A Big Reason Why Some People Don’t Enjoy Sex As Much

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By Kelly Gonsalves

Some of the biggest things that can get in the way of good sex: performance anxiety, relationship stress, life stress, lack of variety, lack of time, physical conditions that cause pain, sexual dysfunction where certain parts don’t work the way they should, mental health, antidepressants, orgasm focus, clitoris negligence, selfishness, selflessness, lack of communication, lack of lubrication, internalized shame about having sex…and those are just the ones that initially come to mind.

But here’s one that we don’t often hear or talk a lot about: childhood trauma. And that doesn’t include only childhood sexual abuse (although that’s a large and pervasive type of childhood trauma). It also includes being neglected by your parents, seeing aggressive or emotionally abusive behavior between your parents, getting bullied or mistreated by peers, dealing with identity-related discrimination, and more. These early negative experiences can psychologically shape us and the way we behave, think, and move throughout the world. And new research suggests those traumas can actually affect the way we experience our sexuality in a very specific way.

Researchers surveyed 410 people currently in sex therapy about their sex lives, childhoods, levels of psychological distress in the past week, and how mindful they are as people.

The results showed people who’d experienced more instances of trauma throughout their childhood tended to have less satisfying sexual lives than those without childhood trauma.

Why a bad childhood can lead to a less satisfying sex life as an adult.

It has to do with those other two variables: psychological distress and mindfulness. Predictably, the findings showed people with more childhood trauma tended to experience more daily psychological distress (that is, moments of fear, worry, anxiety, or other negative emotions felt throughout the day) than those without childhood trauma. That psychological distress was linked to lower mindfulness (i.e., the tendency to be attentive and aware of what’s happening in the present moment as it unfolds), and that lack of mindfulness was what was making sex less enjoyable. 

“Psychological distress (i.e., depression, anxiety, irritability, cognitive impairments) may encourage the use of avoidance strategies to escape from suffering or unpleasant psychological states, which may in turn diminish attentiveness and awareness of what is taking place in the present moment,” the researchers explain in the paper. “The numbing of experience or low dispositional mindfulness may diminish survivors’ availability and receptiveness to pleasant stimuli, including sexual stimuli, therefore leading to a sex life perceived as empty, bad, unpleasant, negative, unsatisfying, or worthless.”

In other words, people who’ve experienced bad stuff as kids tend to deal with more stress, anxiety, and negative emotions, and because of that, they’ve developed a specific coping strategy that involves distancing themselves from being fully aware of their emotional and perhaps even physical senses. That lack of mindfulness, however, ends up making good things—like sex—also less enjoyable.

How mindfulness affects sexual pleasure.

Plenty of past research has demonstrated how important mindfulness is to enjoying sex. One study earlier this year found people who are more in tune with their senses tend to have more sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, a higher sense of sexual well-being, and even more sexual confidence.

This isn’t just about woo-woo feel-your-feelings stuff—mindfulness is particularly key to physical pleasure. Here’s how the researchers explain it:

A lower dispositional mindfulness may be particularly detrimental to sexual functioning. Namely, individuals who are distracted, less present, less aware, or unmindful might report lower sexual satisfaction because (1) they may show less awareness of sexual stimuli or less capacity to identify and experience pleasant states as they unfold, therefore potentially experiencing less sexual satisfaction; and (2) their lack of self-regulation of attention might preclude psychological distance from anxious thoughts and decrease their contact with moment-to-moment experiences, hence tempering arousal reactions toward sexual stimuli. … A greater disposition to mindfulness has also been related to one’s ability to fully experience the sexual act.

If you’re someone who had a rough childhood for whatever reason, it’s possible that those experiences have shaped your ability to be fully present with your senses, which in turn can make sex just feel less good.

According to the study, the trauma-distress-mindfulness-pleasure connection accounted for nearly 20% of the variance in sexual satisfaction among people—in other words, these variables together were responsible for 20% of the difference between how good sex felt across all the people in the study, from the people with the lowest sexual satisfaction to those with the highest. That means this is something to seriously pay attention to if sex tends to not feel so great for you!

The researchers suggest people with childhood trauma consider spending time working to deal with their negative emotions via mindfulness—that is, learning to sit with those emotions instead of trying to avoid them. That practice, if mastered, can begin to seep into all parts of your life and change the way you tune into any and all experiences, good and bad.

“Higher levels of dispositional mindfulness may help to reroute one’s focus away from negative, critical, or anxiety-provoking cognitions and onto sensations that are happening during sexual activities with their partner, as they unfold from moment to moment, therefore promoting satisfying sexual experiences among partners,” the researchers write. “Partners presenting higher levels of dispositional mindfulness could be more aware of their internal (e.g., arousing sensations, thoughts, emotions) and external cues (e.g., erotic cues such as seeing the partner’s naked body).”

Here are a few of the best meditations for improving your sex life, plus a guide to staying present during sex itself.

Complete Article HERE!

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Goodbye Bad Sex…

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How To Rewrite Your Sexual Story

By Us

Now, the team behind the raved-about podcast, led by Lisa Williams and Anniki Sommerville, are putting their considerable expertise down on paper with their debut book, More Orgasms Please: Why Female Pleasure Matters. In the book, the collective, who firmly believe that sex, relationships and body confidence are feminist issues that can no longer be ignored, take on everything from feminist porn to body image and the menopause.

Like the podcast that inspired it, More Orgasms Please is like a great conversation with friends: at once punchy and playful, normalising and educational. Featuring insight from doctors, bloggers, politicians, therapists and celebrities, it’s an eye-opening read that puts women’s pleasure firmly on the map at a time when it couldn’t be more crucial.

In the extract below, Anniki recounts a bad sexual experience she had as a teenager, which left her feeling anxious about her future sex life. If, like so many of us, you too have had a less-than-brilliant encounter between the sheets, you’ll want to read on for The Hotbed Collective’s straight-talking advice…

ANNIKI: It’s the late Eighties. I’m fifteen. I’ve been out at a nightclub with a bunch of friends. We’ve drunk Grolsch, and been chatted up by some students from St Martin’s School of Art. They are channelling the Levi’s 501 ads and wear white T-shirts and baggy jeans.

One of them asks if I want to go back to his room. My best friend Hannah accompanies me. He lives in a hall of residence in Battersea. To cut a long story short, the boy and I snog while Hannah sleeps in the same bed. This is not unusual as beds are often at a premium and we’ve become used to sharing this way. Without warning the boy clambers on top of me and starts thrusting. Hannah mumbles, ‘Can you please stop?’ but the boy continues. Eventually after three minutes he groans. I am still wearing my thick Wolford tights. They must be at least 200 denier.

‘You are completely gross,’ Hannah says waking up. ‘I’m getting out of here.’

I don’t want to stay without her so we leave. On the early-morning bus up the King’s Road, I look down at my tights. There is a white sticky substance. ‘I can’t believe you had sex in the bed next to me,’ Hannah says.

The conversation ended right there. Had I had sex? Was that it? The problem was I lacked the necessary vocabulary to explain what had happened. My sex ed lessons hadn’t included a session on ‘dry humping’. ‘Could I be pregnant?’ I wondered. There were rumours that sperm was so powerful that it could survive outside your body and crawl up your leg if it was determined enough. I never talked about this experience with anyone – not even my best mate.

I also felt ashamed but wasn’t quite sure why. There was no one I could talk to about it. I spent many hours fretting that my future sex life would be one where I always had sex through a pair of tights because I didn’t know any better.

‘Bad sex’ experiences such as the one Anniki describes above unfortunately are the norm for many young women embarking on those first few formative sexual experiences. Without a meaningful, realistic idea of what to expect or useful education about how sex is supposed to be pleasurable, then it’s a miracle that we ever end up enjoying it at all

If you don’t know your own anatomy, what a clitoris is, or the difference between foreplay and penetration, then having sex through a pair of tights can be the unfortunate outcome. Sex education lays the groundwork. It also encourages us to talk about our experiences so we don’t think we’re abnormal. It gives us the information we need to make the right choices (and these will hopefully lead to more orgasms and less worry, anxiety and ignorance).

Bad sex probably shares a few common traits (for us anyway).

FIRSTLY: no orgasm. Of course, you can have nice sex without an orgasm but if you are physically capable of an orgasm, it’s a bit like eating rhubarb crumble without custard. Or not having a bun with your burger. Or going out with trainers and no socks so your feet get blisters (come up with your own analogy here). You can fake an orgasm (and sometimes it’s just simply the easiest thing to do: if it’s someone you haven’t had sex with much yet and you like them but you haven’t finished this book yet and are therefore still mid-journey to becoming a fully qualified sex goddess who can ask for what she likes) but this isn’t a sustainable way forward and the sooner you can put things right, the better.

SECONDLY: bad sex often hurts. This may be because you’re not lubricated enough and your sexual partner has no clue or has forgotten about foreplay, or because they’ve watched too much porn, and think frantic, crazy, Jack Russell-style action is what turns you on (maybe it does, in which case: thumbs up).

THIRDLY: bad sex sometimes entails something happening which is so humiliating that your face burns whenever you think about it, even when it’s twenty-odd years later.

We know from our own conversations and from feedback from The Hotbed that plenty of bad sex is happening each and every day. Here are some quickfire stories about bad encounters, shared with us by our listeners:

The time I tried to give a blow job but thought you had to blow instead of suck…

The time toilet paper was still stuck to my bum and I was really into a guy and he discovered it there…

I had to pee really bad and ended up weeing all over our sleeping bag…

My entire first relationship involved sex which was OK but which never made me have an orgasm…

His mum rang him while we were at it, and he answered and had a full conversation with her before carrying on again…

In Not That Kind of Girl Lena Dunham describes a bad experience of cunnilingus, ‘I felt like I was being chewed on by a child that wasn’t mine.’

Author and columnist Caitlin Moran refers to bad sex as ‘the straight-up awful hump – a tale you will tell for the rest of time’. She tells a story of going back to a famous comedian’s house in the Nineties: ‘As we began the “opening monologue” on the sofa, he reached around for the remote control – and put on his own TV show

Perhaps you too have your own bad sex story to tell. Often the accounts of these experiences share certain commonalities: we’re disempowered, passive, naïve and insecure. We do something stupid and embarrassing and we don’t have the guts to ride it out.

Our partner is too rough, not rough enough, too fast, too slow, rude, arrogant, or picks his toenails afterwards.

Samantha from Sex and the City famously declared, ‘Fuck me badly once, shame on you. Fuck me badly twice, shame on me.’ You will have noticed that we’re not blaming our sexual partners exclusively for our bad sex. Of course, they should get clued up: read about some techniques; buy lube; ask you what you like and dislike; and know that women don’t tend to get turned on by having their head forced down into the crotch area. But while they should be able to read your body language, they can’t be expected to read your mind.

Bad sex can happen when expectations are running very high. It can happen when you’re fifteen and it can happen when you’re eighty-five. Unless women take responsibility for their own pleasure and get educated about what pleases them, and have the confidence to tell or show their partners, bad sex can last an entire lifetime

Here’s our Hotbed advice:

REMEMBER IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO REWRITE YOUR SEXUAL STORY. Just as we can change jobs and have multiple identities, so we can change the course of our sexual history. Have a frank look at your own sex life – look at the overarching narrative from teen to now. What percentage has been bad? Are there any patterns in terms of things you’ve put up with but would rather not anymore? How can you build on the stuff you love?

THINK ABOUT THE BEST SEX YOU’VE HAD AND WHAT SHAPED THOSE EXPERIENCES. Was it a specific technique? A mood? Location? It might not be possible to recreate a summer in Spain when you were twenty-two, but there will be certain ingredients that you can integrate into your sex life now…

GET OVER THE IDEA THAT SEX IS BEST WHEN YOU’RE YOUNG. The reality is often quite the opposite. The Public Health England survey that we referred to earlier found that forty-two per cent of women aged between twenty-five and thirty-four complained of ‘a lack of sexual enjoyment’, but in the fifty-five to sixty-four age group this percentage falls to twenty-eight per cent. Bad sex can be edifying in that it teaches you what you don’t want from a sexual encounter, meaning you can learn and improve as you grow older (despite the media’s failure to portray any woman past thirty as fuckable).

TAP INTO FANTASY. When we’re younger we have rich fantasy lives. Usually these take the shape of imagining sex with pop stars and actors. How can fantasy help now? How can you tap into that teen mindset where sex lived in your imagination?

OF COURSE IT MAY BE EASIER TO FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT, ESPECIALLY DURING NEW ENCOUNTERS, BUT THERE’S NO REASON WHY YOU CAN’T HAVE GREAT SEX WHILE DATING HOT STRANGERS. Showing someone where and how you liked to be touched, bringing along a tube of lube, and saying ‘softer’, ‘this is amazing,’ or ‘ooh, that hurts a bit’, are all completely acceptable from the first bonk, and could spare you both some embarrassment and wasted time.

OWN YOUR BAD SEX STORIES. Talk about them. You’ll soon discover that they’re pretty much universal. A bad sex story shared is a bad sex story out in the open and you can have a good old hoot about it and relieve yourself of any shame. We’re talking about the sex-through-tights stories here, of course. If they’re about anything abusive or damaging in any shape or form then seek help from a counsellor or therapist. The experience of abuse can’t be brushed under the carpet and will oftentimes leave heavy imprints in your memory, but with proper support and therapy they don’t have to be a barrier to improving your sex life either.

Bad sex may be a rite of passage but as we’ve explained, it can also continue from our teens into our twenties, thirties and beyond. There may no longer be Wolford tights involved, but there will certainly be times when your partner can’t perform, or you lose interest, or the baby cries, or you’re too tired, or the quality of sex is just not there for you.

In order to stop the rot and make sure that it’s not happening all the time, look out for unhelpful patterns that emerge. Do you always tend to prioritise your partner’s pleasure more than your own? Do you feel grateful if your partner makes your orgasm a priority but then worry afterwards that you were being too demanding and pushy? Do you cringe when you tell your partner about what turns you on?

It’s also worth remembering that famous Nora Ephron quote about how you can turn embarrassing stories around so you become the heroine: ‘When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you. But when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your laugh.’ That’s how Anniki feels about the whole tights story anyway. She’s ‘owning’ that bad boy.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex bans are manipulative and destructive to your relationship

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By Rebecca Reid

There’s a Greek myth called Lysistrata.

It’s a story about how the wives of the Greeks, sick of their husbands pissing off to war and coming back with a limb missing or not coming back at all, took matters into their own hands.

To create peace between various Greek factions, they went on a sex strike. No nookie for anyone until the war was over. And basically, it worked.

Lysistrata was first performed in 411BC. 2,430 years ago. And yet women are still doing the exact same thing – going on sex strike to get what they want.

Earlier this year Alyssa Milano suggested that we women go on strike from sex until the Georgia six-week abortion limit is overruled.

If you Google ‘sex strike’ you find hundreds of stories from women who got ‘their own way’ by going on strike. One woman got a new kitchen. Another convinced her husband to have another baby. Other women simply use it as a disciplinary measure to correct their husband’s behaviour.

Doesn’t anyone else find this unutterably depressing?

It’s 2019 and apparently the axis of our power as humans is still whether or not we will open our legs for our partners.

Sex shouldn’t be a reward. It should be an expression of lust, or love, or anything else that you want it to be. It should be fun, gratifying, enjoyable.

Sex shouldn’t be the adult equivalent of giving a child a chocolate button for hanging their coat up after school.

By taking sex away from your partner as a punishment you send the message that it’s an activity that you partake in for them in the first place – it suggests that sex is a favour you’ve been doing them and will no longer be doing until they toe the party line.

In every single example I could find online, the person doing the banning is the woman and the person on the receiving end is a man, which further perpetuates an untrue stereotype that men like sex and women put up with it.

Another problematic aspect of the sex ban is that often it’s women putting one in place because she wants to make a financial choice – like a new car or a holiday – that her partner isn’t comfortable with.

Instead of compromising – the money belongs to both of you – or just paying it for themselves, these women perpetuate the idea that their husbands are Chancellors of the Exchequer in their marriage.

They might as well be applying for more housekeeping money.

If your sex life is so lukewarm that the idea of giving it up to punish your partner is appealing, then you’ve got a wider problem which needs addressing.

If however you enjoy sex and withdraw it at your own deprivation then you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. Even if it works, do you really want to have won an argument with your other half by taking away sex, just like you would get a child to do their homework by offering screen time?

Back in 411BC Greece, women really didn’t have much power. Sex was one of the few things you had the ability to grant. But the world has moved on, and we are equal partners within our relationships and therefore we do not need to withdraw sexual favours to claw back power.

We’re intelligent, mature, sensible women with critical reasoning skills. Why would we resort to such reduced tactics to alleviate conflict?

Of course there is an element of sexual politics in any relationship – when you feel happier and closer to your partner you’ll probably have more sex. When you’re fighting or struggling through issues it might well be less. That’s normal.

No one is suggesting for a second that you should have sex with your partner if you don’t want to or you’re not in the mood. You should only ever have sex when you want to have sex. The issue is when you use ‘I’m not in the mood’ as a bargaining chip, which is patronising and controlling.

If your partner doesn’t take you seriously when you say you’re annoyed about the division of labour within the household, or that you think you need to redecorate your kitchen, then they’re not a good partner.

If you ignore their responses to your marital problems and decide to ‘punish’ your partner rather than compromising, then you’re not a good partner.

Relationships that work don’t involve point scoring. They’re not based around depriving someone else of privileges to train their behaviour. That’s how you treat a naughty child, not a spouse whom you respect.

You might get what you originally wanted – your partner might do more housework or ‘let’ you buy a new car, but what cost is this ‘victory’ to the long term health of your relationship?

Complete Article HERE!

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Why You Should Still Be Having Solo Sex While You’re In A Relationship

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By Gigi Engle

Masturbation is good for you.

Studies have shown masturbation (and the subsequent orgasms that follow) can help relieve symptoms of depression, improve sleep quality, and even make you more likely to engage in partnered sex (and find that sex more satisfying).

Contrary to the sex shame-y cultural beliefs we have around sexuality, masturbating when you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy sex with your partner. In fact, studies have shown that people think about their partner most often when engaging in masturbation.

That’s right. Engaging in solo play is healthy (and normal!) even when you’re in a partnered relationship. And new data confirms this theory: According to a new study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine, solo sex is very good for you, no matter your relationship status.

Pretty much everyone is masturbating.

Since there is little research into masturbation, especially when it comes to women, the study sought to provide a basis for more research into female solo-sexual behaviors to be done in the future. It provides a baseline other researchers can build upon. Researchers surveyed 425 women, 61% of whom were in committed relationships, about their masturbatory and sexual habits.

What the results show is that almost everyone masturbates: 95% of participants had masturbated at some point during their lives. Further still, the 26% of study participants reported masturbating on a regular basis, at least once per week, while 27% reported masturbating two to three times per week.

A whopping 91% of women said they masturbated while in relationships. About 9% of participants reported they actually prefer masturbation to partnered sex, and 21% even preferred it to receiving oral.

Masturbation: We’re all doing it.

The top reasons women masturbate are pretty illuminating.

“The reasons cited for engaging in masturbation were manifold, ranging from sexual desire to relaxation and stress reduction,” write the study’s authors. The main reasons women masturbate were pretty widespread. While the top reason to masturbate was fulfilling sexual desire (76% listed this as masturbation motivation), 23% cited stress relief, and a notable 44% used it for relaxation.

The jury is in: The reasons for masturbating are nearly limitless.

Of the 5.5% of women who reported never masturbating in relationships, they cited, “I hardly ever feel sexual desire” and “Sex is a partner-only thing” as their reasons.

In other words, it’s women who have low desire and those who don’t understand the benefits of masturbation (and the pleasure it brings) who don’t do it. Now, if you want to engage only in partner play because it’s your preferred way of receiving pleasure, that’s totally OK. It only becomes a problem when you’re refraining from masturbation because of underlying shame you have around enjoying your sexuality for yourself.

Masturbation is not replacing sexual partners.

According to the study’s authors, “For many women, masturbation does not represent ‘a partner substitute’ to seek sexual pleasure but rather is a stress coping and relaxation strategy.” Solo play is its own self-care activity, not a replacement for partnered experiences.

Masturbation and orgasm release a wave of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin. Oxytocin has been shown to help with sleep, calm the nervous system, and relieve pain. Sometimes you don’t want to go through the bells and whistles of partnered sex and would rather have some time to yourself with a nice, self-induced orgasm.

This is perfectly normal and healthy. Orgasms are nature’s Xanax.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why masturbating is good for your health

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(in case you were looking for an excuse)

They’re all *very* convincing…

By Pamela Supple

While masturbation has a multitude of health and wellbeing benefits – and is vital for women at any age – these are my top eight reasons why women should be embracing this opportunity to explore their bodies and become in tune with their sexual wellbeing:

1. Masturbation increases blood flow in your brain

Yep, you heard me – researchers have studied blood flow via MRI scans while participants masturbated, and it’s shown that during masturbation, a blood flow increase is experienced, allowing for a faster blood flow to your brain and genitals.

The MRI scans discovered the blood flows more readily through your body and subsequently to your brain, in turn increasing oxygen and nutrients that stimulate healthy brain function.

2. It helps maintain your vaginal strength

Masturbation can assist with keeping your vagina in tip top shape, helping to strengthen pelvic floor muscles.

Masturbating is essentially a workout for your vagina, with the added benefit of an orgasm at the end. The best part? The stronger your pelvic floor muscles become, the better sex and masturbation will feel, and the easier it becomes to orgasm in future… talk about a win, win!

3. Masturbation boosts your self-esteem

Masturbation is all about self-discovery and self-love, and getting in touch with your own body means loving it more.

Women who masturbate regularly develop improved body image, higher levels of self-esteem, positive genital image, and display improved emotional and erotic intelligence. How can you argue with that?!

When going solo, there are a variety of premium products on the market to enhance your masturbation experience, but I recommend the Womanizer DUO. It indulges in two ways, with Pleasure Air Technology® massaging the clitoris via gentle air vibrations alongside a powerful G-spot stimulation giving an unprecedented level of pleasure.

4. It keeps you looking younger

Thanks to the increased blood circulation in our brains during masturbation, giving yourself some self-loving can actually help you maintain a youthful glow. The extra blood flow prompts nutrients and oxygen to travel to the brain, assisting in tissue repair. This means there’s no better time to whip out your favourite sex toy in lieu of heading to that expensive age-defying facial you might have booked in.

5. It helps you get your much-needed zzz’s

After masturbating, the brain releases dopamine, which assists with falling asleep. Deep sleep rejuvenates the brain, and teamed with an orgasm, is a great health and wellbeing boost. With lack of sleep being related to an increased risk to a plethora of health issues including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, there’s no better time to ensure you’re getting enough zzz’s in at night.

So, go on – satisfy yourself, and then roll over and drift off to sleep thanks to a masturbation related endorphin flood in your brain.

6. It’s a stress-buster

Everyone has different coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and anxiety. It’s proven that masturbating releases oxytocin into your brain, which is known for it’s calming effects.

So, after your next big day in the office, why not try reaching between your legs and feel the stress and tension release.

7. Masturbation can help ease UTI discomfort

Many women have been in the uncomfortable situation where you can feel a urinary tract infection (UTI) coming on. The next time you’re stuck with the dreaded sensation, take some time out and try to masturbate.

Masturbating can help relieve the pain, lubricate the vagina, and flush the bad bacteria from your cervix via a process called ‘tenting’. You’ll be on your way to kicking that pesky UTI to the curb as quickly as possible!

8. It can help you orgasm

While many women have no problem working up an orgasm during their self-love sessions, many struggle during sexual intercourse with a partner. Many sex therapists recommend masturbating in front of your partner or mutual masturbation to help improve couples sex lives or chance of orgasm.

If you are in a relationship, giving and receiving mutual masturbation helps with optimizing chances of orgasm, as well as increasing feelings of security and closeness in a couple.

Complete Article HERE!

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Oral Sex Advice For Men

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International sexologist Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright offers some tips on how to enhance the quality of your time in the bedroom.

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When oral sex is on the table, women have a better shot at achieving orgasm. And that’s not just a random hot take. According to the researchers over at the Kinsey Institute, men have a pretty good shot at attaining orgasm through vaginal sex alone. Women, on the other hand, prove to be much more orgasmic through a variety of sex acts. And yeah, that includes oral sex. Of course, incentives to engage in cunnilingus extend far beyond the promise of orgasm.

Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright is an international sexologist who’s been recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Health as an expert and key leader in the area of sexual and reproductive health. She’s spent the better part of her career steering individuals toward a healthier approach to sex and relationships. And oral sex just so happens to be part of that equation In fact, Fulbright is so enthusiastic about the act she even authored a guide to help instruct men on their approach. Fatherly spoke to Fulbright about how oral sex operates in service to both pleasure and partnership and what men should keep in mind.

Why do you think oral sex is such an important area to explore within a relationship?

When people indulge in sexual experimentation or when a gal gives the green light to let a lover go down on her, there is a certain degree of vulnerability involved. The variety could be a reflection of other things in the relationship that are beneficial, like a strong sense of trust. Unfavorable relationship dynamics can act as barriers, first in a lover feeling up for being adventurous, and then being able to let go knowing that you’re a safe person to be vulnerable with. Consider how you engage your lover outside of the bedroom, and if there are things you could be doing better in building trust.

Why do you think there’s so much ambivalence surrounding oral sex on women?

People are largely unfamiliar with the vulva. They’re lucky to simply learn the names of each intricate part in a high school biology class. Female sexual pleasuring is still a relatively new concept in human history, and for those up for the task there’s still the fear that they don’t know what they’re doing. A number of females don’t even know how to provide a lover with instruction, given they still face the taboo of exploring their sexuality, especially on their own.

Let’s get down to brass tacks. What are some of the most common mistakes men make when performing oral sex?

Some men think that the urinary opening is the clitoris. A number of them don’t warm her up properly. They dive right in, and that can make for a lot of discomfort. Also, any signs of hesitation or being turned off by what you’re about to do can cause her to shut down. Men need to at least come across as confident with what they’re doing.

How might porn have changed the way things are performed?

For better or for worse, people learn from porn. It can show some techniques for pleasuring, but at the same time, it puts a lot of pressure on women to react a certain way, and that includes being able to produce female ejaculation as part of her reaction. One other related point is that some women who have seen the airbrushed vulvas of porn stars may feel self-conscious that their vulvas don’t look as symmetrical, hairless, or otherwise “perfect.”

Is that what motivated you to put together a “guide to going down” for men?

There was a need for a female expert’s guidance and opinion on things. A lot of men would like to learn about cunnilingus from the ladies themselves. I welcomed the opportunity to deliver facts, clear up myths, empower lovers, and equip readers with a number of hot ideas for better lovemaking.

Do you have any favorite “techniques” you’d recommend to someone who isn’t exactly confident in their oral sex skills?

A big part of this is taking your time. It’s about tending to other parts of the body and making her feel good about herself. It’s also teasing as you’re warming her up. Instead of zeroing in on her clitoris and going to town, get the entire vulva wet. Firmly brush over the clitoris on occasion, but tease it. After some build up, firmly push the tip of your tongue against it as you rhythmically massage it, gradually building up the speed and paying attention to signs of whether there’s too much stimulation or if she wants more.

How can more oral sex increase a woman’s odds of achieving orgasm, really?

For a number of women, cunnilingus is the only or most effective way she climaxes. For a number of women, receiving oral sex is necessary if lovers want her to ultimately orgasm. Though, I warn lovers to avoid making orgasm the goal of any kind of sex and to enjoy the ride. This takes pressure off of the situation and people involved, and keeps you in the moment. Hopefully, this means that lovers won’t rush, especially if they know that the woman tends to be more easily orgasmic via oral sex.

Some say that more cunnilingus in the bedroom could help end the orgasm gap. Would you agree? 

Yes and no. For some lovers, more is desirable, especially for women who know this is a primary way for reaching climax, whether as the main play or foreplay. But for ladies who cum as effectively during certain sexual positions involving vaginal penetration, more cunnilingus may not be necessary. Every couple needs to figure out what’s best for them and communicate about that.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to take charge of your sexual energy and revolutionize your sex life

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By Kara Jillian Brown

We’ve all heard the maxim that you can’t really love someone else until you love yourself. A few prominent experts contend the same logic applies to sex, sexual energy, and your identity as a sexual being.

And really, it makes sense: “The most important sexual relationship you will ever have is the one that you have with yourself,” says sexuality doula Ev’Yan Whitney. “Your sexuality isn’t meant to be activated by someone else. You are a fully autonomous, sexual human being with your own needs, your own desires. It’s essentially your job to make sure that you cultivate a relationship with your sexuality.”

 

And while masturbation is a great way to connect to your sexuality, Whitney says it’s far from your only option. You don’t need to engage in any physicality at all. Instead of framing sexual energy as something that manifests during sexual activity, she says we can frame our sexual embodiment as a character trait that’s always with us rather than a hat we only wear when things take a turn for the dirty. Think of it as doing energetic kegels—you can access it always and no one has to know. Like, always. Even while sipping coffee or taking a walk or, even watching paint dry, you’re still a sexual being.

 

“Your sexuality is a fundamental part of you that needs to be put into every aspect of who you are,” Whitney says. “I’m not talking about humping things. I’m not talking about like flirting with people. I’m talking about you having a connection and a belief and an intention that says, ‘I am a sexual being here, as I sit, at this at this coffee shop.’ There’s a freedom in that.”

Okay, great, but…um how? Unlike doing something like your daily kegel reps, which you can know you’re doing even though no one else can tell, harnessing your identity as a sexual being isn’t so checklist-friendly. Below, find a few tips tapping into your sexuality in a way that’s uniquely and authentically you.

Become in tune with your senses

Tyomi Morgan-Nyjieb, a certified Authentic Tantra practitioner and certified sexologist, explains that there’s a difference between sensuality and sexuality, and that to best experience the latter, being able to access the former is a necessary prerequisite.

“Sensuality is being connected to your senses. And being connected to your senses means being connected to life, because now, you’re really being aware of how you are taking in, or experiencing the world around you through your five senses,” says Morgan-Nyjieb. “So if we can learn how to tap into that energy through our senses first and learn how to receive pleasure through our senses first, then people will feel more comfortable, when even connecting to their sexual energy. ”

Practice sexual self-care

According to Whitney, sexual self-care can be anything you do that brings “mindfulness and intention to your sexual energy. So it can literally be any sort of self-care act that you do regularly,” she says. “It’s all about, saying affirmations, saying intentions, and being very present to those affirmations and those intentions.”

Really this can be anything, even simply hydrating: “When you’re drinking water, it’s having this intention that I am nourishing my sexual body as as water is coming into my, my belly and like cleansing my pores,” Whitney says. Or, if you’re prepping your skin for a sheet mask, try thinking of washing your face as connecting to your sexual body and your sensuality in the moment.

Learn how to channel your sexual energy and own it

Maybe embodying your sexual energy means dressing to the nines every day, or maybe it means repeating mantras that remind you of your sexual autonomy. “There’s no right or wrong way to do this, because it’s all about mindfulness,” Whitney says. “It’s all about intention, about being receptive, about finding space to connect with your sexual energy.”

Once you’ve found comfort in your sexuality, you can use it to fuel you throughout your day. “Because we all come from sexual energy, sexual energy is creative energy,” says Morgan-Nyjieb. “When people feel aroused, sometimes that’s that creative spirit saying, ‘Hey, you have all this extra energy right now. Let’s put it into the project, let’s put it into making a difference, let’s put it into building up ourselves.’”

And this can make your sexual experiences, both solo and with a partner, more fulfilling. “The more sexual autonomy I have, I’m able to ask for what I want in the bedroom, I’m able to be more connected to my body on like a daily basis,” says Whitney. “It’s a holistic and beautiful way to connect with all parts of yourself.”

Complete Article HERE!

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When and why is pain pleasurable?

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Many people think of pain and sex as deeply incompatible. After all, sex is all about pleasure, and pain has nothing to do with that, right? Well, for some individuals, pain and pleasure can sometimes overlap in a sexual context, but how come? Continue reading this Spotlight feature to find out.

The relationship between pain and sexual pleasure has lit up the imaginations of many writers and artists, with its undertones of forbidden, mischievous enjoyment.

In 1954, the erotic novel Story of O by Anne Desclos (pen name Pauline Réage) caused a stir in France with its explicit references to bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism — an array of sexual practices referred to as BDSM, for short.

Recently, the series Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James has sold millions of copies worldwide, fuelling the erotic fantasies of its readers.

Still, practices that involve an overlap of pain and pleasure are often shrouded in mystery and mythologized, and people who admit to engaging in rough play in the bedroom often face stigma and unwanted attention.

So what happens when an individual finds pleasure in pain during foreplay or sexual intercourse? Why is pain pleasurable for them, and are there any risks when it comes to engaging in rough play?

In this Spotlight feature, we explain why physical pain can sometimes be a source of pleasure, looking at both physiological and psychological explanations.

Also, we look at possible side effects of rough play and how to cope with them and investigate when the overlap of pain and pleasure is not healthful.

Physical pain as a source of pleasure

First of all, a word of warning: Unless a person is specifically interested in experiencing painful sensations as part of their sexual gratification, sex should not be painful for the people engaging in it.

People may experience pain during intercourse for various health-related reasons, including conditions such as vaginismus, injuries or infections of the vulva or vagina, and injuries or infections of the penis or testicles.

If you experience unwanted pain or any other discomfort in your genitals during sex, it is best to speak to a healthcare professional about it.

Healthy, mutually consenting adults sometimes seek to experience painful sensations as an “enhancer” of sexual pleasure and arousal. This can be as part of BDSM practices or simply an occasional kink to spice up one’s sex life.

But how can pain ever be pleasurable? According to evolutionary theory, for humans and other mammals, pain functions largely as a warning system, denoting the danger of a physical threat. For instance, getting burned or scalded hurts, and this discourages us from stepping into a fire and getting burned to a crisp or drinking boiling water and damaging our bodies irreversibly.

Yet, physiologically speaking, pain and pleasure have more in common than one might think. Research has shown that sensations of pain and pleasure activate the same neural mechanisms in the brain.

Pleasure and pain are both tied to the interacting dopamine and opioid systems in the brain, which regulate neurotransmitters that are involved in reward- or motivation-driven behaviors, which include eating, drinking, and sex.

In terms of brain regions, both pleasure and pain seem to activate the nucleus accumbens, the pallidum, and the amygdala, which are involved in the brain’s reward system, regulating motivation-driven behaviors.

Thus, the “high” experienced by people who find painful sensations sexually arousing is similar to that experienced by athletes as they push their bodies to the limit.

Possible psychological benefits

There is also a complex psychological side to finding pleasure in sensations of pain. First of all, a person’s experience of pain can be highly dependent on the context in which the painful stimuli occur.

Experiencing pain from a knife cut in the kitchen or pain related to surgery, for instance, is bound to be unpleasant in most, if not all, cases.

However, when a person is experiencing physical pain in a context in which they are also experiencing positive emotions, their sense of pain actually decreases.

So when having sex with a trusted partner, the positive emotions associated with the act could blunt sensations of pain resulting from rough play.

At the same time, voluntarily experienced pain during sex or erotic play can, surprisingly, have positive psychological effects, and the main one is interpersonal bonding.

Two studies — with results collectively published in Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2009 — found that participants who engaged in consensual sadomasochistic acts as part of erotic play experienced a heightened sense of bonding with their partners and an increase in emotional trust. In their study paper, the researchers concluded that:

Although the physiological reactions of bottoms [submissive partners] and tops [dominant partners] tended to differ, the psychological reactions converged, with bottoms and tops reporting increases in relationship closeness after their scenes [BDSM erotic play].”

Another reason for engaging in rough play during sex is that of escapism. “Pain,” explain authors of a review published in The Journal of Sex Research, “can focus attention on the present moment and away from abstract, high-level thought.”

“In this way,” the authors continue, “pain may facilitate a temporary reprieve or escape from the burdensome responsibilities of adulthood.”

In fact, a study from 2015 found that many people who practiced BDSM reported that their erotic practices helped them de-stress and escape their daily routine and worries.

The study’s authors, Ali Hébert and Prof. Angela Weaver, write that “Many of the participants stated that one of the motivating factors for engaging in BDSM was that it allowed them to take a break from their everyday life.” To illustrate this point, the two quote one participant who chose to play submissive roles:

”It’s a break free from your real world, you know. It’s like giving yourself a freaking break.”

Potential side effects of play

People can also experience negative psychological effects after engaging in rough play — no matter how experienced they are and how much care they take in setting healthful boundaries for an erotic scene.

Among BDSM practitioners, this negative side effect is known as “sub drop,” or simply “drop,” and it refers to experiences of sadness and depression that can set in, either immediately after engaging in rough sexual play or days after the event.

Researchers Richard Sprott, Ph.D., and Anna Randall argue that, while the emotional “crash” that some people experience immediately after rough play could be due to hormonal changes in the moment, drops that occur days later most likely have other explanations.

They argue that feelings of depression days after erotic play correspond to a feeling of loss of the “peak experience” of rough sexual play that grants a person psychological respite in the moment.

Like the high offered by the mix of pleasure and pain in the moment, which may be akin to the highs experienced by performance athletes, the researchers liken the afterplay “low” with that experienced by Olympic sportspeople in the aftermath of the competition, which is also referred to as “post-Olympic depression.”

In order to prevent or cope with feeling down after an intense high during erotic play, it is important for a person and their partner or partners to carefully plan aftercare, both at the physical and psychological level, discussing individual needs and worries in detail.

Whatever a person decides to engage in to spice up their sex life, the key is always consent. All the people participating in a sexual encounter must offer explicit and enthusiastic consent for all parts of that encounter, and they must be able to stop participating if they are no longer interested and willing.

Research suggests that fantasies about unusual or rough sexual play are very common, and some people decide to take the fantasy out of the realm of imagination and make it a reality.

If you decide to stray from “vanilla” sex and try other flavors too, that’s fine, and there’s nothing wrong with you. Just make sure that you stay safe and you only engage in what you enjoy and feel comfortable doing.

Complete Article HERE!

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Gender-free sex toys are the future of personal pleasure

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By Kells McPhillips

You can buy a sex toy in almost every shape, size, and color, but they still don’t run the gamut. The pursuit of personal pleasure largely excludes non-binary bodies. Fortunately, a handful of brands with a focus on gender-free sex toys recognize the need for improvement. Soon, anyone with the desire for some self-love will have a toy at the ready in the drawers of their nightstands.

“Making a sex toy gender-free makes it more accessible to everybody,” says Amy Boyajian, CEO and co-founder of Wild Flower. The adult store for sexual well-being will release its first gender-free vibrator, Enby ($74), at the end of this month. “We want to bring queer experiences to the forefront because gendering sex toys—or subscribing only to certain ways of using a toy—often leaves out queer bodies and experiences.”

“When we label a sex product ‘for women’ or ‘for men,’ it doesn’t take into account all of the people who don’t identify with those labels.” —Logan Levkoff, PhD

The marketing of personal pleasure products can also be damaging to those who don’t identify within the gender binary, according to Logan Levkoff, PhD, a relationship and sexuality educator. Much of the market stills splashes the toys in colors traditionally associated with being male or female (i.e., cotton candy pink and baby blue). And the slogans are no better. “When we label a sex product ‘for women’ or ‘for men,’ it doesn’t take into account all of the people who don’t identify with those labels and winds up preventing people from exploring their sexuality using these items, because of an assumption that it’s not ‘for them,’” Levkoff says.

Brands like Wild Flower—and PicoBong, the maker of another gender-neutral toy called the Transformer ($130)—are re-writing the rules. These companies design toys that accommodate the needs of every gender, and thus revolutionize the way people masturbate and/or play with their partners.

The inspiration behind Enby is one example. After going through a gender affirmation surgery, one of Boyajian’s friends shared that she had to throw out all of her sex toys and start over. “That was one of our light bulb moments: we wanted to create something that could take you through any transition, no matter your anatomy or identity,” says Boyajian. “No one should feel like their body or sexual desires are an afterthought.”

“No one should feel like their body or sexual desires are an afterthought.” —Amy Boyajian, CEO and co-founder of Wild Flower

The innovative curves of Enby reveal how it can caters to the sexual hotspots of every body. But Boyajian says the sexual creativity Enby encourages is the biggest source of pride. “We had folks of all anatomies and identities test Enby to ensure we were meeting all their needs. Many of them came up with even more creative ways to use Enby, so the possibilities are endless,” says Boyajian.

The hand-sized device really is a giant step in a more inclusive direction. And they’re only just getting started. Picturing the future of the industry, Boyajian sees a world where users—not brands—dictate the use of each device. “For too long, the sex toy industry has prescribed identities and preferences onto its users. When we give customers the room to explore, we’re creating space for them to prioritize self-love and pleasure on their own terms,” says Boyajian.

Complete Article HERE!

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What is ‘morning wood’?

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And why does it happen?

“Morning wood” is a slang term that refers to a person having an erect penis when they wake up in the morning. The medical term is nocturnal penile tumescence. Some call it having a nocturnal erection.

Nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) is not a result of sexual arousal or having a dream relating to sex. Instead, it is a normal function of the male reproductive system.

In fact, regular episodes of NPT are a sign that the nerves and blood supply to the penis are healthy.

If a male does not have NPT regularly, it can indicate a health issue, such as erectile dysfunction (ED), which involves having trouble getting or keeping an erection. Not having regular NPT can also suggest other problems with the nerves or the blood supply to the male reproductive organs.

A hormonal imbalance, such as a decrease in testosterone, can also affect how often a person experiences NPT. A lack of regular NPT can sometimes result from not getting quality sleep.

As a person gets older, they can expect to experience NPT less often. This change should happen gradually, as hormone levels shift. Anyone who notices a sudden drop in the number of their NPT episodes should speak with a doctor to rule out any potential health issues.

Causes

NPT is not a typical erection because it is not related to sexual thoughts, dreams, or stimulation. It is simply a result of sleep cycles, combined with healthy nerves and blood flow in the body.

NPT tends to happen when a person is in a rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep. REM sleep can occur several times during an 8-hour sleep cycle. The erection may go away on its own as a person enters deeper sleep. Thus, a person may have erections several times during the night but may not be aware of them.

Often, a person wakes up at the end of a REM sleep cycle, which explains why NPT seems to happen in the morning. In addition, testosterone levels tend to be elevated in the morning. Males have high levels of this hormone, which contributes to sexual function.

An erection caused by NPT may be physically different from one caused by arousal. One study found that some men experienced pain when they had NPT, but not when they had typical erections.

How often should morning wood occur?

Males of various ages, from children to older adults, experience NPT. Usually, younger adults, who have the highest levels of testosterone, will experience nocturnal erections more frequently than children or older people. Young adult males may have NPT every morning and a few times during the night.

The peak of sexual maturity generally happens when males are in their late teens to late 30s, and this may correspond with higher testosterone levels. It is normal for people in this age range to experience frequent episodes of NPT.

As a person approaches their 40s and 50s, they may notice fewer episodes of NPT. This often occurs because testosterone levels are naturally declining. However, the episodes should decline gradually, not suddenly. A gradual decline in NPT with age is customary.

A hormonal imbalance, especially one that affects the penis and testes, can result in few or no episodes of NPT. This is one reason why having regular erections in the morning is an important indicator of healthy male sexual organs.

One study found that men with hypogonadism, which prevents the sexual organs from fully functioning, experienced an increase in NPT after they had received testosterone therapy.

Some research says that a person’s quality of sleep can affect the frequency of NPT. If a person is not getting good sleep and entering the REM cycle, they may not experience nocturnal erections.

A study of 61 men with obstructive sleep apnea and ED found that getting better quality sleep resulted in more frequent NPT. The participants who used continuous positive airway pressure devices had more frequent nocturnal erections than those who did not.

Other studies have used NPT as an indicator of hormonal or sexual health, especially when treating ED.

For instance, if a person has NPT but cannot get or maintain an erection during sexual activity, doctors can rule out issues such as insufficient blood flow or nerve responses in the penis. If this is the case, ED may be a psychological issue, and a health professional can treat it accordingly.

However, if a person has no nocturnal erections and has trouble getting or keeping erections related to sex, doctors may determine that there is a physical cause of ED.

When to see a doctor

Because NPT is an indicator of quality sleep and the health of sexual organs, it is helpful to pay attention to how often NPT happens.

If NPT suddenly stops or is happening much less frequently, speak with a doctor. They may wish to discuss possible health conditions, such as sleep disorders, hormonal imbalances, anxiety, and ED.

It is important to see a doctor about a lack of NPT, as it can be a symptom of ED. This condition can indicate serious health issues, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, especially in younger males. A health professional can help treat these conditions, including ED.

Certain medications, such as antidepressants, can make it more difficult for a person to get or maintain an erection. They may also cause a decrease or sudden stop in NPT. Some of these medications include:

  • high blood pressure medications
  • muscle relaxers
  • hormonal medications
  • seizure medications
  • antidepressants
  • histamine H2 agonists (which can help treat some types of ulcers)
  • chemotherapy drugs
  • medications to treat heart arrhythmias
  • diuretics

If a person has recently started a new medication and notices changes in the frequency of NPT, they may wish to speak with their doctor. Sometimes, the doctor can prescribe a different medication to help address this side effect.

See a doctor if NPT or erections in general are painful.

Seek emergency medical help for an erection that does not go away after 4 hours. If this occurs, it can cause tissue damage in the penis and problems with sexual function.

Summary

Morning wood is a healthy function of the male body.

A person should talk with their doctor if they notice a sudden change in the frequency of nighttime erections. This can ensure that a person receives prompt treatment for any underlying health conditions.

Complete Article HERE!

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Can Your Vagina Be Too Tight For Sex?

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Not exactly, but there are reasons it might *feel* that way.

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It’s a logical conclusion: If it hurts when a partner tries to put their penis or a toy inside of you, or if they can’t get all the way inside, then it must be a problem of tightness, right? Ehhh, not exactly.

There are several reasons for why you might feel like you’re too tight for vaginal penetration, and it’s actually a pretty common problem that gynecologists hear about. But it’s a misconception that feeling a sensation of tightness means you actually have less elasticity down there—and thinking this may prevent you from finding a real (and, in many cases, easy!) solution.

The truth is, vaginas are ridiculously stretchy, says ob-gyn Susan Khalil, MD, director of sexual health for the Mount Sinai Health System. Think about it: Lots of people push babies out of that tiny hole, so it’s gotta give.

So if it’s not a problem of stretch, what’s the issue? Well, there are a variety of factors that might be at play. For instance, “Certain medical conditions can mimic the feeling of tightness,” Dr. Khalil says.

Here are a few common reasons why it may feel as if your vagina is too tight for sex, plus how to find relief.

You went through a hormonal shift.

During menopause, your body experiences a drop in estrogen, which can lead to dryness and the thinning of vaginal tissues, the Mayo Clinic explains. As a result, you may feel a sensation of tightness or irritation during sex. This is something you should bring up with your doctor, who can recommend an over-the-counter vaginal lubricant, or possibly a prescription estrogen cream or hormone replacement therapy.

For some people, menopause messes with more than just lubrication. Sometimes a postmenopausal vagina also atrophies a little bit, Dr. Khalil says, meaning it literally gets more narrow. “And if they don’t have intercourse at all, it can become very uncomfortable,” she says.

Her recommendation? Masturbation. This way, you’re in total control and can gradually help stretch your vagina and make penetration feel more comfortable for you. If a larger toy is uncomfortable at first, you can practice with a series of vaginal dilators that will help your vagina stretch slowly over time.

Birth control, too, can sometimes cause a bit of hormonal upheaval for some people and cause dryness (and, in turn, painful sex). If you just switched your BC and noticed feeling dry or “tight,” or if you have this issue at a particular time during the month, talk to your doctor about it so they can help you determine whether your birth control might be to blame.

You recently had a baby.

Pregnancy and childbirth also involve hormonal changes that can lead to vaginal dryness and issues with painful sex. This is especially the case if you are breastfeeding, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Or, if you’re seriously convinced your vagina is tighter after childbirth, it may not be in your head. Though this isn’t super common, Dr. Khalil says that some women who tear during childbirth get stitched up too tightly—meaning that in this one case, their vagina truly is too tight for sex. “Sometimes sutures are done too tightly [and] they’ll need a surgical procedure to fix it,” Dr. Khalil notes.

The same thing can happen if you’ve had a surgery in your genital area (with or without a baby involved), Dr. Khalil notes. But once your doctor goes back in and loosens the stitch, you should be good to go.

Your vagina is too dry.

There’s a laundry list of of reasons for why your vagina may be producing less natural lubrication than it usually does: Maybe you’re going through menopause, you’re breastfeeding, your vagina is naturally dry, or you’re on medication (yup, like birth control) that messes with your lubrication.

Regardless of the reason, though, not having enough lubrication can make sex feel more painful and might make you think your vagina seems tighter, Dr. Khalil says. “I’ll have patients come in and they’ll say it really hurts to have sex,” she says.

Luckily, the immediate solution is pretty easy most of the time: Use a lubricant. Tbh, lubricant makes sex feel better for most people, but it’s especially helpful for people who are dealing with vaginal dryness. Keep in mind, using lube doesn’t actually fix the underlying issue at hand (say, finding a birth control that vibes better with your body), so you should still *always* bring it up with your doc if dryness is a problem for you.

You have vaginismus.

Some people have a condition called vaginismus, which is when the muscles inside their vagina contract involuntarily. The muscle contraction makes it painful anytime something is inserted into the vagina; sometimes even tampon insertion is too much, according to the Merck Manuals.

Most of the time, someone who has vaginismus has it from the very first time they attempt to have penetrative sex. But in other cases it can develop later in life. For some, the cause behind vaginismus may be psychological or a result of an emotional trauma, the Merck Manual says.

While it may take some time to treat vaginismus, working with a pelvic floor physical therapist or gradually using larger and larger vaginal dilators can help, Dr. Khalil says. Working with a mental health professional may also help some individuals.

No matter what, Dr. Khalil encourages talking openly about *any* vaginal discomfort that you’re unsure about.

Whether you feel “tight” or something else, know that you deserve to feel pain-free down below during sex and everything else in life. So be your own health advocate and speak up—to both your partner(s) and your gynecologist.

“Your annual exam is more than a Pap smear,” Dr. Khalil says. “It’s also an opportunity to get to the bottom of any sexual health concerns.”

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Know If You Should Talk to Someone About a Low Sex Drive

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Plus where to get help

By Carolyn L. Todd

Feeling concerned about a low libido can be such an isolating experience. When your psychological drive to have sex isn’t where you would hope it is, you might feel like you can’t even discuss it with a partner—the very person you may normally turn to for basically everything else. But a persistently low libido that bothers you is not something to ignore. Here’s what could be behind a low libido, as well as guidance on who to talk to and how to find them.

Factors that can affect your libido

“There are so many physiological, psychosocial, and environmental factors in a [person’s] life that can have a very strong negative impact on their sex drive,” Leah Millheiser, M.D., clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and ob/gyn at the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford Medicine, tells SELF.

Some of the most common libido-killers include stress and fatigue, says Dr. Millheiser. Relationship issues like mismatched expectations about sex or a lack of emotional intimacy can also contribute. Additionally, hormonal fluctuations can sway a person’s libido, including the changes that occur during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause, as SELF previously reported. Several common prescription drugs, like some hormonal contraceptives and antidepressants can also affect your libido, according to the Mayo Clinic.

While tons of situational factors can affect your libido, this isn’t always necessarily a bad thing. Maybe you’re currently single, crushing it in like three different areas of your life, and honestly, sex and intimacy just aren’t top of mind for you right now. If you don’t really feel any type of way about that, carry on!

Conditions that can cause chronic low libido

So, we know there are situational factors that can impact libido, but health conditions can play a role too. Virtually every aspect of health can impact the physiological and psychological aspects of desire, which in turn can influence each other, Madeleine M. Castellanos, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in sex therapy and author of Wanting to Want, tells SELF.

That includes numerous conditions that dampen desire by causing pain during sex, including endometriosis, ovarian cysts, vulvodynia (terrible chronic pain surrounding the vaginal opening), and vaginismus (muscle spasms that make penetration uncomfortable). Circulatory issues caused by conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes can result in a lack of sufficient blood flow to the genitals that hinders physical sexual arousal (which can impact the mental portion), according to the Cleveland Clinic. Then there are mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, which can make sex feel like the last thing you want to do.

So what happens if you’re experiencing chronic low libido without any of the aforementioned risk factors? If your libido has been absent for more than six months and you really can’t pinpoint why, you may have a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), which some experts think is linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain.

In sum, there are plenty of reasons why you might be dealing with a low sex drive. Figuring it out on your own can be confusing. That’s where experts may be able to help.

When to see someone about a low libido

The expert wisdom here is pretty simple: If you’re distressed about your libido or it’s causing issues in your relationship, it’s time to talk to a pro, Dr. Millheiser says.

Not only could low libido be a sign of an underlying health concern, but enjoying sex regularly can be good for you. “It’s a wonderful connection with another human being, but it’s also an important piece of your health,” Dr. Castellanos explains. In some people, sexual activity can help do things like make you feel great and less stressed, take your mind off menstrual cramps, and maybe even help you get to sleep, as SELF previously reported. Being satisfied with your libido and having a fulfilling sex life can have a positive impact on your psychological well-being as well.

“Don’t put [low libido] on the back burner if it persists,” Dr. Castellanos explains. “The earlier you address it, the easier it is to correct the problem.”

But keep in mind: You should only consider seeing someone about your libido if you view it as a problem. If someone like your partner is trying to make it seem as though your libido isn’t “high enough,” that doesn’t necessarily mean anything’s wrong with you or your sex drive. Your partner might be making assumptions based on their own libido, or maybe your libido really has changed over time but it’s a change that you’re mentally aligned with. While it couldn’t hurt to talk to someone about a change in your libido, you should never feel pressured to do so.

Who you can talk to about libido issues

The person best equipped to help you depends on what’s causing your low libido and your access to care, Dr. Castellanos explains.

If you have no idea where to start: See your primary care provider (PCP) or a general internist. “Any physical condition can affect your desire, so it’s always worthwhile to get that checked first,” Dr. Castellanos says.

This type of doctor can discuss your symptoms, order tests to help you uncover potential underlying medical issues, and refer you to a specialist if necessary.

If you’re having vaginal health issues: See an ob/gyn. Symptoms like pain with intercourse merit an exam and discussion with a specialist, Dr. Castellanos says.

If you’re having mental health issues: See a licensed therapist or psychiatrist. They can help you figure out which mental health condition may be contributing to your low libido and potentially provide a treatment plan.

If you suspect the problem is a medication you’re taking: See your prescribing doctor. They can talk to you about how likely it is that your low libido is a side effect of the drug and possibly recommend potential alternatives.

If no underlying medical condition is at play: Consider seeing a sex therapist. Sex therapists have the interpersonal training and depth of expertise to “get into the nuance and the nitty gritty of the psychology of sexual desire with you the way other clinicians don’t,” Dr. Castellanos explains.

The Mayo Clinic recommends looking for a certified sex therapist with a certification from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). Here’s more help for finding a sex therapist in your area.

If you’re having problems with your partner: You may not be sure whether relationship wrinkles are to blame for your low libido. Ask yourself if you still feel desire when you think about somebody else (like your celebrity crush) but not your partner, Dr. Castellanos says. If you do, that could point specifically to your relationship as your issue

In that case, you might want to see a sex therapist or couples’ counselor. They can help you dig into dynamics that could be affecting your libido, such as poor communication in or outside the bedroom. (Not all couples’ counselors cover sex issues, though, Dr. Castellanos notes, so check about that before you make your first appointment.)

If you think you have HSDD: See any kind of clinician specializing in women’s or sexual health, Dr. Millheiser says. That includes a PCP, nurse practitioner, licensed counselor, or psychiatrist. Diagnosis involves taking a medical history, ruling out any other factors, and, ideally, using a five-question screener based on diagnostic criteria developed by the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH), Dr. Millheiser says.

How to talk to someone about your libido

Discussing sex in a medical setting isn’t always easy, and doctors know this. “I tell all my patients that I know talking about your sex life is very personal, especially if it’s not going well,” Dr. Castellanos says. “You might be anxious, but remember that only by saying what the issue is [can you] get help.” Here’s how to start the conversation.

1. Bring it up right off the bat.

“It’s very important to actually say why you’re there. If you don’t start off by telling them what the problem is, they don’t know what questions to ask,” Dr. Castellanos says.

Don’t wait until the last minute to see if your doctor brings it up. Unless this is their specialty, they may not. “That doesn’t mean it’s not appropriate to talk about with them. It just means that they’re busy thinking about other aspects of your health,” Dr. Millheiser says.

2. Be straightforward and specific.

It benefits both of you to be as open and honest as possible here, Dr. Castellanos says. Try something like, “Over the last three months, my sex drive has really dropped off and I’m not sure why. My partner and I used to have sex about twice a week, but now it’s more like once a month. We’re pretty happy otherwise.” And, of course, if you are having other symptoms, like fatigue or pain with intercourse, bring those up too.

3. Get a referral if necessary.

Some caregivers are more informed about libido or feel more comfortable talking about it than others, Dr. Castellanos says. If you’re not sure whether yours is the right person to help you or you’re not getting the care you want, Dr. Millheiser recommends asking your provider to connect you to someone else. Try something like, “If you don’t treat these things, can you refer me to somebody who does?”

“They probably know someone or can at least point you in the right direction,” Dr. Millheiser says.

And remember, your doctor has heard it all before. As Dr. Millheiser explains, “There is very little that could shock a clinician, and sexual function concerns are so common.”

Complete Article HERE!

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‘I wanted to explore my own pleasure’

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– How I rebooted my sex life

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At 35, I realised I had no idea what I really wanted in bed – or how to ask for it. So I went on a sex odyssey, one orgasm at a time

My story, like all the greats, starts with a disappointing wank. I was on one of the big free porn sites and I saw something that disturbed me.

Now, I was used to porn; I had been using/watching/waiting for it to buffer for years. It was just what you did, if you were feeling aroused and alone, wasn’t it? But on this night, I found myself thinking about a young woman in a thumbnail picture, hoping she was all right. I turned my computer off and thought about my niece, 13 at the time, perhaps soon to be exploring her sexuality and ending up visiting a site like this. It made me sad. This was the sex we were giving our young women and men, and there didn’t seem to be much alternative. What have we done to sex? I thought.

But then I considered myself. I was hardly raising sex to some divine art form, sat there alone with my laptop in bed. In my 35 years, I felt I’d never really got to grips with sex. I had probably only skimmed the top of how amazing it could be. It occurred to me that sex was something that was done to me. I was willing, keen even, but an actor in it, rather than a writer or director of the show. My friend has a saying: if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. I didn’t want to get what I’d always got when it came to sex. But then again, what did I want?

I’d never actually asked myself this before, so I wrote a list. The first thing that came to mind was slow sex. I felt that for a long time sex had been caught up in speedy routines, me often being moved around like an Ikea sofa. I wanted to break sex down to put it back together again, learn how and where I liked to be touched, and similarly how to touch a man. I was a bit terrified of the penis, not really sure what I was supposed to do with it. And I wanted to really explore my own pleasure. I read somewhere that women are capable of 14 different types of orgasm. If this was true, I’d been seriously underperforming. Also, I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t just want to have sex with men.

I set off on my sexual odyssey. It wasn’t as glamorous as it sounds: I was off on a mission, but I didn’t know how to go about it, or have anyone to practise on. One night, I asked a friend if he might like to do some tantric sex with me. It wasn’t my most articulate moment, and I was wearing a cagoule and a woolly hat. To my surprise, he said yes. I bought us both a copy of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex. A few days later he came over and we had a go, but I needed a lot of alcohol for courage and found it hard to give a handjob while holding a book. I struggled with taking the lead and, after a few more attempts, he “dumped” me.

It was all a bit depressing. I was able to make some pretty exciting stuff happen in my working life, yet when it came to men I was insecure, drunk and frequently hysterical. I looked back on my sexual experiences to date and realised I was incapable of asking for what I wanted in bed (and not so great out of it, to be fair). I also finally admitted just how much I hated, truly hated, my body, the very vessel I wanted to give me pleasure.

It dawned on me that I had been raised to be pretty and passive. Female sexuality had always been presented to me by men. From Page 3 to the majority of porn, it was hard to find an image of female sexuality that didn’t have a man behind it making money, or hadn’t originated from that place. No wonder I was in a bit of a mess sexually.

I continued on my odyssey, learning from each calamity. There were more disastrous handjobs, one where I accidentally laughed as a man ejaculated, and another where the recipient was so blown away by my erotic touch that he started talking about the fuel consumption of his Transit van. Over time though, and with practice, I relaxed and grew in confidence, finally getting to grips (as it were) with the male member and other things on my list. I experienced incredibly slow sex with a lover – really, imagine everything in quivery, breathy slow motion, with me nearly orgasming when he touched my knee. The effect was profound: I cried afterwards and the words “I didn’t think I deserved to be touched like that” echoed in my head.

My masturbatory habits completely changed. Gone was the quickie to internet porn; instead I spent time tuning into how and where my body wanted to be touched. Sometimes a tender touch on my yoni (the tantric term for the vulva and vagina) could move me to tears, bringing back memories of times when, either with lovers or medical professionals, this area was not so cared for. The more this healing happened, the more my capacity for pleasure increased, something that frequently blew my mind. One particularly powerful orgasm felt as though I spent minutes spinning through space and time. Ripples of this orgasm were still ricocheting through my body two days later. I have given that one the name, “the orgasm that could create world peace”.

I went to my first sex festival and loved it. Well, I was pretty terrified at first and may have locked myself in my car on the first night, but once I made it out of there I met other like-minded people and had some beautiful experiences, including with other women who, like me, were feeling that they weren’t quite as straight as they had thought.

I got much better at the important stuff; stating my boundaries and mastering how to initiate and ask for what I desired. I finally trusted my ability to say “no”, and it was liberating. I think because I was stronger in this way, I was able to try things that might have terrified me before, such as sex parties.

Perhaps the richest gift my sexual adventure gave me was empowerment. I learned that my sexuality is just that: mine. I think before, in my passivity, I had been waiting for someone else to unlock it or give me what I thought I needed. Previously I’d just taken it for granted that I was the problem. My body was wrong, I was wrong. So caught up in my shame and failings, I hadn’t stepped back to see that society’s teachings around sex were pretty rotten. With my new sense of freedom and power I stood up to the Sun over Page 3, starting a petition that grew into a national campaign and was (after two-and-a-half years) ultimately successful. The insecure woman I was before my sexual capering would never have had the confidence to stand up publicly on an issue like that.

I would say it altered every aspect of my life for the better. After years of struggling in relationships, I met someone. He understood and supported my adventures. I then fell pregnant and had a baby. That, as you can imagine, shifted everything. I had to start anew, getting to know my body and sexuality all over again.

I thoroughly recommend taking yourself off on a little sexual odyssey. For women, I would say there is almost an imperative to do so if we can. Our sexuality has been suppressed and controlled for so long, it becomes radical to reclaim it on our own terms. Just shine a little light on this area of your life and ask yourself what it is you would like to experience. And do take time to touch yourself with tenderness. We are so hard on our bodies, we push and berate them, yet we rarely give them loving touch they deserve. And it only gets better; I heard recently that a woman has the greatest capacity for sexual pleasure at 70 years old. Bring it on.

Complete Article HERE!

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Wondering About Your Libido?

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Libido intel awaits.

By Carolyn L. Todd

You’ve probably wondered more than once if your relationship to sex is normal. Do you think about it enough or too much? Are you having more or less sex than everyone else? And, more importantly, should you care?

When broaching the subject of libido, it’s hard not to immediately question how “normal” your thoughts, habits, and preferences are. But, like most concepts having to do with our bodies, libido is a lot more complicated than many of us think. So, we asked sexual health experts to walk us through Libido 101, delving into the common questions and the fascinating nuance that surrounds this subject. Hopefully you’ll come away from this with a better understanding of what’s “normal” and what to do if you still have questions.

1. What is libido, exactly?

You might have heard this term used as a catch-all to describe a few different sexual phenomena. “It’s one of those words that gets thrown around a lot, and [people can have] a different idea of what it means,” Madeleine M. Castellanos, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in sex therapy and author of Wanting to Want, tells SELF.

Experts, however, typically use the term “libido” to refer to the psychological aspect of sexual desire.

“It’s that feeling of drive or motivation to engage in sexual behavior,” sex and relationships researcher Kristen Mark, Ph.D., M.P.H, director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab and an associate professor of health promotion at the University of Kentucky, tells SELF.

2. Is it the same as sexual arousal?

Not really, but they can be related. As Dr. Castellanos explains, libido is about what’s going on in your mind (like when you’re lost in a hot fantasy) while sexual arousal is about what’s happening in your body (like getting wet if you have a vagina or getting an erection if you have a penis).

The confusion comes in because libido and sexual arousal often rise and dip together, says Mark, who is also an affiliate faculty member at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University. This is why difficulty getting physiologically aroused can inhibit psychological desire and vice versa.

But arousal and libido aren’t always connected. You may experience high levels of libido without the physical signs of arousal (like when you feel really turned on but aren’t getting wet). Or you may experience physical signs of arousal (like increased lubrication or erection) even if you’re not really mentally in the mood.

This is known as arousal non-concordance. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just something that can happen sometimes when you have a body. It’s typically thought that people with vaginas who identify as women tend to have less coordination between their physiological sexual arousal and psychological desire than people with penises do, Mark says. But, like many other things when it comes to sex, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule.

3. Is it weird if I don’t feel turned on until things get going?

Not at all. That’s called responsive desire, and it’s the primary type of libido for many people, Mark says. Responsive desire doesn’t arise until someone begins engaging in sexual activity, Dr. Castellanos explains. Maybe you were theoretically open to having sex with your partner but didn’t really feel the urge until they started rubbing your back.

This is as opposed to spontaneous desire. In this case, you pretty much want sex out of nowhere, like if you look at your partner and realize their hair is falling in that swoopy way you love.

Both forms of desire are perfectly natural. It’s also normal to experience both forms at various points or in different contexts. In our society and in common examples in the media (think: romantic comedies, erotica, etc.), spontaneous desire is often portrayed as the ideal kind, or even the only kind, so you might feel weird if you’re more of a responsive type. Trust us, you’re not.

4. What counts as a “normal” libido?

Great news: “There is no normal,” Leah Millheiser, M.D., clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and ob/gyn at the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford Medicine, tells SELF.

Each individual has their own baseline of what feels good, natural, and satisfying libido-wise, Dr. Millheiser explains. You might have no noticeable libido to speak of and feel perfectly fine with that. You might feel some level of sexual attraction every day and be fine with that. Both are fine. Libido can fluctuate due to various factors we’ll get into later, but our point still stands.

Also, keep in mind that increasingly outdated assumptions about sex and gender play a huge part in our conception of “normal” libido, Mark says. Many of us have been fed the lie that men think about sex 24/7 and that women can basically take it or leave it (consider the old stereotype of a woman using a headache as an excuse to not have sex with her partner). This kind of reductive thinking is oppressive to people of all genders. Yes, it’s true that certain hormones typically thought of as “male,” like testosterone, are linked with increased libido and typically found in higher levels in people with penises. But to use that reasoning to claim that every person with a penis experiences high levels of libido at all times is ridiculous, not to mention scientifically unfounded. The important thing to remember is that there’s a ton of room for what counts as a “normal” libido, no matter your sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

5. Is there such thing as too low or too high libido?

This goes back to that whole no-normal thing. Your libido can be too high or low for you if it’s persistently deviating from your norm or bothering you in some way.

A person whose sex drive has plummeted may be experiencing low libido due to a health issue like depression, which can sap a lot of the pleasure from normally enjoyable activities. Also, even if you do mentally want to have sex when you have depression, you might have trouble getting physically aroused or having an orgasm. An imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain can make it difficult for brain cells to coordinate blood flow to the sex organs, the Cleveland Clinic explains.

Another common issue that can lead to a lower libido is dyspareunia, the medical term for pain during sex. Many conditions can cause it, like endometriosis, uterine fibroids, vaginismus (when the vaginal muscles reflexively tighten, making penetration hurt), and vulvodynia (chronic pain surrounding the vaginal opening). In addition to the physical discomfort, dyspareunia can contribute to feelings of distress around the mere thought of sex, further reducing libido, Dr. Millheiser says.

There’s also a lot of medical interest around what has come to be known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). If you’ve been disturbed by a chronically low or absent libido for at least six months and you’re able to rule out other factors, then you could have HSDD. “These are people who typically feel fine in every other area of their life except their sex drive,” Dr. Castellanos says. “It just evaporates, and there’s no other cause we can find.” Researchers are investigating whether or not neurological differences could be seen in those experiencing HSDD, Dr. Millheiser explains.

Then there are issues that can cause a sex drive that feels too high for you, such as compulsive sexual behavior disorder (CSBD), which only became a recognized condition in the mental health field in 2018. This is characterized by an inability to control strong, repetitive sexual impulses despite negative consequences, like an impact on your relationship or job

Another example: For some people, manic episodes of bipolar disorder manifest as having more-than-normal amounts of sex or reckless sex. During a manic episode, a person typically experiences a heightened mood in addition to at least three symptoms suggesting a drastic, elevated shift in behavior, and that can include engaging in way more sex than usual.

6. How normal is it for my libido to yo-yo?

Extremely. “If you’re human, you’re going to have fluctuations in your sexual desire,” Dr. Castellanos says. Like energy and appetite, your libido can be in constant flux as it responds to the many variables in your brain, body, relationships, and environment, she explains. Dr. Castellanos thinks about libido as a scale that can be tipped in either direction—towards desiring sex or not—at any moment as various factors pile up.

7. How do my hormones influence my libido?

Various hormones can affect libido throughout a person’s monthly cycle (if they have a vagina) and lifespan, Dr. Castellanos says. Experts don’t fully understand how this works yet. Here’s how the three sex hormones produced by the ovaries are thought to influence libido, plus a few caveats afterwards.

Estrogen: Some experts believe that higher levels of circulating estrogen may play a role in increasing libido. This is put forth as one possible reason why sex drive can dip after menopause, when the ovaries no longer create as much of this hormone. This can also be part of why sex drive can go down right after childbirth, when higher levels of this hormone suddenly taper off. (In addition to that whole sustaining a new life thing.)

Progesterone: This hormone appears able to inhibit libido to an extent, though experts aren’t totally sure how or why. A 2013 Hormones and Behavior study on 43 women found that heightened progesterone levels (like those that occur right after ovulation) consistently predicted reduced sexual desire.

Testosterone: As mentioned above, testosterone is a pretty major player in this game. In fact, if you’re not on ovulation-suppressing birth control and your libido tends to peak mid-cycle, that could be your testosterone’s doing. As SELF previously reported, when your estrogen rises in preparation for ovulation, so does your testosterone, the goal being that you might want to have sex the most when you’re most fertile.

If you’re on birth control that suppresses ovulation (like the combination birth control pill), you may not experience that mid-cycle testosterone spike the way someone would off birth control, so it’s possible you’d notice a libido change on the pill.

8. What if my partner’s libido is higher or lower than mine?

This is called a sexual desire discrepancy, Mark explains, and it’s not inherently a problem. Think about how you and your partner likely need or desire different amounts of sleep, food, and exercise. But it can create relationship tension when one person gets blamed or pathologized for having what the other perceives as a too-low or too-high libido. (You never/always want to have sex, what’s wrong with you?) It can also become a problem when one person takes the imbalance personally. (He doesn’t want to have sex because he doesn’t find me attractive</em

It’s important for couples with sexual desire discrepancies to talk openly about it, try to meet in the middle, and find ways other than sex to satisfy each other’s intimate needs, Mark says.

9. Can I increase my libido?

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: Any herbs or supplements claiming to increase libido do not legally have to prove they do what they promise before they hit the market. And, spoiler alert, none of these “natural aphrodisiacs” have solid scientific evidence to back them up

Beyond that, increasing your libido really depends on why it was low in the first place. If you have a medical issue impacting your desire, such as depression or painful sex, talking to a doctor may put you on a path to treatment that changes your libido. Or if you feel like you and your partner have fallen into a rut, you can definitely work to amplify your closeness.

“Because sexual desire is related to satisfaction in the relationship, it can be really helpful to improve the parts of the relationship where something’s missing,” Mark explains. “You might see that sexual desire will follow.”

If your spontaneous desire has been low, you can try to feed your responsive desire, like with physical intimacy that doesn’t involve sex but might lead to it. It can be healthy for some people to consciously choose to engage in sex with the aim of increasing intimacy in the relationship or meeting each other’s needs, Mark says. What’s less healthy is feeling like you need to have sex to “get it over with,” avoid a fight, or fulfill a duty to someone else that doesn’t make you satisfied or happy. This produces a negative sexual experience that “can actually further decrease desire and satisfaction in relationships,” Mark explains.

10. Who should I talk to if I’m unhappy about my libido?

If your sex drive is causing you distress, seeking professional help is important given how complex libido is. “This usually isn’t really something you can just diagnose yourself,” Mark says.

The best provider depends on your underlying issue and the kind of care to which you have access. Not all doctors are well-informed about libido, but most are equipped to help you start ruling out basic causes or refer you to someone else. If you think something physical might be going on or don’t know where else to start, bring it up with your primary care physician or any kind of clinician who focuses on sexual health (like an ob/gyn), Dr. Millheiser says

Although therapy can be cost-prohibitive and hard to find, seeing a sex therapist or couples counselor can be a fantastic option if it’s within your means, Mark says. They have the specialized knowledge to help you explore issues like a sexual desire discrepancy or lack of communication

No matter the case, remember that it’s normal to want to have great, satisfying sex, and there are people out there who can try to help if you’re having trouble achieving it.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Things Straight People Can Learn from Queer Sex

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By Ariana DiValentino

Being queer, in some ways, is a blessing. If there’s one thing the queer world is good at, it’s having really, really good sex.

Of course, there’s no such thing as “the” queer world — it’s a multitude of communities, localities, subcultures, and identifications. Within queer spaces, there tend to be prevailing attitudes of sex positivity and adventurousness that are hard to come across elsewhere.

While things like consent, communication, and kink have entered conversations about sex on a grand scale, some aspects of these things are just baked into queer sexuality. When there’s no set script for a standard sexual encounter — who does what and to whom — it’s liberating. And it makes communication, exploration, and mutual comfort absolutely fundamental.

The first time I had sex with a woman, my partner asked if I enjoy penetration. I was taken aback, because I realized I had literally never thought about it. No previous partner had ever asked me. It had never occurred to me that as a woman, I couldn’t like penetration.

Simply being asked about the very basics of what you like can be powerful, because it centers your actual preferences and experience over the assumptions that go along with whatever social categories you’ve been assigned due to your gender identity, presentation, or having certain body parts. It gives you permission not to like whatever it is you’re supposed to like, and to like whatever you’re not supposed to.

But these moves shouldn’t be exclusive to queer sex by any means — anyone, including cishet (cisgender heterosexual) people — can learn a lot from queer sex. Here’s some advice from queer folks* that’s good for everyone.

*Some last names have been omitted in the interest of privacy.

Sex doesn’t have to follow the same basic hierarchy of acts

If you’ve been through middle school, you’re probably familiar with the baseball metaphor for sex: First base is kissing, second base is feeling up (usually boobs) or sometimes handjobs or fingering, third base is oral sex, and a home run — going all the way — is vaginally penetrative sex — typically with a penis.

But if both partners have a vagina or a penis — or they don’t ascribe to the gender roles typically assigned to those parts — the script sort of goes out the window. For queer people, going all the way can mean whatever we want it to.

“Sex doesn’t always have to happen a certain way,” Isaac Van Curen, an artist based in New York City, says. “You should check in on how you’re feeling that day, what will give you pleasure in that moment. I first and foremost think sex should be for pleasure.”

The main event doesn’t need to be vaginal penetration, or any kind of penetration at all. If oral sex or digital stimulation gets you there, perfect! A sexual encounter isn’t any less valid if it doesn’t follow an arbitrary progression of acts. Just focus on doing whatever gives you and your partner(s) pleasure.

Mutual safety, comfort, and enthusiasm come before all else

This one point was echoed by everyone I spoke to for this piece. Because sex isn’t necessarily expected to happen one particular way, communication is extremely necessary to find out what each of you likes and definitely dislikes.

Sam Smith, a storyboard artist based in NYC — and my partner — explains that his transness makes boundaries crucial to intimacy for him, even in relationships.

“I don’t like to remove my shirt, with or without a binder. I’ll only allow you to put your hand on my chest if I’m wearing a binder,” Smith says.

“In the heat of the moment, people think that anything is up for grabs, like literally up for grabs, but that’s not true.” When he explains to other people that these lines remain even after being with a partner for any amount of time, he says, they often express disbelief.

“They’re like, ‘What do you mean? Why not?’ Because that’s my boundary.” Many trans people have firm rules regarding where they do and don’t like to be touched and which clothing articles they don’t want to remove during sex, often because they experience dysphoria pertaining to sexualized body parts. Talking about these boundaries before sex is necessary to having a good time.

But by no means should this respect for boundaries and tendency to ask questions — not make assumptions — be exclusive to trans and queer folk. Any individual may need to put boundaries in place for any multitude of reasons, ranging from past traumas to simply feeling uncomfortable with certain parts of one’s body.

Absolutely everyone should feel secure in setting limits to protect themselves from emotional distress. Knowing your partner’s preferences and boundaries — not guessing them — is the foundation of any good sexual experience.

“There should definitely be a level of trust between partners. I should be able to stop in the middle of sex and say hey, this isn’t for me, and not feel weird trying to communicate that I’m uncomfortable,” says Van Curen.

In addition to consent, safety and comfort pertain to other factors involved in sex as well. Van Curen points to the existence of medications like PreP, which can prevent the transmission of HIV, as something that a person might require to feel safe during sex. For others, that might mean one or more other tools, like condoms, dental dams, or oral contraceptives.

Good communication creates room for trying new things

BDSM, when practiced properly, involves lots of boundary setting and advance communication, for the sake of the physical and emotional well-being of everyone involved. All that talk might seem exhaustive, but it shouldn’t feel that way — limits and terms are as important as pleasure.

Tina Serrano, an art director based in NYC, describes her first experience with a femme domme: “She asked if I was into BDSM and I said yes without thinking — so we sat and talked about it. She asked me a lot of questions, we talked about consent and limits, about our lives, who we’d loved, she talked about her field research,” Serrano says. “We didn’t even have sex that night, we sat and drank and talked until we fell asleep on the couch.”

Communication shouldn’t feel an obstacle to sex — it’s a kind of intimacy that happens before clothes come off. Talking openly and genuinely caring about your partner’s limits, even in a casual context, can be romantic and sexy.

Claire and Katja, a newlywed couple who have been together for six and a half years, iterate that feeling safe and comfortable enough to talk with your partner means not only avoiding bad experiences, but laying the groundwork for interesting, new, good ones.

“Provide space for your partner to bring up things they might want to try sexually with you. Listening doesn’t mean you have to do or try anything, but it does mean that you are building trust,” they tell Greatist.

It’s easiest to voice your desire to try out new toys, positions, or kinky behaviors in a situation that feels safe and comfortable for experimentation. And if things don’t go porno perfectly? No sweat.

“Embarrassing things happen. Laugh about them,” the couple says.

Don’t be constrained by gender or appearance

Just like men are so often positioned to be dominant and women to be submissive, even non-heterosexual pairings can sometimes be subjected to gendered assumptions. Van Curen emphasizes that his appearance, down to whether or not he has facial hair at a given moment, leads people to make assumptions about his preferred sex positions — i.e, whether he’s a “bottom” or a “top.”

In sapphic or lesbian settings, the butch-femme dichotomy can function similarly. Katja and Claire point out the tendency of other people to identify them as the butch and the femme, respectively, when in reality they don’t feel that this binary describes them very well.

Attached to both of these scenarios is the assumption that the more masculine partner “performs” the sex act while the more feminine person “receives” it. But here’s the secret that queer people know: Gender doesn’t have to mean anything more than you want it to.

Gender doesn’t have to determine what you do in bed — but it can function as a sex toy in and of itself. Gender play can involve heightening or swapping typically gendered roles and behaviors.

“Performing gender roles during sex is a kind of kink,” according to Claire and Katja. Lots of queer people strongly identify with labels like butch or femme, twink, bear, sub, dom, and so on — Isaac mentions having friends who proudly call themselves dom bottoms, sub tops, bratty tops, and more — and some people think of themselves as verses or switches. Sometimes dabbling in behavior you otherwise wouldn’t, in life or in the bedroom, can be sexy.

And finally, don’t neglect the basics of having a body

Whenever, wherever, and however you’re having sex, stay in touch with your body — not just what it likes, but what it needs. “Sex is a physical activity,” Van Curen advises. “I take water breaks. Sometimes I make sure I have a snack on hand.”

Complete Article HERE!

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