation. Because you don’t have to orgasm. Sex or masturbation can still be plenty of fun without an orgasm. Part of the Mayo Clinic’s definition of anorgasmia (the medical term for consistent difficulty reaching orgasm) is that the lack of orgasm distresses you or interferes with your relationship. If you’re not orgasming and you’re totally fine with that, then don’t feel like you need to have an orgasm. While pressure to orgasm, body image, and shame around sex can contribute to anorgasmia, there are a variety of other possible causes, including medications such as SSRIs, illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, and gynecological surgeries.

Okay: if you do want to learn how to orgasm, the first step is to stop focusing on trying to have an orgasm. Though this might seem contradictory at first, taking away the pressure to perform can be a big help. “Commit to practicing some mindful masturbation on your own, and just figuring it out,” Emily Morse, Doctor of Human Sexuality and host of the Sirius XM radio show and podcast Sex With Emily, tells Refinery29. Instead of trying to have an orgasm immediately, commit to getting to know your body over a period of several months.

“Common reasons why people, particularly women, have difficulty orgasming is because we’re in our head, and we’re focused on orgasming,” Dr. Morse says. “If you go in with the goal of ‘I’m just going to try to see where I can find pleasure in my body,’ knowing that you, on your own, can figure it out can be empowering. You’re much likely to get there once you just say, ‘I’m exploring.’”

While you’re doing this exploring, commit to experimentation. “Make sure you’re warmed up, you’re turned on, you’re exploring other erogenous zones, and you’re really taking the time,” Dr. Morse says. Spend some time in front of a full-body mirror while masturbating; try different breathing patterns; try using sex toys; try different positions. Touch different parts of your body, and use different types of touch. If you have a clitoris, Sex With Emily has an episode called “The Clit Notes” that covers all the different ways you can touch your clit. Dr. Morse also suggests spending some time “seducing yourself” — clean your room, light some candles, put on some music, try out different fantasies</a

“Our brain is the largest sex organ, no matter who you are,” Dr. Morse explains. “My advice would be to do the exploring, cultivate a really rich fantasy life, and figure out what your erotic themes are. What really turns you on? What are your fantasies? What do you need to feel the most pleasure? And then just experiment with that. Let go of what everyone else is doing, and do your own work to find out how you’re going to get there.”

After you’re comfortable orgasming on your own, then you can take what you’ve learned and tell your partner what you like. “It’s called self-love for a reason, right?” Dr. Morse asks. “No one else is responsible for our orgasms and our pleasure but us. And then once we learn that, we can communicate that to anyone else who’s interested in coming along for the ride.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Pregnant Couples Should Totally Have Sex

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(And How To Do It Well!)

By Julia Guerra

A survey issued by the parenting website ChannelMum back in 2017 found that, on average, couples will have sex 78 times in a matter of six months (that’s 13 times per month) before they conceive. But what happens after they score a positive on the stick? Do they stop, for lack of a better word, scoring in the bedroom?

In life, and in pregnancy, it’s important to listen to your body and honor its needs. This includes any sexual desires that may (and usually do) arise. Of course, if you aren’t comfortable having sex while you’re pregnant, that’s perfectly fine. But while pregnancy is a lot of things, it doesn’t have to be a celibacy sentence.

The stigma around pregnant sex.

It’s one thing to put physical intimacy on pause if it’s uncomfortable or harmful to the mother, or if someone in the relationship feels genuinely uncomfortable having pregnant sex. However, there’s nothing inherently “dirty” or “wrong” about having sex while pregnant. But according to Sofia Jawed-Wessel, Ph.D., MPH, sex researcher and co-director of the Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the taboo pitted on pregnant sex isn’t directed at the sex itself but rather at pregnant women having sex. 

“Our culture has a difficult time juxtaposing motherhood and sexiness without fetishizing—without objectifying the pregnant person,” Jawed-Wessel explains in an interview with mbg. “We have a difficult time seeing the pregnant person as a whole person beyond their pregnancy.”

It all comes back to the “why,” she says. In other words: Why is a pregnant woman having sex?

If it’s to meet her own sexual needs, a pregnant woman pursuing sex is often seen as an “aggressor,” as selfish. If it’s to meet the man’s needs, that’s another story, Jawed-Wessel says. “If [a pregnant woman is] having sex not for her own pleasure but for her partner’s, because nine months is a long time for men to be celibate, then we understand. If she’s partnered with a woman, well, we won’t even acknowledge that!”

How attitudes about pregnant sex can affect an expecting couple’s sex life.

In her most recent study, Jawed-Wessel and her team of researchers followed 116 couples in which one partner was between eight to 12 weeks pregnant. Researchers asked participants to complete four surveys over the course of three months, with questions focusing on their attitude toward sex before pregnancy, their attitude toward sex during pregnancy, how often they were having sex (with their partner and/or solo), sexual activities that gave them the most and least satisfaction, and so on.

The cross-sectional study, published last month in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, found that a couple’s attitude toward pregnant sex could actually affect their overall sexual satisfaction. Partners who shared a positive attitude toward pregnant sex were more satisfied overall than couples who went into the experiment with reservations toward pregnant sex.

Jawed-Wessel says a negative attitude toward pregnant sex can be a reflection of one or all of the following:

1. They’re choosing to believe pregnant sex myths over their doctor’s advice.

Jawed-Wessel says experts are seeing a “disconnect” between what the doctor prescribes and the negative attitudes couples have about pregnant sex because of myths about the potential risk of either compromising the pregnancy or harming the fetus directly.

For the record, there is little evidence to prove sex can induce a miscarriage, and experts say it’s highly unlikely. Doctors do suggest patients with very specific medical issues—such as placenta previa (when the placenta covers all or part of the uterus), and cervical insufficiency (when a woman’s cervix is weak and dilates too early in the pregnancy)—abstain from sex during their pregnancy. For the average pregnant person who isn’t experiencing a high-risk or abnormal pregnancy? As long as your doctor says it’s safe, you’re good to go.

And yet many couples are still apprehensive or just unable to shake off the fear of doing damage to their future baby.

2. Societally speaking, women are desexualized when they become pregnant.

As Jawed-Wessel points out, most cultures—definitely America’s—view motherhood as a kind of pure, moral, and exclusively family-oriented state, whereas having sex still carries overtones of being immoral or selfish. Even if they don’t recognize it, some men buy into this sexist dichotomy and struggle to find their partner sexually desirable during pregnancy, seeing their partner transitioning from “lover” to “mother.” It’s not about the physical bump or even the baby per se (though it may be the case for some men); it’s more about that psychological shift taking place in how they’re viewing their partner.

3. They’re viewing vaginal intercourse as the end-all-be-all of physical intimacy.

Most straight people tend to think sex needs to involve vaginal intercourse. Of course, there are numerous sexual behaviors and experiences that a couple can explore that have nothing to do with penetration, but because couples fall into a routine, they lose that sense of adventure and mystery in the bedroom. Then when pregnancy comes along and makes P-in-V intercourse perhaps less accessible or comfortable, they assume that means sex can’t happen.

What should sex look like for pregnant couples?

According to the team’s findings, sexual satisfaction during pregnancy was extremely contextual for each couple and for each individual partner. The paper outlines that kissing, intercourse, and using sex toys as a couple all led to more sexual satisfaction. But some sexual acts didn’t bring as much joy: For instance, men experienced high levels satisfaction using toys alone (likely while masturbating) and low levels of satisfaction from vaginal fingering (maybe because they couldn’t get off from it, the researchers posit). Women reported the opposite: They were most satisfied through vaginal fingering and actually less satisfied when they used sex toys on their own (perhaps because it was a last resort when they weren’t being satisfied by their partners, the researchers say).

Clearly there wasn’t one overarching solution to being sexually satisfied while pregnant, and more sex didn’t necessarily correspond to being more sexually satisfied. Specific sex acts were more enjoyable for some partners than for others. That being said, the researchers’ model showed one common thread: The more positive of an attitude a couple had toward pregnancy sex, the more sexually satisfied they felt overall.

Sexual satisfaction is important for a healthy relationship—yes, even for soon-to-be parents.

“Pregnancy does not suddenly leave a couple void of sexual needs,” Jawed-Wessel and her team write in their paper. “Sex is important to individuals and their relationships, and pregnant people and their partners are no exception. Relationship satisfaction has been frequently linked to sexual satisfaction among the general population, and pregnant individuals follow a similar pattern.”

They add that pregnant women also experience unique benefits from being satisfied with the state of their sex life and relationship: “Pregnant women with higher relationship satisfaction have also been found to be more positive about their upcoming role as a mother and experience less maternal emotional distress.”

In a recent edition of her newsletter, sex researcher and educator Dr. Zhana Vrangalova emphasized why it’s so important for couples not to lose sight of their sex lives due to a pregnancy: “I know that sex during and post-pregnancy may feel strange, or different, or awkward. But I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for the health and quality of your relationship to maintain your sexual connection during this time. The longer you go without it, the harder and weirder it’s going to be to come back to it and reconnect in that way.”

Her advice?

“If you’re the one pregnant, give yourself the right to be a sexual being, and revel in your new body. A lot of women report that pregnancy sex was the best sex they’ve ever had!” she writes. “And if you’re the partner of someone who’s pregnant, please work on overcoming the harmful myths and negative feelings about pregnancy sex you’ve internalized, and make your partner feel beautiful, sexy, sexual, and desired.”

Communication is key.

Of course, this isn’t meant to put pressure on couples to do what they’re just not feeling. If a couple or partner just doesn’t want to have sex for whatever reason, Jawed-Wessel says there is nothing wrong with pushing pause. But she stresses: Communication is key.

“We see partners making assumptions or jumping to conclusions on what the other is thinking, and this is never good,” Jawed-Wessel explains. “[Pregnancy] can be a time to really explore each other’s sexuality and come to a closer understanding of one another so that when both partners are ready to push play again, it is easier to navigate and relearn each other’s needs and wants.”

As long as both partners have an open line of communication flowing and are being honest about their needs, Jawed-Wessel tells mbg, “there is no reason for sex or lack of sex during pregnancy to be harmful to either partner.” It’s only if either partner feels unsatisfied, or if the woman feels as though her partner does not find her sexually desirable, that may cause an issue.

Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., sex researcher and director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University–Bloomington, tells mbg that ultimately the importance of sexual intimacy during pregnancy will depend on the couple. For some, keeping things fresh in the bedroom during pregnancy is a priority. For others, sex is put on the back burner. “[New parents] have bigger fish to fry, focusing on staying and feeling healthy, caring for their pregnancy, getting things for their baby, napping more, doctors’ appointments, etc.,” Herbenick says. But she does suggest pursuing physical closeness in other ways: “Those who abstain [from penetrative sex] might find [satisfaction] connecting to kiss and cuddle to nurture intimacy.”

Overall, navigating the ways in which you and your partner can stay sexually satisfied during pregnancy is a personal process. As long as your medical provider gives you the OK, try your best to home in on how this experience can enhance your sex life and bring you closer, not only as new parents but as a couple. By keeping the communication flowing and maintaining a positive attitude, satisfaction will come—in and outside the bedroom.

Complete Article HERE!

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What To Do If You Want Sex To Last Longer

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By Erika W. Smith

There have been a lot of studies about how long sex lasts on average — but most of those studies focus on the length of P-in-V sex between a cis man and a cis woman, whereas we know that sex can encompass a lot more. When it comes to studies looking at how long sex — including foreplay, outercourse, oral sex, and any other kind of non-P-in-V sex — lasts on average, for people of any gender and sexuality, we have less data to go by. But even if we did have exact data, those numbers don’t really matter. Because the only real answer to “How long should sex last?” is “A length that you and your partner are happy with.”

In fact, studies and averages are “a comparison trap,” says Megan Fleming, PhD, a sex and relationships counselor who practices in New York. “It’s really more about what works in your relationship.”

Sex therapists generally consider someone with a penis to be experiencing premature ejaculation if they are ejaculating after less than two minutes of penetrative sex, Dr. Fleming says. The Mayo Clinic’s definition of premature ejaculation adds an important caveat: “Premature ejaculation occurs when a man ejaculates sooner during sexual intercourse than he or his partner would like.” If both partners are happy with how long sex is lasting, then it’s not something to be concerned about — there’s a lot more to sex than penetration, after all. “How much does [the partner] enjoy penetration?” Dr. Fleming asks. “Maybe they already had an orgasm first because of foreplay, oral, or manual stimulation.”

But if both partners — no matter their gender or genitalia — want sex to last longer, they can try some different tactics to make that happen. Dr. Fleming divides these strategies into two groups: the physical and the psychological. On the physical side, there are masturbation exercises. In particular, people with penises can “learn to stay in the safe zone before the point of inevitability, which is ejaculation,” says Dr. Fleming. If sex isn’t lasting long because one person is experiencing pain or discomfort, see a professional who can see if there’s an underlying health condition. If you’d like sex to end more quickly, masturbation exercises also apply. And whether you’d like sex to last longer or end more quickly, you should be using lube it helps reduce friction, makes sex feel more comfortable, and feels great. Try experimenting with different amounts lube, or trying different kinds of lube, to see how that feels.

There’s also the psychological side of sex. Along with trying out positions and types of sex, “that might mean including fantasy, or talking dirty,” Dr. Fleming says. It can also mean reframing what you think of as sex to include sexual activities outside of penetration — and if there’s a cis man in the couple, it can mean rethinking the idea that sex ends when he has an orgasm.

Dr. Fleming also suggests trying new sexual activities more than once — even if the first time you try a new position doesn’t have an effect on how soon your orgasm happens, that might be different the third time you try it. “When you try something new, you want to try, try again,” she says. She refers to the safe word system of red, yellow, and green, where red means “stop,” green means “go,” and yellow means “slow down” or “give me a moment.” “If it’s awful, ‘red light,’ then obviously don’t” try it again, she says. “But if it’s more like a yellow, then hang out and see if it turns green. Sometimes we have to do things enough to really be present and relax, and relaxation is the foundation of arousal.”

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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This Might Be Why You Struggle To Get Turned On

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By Kelly Gonsalves

For those who struggle with sexual desire and arousal—i.e., they just don’t get turned on that easily, that often, or when they want to be—sex can be a pretty frustrating affair. Even if you’re in a loving relationship and like the idea of physical intimacy, for some reason you just can’t get yourself in the mood for it.

A new study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy offers some clues as to what’s going on with your libido: Apparently women who have difficulties with sexual desire tend to have stronger sexual concordance, meaning their mental and genital arousal levels generally tend to align.

Researchers had 64 women individually come into a lab and watch a series of erotic videos while their vagina and clitoris were hooked up to a device that monitored physical markers of arousal: pulsing in the vaginal canal and increases in blood flow to the clit. The women also continuously indicated their subjective level of arousal (i.e., how aroused they felt in their heads) throughout the video by pushing a button to indicate when they were feeling more or less turned on. Later, each woman’s sexual concordance was measured based on how much their physical arousal levels matched up with their subjective, self-reported arousal levels.

All of the women also completed a questionnaire to determine their sexual functioning, which refers to a person’s ability to experience sexual desire, get aroused, lubricate, have an orgasm, and engage in pleasurable, pain-free sex. As far as sexual functioning, the researchers specifically homed in on women who struggled with desire versus those who didn’t.

The mind-body connection may be stronger with some women.

Here’s what the researchers found: Women with lower sexual functioning tended to have more alignment between their genital arousal and their mental arousal (i.e., sexual concordance). In other words, for women who had more trouble with sexual desire, their bodies and minds were actually more synced up than for other women.

What exactly does that mean? It means your body doesn’t get turned on without your mind also in the game, and vice versa. The two work in tandem.

Of course, this is true for most people. (“Your brain is your most important sex organ,” self-love guru and mbg Collective member Melissa Ambrosini tells mbg. “If it’s not in the game, you’re going to struggle to experience anything close to bedroom bliss.”)

But these findings suggest this mind-body connection might be especially important for women who have trouble accessing sexual desire. One theory the researchers posited in the paper is that women with higher concordance might be more likely to be very aware of all the physical sensations in their body and thus be less able to specifically focus on sexual sensations around the clitoris and vagina. Likewise, the body might be hyper-sensitive to unrelated thoughts buzzing in the mind and thus not respond to sexual stimuli because of all the other mental information it might be engaging with.

Importantly, the study also found sexual functioning and concordance were particularly linked when mental arousal predicted changes in genital arousal. In other words, when the body got aroused as the mind got aroused.

“These results coincide with previous research suggesting that the subjective experience of arousal may be particularly important in influencing genital responses in women with sexual desire and arousal difficulties,” the researchers write in the paper. “Therapeutic approaches that enhance women’s emotional or subjective experiences of sexual arousal may therefore be beneficial for improving sexual functioning.”

How to kick the desire system into gear.

If you struggle with desire, these results suggest it’s likely your body and mind’s sexual responses are more closely connected than in other people. And your mind may be particularly important for getting your body on board.

That suggests your road to tapping into your sexual desire isn’t going to be about initiating physical acts and waiting for your body to feel a spark before you’re able to feel mentally turned on. It’s going to be about first getting mentally stimulated and then letting your body follow your mind’s lead.

How do you get mentally stimulated? Consuming good erotica alone or with a partner can be a great way to whet the mind’s appetite, as can sending each other racy messages by text or email. Relationships expert and mbg Collective member Esther Perel advocates for the power of fantasy and even suggests exploring a little role-play in her mbg course on erotic intelligence.

If you’re looking for something simpler that you can tap into in the moment, master confidence coach and host of the UnF*ck Your Brain podcast Kara Loewentheil recommends reflecting on some of your most heated moments of the past and looking within for inspiration: “Think about a time you felt really sexy—what was going on? What were you thinking about yourself? There’s always a thought even if you weren’t aware of it at the time. Wearing something that makes you feel sexy or putting on a slow jams playlist can help, but fundamentally it’s thinking about yourself as a sexy and sexual person that will really light the fire within.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Marijuana enhances sex for women and doubles likelihood of orgasm

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By Chrissy Sexton

A new study led by the Saint Louis University School of Medicine has found that marijuana can greatly improve sexual experiences for women. Based on information from hundreds of women, the researchers found that using marijuana prior to sex doubled the likelihood that they would have an orgasm.

It has been commonly reported that marijuana increases sexual arousal and results in higher satisfaction during sex. While the science underlying these sexual benefits is not yet clear, experts theorize that they may result from heightened senses and reduced stress.

“It has been postulated that it leads to improvement in sexual function simply by lowering stress and anxiety,” wrote the study authors. “It may slow the temporal perception of time and prolong the feelings of pleasurable sensations. It may lower sexual inhibitions and increase confidence and a willingness to experiment.”

“Marijuana is also known to heighten sensations such as touch, smell, sight, taste, and hearing.”

To investigate the link between marijuana and sexual satisfaction, the researchers developed a Sexual Health Survey that addressed topics such as sex drive and lubrication. “To limit bias, the authors embedded the questions about marijuana deeper into the questionnaire,” wrote the researchers.

The investigation was focused on the survey responses of 373 women who were both marijuana users and non-users. Of the 47 percent of participants who were marijuana users, 34 percent reported using it before sex.

The study revealed notable differences in the sexual experiences of the women based on whether or not they used marijuana beforehand.

 

“Most women reported increases in sex drive, improvement in orgasm, decrease in pain, but no change in lubrication.” Overall, women who smoked pot were 2.13 times more likely to report having “satisfactory orgasms.”

“Marijuana appears to improve satisfaction with orgasm. Women who used marijuana before sex and those who used more frequently were more than twice as likely to report satisfactory orgasms as those who did not use marijuana before sex or used infrequently,” wrote the study authors.

“Our study is consistent with past studies of the effects of marijuana on sexual behavior in women.”

The research is published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Complete Article HERE!

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3 Sex Positions For People Who Want To Try Bondage That Will Teach You The Ropes

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If you’re just dipping your toes into the kinky end of the pool, you may be on the prowl for some sex positions for people who want to try bondage. Whether you’ve listened to Rihanna’s “S&M” more times than you can count or have always been curious about incorporating some kink into your sex life, there’s no shame in feeling a little intrigued by BDSM, or curious enough to want to try it out yourself. When starting to experiment with bondage, it’s important to remember that diving into the kink pool doesn’t need to feel intimidating. Unlike extreme sports or wacky science experiments on Youtube, these moves can actually be tried at home.

Incorporating more physicality into your sex life may call for you and your partner(s) to develop a safe word, perhaps discuss “aftercare,” or engage in the types of conversations you’ll need to have after an intense sexual interaction — like a verbal debriefing or some nonsexual physical contact. When trying any new sexual activity, especially those on the kinkier side, it’s paramount to talk consent and boundaries before taking the plunge.

If you’ve talked the talk and you’re ready to rumble, these three beginner bondage positions can really help you learn the ropes.

Tie Breaker

From ribbons to scarves to literal neckties — there are plenty of household materials you can use to bring some light bondage into the bedroom. If you’re just starting out with bondage, *rebranding* your silk belt or knitting yarn as sexy restraints can give you a taste of BDSM, before buying special harnesses or toys.

With your scarves, try blindfolding your boo, tying your partner to the bed frame, or trying their hands to each other. When starting out, it may help to tie down one hand or one ankle, and see how that feels before moving forward with extra restraints. If you or your partner enjoy the restraint, tying both arms and legs down, or being blindfolded as you’re tied down may be your speed. Like anything, start slow, check in frequently, and build as you go — there’s certainly no rush to get it on.

Sitting Pretty

You and your partner(s) may already incorporate chairs or positions where someone is sitting upright into your sex life. In that case, having either the penetrating or receiving partner sitting can be a super spicy way to mix things up, and hit different erogenous zones.

To put a little bondage play into it, try having the seated partner tied down to the chair, either by hands, ankles, or a combination of the two, or both. The seated partner can have the arms straight down in restraints on the chair legs, or tied together around the back of the chair — opening their chest up. The standing partner can then strip, tease, or otherwise interact with the seated partner, and ultimately climb on top of them and have their (consensual and previously agreed upon) way.

Bend It Like Beckham

For a spicy standing up position, have a partner bend over (like they are touching their toes) and tie their hands or forearms to their feet or legs. This can be ideal for bondage in the shower or otherwise out of the bedroom.

As something like this takes some flexibility and strength, this one calls for some major communication. The bend can be a super sexy way for deep penetration but it also can potentially cause some unwanted neck cramping. Additionally, something like this can be done lying down, where a parter is on their back and stretches their legs up to their arms often called ‘Happy Baby’ position in yoga. Restraining your wrists to your ankles while you’re on your back can allow for deep penetration with the comfort of lying down.

Trying bondage can be as low-key or intense as you and your partner(s) want it to be: From scarf blindfolds to getting tied up in the shower. If you’re looking to try bondage, the first thing to do is to talk to your partner. If everyone is on board, experimenting with bondage can be a fun and sexy way to make your sex extra knotty.

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s How To Decide On A Safe Word

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No matter who you’re sleeping with, how long you’ve been sleeping with them, and what type of sex you’re having — if you’re not feeling it anymore, you’re allowed to tap out at any point, for any reason. While it’s important to discuss consent and knowing what you and your partner(s) are comfortable with before turning up the heat, knowing something like how to decide on a safe word can be a great way to keep everyone safe and comfortable during sex.

“A safe word is a word selected by sexual partners together that when used indicates one partner would like to pause sexual activity for any reason,” McKenna Maness, sex educator and former education and prevention coordinator at The Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP), tells Elite Daily. “Perhaps sex got too intense, or the partner is physically uncomfortable or in more pain than they would like to be, or roleplaying crossed into something less desirable for that person, they’re overstimulated— in any of these cases, the partner who would like to stop can say their safe word and the other partner would know that it is time to stop immediately and check in!”

Although having a safe word can be a tool for communicating with your partner(s), it it no way means that partner(s) are allowed to skip the boundary convo or try something new without first getting consent. “It should not be your goal to make someone use their safe word. A safe word exists for reasons of safety. Boundaries are made for a reason and not everyone likes theirs’ pushed. At the same time, it does not make you weak to safe word out,” Lola Jean, sex educator and mental health professional says.

“Safe words” have roots within the BDSM community and are often associated with more kinky types sex. Additionally, expressing when you’re not feeling something or need a time out, can be useful in all types of sexual activity — from bondage and role play, to gentle spooning and basic missionary. Whether you’re going at it and your legs are in a weird position so it kind of hurts, or you want to check to make sure your contraceptive is in place, a “safe word” is nothing more than a signal that you need to stop and check in.

“You always have the right to stop whatever you and your partner(s) are doing to each other for any reason — communication is key and safe words facilitate that!” Maness says. If you just got your IUD replaced or you’ve had the worst day ever and can’t stop thinking about your terrible coworker Shannon, you may not realize that you’re not trying to have sex tonight until you’ve started to have sex. Safe words, then, are like an immediate “eject button” from sex, without feeling pressure to explain what you’re feeling in the moment, before winding down the physical touching or expressing everything on your mind to your partner(s).

When choosing a safe word, it may be helpful to pick a universal phrase — like traffic light colors. “It’s easier to remember the difference between yellow and red even when in the depths of sub space,” Jeans says. “You can add words like ‘Red Stop’ to end completely as opposed to just “Red” to stop what you are currently doing.” If your first grade teacher ever used a paper traffic light as a public-shame discipline system (I’m triggered) or if you’ve ever been in a moving vehicle, it’s easy to remember that “Red means stop.” Words like traffic light colors, that hold deep cultural significance can be great choices for a safe word, as you’re unlikely to forget them.

If you’re not a big talker during sex or a verbal safe word doesn’t feel comfortable, Maness suggests incorporating a physical “safe word” or a physical signal that you need a time out. Yet, like a safe word, a physical tap-out should be a motion you wouldn’t otherwise do during sex. “Maybe tapping your partner’s shoulder or winking, a peace sign or crossed fingers — as long as they will see it and understand it,” Maness says.

If you’re someone who likes to laugh or joke during sex, it may be a good fit for you and your partner(s) to choose a funny safe word. “My safe word is ‘Mike Pence’ because that would make someone stop dead in their tracks during a scene to question what was going on —plus I do like a safe word that makes me giggle,” Jean says. Although humor may play an important role, Jean also speaks to the importance of finding a word that’s memorable and literally easy to say. “When choosing a safe word, it’s important that it is something you can easily remember and say. It should be a word that would likely not come up within play or a word you don’t say very often. (I rarely would use Mike Pence’s name in my sexy times.) Mike Pence is also an easy two syllable punch.”

Maness too agrees that choosing a safe word ideally means picking something unforgettable. “It has to be something you will absolutely be sure to remember during sex. If you are single or non-monogamous, you can choose one just for yourself and communicate it before sex, and if you have a partner you consistently hook up with, whatever that looks like for you, you can decide together what to use,” Maness says. “It could be parachute. It could be persimmon. It could be shovel. Just make sure it’s memorable and you both/all know what it means.”

Maness also suggests thinking about a word you wouldn’t otherwise say when having sex. Something completely random like an inanimate object, an inside joke, or something otherwise unfamiliar to the communication you and your partner(s) typically have during sex. Though it may feel right to have your safe word be something silly or totally random, using it is a serious move. “Using a safe word — even with a long term partner — has a certain weight to it that other words do not. A safe word means business. It means slow the f*ck down and check in with your person,” Jean says.

Of course just like finding the right safe word for you, understanding exactly what your safe word will mean is another important conversation. “It’s important to set forth what the safe word or signal means too— usually it means ‘stop now’ but you could also ask your partner to give you physical space when you use it, or tell them you want comfort and aftercare at the point where you use it,” Maness says. “Using a safe word is revoking consent in that moment. Your partner shouldn’t take offense, or be upset or hurt. You aren’t necessarily ending the sex permanently, although if you are that’s fine too.”

If using a safe word means your boundaries were crossed, you may want to further discuss with your partner how you’re feeling and what you need to feel comfortable and safe when having sex. Your safe word could mean anything from, “Your knee is knocking into my hip and it kinda hurts can we switch positions” to “I don’t like where this is going, we need to stop”. Having an open dialogue with your partner about what your safe word means and how it will be used is just as important as choosing the right word for you. “It’s a great tool that just requires honest/open conversation,” Maness says.

If you are thinking about the right safe word for you, take time to ponder your personal boundaries, preferences, and the types of sex you do and (maybe more importantly) do not want to be having. During any sexual encounter — a LTR, one night stand, or super hot orgy with ninety people — the most important thing factor is active consent. When it comes to deciding on a safe word, you get to choose how it’s used, when it’s used, and what it means.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Reignite Your Sex Life After Going Through Cancer

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Your body will feel different. These tips can help.

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After cancer, bodies and relationships change. In fact, many men find their sex lives look and feel different from their pre-cancer days. Although you may feel embarrassed or nervous to open up to your partner about sexual changes, talking about post-cancer intimacy can help you re-envision your body and your relationship. These tips can help pave the way for establishing a new sex life after a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Start talking early

Although it seems like physical contact is one of the most important parts of intimacy, the truth is that communication is essential for establishing and igniting closeness. Remember, there’s no one way affection should look, and previous relationship expectations can be difficult to maintain during cancer recovery.

For men in particular, sexual function changes can manifest as shifts in desire, the impacted ability to get or maintain an erection, or even delayed or dry ejaculation. Instead of withdrawing and avoiding intimacy or affection, I advise my patients at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) to talk with their partner right when they’re diagnosed to start the dialogue about possible changes in your sex life. Before you go into surgery or start therapy, have a conversation about your sexual self-esteem and identity as a sexual person. You and your partner can check in with each other a few months later to see how you’re both feeling about your sexual self-identity and work on identifying a new vision of intimacy in your relationship.

And it’s not just your partner you should be talking to—communication is equally important between you and your doctor. Going through cancer can change your sex life, but that doesn’t mean your doctor has covered all the sexual function differences you may notice. If you notice sexual functioning changes, talking with your doctor can open up the possibilities of personalized treatment options. By speaking up and asking questions, you can better establish a healthy approach to reclaiming your sexual identity.

“Date” your partner again

Partnership is a key part of any relationship, and should be just as important after diagnosis. During cancer, relationships can transition from partner/partner to patient/caregiver, and returning to old “norms” can be challenging. A good way to approach this is to continue to date your partner throughout treatment. By dreaming together or going out to eat, you can help refocus your relationship around things that aren’t related to cancer. You can also try scheduling time for intimacy and affection, which can help rekindle intimacy found in partnership. Try to take your time and get to know each other again.

Redefine intimacy

After treatment, sexual desire can wane. A lot of things can impact desire including hormonal changes, pre-occupation/focus changes, decreased self-esteem/confidence, and mental health issues (e.g., anxiety or depression). Remember, intimacy might not happen spontaneously and might not involve sex at all. Try playing to other strengths and learning to perfect new types of intimacy—not every sexual interaction requires an erection or an orgasm. If your goal is satisfaction, it’s important to note that men can still reach orgasm without an erection and the penis itself can still experience sensation. There are many ways to feel pleasure, these just might not look the exact same as they did before diagnosis. Remember you’re in charge of defining what you want intimacy to be—it can even be as simple as connection.

The sexual side effects that you may experience from cancer can happen to anyone—cancer treatment just speeds up the process. Normalizing and understanding issues of intimacy after cancer is just one step you can take to acknowledge habits or preconceptions that may be harmful. Sex doesn’t have to be a certain way to be fun and exciting. With these guidelines, you can work on re-establishing intimacy and gaining newfound confidence post-cancer.

Complete Article HERE!

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What To Do If You Want Sex To Last Longer

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By Erika W. Smith

There have been a lot of studies about how long sex lasts on average — but most of those studies focus on the length of P-in-V sex between a cis man and a cis woman, whereas we know that sex can encompass a lot more. When it comes to studies looking at how long sex — including foreplay, outercourse, oral sex, and any other kind of non-P-in-V sex — lasts on average, for people of any gender and sexuality, we have less data to go by. But even if we did have exact data, those numbers don’t really matter. Because the only real answer to “How long should sex last?” is “A length that you and your partner are happy with.”

In fact, studies and averages are “a comparison trap,” says Megan Fleming, PhD, a sex and relationships counselor who practices in New York. “It’s really more about what works in your relationship.”

Sex therapists generally consider someone with a penis to be experiencing premature ejaculation if they are ejaculating after less than two minutes of penetrative sex, Dr. Fleming says. The Mayo Clinic’s definition of premature ejaculation adds an important caveat: “Premature ejaculation occurs when a man ejaculates sooner during sexual intercourse than he or his partner would like.” If both partners are happy with how long sex is lasting, then it’s not something to be concerned about — there’s a lot more to sex than penetration, after all. “How much does [the partner] enjoy penetration?” Dr. Fleming asks. “Maybe they already had an orgasm first because of foreplay, oral, or manual stimulation.”

But if both partners — no matter their gender or genitalia — want sex to last longer, they can try some different tactics to make that happen. Dr. Fleming divides these strategies into two groups: the physical and the psychological. On the physical side, there are masturbation exercises. In particular, people with penises can “learn to stay in the safe zone before the point of inevitability, which is ejaculation,” says Dr. Fleming. If sex isn’t lasting long because one person is experiencing pain or discomfort, see a professional who can see if there’s an underlying health condition. If you’d like sex to end more quickly, masturbation exercises also apply. And whether you’d like sex to last longer or end more quickly, you should be using lube it helps reduce friction, makes sex feel more comfortable, and feels great. Try experimenting with different amounts lube, or trying different kinds of lube, to see how that feels.

There’s also the psychological side of sex. Along with trying out positions and types of sex, “that might mean including fantasy, or talking dirty,” Dr. Fleming says. It can also mean reframing what you think of as sex to include sexual activities outside of penetration — and if there’s a cis man in the couple, it can mean rethinking the idea that sex ends when he has an orgasm.

Dr. Fleming also suggests trying new sexual activities more than once — even if the first time you try a new position doesn’t have an effect on how soon your orgasm happens, that might be different the third time you try it. “When you try something new, you want to try, try again,” she says. She refers to the safe word system of red, yellow, and green, where red means “stop,” green means “go,” and yellow means “slow down” or “give me a moment.” “If it’s awful, ‘red light,’ then obviously don’t” try it again, she says. “But if it’s more like a yellow, then hang out and see if it turns green. Sometimes we have to do things enough to really be present and relax, and relaxation is the foundation of arousal

Complete Article HERE!

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3 Reasons You Feel Sad After Sex & What To Do About It

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By Kelly Gonsalves

After having sex, most people usually experience a host of positive physical, mental, and emotional feelings—a sense of euphoric high, satisfaction, relaxation, and perhaps a warm intimacy with their partner.

But sometimes, a person may instead feel the opposite. Immediately following sex, they’re hit with a wave of negative emotions: They feel suddenly sad, irritable, or isolated, and they may even start inexplicably crying. The phenomenon is known as postcoital dysphoria, and it’s actually way more common than you’d think.

What is postcoital dysphoria?

“Postcoital dysphoria (PCD) is the experience of negative affect following otherwise satisfactory sexual intercourse,” a team of researchers explained in a 2011 study published in the International Journal of Sexual Health. “Under normal circumstances the resolution phase of sexual activity elicits sensations of well-being along with psychological and physical relaxation. However, individuals who experience PCD may express their immediate feelings after sexual intercourse in terms of melancholy, tearfulness, anxiety, irritability, or psychomotor agitation.”

Importantly, PCD refers to when there is no discernible reason for the person to feel negatively about the sexual experience that just happened—it was consensual, pleasurable, and perhaps even induced some orgasms, and yet the person still feels upset afterward without a clear understanding as to why they’re feeling that way. It can happen to someone even when the person they slept with is someone they’re in a serious, committed, and loving relationship with, just as easily as it could happen when it’s with a first-time or casual partner.

There has yet to be much substantive research done on PCD, and so it’s still not a well-understood phenomenon even among sexual health professionals.

“We unfortunately don’t really understand postcoital dysphoria very well,” Vanessa Marin, a psychotherapist specializing in sex therapy, tells mbg. “We really only know that it exists. It doesn’t seem to have any relationship with the type or quality of sex that you have, or your relationship with your partner.”

The few studies that have been done show that PCD is a fairly common experience: A 2015 study found 46 percent of straight women had experienced it at least once in their life, and 5 percent had experienced it a few times in the last four weeks. Another study released last month found 41 percent of men (most of whom were straight) experienced PCD at least once, and 20 percent had experienced it in the last four weeks. (Side by side, these two studies suggests PCD happens at fairly similar rates between men and women, but the latter study actually found women were about twice as likely to have experienced PCD in the last four weeks compared to men and nearly three times as likely to have experienced PCD in their lifetime.)

What causes these negative emotions after sex?

A lot more research is needed to fully understand what causes postcoital dysphoria, but scientists have posited three main theories for what could be behind the otherwise inexplicable emotional response:

1. Your brain chemistry.

According to the International Society for Sexual Medicine, it’s possible that “bonding with a partner during sex is so intense that breaking the bond triggers sadness.” Sex therapist Ian Kerner tells Health that having sex can trigger the release of oxytocin, the so-called love hormone that makes people feel attached and connected to another person. But after the sex is over, the sudden recognition that you’re not actually as connected as the hormones made you feel (either because it’s a casual sexual encounter or because there may be underlying issues in your relationship) can make you feel sad or frustrated. You go from feeling incredibly close, both emotionally and physically, to feeling alone, rejected, or yearning for what’s not really there.

2. A history of unexplored trauma.

The few studies that’ve been conducted around PCD have found a history of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse is correlated with a higher incidence of PCD, both among men and women. Essentially, it’s possible that having sex—even terrific, pleasurable, consensual sex—is simply a triggering experience for you because of your past traumas. It’s well-known that having experienced sexual assault and/or abuse, especially as a child, can have lasting psychological consequences as a person grows older and tries to engage in a normal sex life.

3. Feeling vulnerable.

The truth is, sex is a pretty vulnerable thing in general. You’re totally naked with another human being, sharing the most private parts of yourself that you generally don’t show to most people. That act alone can afterward trigger emotions, too, that you normally keep to yourself.

“A vulnerability hangover is most often triggered by going too fast or doing too much for what the psyche or body can handle,” sex coach Irene Fehr tells Bustle. “It is often exacerbated by a cocktail of consciousness-altering substances such as alcohol or drugs that relax and allow the drop of inhibitions, enable going faster than might be comfortable, and make crossing boundaries that would otherwise hold in a conscious state possible.”

How to handle the post-sex blues.

1. Develop an aftercare ritual.

Among people who practice BDSM, a concept known as “aftercare” is commonplace following a sexual encounter. Aftercare refers to caretaking activities in which the dominant partner offers affection, gentleness, and support to the submissive partner (and sometimes vice versa) to make sure both people avoid any negative psychological effects from the intense power play they engaged in together during sex. In an interview with mbg, clinical sexologist and psychotherapist Kristie Overstreet, Ph.D., recommends a similarly soothing post-sex practice for people who suffer from PCD, even if it’s something you do alone.

“Participate in some type of self-care ritual,” she suggests. “Whether it’s a bath, reading a book, taking a nap, or meeting your friends, do something to nurture yourself.”

2. Track your experiences.

“You can always try tracking your own experience and see if you notice any patterns,” Marin suggests. “It may be that you tend to feel PCD in certain types of avoidable situations. Or you may be able to find patterns in what helps you move past your reactions faster. For example, maybe taking a shower afterward or snuggling with your partner makes you feel better.”

3. Talk to your partner about it.

Research shows a person’s connection with their partner has nothing to do with whether they experience PCD. In other words, you’re most likely not feeling sad because there’s something wrong with your relationship. That said, having one person have a negative emotional reaction after sex can be stressful and confusing for both people, so it’s a good idea to keep your partner in the loop about what’s going on, especially if you know PCD is a common occurrence for you.

“If you’re with a partner and feeling embarrassed, you can simply say something like, ‘This is something that happens to me after I have sex. It’s not tied to the sex that I’ve just had. It’s just a thing that happens. I’ll be over it soon,'” Marin says.

4. If needed, don’t be afraid to seek help.

If you can’t talk to your partner about what’s going on for whatever reason, make sure you’re talking to someone, whether a trusted friend or a therapist. Dr. Overstreet says it’s important to make sure there’s not another underlying issue (such as trauma, sexual dysfunction, or something else) that might be causing your emotional response, which a therapist or health professional might be able to help you treat.

5. Allow yourself to feel whatever you need to feel.

“The best thing you can do is give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel after sex,” Marin says. “If you can be gentle with yourself and allow those feelings to exist, they’ll go away on their own faster. It’s when we try to fight against our feelings that they get much stronger.”

If you need a real outlet, Dr. Overstreet suggests writing down what you’re feeling to help you acknowledge and process those emotions in a healthy way.

Whatever you do, just know that you’re not alone in your feelings, and you’re not abnormal for having them. Many people struggle with postcoital dysphoria from time to time; what’s important is developing an appropriate and healthy way to respond to your emotions and take care of yourself (and your partner) as you go through it.

Complete Article HERE!

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The clitoris is a gift…

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So why is there an ingrained fear of talking about it?

‘It’s time that we grow up and get over our fear of the C-word.’

If we want to make progress with FGM, we need to first tackle our outdated, misogynistic views on sex

The first UK conviction for female genital mutilation (FGM) this month was a milestone in the fight for the basic human rights of women and girls. But one of the things that stands out from the news reports of that case is how oddly furtive they were about communicating the key facts – in particular their avoidance of the C-word: clitoris.

In reporting such a prominent case, are readers unable to be shown the correct medical terminology? Why do the media carefully avoid mentioning what occurred, using highly generalised anatomical terms before quickly moving on? If this lack of detail was to spare the victim the indignity of having such a personal matter discussed so publicly, I would have sympathy, however I do not think that this is the case here. What I think is at play, is a deep-rooted fear of the clitoris.

Let us consider if a man were to suffer a similar injury: would we shy away from using the word penis? Of course not. A quick internet search is enough to reveal a whole plethora of penis-related news stories (not to mention non-news stories). In fact, there are so many that we seem, as news consumers, to be a little bit penis obsessed. Huff Post and the Independent have gone so far as creating a “penis” news keyword tag, for all your penis news in one place. To some degree, the media has also now acknowledged the existence of the vagina, and its linguistic appearance is reasonably acceptable in polite conversation (perhaps depending on the context). So why are we so reticent about the clitoris? Why is a mention of it seemed to be deemed too sordid for BBC news?

The big difference here seems to be that while the vagina has an obvious functional utility, the clitoris exists entirely for female pleasure. It seems that the issue stems, not from the provocative nature of a word, but our continued societal taboo regarding women daring to enjoy sex. Sure, we can see depictions of women shrieking with pleasure plastered all over any porn site. But that is exactly the point. Female sexual enjoyment remains exclusively in the realm of the forbidden.

This aversion to discussing, or even acknowledging, female pleasure is instilled early. As a teenager, I remember it being commonplace for boys to laugh and joke about masturbation; if anything, it was downright encouraged. For girls meanwhile, it was impossible to admit even to your closest friends that masturbation had ever crossed your mind, except as something disgusting and shameful. We were all doing it, yet no one would dare to ever admit it and risk being branded weird and somehow dirty.

In an age in which we’re revolutionising the debate around sexual experiences and consent, why are we stagnating when it comes to the discussion of mutual enjoyment? Rebecca Kukla, a philosophy professor specialising in practical ethics at Georgetown University, has written about the problems of a linguistic framework built around consent, with its implication that women are passive recipients of an act. Sex is framed as something a man asks for, which a woman may either consent to or decline, rather than an experience of mutual participation, agency and pleasure. This is not to say that consent is not important; on the contrary, it is essential. But to reduce our discussions of sex to this kind of dichotomy is to fundamentally misrepresent what is an active and reciprocal enjoyment.

It’s time that we grow up and get over our fear of the C-word. Even more than this, we need to cease viewing female enjoyment of sex as sordid and instead catapult it into the mainstream. Yes, a woman has a clitoris! Being able, at the very least, to talk about clinical aspects of female anatomy when reporting factual news is vital to accepting female bodies in their entirety. We must be able to mention a clitoris without feeling uncomfortable, without feeling like we’ve crossed some invisible line and left the realms of civilised conversation behind us.

Young girls around the world are suffering horrendous mutilation because of a deep-rooted cultural fear of female pleasure, and the same fear is preventing us from even articulating the problem. If we want to make progress on this issue, there are many positive actions we can take (I would recommend looking into the work of Forward UK among other FGM-focused charities). But we could begin by examining our own views and free our speech from the shackles of outdated and deeply misogynistic views on sex.

Complete Article HERE!

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