Monogamous? This STI Doesn’t Care

From the award winning documentary, "Under Our Skin" (2009)

From the award winning documentary, “Under Our Skin” (2009)

New research published this year suggests that Lyme disease may be sexually transmitted between humans. These new findings could fundamentally change the way we think about STIs.

The study (headed by microbiologist Marianne Middelveen and an international team of medical researchers) is the first to officially investigate sexual transmission between partners. However, it has been suggested for over a decade that Lyme disease could transmit sexually. The bacteria that causes Lyme is a type of spirochete which is related to the same cork-screw shaped bacteria of syphilis.

“It would certainly explains why the disease is so common,” Dr. Raphael Stricker, one of the researchers of the study stated. According to the CDC, there are 300,000 new cases of Lyme each year and this rate is rapidly increasing making it one of the most urgent epidemics today.

In this article, Melissa White interviews Lyme literate doctors who have recommended patients to use condoms to prevent transmission. She also reached out to people living with Lyme who believe they have transmitted the infection to their sex partner and who wish that their doctors informed them earlier about this possible risk.

This post was originally published on The Good Men Project

BY MELISSA WHITE | LuckyBloke.com

If there were a new sexually transmitted infection (STI, aka STD) on the rise –-say, one that was an unexpected concern, especially to monogamous couples– when would you want to know about it?

Say, when it’s a scientifically proven possibility with mounting evidence –even if it took three to five years before it could be officially confirmed?

And when would you expect government and medical organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) to share this information with you? At what point does a serious potential threat warrant disclosure?

Finally, to what extent and at what point should doctors inform patients? When does it become their responsibility to do so?

It’s important to note that this potential new STD may initially be transmitted even without sexual contact. Your partner may pick it up from a tick in the woods –or be born carrying it. And while currently a “silent” epidemic, the numbers of cases have been climbing so rapidly that it won’t be kept under the radar for much longer.

Perhaps most alarming is the lack of a reliable test or conclusive go-to cure for this infection. Also, with over 300,000 new cases a year in the United States alone, a global epidemic is perhaps already underway.

In fact, leading researchers are likening it to the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, due to similar rapidly rising infection rates, as well as a widespread lack of comprehensive testing and treatment. Many conclude that a majority of those infected do not get properly diagnosed until years after contracting it, when chronic stages have already set in.

The infection gains traction in the body in much the same way syphilis does. Also, like syphilis, the symptoms of the infection are so varied that it has been called “the great imitator”, making it perhaps the most complicated, multilayered infectious disease today. Some researchers, such as Dr. Raphael Stricker, are proposing a nationwide HIV-style “Manhattan Project” in which a uniform standard of testing is established and long-term treatment is the norm.

Commonly known as Lyme disease (aka Borrelia burgdorferi), you might assume this potential sexually transmitted infection (STI) can only afflict those bitten by a tick. Sadly, it may be time to ditch that notion. Emerging information indicates that, if you are having unprotected sex at all –even in a monogamous relationship– you’re at risk of infection.

Lyme symptoms have often been dismissed as stress or aging. They include fatigue, joint pains, muscle aches, headaches and flu-like symptoms. However, left untreated, the infection can travel to the nervous system, dwell in your tissue, and mimic chronic illnesses such as arthritis, paralysis, epilepsy or even Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) suggests that Lyme should be considered in diagnoses of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and many other multi-system illnesses.

The work of Lyme-aware healthcare providers is being hampered by faulty testing and an outdated treatment protocol. As if that wasn’t enough, these professionals are also up against a medical community and agencies that seem rather averse to examining the rise of Lyme infection, with many institutional leaders clinging to the dangerous, antiquated notion that chronic Lyme doesn’t even exist. The status quo is making it incredibly difficult for severely ill patients to receive the treatment they desperately need.

I’ve interviewed many leading Lyme literate doctors and researchers, including microbiologist Marianne Middelveen and internist Raphael Stricker. Both are involved with the most recent study investigating Lyme as an STI.

For practitioners like Dr. Christine Green on the boards of ILADS and LymeDisease.org, it is important to assume patients wish to be fully informed:

I inform my patients that it is possible Lyme disease could be sexually transmitted as the bacteria has been found in sexual fluids. But I inform them that proving transmission has not been done, possibly because it is not sexually transmitted or possibly because those studies are expensive, controversial or/and we do not have an agreed upon test that confirms active Lyme.

On the other hand, I have been shocked to learn that it’s common practice to not discuss new research findings about Lyme in order to avoid fear and recrimination. Until more large-scale peer reviewed studies are published, some doctors simply disregard the latest findings.

Unfortunately, despite mounting evidence seen by doctors in their own practices, even leading Lyme organizations are hesitant to suggest barrier methods as a precaution.

Yet all of the above offers merely a glimpse of just how difficult it is to battle Lyme disease. People living with Lyme often have to navigate medical settings in which
mainstream doctors subscribe to the myth that Lyme is “hard to catch, easy to treat”.

Those affected are forced to do their own research. According to ILADS, the average Lyme patient sees five doctors within 2 years before being properly diagnosed. The CDC surveillance criteria used for diagnosis of Lyme are so insensitive that they miss more than half of patients with the tick borne illness.

After watching Under Our Skin (2009), an award winning documentary investigating Lyme as one of the most serious,controversial modern-day epidemics, I recognized that the stories of people living with Lyme need to be more widely shared. I have now heard from hundreds of people around the world living with chronic Lyme.

Most have been misdiagnosed due to false negative Elisa testing or doctors simply not considering Lyme. Many don’t recall a tick bite or telltale bullseye rash (in fact, the ILADS reports that fewer than 50% of Lyme patients recall being bitten by a tick); also, many are convinced they’ve transmitted the infection to their sexual partner or vice versa.

Joanne, who travels to Belgium from the Netherlands to see her doctor, strongly feels she transmitted the infection to her partner and expressed relief that her doctor informed her about this mode of transmission:

I am personally really glad my doctor said it is likely to be an STD. Because of this I had my boyfriend tested right away when I found out I had Lyme. He’s now also receiving treatment and is recovering much faster. With Lyme, the earlier you discover it, the better your chances of recovery, so no, I wouldn’t wait.

Barbara* has a story like so many Americans. Her infection wasn’t detected until many years after transmission:

I may have sustained a tick bite in 2008, but the circumstances were such that I brushed the incident off. I never had a bullseye rash. Lyme wasn’t identified until 2014 (after a year trying to find a diagnosis that explained my symptoms). Although Lyme crossed my mind my initial test was negative. My treatment might have been completely different if I had known and understood what IS NOT KNOWN about Lyme. I might have sought aggressive treatment for the tick bite, not ignored it. I might have been able to protect my husband who now also has Lyme.

Desi lives in Europe, and like Joanne, travels to Belgium to meet with her physician:

There are too many people with Lyme at the moment, it cannot only come from a tick bite anymore. Whole families are infected with Lyme. Including my family and my husband. I have Lyme. My husband never had a tick bite but had a positive test. He also has Lyme disease because of me. I think every practitioner has to tell their patients it’s sexually transmitted, there needs to be more information told about it.

According to Dr. Stricker and Ms. Middelveen, researchers of the 2014 study on Lyme as an STD, it was suggested over a decade ago already that Lyme disease could be sexually transmitted because the Lyme bacteria, called a spirochete, shows activity similar to the syphilis spirochete. Yet not until 2014 did research findings compellingly suggest this type of transmission may be possible in humans.

“It would certainly explain why the disease is so common,” Dr. Stricker stated in our phone interview. “This is a big game changer”, Stricker said. “It would mean we should no longer think of Lyme based on geographical high risk zones.”

Just this week, a woman diagnosed with genital ulceration was linked to Lyme disease for the first time. Based on a recently released abstract, it is now a possibility that women with Lyme are being misdiagnosed with genital herpes.

In our interview, Dr. Sticker said a more comprehensive study of sexual transmission of Lyme disease is currently underway. He is hopeful this will offer more conclusive results regarding how this epidemic is spreading at such a rapid rate.

Given all the uncertainties with Lyme, prevention is more important than ever. We know condoms will be the most effective way to protect against its spread as an STI. Drawing from what people living with Lyme have voiced, my personal opinion is that if there is any chance whatsoever that Lyme could be sexually transmitted –and the evidence is rapidly increasing– more people need to be made aware of this possibility.

Everyone has the right to choose how they protect themselves and their partners. This is not about inciting panic or stigma. It is about encouraging an up-to-date public discussion regarding Lyme. It’s about allowing people an informed choice. And finally, for safer sex educators, it’s about informing people on how they can enjoy sex and remain infection free, and for those who are infected, how to best protect their partners.

*Some names are changed, at patient request, to protect privacy.

Limp On Condoms? How to Rock the Sock in the Sack!

Photographers Karen and Brad Emerson

Photographers Karen and Brad Emerson

Experiencing erectile dysfunction when using condoms is not uncommon. However, as Melissa White argues below, this has less to do with condoms being inherently un-pleasurable; rather, it has more to do with choosing and using the wrong condom. This is not surprising considering that most people are falsely taught that condoms are one-size-fits-all. The fact is that there is a lot of variation in quality condoms. In this article, Melissa explains how one can solve the problem of condom discomfort.

Here’s a quick summary of how you can improve your condom experience:

This piece was originally published on the Huffington Post. Don’t miss Melissa White’s interview (video below) in which she busts the myth that condoms and pleasure don’t mix.

BY MELISSA WHITE | LuckyBloke.com

“I peeled open the condom and as I rolled it on him, his shaft instantaneously went soft, softer. Limp. “Urgh, I hate condoms!” He exhaled. “I never had to use them in my last relationship. I’m not used to them.”

My story isn’t rare. I’ve encountered different versions by my friends and peers that, even in clear non-monogamous scenarios, men will complain that condoms dull sex- as if sex is not worth it if it involves a condom! This puts the woman in an incredibly confusing situation.

Speaking from my own experience, I felt it was implied that the problem was that I wanted him to use protection. This guy wasn’t just complaining. There was a real physical disdain to the condom. He kept losing his erection each time we tried.”

This story, first shared on Condom Monologues is alas far from uncommon. A study published in the journal Sexual Health found that – over the course of 3 months – 37% of men lost at least one erection while putting on a condom. As expressed above, this can make the partner doubt their own sexual worth or worry that they’re to blame for making great sex impossible by insisting on condom use.

What’s wrong with that picture? Well, first, remind yourself that being safe is a legitimate requirement of great sex. As in, a lifetime of great sex. Over the long-term, only being sexually safe allows for hot sex. No one is worth putting your own well-being at risk.

And it turns out that great sex is very much possible when using a condom. As long as it’s not just any old condom, mind you.

Most folks (even those who’ve been using condoms for decades) have little idea how to find a the most comfortable and pleasurable condom for their needs. This leads to men suffering through standard condoms that are too big (35% of men require a smaller than standard condom) or too small (15% of men require a larger than standard condom). And by “standard” I mean the vast majority of condoms sold at the local store.

Further, the selection offered at most conventional retailers does not focus on the brands leading condom innovations such as enhanced shape, ultra-thin premium latex or non-latex materials.

Which brings us to our blow-by-blow guide to optimize your condom sexperience:

1. Choosing the Right Condom Size and Type

He may need a different size condom. Did you know that there are three different size categories for condoms? Wearing the right condom will radically improve pleasure. Check out this condom size chart to know what will fit your penis of choice best.

Next I suggest that you explore different condom materials and shapes to find a better option for your partner.

Condoms with more headroom: There are a variety of condoms that offer a wider, dome-like shape that some men find very appealing in that there is less constriction, which can translate into greatly improved sensation during sex. Condoms with more headroom are great to explore in an effort to keep your partner …

Thin condoms: Ultra thin condoms enhance sensitivity. They are a great starting point if your partner complains that he simply can’t feel anything when using a condom.

Non-latex condoms: Many people prefer non-latex condoms regardless of having a sensitivity to latex. This is because polyisoprene and polyurethane transfer body heat better than latex. The material also is generally more comfortable and less restrictive than latex.

2. Buy and Use Your Own Lube

While most condoms are “lubricated”, I can’t emphasize enough how crucial it is to add additional lube to improve your condom experience. Both water and silicone-based lube (or a hybrid) are safe to use with condoms. Starting with a lube sampler is the most cost efficient and fun way to explore a variety of lubes and figure out what lube feels best.

3. Practice, Practice, Practice…with Superior Condoms

It’s likely your partner is not used to associating pleasure with condoms. Anyone with a penis would benefit from solo practice with a high-quality condom. Masturbating with a condom will help your partner determine his pleasure spots and what feels best with premium protection. This will also help if his issue is anxiety-related. I’ll add that mutual stimulation can be very sexy. So there is no reason you can’t help him here if he’d like an extra hand.

4. Make it Sexy

There is no one way to be sexy. Being sexy is about how you feel. And how you work it. If you pull out a condom with confidence, and you firmly believe that safer sex is sexy, then it’s likely to be perceived as much sexier.

A condom can be a turn on. Keeping condoms in an easily accessible place is very helpful, but that does not mean that it is always best to rush through the process of putting one on. When you introduce condoms, it’s a great idea to turn up the sizzle and have a sense of play.

For example, try putting the condom on your partner for them. When done in a deliberately slow manner with stroking, teasing and eye contact, putting on a condom can be very exciting. Try slipping it on his penis with your mouth. Spice it up by carrying a condom with you in your handbag or pocket (keeping in mind safe condom storage) when you are out together and discreetly show it to your partner to hint at what’s on your mind.

The possibilities are endless.

Remember: The goal is a long and healthy sex life. Asking someone to use a condom shows that you care about them, as well as caring about yourself. Communication really is key and talking about sex might mean sharing what you like, what your favorite position is, or how to choose and use condoms in ways that work for both of you. Talking together about these things will cultivate intimacy and deepen your bond (not hinder it) — and exploring the best premium condoms available (most you’ve likely not tried before) is a surprisingly enjoyable way to get on track in the sack.

For more on condom choosing, check out Melissa White’s interview with Huffington Post Live!

Interview with Melissa White begins at 7min 22 sec.

#Tweet4Condoms Update: @Twitter is Not Protecting Users

61- tweet 4 condomsIn June we launched a petition demanding that @TwitterAds remove condoms from it’s blacklist.

The results? A force of support from thousands of people and numerous organizations who want to see sexual health messaging promoted, not shamed.

Currently, Twitter’s confusing policy continues to block a whole spectrum of sexual health advocates. Their policy views condoms as something to protect from it’s users, outlawing condom ads that contain or link to any mention of sexual pleasure.

But condoms are inherently sexual. How can you- more importantly, why should you- disconnect condoms from sex and pleasure? As we told RH Reality Check, promoting pleasure is more effective at increasing consistent condom use than any fear-based campaign.

Together we stand to put condoms in the public conversation as both a fundamental and pleasurable component to sexual health.

SIGN OUR PETITION
Other organizations and companies such as The STD Project, Bedsider and Momdoms have come forward sharing their struggles of censorship. Numerous sex educators continue to speak out against Twitter’s policy that has excluded them from the platform including Elle Chase, JoEllen Notte, Megan Andelloux and The Center For Sexual Pleasure & Health, and many others.

Twitter’s irresponsible approach to sexual health is riddled with hypocrisy. Health organizations are stalled by confusing automated messages stating they violate Twitter’s restrictions on “adult content”. Meanwhile, suggestive images of sexy clad women can show up in one’s Twitter feed.

Here are the #Tweet4Condoms campaign most recent developments:

This month a 7-year old government funded condom distribution program, Rubber Revolution DC, was blocked from promoting their campaign to fight HIV/AIDS. @FreeCondomsDC received an automated message informing them that their tweet violated Twitter’s policy on “adult or sexual products and services.”

The good news is that DC’s Department of Health was able to get the ban lifted for their campaign. In response to media coverage of the ban, Twitter spokeswoman Genevieve Wong stated: “We allow advertisers to run campaigns that promote condoms and safe sex.”

Great news! We thought.

And we checked to see if the ban lifting applied to us as well. No luck.

Since the launch of #Tweet4Condoms, we’ve reached out to Twitter numerous times with absolutely no response from them, we figured Genevieve Wong might have some answers for us too.

So, we promptly contacted Wong.

Unfortunately, we were greeted with a copy and paste message of Twitter’s automated reply reading:

Thanks for checking in. I connected with our Ads Policy team about the status of your account, and wanted to pass along their response:

Thanks for your question about the status of your Twitter Ads account. We’ve reviewed your account and confirmed that it is ineligible to participate in the Twitter Ads program at this time based on our Adult or sexual products and services policy at this time. Violating content includes, but is not limited to, nudity, partial nudity, sexual aids and toys, as well as adult/sexual language. If the violating content has been removed, please respond and we will re-review your account for policy compliance.

You can learn more about this policy at twitter.com/adspolicy/adult.

For those following along, you may remember our entire account has been deemed ineligible and has been blocked from TwitterAds entirely.

The tweet we submitted that put us on the blacklist did not contain or link to any sexual language or erotic images.

In fact, we do not talk about condoms and/or sex in a more sexual or explicit way than DurexUSA.com (who do advertise on Twitter).

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Durex’s home page vs. Lucky Bloke’s homepage.

While it is positive that Durex and RubberRevolution are now able to use Twitter’s outreach- the platform continues to be unequal. Most companies and organizations are banned by default. Consequently, important voices in the field of sexual health are excluded from one of the world’s most powerful communication channels.

We are committed to standing up for sexual health and demand that Twitter change it’s faulty policy.

Sign our petition to change Twitter advertising policy. Join us as we #Tweet4Condoms! For public and global health.

Because sexual care is health care!

SIGN OUR PETITION

(Please note, you can sign the petition without displaying your name. Your privacy is important to us too!)

All the ways to support the cause and share the campaign

  • SIGNING: our petition asking Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo to remove stigmatizing and harmful restrictions on condom advertising. http://bit.ly/LBpetition
  • SHARING: the campaign’s media coverage!
    • ThinkProgress: Twitter Is Being Pressured To Stop Censoring Ads About Condoms
    • RH Reality Check (Our op-ed): Twitter Banned My Company From Promoting Safe Condom Use
    • RH Reality Check: Twitter Bans Company From Advertising Condoms, Citing ‘Adult or Sexual Products’ Policy

Here are some tweets. Copy/paste your pick!

@Twitter condom policy is hypocritical & ineffective at “protecting” users http://bit.ly/LBpetition #Tweet4condoms

#Tweet4Condoms because sexual care is health care: http://bit.ly/LBpetition #Tweet4condoms

A #condom a day keeps the doctor away!  http://bit.ly/LBpetition #Tweet4Condoms

Condoms are a global health necessity. I stand w/ @theluckybloke to change @Twitter‘s ad policies http://bit.ly/Tweet4Condoms #Tweet4Condoms

You can start a revolution for your country on @twitter, but no ads for #condoms. So, we’re starting a pro-condom revolution! #Tweet4Condoms

#Tweet4Condoms because if you restrict the distribution of condoms, you are restricting efforts to save lives http://bit.ly/LBpetition

Put an end to @TwitterAds restrictions that impede condom access. Sign #petitionhttp://bit.ly/LBpetition #Tweet4Condoms

Link to our petition: http://bit.ly/LBpetition  OR share our other images below!

on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram…actually, anywhere you’d like…


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Sex and the Plus Size Gal

Photo credit Christi Nielsen

Photo credit Christi Nielsen

A world that sets narrow standards of “beauty” has a real impact on how we evaluate our bodies and value ourselves. It also directly impacts how we feel when dating or experiencing sexual pleasure; sharing an intimate bodily experience with another is a serious exercise in self image.  As Elle Chase (a.k.a. Lady Cheeky) states in this article, women of all shapes, sizes and abilities have internalized negative attitudes towards their bodies from childhood.

As someone who once struggled with body shame, Elle shares how she overcame the negative narrative in her mind and transformed it into loving acceptance. This led her down a path of renewed sensual discovery and enjoying her sexual body to the fullest.

Here are some key points of advice Elle offers for how to feel more confident sexually:

This is tailored for plus-size women in particular, but it can apply to all people who want to improve their perception of self.

  • Confidence begins with accepting positive messages about yourself. Feeling sexy will result in others finding you sexy.
  • Transform the negative self-talk. Begin with small gestures like telling yourself, “This is the way I look and that’s that.”
  • Find inspiration and support by reading body positive resources and listen to stories from others who have overcome their body shame and embraced their sexual being.
  • Indulge in body positive porn that features real and large women enjoying hot sex. Elle offers a list of recommendations below.
  • Remember: Personality, confidence and acceptance of one’s sexuality is what makes someone attractive. Body shame functions to hinder one’s ability to enjoy sexual pleasure. One gains no benefit from negative self-talk.

This article is posted on smutforsmarties.com

BY ELLE CHASE | ElleChase.com

Image from SmutForSmarties.com

Image from SmutForSmarties.com

I happen to live in Los Angeles where being over a size 8 is a felony. This can be depressing when I am searching for a cute bathing suit or a stylish pair of jeans in a city that considers the ‘norm’ a size 2. At those times I like to remind myself that the average dress size for women across America and the UK is a size 14 and that a size 2 is more an aberration than the norm. However, it’s disappointing to note that at size 14, those average women are also considered “plus size”, labeling them in a category that, in this media ridden age, might send a woman’s ego to the back of the proverbial bus. This size stereotyping (especially in metropolitan cities like Los Angeles and New York City) can compound the list of reasons why single “plus size” woman are intimidated by dating and sex.

I have found that a lot of my single friends complain they can’t find a nice guy or even a good lover. When I suggest online dating, taking a class or going to events to meet a guy, I almost universally hear “maybe when I lose some weight” as the first excuse not to engage. It seems that no matter what we look like, women are always first to dissuade themselves from dating by knocking their perceived physical shortcomings. This kind of dysmorphic thinking doesn’t discriminate it seems, women of all shapes and sizes do it. Though being a “plus sized” woman has its challenges, dating shouldn’t be one of them. In fact, as a plus sized woman myself, I had to get past my own mental lambasting and take a leap of faith, even though at the time I still hated my body. It’s not easy to do but it IS possible.

When I made the decision to start dating again after my divorce, I had to examine my history with my body image. My whole teen and adult life I was lead to believe, through society, other women and some really immature boys, that my body was “less than” because it had more lumps, bumps and curves than the women portrayed in television, film, advertising, fashion magazines (including Seventeen magazine which can be horribly destructive to a young woman’s ego) and the like. Add to that the unconscious conditioning I received from my well-meaning mother and I was set up to fail.

I thought about all the women this kind of conditioning affects, as most women do not have “perfect” bodies and have even less perfect body images. It was interesting to me that regardless of size, all the women I knew loathed portions, if not all of their bodies. Not only does this affect quality of life in general, it substantially affects a healthy sex life. So what can we, as women, do to begin to accept the parts of us that we have heretofore shamed ourselves into hating?

Rebecca Jane Weinstein, Lawyer, Social Worker and Author, was told by her grandmother at nine years old that no man would ever love her because she was fat. So started Ms. Weinstein on her journey of figuring out her womanhood on her own. She relates her pilgrimage to satisfying sex in her book Fat Sex: The Naked Truth. I asked Ms. Weinstein what her advice would be to plus-sized women who are trying to feel more confident sexually. Here is her answer:

“In interviewing the many large sized women I have about body image and sexuality, I have found a common thread. When a woman feels sexy, she projects sexy, and men (or other women) find her sexy. This seems almost simplistic, and it is, in a sense. Perception is everything, particularly self-perception. What is not simplistic is coming to that realization and then internalizing those feelings. Women seem to find that place in themselves two ways. First is personality. Some of us are just lucky to have an inner core of confidence that has no clear genesis. It just exists. But even women who aren’t so lucky to be somehow born with the “I feel sexy” gene, seem to be able to learn to feel sexy. The key is listening and believing when you are told you are attractive and that someone is attracted to you. So often we are told such a thing, and every available evidence supports it (like there is a person lying next to us in a bed), and yet we don’t believe it. We must overcome that disbelief. It is not easy when all the societal messages tell us fat is not sexy. But those messages come from disreputable sources – mostly people trying to sell us stuff. They want us to feel badly about ourselves so we will buy diets and cosmetics and clothing and medical procedures. Those people are liars. The ones telling us the truth are sharing our beds and our hearts. It is them we must believe. And the truth is, even if there is no one giving those positive messages, telling ourselves works too. When you feel sexy, you project sexy, and others find you sexy. It’s not so important how you get there, but that you get there.”

She’s right.

I had a lover once with whom I had some of the most erotic, connected, exciting and sensual sex of my life (some of our exploits are detailed on my erotica site www.smutforsmarties.com) and I was considered plus-sized at the time. Though I felt confident that he wanted me, I still didn’t feel comfortable in my body. Still, before our first tryst I panicked about how he would react to actually seeing me naked. Would he still want me when he saw my overflowing stomach and flabby thighs? I was terrified.

When we first got together I was so ashamed of my physique that I kept my nightie on thinking “maybe he won’t notice my fat.” Though, in contrast to what the little devil on my shoulder was whispering in my ear (“you’re disgusting,” “you should be ashamed to think he wants you”,) my lover couldn’t have been more effusive and complimentary about how seduced he was by my body. He continued to sincerely voice how attracted to me he was, yet I kept that nightie on for two months until I “believed” he was really yearning for me. What in the world did he have to do to get me to believe him? The answer is “nothing.” The issue was with me and my own narrative about my body. I used the shame and the humiliation I took on from others’ opinions about body size during my childhood and young womanhood to inform my ability to receive full pleasure in the moment. What a shame.

Later on in our relationship, figuring a bigger gal was his bag, I brought up the subject of a woman’s body type and asked him if he had always been attracted to plus-sized women. For me, his answer was revolutionary. My lover explained that body shape or size had nothing at all to do with his attraction to a woman. To him, a woman’s physical appeal (among other things like chemistry, personality, intelligence, etc.) was based on how sexual/sensual the woman was. He continued, that when a woman felt she was a sensual being and was confident about her sexuality, that it drove him wild. “I could be lying in bed with a supermodel but if she didn’t own her own sexuality I would be completely limp,” he said. Furthermore, the men he knew in his life felt the same way. He continued by saying that those same men were often frustrated with the fact that women in general don’t own their bodies and often let it get in the way of “letting go and enjoying the moment.” Again, revolutionary to me. I thought back to when I was praying he wouldn’t notice my fat and thought “Wow. If I were just able to let go and take in that he was having sex with me because he WANTED to and was ATTRACTED to me, I would have enjoyed myself so much more.” The change needed to start with me. I needed to give myself a break. If it was true that he found me physically attractive then it was equally true that other men would as well. It was clear, I needed to start accepting my body as is, otherwise I would be living a lonely existence waiting for the day I would be happy with my body … and that day will never come. This was evidenced by my smaller framed friends who had a litany of complaints about why men wouldn’t find them attractive. Again, the unrealistic body dysmorphia rears its ugly head no matter WHAT you look like.

Pamela Madsen, who wrote the book Shameless: How I Ditched The Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Somehow Got Home in Time to Cook Dinner says “If you work on embracing who you are – every single day just like a religious practice – things will change in your world.” I completely agree. No more negative self-talk … ever.

So here’s the deal … I’m not going to tell you to look in the mirror and say affirmations that you’re beautiful and sexy or tell yourself “I love you the way you are;” that’s too big a jump. What I AM telling you is that if you can’t muster up something nice to think about yourself, at least say something factual and neutral like, “this is the way I look and that’s that.” It’s accurate and at the same time makes you accept yourself the way you are. Once you have that under your belt move on up to “I look pretty good today” etc, but wait until you believe it. The point being, you are never to put yourself down. And if you can’t compliment yourself, then at least say something objective, something you can believe.

The next step would be to start to become more comfortable in your body sexually … as it is right now. Whether you’re plus-sized or not, I highly recommend you read the aforementioned book Fat Sex: The Naked Truth by Rebecca Jane Weinstein. She’s plus sized, smart and has the experiences to back up what she preaches. Her book will feed you stories of women (and men) who feel the same or worse about their bodies and will inspire you. Reading the stories of how others achieved their positive body image and started enjoying sex will help you get used to the notion that there are other people out there (perhaps even larger than you are) that have found their inner sex gods and goddesses.

There are also a plethora of body image and sex positive websites at your fingertips. One of my favorites is Betty Dodson and Carlin Ross’ website www.dodsonandross.com that has a wonderful DVD called Bodysex Workshop. This DVD teaches women not only how to feel good about their sexuality but shows REAL women with REAL bodies “taking care of business” (if you know what I mean.) Other validating websites to check out: I Feel Myself http://www.Ifeelmyself.com which feature women from all over the world masturbating to orgasm. It’s liberating watching women of all shapes, sizes, colors and backgrounds enjoying the sexual pleasure that is their right. Pamela Madsen’s blog offers Pamela’s words of wisdom on the spiritually based “sacred sexuality movement” and body image.

If you are feeling frisky, even the porn world has something to offer. The multitude of amateur porn online also affords us the opportunity to watch women who look like us engaging in hot sex. There are even porn sites dedicated to plus sized nude models like (my favorite) London Andrews and very popular plus sized porn star Kelly Shibari. There’s also “feminist porn” (also known as women’s porn or couples porn) brought to us by pioneers in the field like Candida Royalle, Erika Lust and Tristan Taormino. This type of porn is made by women for women (and men) who enjoy a more sensual story and a focus on the woman’s pleasure as well as the man’s. Checking out this kind of porn might make you feel more a part of “the club” than traditional porn where the focus is mainly on the man’s gratification while they screw thin women with fake boobs (not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that).

Poor body image doesn’t have to be debilitating. Your sexuality is part of who you are as a woman and human being and the plus sized woman should take steps to start empowering herself as an erotic, sexual being … every woman should, really. If we can divorce our self-loathing (while we work on it, of course) from our sensual selves, then dating or sexual expression doesn’t have to be tied into body image and as a result, we can work on accepting ourselves while at the same time experiencing sexual pleasure.

Since I have accepted my body “as is,” not only have I had no problem finding men that find me and my body sexy, but I’ve been allowing myself to have some of the best sex of my life. I have come to understand and believe that sexual pleasure is not just meant for the “beautiful” and the “hard-bodied,” it’s a natural enjoyment that is your right as a human being. So take back that right. Ignore the messages from people, agencies and corporations trying to make you feel “less than” and take back control of what is inherently yours.

elle Sex educator, writer and coach, Elle Chase is best known for her award-winning and highly trafficked sites, LadyCheeky.com (NSFW) and SmutForSmarties.com, which have both garnered multiple awards, including LA Weekly’s Best Sex Blog 2013. Elle’s focus is on positive body image, reigniting sexual expression and better sex after 40. She speaks nationally at universities, conferences, and teaches workshops about all things “sex.” Currently, she is hard at work on a book based on her popular workshop “Big, Beautiful Sex”. Find Elle on facebook.com/TheElleChase and follow her @TheElleChase or @smutforsmarties.

When to get Tested for STIs/STDs

Photographer Helmut Hess

Photographer Helmut Hess

Did you know that when you’ve been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) there is a duration of time in which the infection cannot be detectable through testing? This is referred to as the window period. During this window period, the infected person can pass on the STI to others.

This is why, when you get tested, you are asked to fill out a questionnaire that asks for details about when you last had sexual contact, unprotected sex, etc. The clinic will help you gauge whether or not you’ve cleared the window period for various STIs. Very few STIs have the same window period. Compound this with the fact that clinics only test for STIs that are showing symptoms (unless you specifically request otherwise), makes it crucial that you know your window period for which STIs are being tested.

There is also the incubation period, which is how long the infection takes to show signs/symptoms. During both the window and incubation period an infection is contagious. An infection may never show noticeable signs or symptoms (most don’t), but they are always transmittable to others, and that’s why testing is so important.

As a safeguard against false negative tests due to these two very different periods- window and incubation -it is recommended that you get re-tested three to six months after your initial negative results.

Sound confusing? The following list will help. It’s a clear and organized way to identify STIs and their corresponding window periods.

As a side note from Jenelle Marie: This article is addressing unrine/blood tests and talks about infections for which there are common tests available. However, in instances where visual diagnosis occur (because there are no tests for the infection – low-risk HPV in men, commonly known as genital warts, for example) the incubation period and the window period are the same, thus diagnosis isn’t possible until symptoms are present. 

Read the full article here.

BY JENELLE MARIE | theSTDProject.com

Typical STI/STD Testing Windows Are:

Chlamydia Urine Test:
Possible Detection – Within the first week
Most Likely Detection – 2 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 4 Weeks

Gonorrhea Urine Test:
Possible Detection – Within the first week
Most Likely Detection – 1-2 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 2-3 Weeks

Herpes Simplex 1 & 2 Blood Test:
Possible Detection – 2-4 Weeks
Most Likely Detection – 6-12 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 12-16 Weeks

Syphilis Blood Test:
Possible Detection – 1-2 Weeks
Most Likely Detection – 6 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 12 Weeks

HIV Antibody Test *:
Possible Detection – 3 Weeks
Most Likely Detection – 4-6 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 12 Weeks

HIV Early Detection Test **:
Possible Detection – 1-2 Weeks
Most Likely Detection – 3 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 3-4 Weeks

Hepatitis A Blood Test:
Possible Detection – 2-3 Weeks
Most Likely Detection – 3-6 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 6-7 Weeks

Hepatitis B Blood Test:
Possible Detection – 1-6 Weeks
Most Likely Detection – 6-10 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 12 Weeks

Hepatitis C Blood Test:
Possible Detection – 4-5 Weeks
Most Likely Detection – 6-9 Weeks
Highest Accuracy – 10-12 Weeks

*According to the CDC, most people infected with HIV will develop detectable antibodies within 25 days of exposure and 97% of people will have HIV antibodies by three months after exposure.

**STD testing experts recommend confirming this with the ELISA HIV test , which is considered the gold standard in HIV testing, at 3 months post-exposure.

 

1533882_446848112083407_2051712922_n THE STD PROJECT is a multi-award-winning independent website and progressive movement eradicating STD stigma by facilitating and encouraging awareness, education, and acceptance through story-telling and resource recommendations. Fearlessly led by Founder, Jenelle Marie, The STD Project is committed to modern-day sexual health and prevention by advocating for conscientious and informed decisions. Find them on twitter @theSTDProject

He Said, She Said: 10 Things We Wish Sex Ed Had Taught Us

17- he said she saidOur attitudes about sex and sexuality are formed at a young age. For many of us, primary school is a hub of attitude shaping as parents, peers and adults all contribute to how we perceive ourselves and others. Comprehensive sex education is key in helping children develop healthy attitudes about their bodies, relationships, sex and sexuality. But what should that include?

Melissa White, CEO of Lucky Bloke, asks 10 renowned writers and sex educators what they wish sex education had taught them. The answers may surprise you!

This article is intended to help you understand what information may be missing from your child’s (or your own) sexual education.

Reclaim your sexual health know-how! Here are some main points to take away:

  • Only 22 states in the U.S. require sex education, and of those, only 12 require that it be medically accurate.
  • It’s confirmed that teens who were taught comprehensive sexual education develop healthy sexual attitudes and safer sex practices.
  • The gaps in our current education system are plentiful- check out the list to see what folks wish they had learned!

The original article was published on the Huffington Post.

BY MELISSA WHITE

In a recent Huffington Post article, “So, You Think You’re Cool Because You Hate Condoms?,” I cavalierly stated, “No matter how high the stakes, most adult attitudes surrounding safer sex are formed (and stuck) back in high school.” Which is true.

However, more often than not, what is learned “back in high school” arrives via friends or porn. For most of us, official sex education was mediocre or simply non-existent.

Fast forward 20 (or so) years and the situation hasn’t really improved.

It may surprise you to learn that only 22 states in the U.S. mandate sex education, and of those, a mere 12 mandate sex ed that is medically accurate!

And if your position happens to be that you don’t want teens having sex at all, rest assured: many teens aren’t taking your position into account — and are doing what comes naturally, instead.

As many teens go on to become sexually misinformed adults, they’re likely to experience sex ranging from less than satisfactory to hazardous to their health, often simply for lack of awareness about how to make better choices in their sex life.

On the other hand, teens with comprehensive sex education develop healthy sexual attitudes and practices — and as adults, enjoy healthy sexual attitudes and relationships. As confirmed here and here.

By opening up a public conversation about just what kind of sex-positive information is essential for shaping healthier attitudes around sex, we will educate each other while empowering teens to more satisfyingly and safely navigate the increasingly sexualized world they face.

To help get this discussion started, I began by speaking to friends and sex educators in my circle about the sex ed curriculum they wish they’d been given.

Here is our first take: Sex Ed 101: Safety & Pleasure for the Real World — (and yes, my quote is #3):

1. Build Upon a Foundation of Consent and Positive Sexuality
“I want to see holistic sex education that teaches us creative, sexy ways to respect our bodies while encouraging us to practice safer sex. We need to teach that active, enthusiastic consent must be central to every sexual relationship. I wasn’t taught consent can be fun, consent can be sexy. When young people are getting terrible messages about what sexual relationships are or should look like from the media or our peers, we have to create a more transformative, more sex positive ethic in sex education.” – Jamie Utt

2. The Difference Between Gender & Sex
“The difference between gender identity and sexual orientation, and that both are spectrums, not binaries. [Education] about sexual practices, at least a few of the more common ones, and some uncommon ones, too, all taught with the same lack of judgment. That if you’re being safe, sane and consensual, you are doing it right.” – Justin Cascio

3. Condoms Should Be About Pleasure First. 
“If your condom feels good, you’ll use it. First, make sure you or your partner is wearing the right size condom. (Here is how you figure out your condom size.) Next, don’t rely on free or cheap condoms. By spending $1 on a premium condom you can have a greatly improved experience. And if you don’t know where to start, beginning with a condom sampler is a great, affordable option.” – Melissa White

4. Use lube. 
“Don’t listen to the myths that say that vaginal lubrication = arousal. There are lots of reasons why that’s not true, including hormonal changes, medical issues, medications and drugs or simply because that’s how someone is. Plus, lube is great for hand jobs and you definitely need it for anal play. Use lube. Use a lot of lube.” – Charlie Glickman, PhD

5. Orgasms. What Are They? And Did I Just Have One?
“Left to rely on what I heard, I expected to feel something akin to a sonic boom followed by that sparkly thing twilight “vampires” do. When that didn’t happen, it took me forever to even identify my orgasms. I was convinced there was something wrong with me and I was broken. And many people parroting the line “If you you’re not sure you’ve had an orgasm, you haven’t,” didn’t exactly help. (So really, don’t say that. It’s condescending, wrong and obnoxious.) In her “Girlgasms” class, Ducky Doolittle says “If you are aren’t sure but you’ve felt involuntary muscle contractions during masturbation, you’ve probably had an orgasm.” Hearing that earlier would have been a game-changer for me.” – JoEllen Notte

6a. An Overiew of Genital Health
“I wish I’d learned more about genital health. Not just STIs but also bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, typical discharge, cervical mucous and things like that. An owner’s manual, if you will.” – Ashley Manta

6b. “What a “normal,” healthy-looking penis and vulva look like. A wide range — sizes, colors, states of arousal, age, circumcised/not circumcised — in real pictures. Our young selves have no frame of reference, except for Playboy and porn. Even as adults, our reference points are often limited. This could help young adults with body image, as well as, not be shocked/surprised with future partners.”  Marrie Lobel

7. Sex Is Fun
“I wish they taught me that sex didn’t have to be so serious like it is in the movies. It took me many years to realize that the best kind of sex for me is messy, loud and often not very conventionally pretty. We can still be hot as hell with one false eyelash stuck to our cheek, socks still on and laughing our ass off because we just fell off the bed having an orgasm. I wish they taught me that sex was supposed to be fun.” – Sunny Megatron

8a. Masturbation Is OK
“Don’t be embarrassed about masturbating, and for god’s sake, use lube!” – Cooper S. Beckett 

8b. Sex Toys Exist. (And pleasuring yourself isn’t weird or wrong.)

“In popular culture, guys masturbating is considered “ha ha funny” (think the movieAmerican Pie) whereas when it comes to women pleasuring themselves, it’s still looked upon as something slightly shameful. When I finally worked up the nerve to go buy a vibrator in university it was like this big, secretive deal. Now that I own a whole drawer full of them I realize it’s not a big deal at all. Toys are actually really empowering. I wish more girls knew this.” – Simone K.

9. Women Have Sex Drives. Women Like Sex. (Enjoy That.)
“In this day and age, the trope that women don’t enjoy sex as much as men still exists. What a fallacy. Our bodies are built to enjoy this natural part of being human… the difference is we’ve been taught it’s “slutty” to fully demonstrate and embrace our sexuality. If I hadn’t believed women who pursued sex were desperate and easy, I’m certain I would have chosen my partners more wisely and discovered the pleasure in sex that is the right of each and every one of us.” – Elle Chase

10. Teaching Healthy Boundaries & Consent Starts Way Before Puberty
“Children need to learn to be able to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and to know how to accept the answer when someone says “no” to them without negotiating, nagging, or persisting. Children also need to learn the importance of “Do No Harm” as it relates to someone or something else. Teach them if it doesn’t feel good then they have the right to have the activity stop. Think about this in terms of when kids are roughhousing or tickling — if someone is tickling and it’s too much, sometimes, adults forget and persist until the child is disturbed or upset. Kids need to know when to stop and when to speak up as well. Learning about consent is a skill they’ll use throughout their lives.” – Lanae St. John

So now, we’d love to know… what do you wish you’d been taught in Sex Ed?

4 Effective Condom Alternatives to Latex Sensitivity

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Latex sensitivity or latex allergy causes symptoms that can range from unpleasant to— in severe cases— deadly… nothing about that is sexy. So what is one to do when it comes to condoms? Lucky Bloke, global condom experts, to the rescue with several safer sex suggestions.

This article is intended to inform you of the various non-latex condom options available and what the benefits are of each. Here is some essential know-how:

  • Condom technology presents the latex sensitive with multiple, pleasurable alternatives to latex condoms. Here is a sample pack of non-latex options.
  • Polyurethane condoms are thinner and less elastic and form fitting than latex condoms. They do, however, transfer heat better.
  • Polyisoprene condoms are stretchier and more resistant to breakage than other condom options. They are also very soft to the touch and offer an enjoyable sensation.
  • The nitrile FC2 “female condom” is the only option that works no matter the size of the penis.

This article was originally published on YourTango.

BY MELISSA WHITE | CEO of LuckyBloke.com

If you or your partner has a latex sensitivity, all hope for a fun (and safer) sex life is not lost. Condom technology has come a long way, and there are some incredible alternatives to latex available. In fact, non-latex condoms can even be more pleasurable for couples, regardless of latex sensitivities. Lucky Bloke is here to share four top non-latex condom options:

1. Polyurethane condoms. Polyurethane condoms are made from a special type of plastic. They not only prevent pregnancy, they reduce your risk of STIs.

These condoms have no odor and tend to have a longer shelf life than latex condoms; they are not as sensitive to temperature or UV lighting. Best of all, polyurethane condoms transfer heat very well between the condom and skin. As a result, many people find that polyurethane condoms offer a more intimate and pleasurable sensation than latex condoms.

Compared to latex condoms, polyurethane condoms are thinner and less elastic. They are not as form fitting as latex condoms, so it’s important to keep that in mind when you’re getting frisky. It is highly recommended that users pair a quality water-based or silicone-based lube with polyurethane condoms to reduce the risk of slippage or breakage.

Our top pick: TROJAN | Supra which offers a standard fit

2. Polyisoprene condoms. These are relatively new to the market after gaining FDA approval for preventing pregnancy and STDs in 2008. These condoms are made out of a synthetic latex material which is just as strong as latex without containing the proteins that trigger allergic reactions.

Since this material was created in a laboratory setting, it has been engineered to offer a few key advantages over polyurethane or latex condoms. Notably, polyisoprene condoms are generally stretchier and more resistant to breakage than other condom options. They are slightly thicker than polyurethane or latex condoms and as a result, are a bit more form fitting. Despite the added thickness, polyisoprene condoms are very soft to the touch and offer an enjoyable sensation.

These condoms pair very well with water-based lubricants and silicone-based lubricants, but should never be used with oil based lubricants.

Our top picks: LifeStyles |SKYN which offers a standard fit; LifeStyles | SKYN Large which offers a larger fit

3. FC2.  The FC2 (aka the female condom) offers an advantage for women who want to ensure protection from pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infection. The female condom is a strong, thin, and flexible nitrile sheath inserted into the vagina, prior to sex. It has a flexible polyurethane ring on one end, a soft nitrile ring on the other, and is absolutely latex-free. It is pre-lubricated with a slick silicone-based lubricant, but additional lubricant can be used, as well.

Many advances have been made to the FC2 condom. It is not much larger than a “male” condom and it has no latex odor. There are so many advantages to this condom that it is impossible to list them all here.

The FC2 is a great choice for any condom user who has any type of allergies or chemical sensitives. Also, as the woman wears the condom, they are the only option that works no matter the size of the man’s penis. This is incredibly important for men who benefit from a slimmer, more tailored condom. The FC2 is the only non-latex option for these couples.

The FC2 is also the ideal alternative for any couple that faces condom-related erectile challenges. And if this isn’t enough, couples who seek enhanced pleasure (better heat transmission, more stimulation, and a natural feel) should absolutely check the FC2 out.

Our top pick: FC2 | Female Condom which offers a fantastic fit, regardless of penis size

4. Natural skin condoms. Natural skin condoms are one of the oldest methods of preventing pregnancy, and are made from a thin layer of sheep cecum (which is part of sheep intestines). Due to their porous nature, lambskin condoms should only be used to prevent pregnancy. They are not effective at preventing STIs/STDs. Unless you are absolutely certain that both you and your partner are STD-free, lambskin condoms are NOT the option for you.

Many people who use lambskin condoms say that they’re extremely pleasurable due to their thin construction, and how well they conduct heat. In fact, many men who use lambskin condoms have reported that they’re barely able to tell that they’re even wearing a condom during sex. For those who are concerned about the environment, these condoms are also completely biodegradable. They’re not as elastic as latex condoms, and they’re a bit more generous in fit than latex alternatives.

Since these condoms are made from an animal by-product, they do have a certain smell that might take some getting used to. Of the three latex condom alternatives, lambskin condoms are by far the most expensive at several dollars per condom, and are currently only manufactured by TROJAN. Despite these potential drawbacks, lambskin condoms remain popular and can be used with any lubricant.

Our top pick: TROJAN | NaturaLamb which will fit all men albeit a bit differently

Even if you don’t have a latex allergy, it’s not a bad idea to keep a few non-latex condoms at hand if you’re sexually active with multiple partners. You never know when you might end up in a sexy situation with someone who has a latex sensitivity. Safe sex is everyone’s responsibility.

For those of you in a monogamous relationship, there’s a lot to be said for keeping things fresh in the bedroom; trying out new condoms might just give you the incentive you need to get busy.

condom ad condoms too loose