Sexual History Should Not Be A Mystery

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BY MELANIE DAVIS, PhD | MelanieDavisPhD.com

When Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” he wasn’t talking about sex; however, the aphorism is worth keeping in mind before you enter into a sexual relationship. Knowing a potential partner’s sexual history can help you make informed decisions about the level of risk you are willing to accept.

The following commonly asked questions illustrate why talking about your own and your partners’ sexual history is important.

Q. Asking about a potential partner’s sexual history seems so rude. How can I do it politely?

You needn’t ask for names, dates, and details. You do need enough information to assess any health risk you might expose yourself to. Be willing to share your own story. Start by giving your own answers to these questions, and then ask your potential new partner:

• Have you ever participated in intercourse (oral sex, vaginal sex, or anal sex) without a condom?
• Have you ever had unprotected sex with someone with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, or herpes?
• What were the results of tests for sexually transmitted infection (STIs) conducted after your most recent partnered sexual encounter (request the paperwork; people may lie about test results)?
• Have you or your partner(s) ever had sex with an injection drug user or have used recreational injection drugs?

Q. When is the right time to ask about someone’s sexual history?

Some people ask before they kiss or get emotionally involved. Others wait until the topic of sexual activity comes up. Share histories before you engage in any type of genital contact with someone. Pick a private place when you won’t be interrupted or overheard and when you are both relaxed. Assure your potential partner that you will keep the conversation confidential and that you expect the same in return.

Q. My lifelong partner died last year, and I’m ready to find a companion/lover. Should I hide the fact that I’ve only had one partner my whole life, so I don’t look like a prude?

Anyone who thinks badly of you because you were in a monogamous relationship is misguided. Your choice to remain faithful says a lot about the way you approach relationships. . If your partner was also monogamous throughout your relationship, you have much less chance of having ever been exposed to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which makes you a low-risk partner. Protect your healthy status by using condoms if you engage in partnered sex.

Q. The woman I’m dating was in an abusive marriage. Is that why she’s holding back sexually?

Abuse can leave both physical and emotional scars, but don’t jump to conclusions. She may want to build a relationship prior to engaging in lovemaking; indeed, she may be just as eager as you are to have sex. Past relationships, healthy and not-so-healthy, are part of each person’s sexual history. Offer your story and invite her to share hers.

 

melanie_davisMELANIE DAVIS, PHD, consults with individuals and couples to help them build sexual knowledge, comfort, and pleasure through the New Jersey Center for Sexual Wellness.  Through her firm Honest Exchange LLC, she provides professional development in sexuality. She’s a popular speaker on self-esteem and body image, and the sexual impact of cancer, menopause and aging. She’s an AASECT-Certified Sexuality Educator. On Twitter @DrMelanieDavis

Should I Buy Condoms For My Teen?

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BY DR. KAREN RAYNE | KarenRayne.com

No side: BUT THEN THEY’LL HAVE SEX!
Yes side: But if they want to, they’ll have sex anyway.

I do an experiment with my classes every now and then, for fun. I ask them through an anonymous question and answer system whether they plan to have sex later in the day or that night. Because I do this with high school and college students, sometimes I have entire classes who don’t plan to have sex, but more commonly it’s a mix.

Then I pass out condoms.

And ask again whether anyone plans to have sex later that day or night.

And the answers never change. The students who were going to have sex (with or without protection) still will, the students who weren’t going to have sex still aren’t going to.

Providing condoms to young people doesn’t affect whether they’re going to have sex, but it does have the potential to affect whether they’re going to use condoms when they have sex.

And yes, it’s weird, it’s awkward, and other people might judge you for it. Supporting your child in protecting their sexual health is important – far more important than other people’s judgment.

One parent protested to me that she wanted her children to at least have to stop long enough to go and buy condoms before they had sex and that might make them stop long enough to decide not to do it.

Do you see the flaw in her reasoning? She assumed that her children:

• had the intellectual and emotional wherewithal to step out of an emotional and arousing experience,
• have a thoughtful conversation with their partner,
• find a way to a store,
• produce money,
• and look a clerk in the eye (or resolutely avoid it) as they bought condoms when they had zero experience talking about condoms and decision-making with adults, because she refused to have those conversations with her children or allow anyone else to have them.

The risk/reward breakdown here when compared to issue free, condom-less sex just doesn’t make sense for a teenager – and nor should it for a parent who isn’t pulling the wool over their own eyes.

Providing condoms for your teenagers and their friends – regardless of whether they’re actually having sex – normalizes the conversation and makes it that tiny bit more approachable. Lucky Bloke has some great condom sampler options – buy a few of them, toss all the condoms into a bowl, and leave the bowl on the back of the sink in the bathroom.

This is the beginning – or middle – of the parent/teen sex conversation, not the end. But it’s a fantastic stopping station that every parent should take advantage of.

rayne2sm DR. KAREN RAYNE With a doctoral degree is in Educational Psychology, Karen provides advice and support to parents on how to educate their children and teenagers about sex and sexuality. Karen’s knowledge about adolescent development and education provides her with a solid background for guiding parents through these tricky conversations. And, as a college professor, helping young adults grapple with sexuality, she is known to change student’s lives. On twitter @KarenRayne

LTASEX: Where Your Sex Questions Get Answered

Jerome and LTASEX is creating practical sex advice, podcasts, videos and more!

Jerome and LTASEX is creating practical sex advice, podcasts, videos and more!

Looking for specific sex info you can actually use? Meet one of the most dynamic sex advice blogs on the internet.

LTASEX.com offers real sex advice that takes pride in being easily accessible and inclusive of people diversity. Created by Jerome Stuart Nichols, who identifies as a black gay poly man, the driving force behind this work acknowledges and celebrates people’s differences in entertaining ways.

It is an ever-growing resource of real, practical sex advice because the writers themselves actually experience the desires, curiosities and questions they talk about. From LGBQ, straight, polyamorous, monogamous, trans, BSM, black, white…you name it, this is a blog that truly embodies diversity.

That is why Lucky Bloke and SaferSex.Education recommend LTASEX as part of your sex know-how.

LTASEX includes hundreds of body positive, sex positive articles on useful things like STI testing, anal sex, oral sex, dating advice, sex toys, body image, consent, the anatomy- you know, things they should have talked about it sex ed class, but never did.

You can watch and listen to over 50 snappy and fun podcasts and videos. There is personalized sex-coaching. And if you can’t find the answers you are looking for, Jerome is readily available to answer you one-on-one. LTASEX also has a growing directory of sex positive professionals of color.  A first of its kind!

Help the world by donating one dollar per month for useful sex education. Learn more at the Patreon Campaign here.

Amazingly, this entire trove of sexy, useful advice is operated by just three people. The majority of funding comes straight from the creator’s day job. This is not a profit-making blog. It’s a labor of love that’s revolutionizing the way sex is taught and talked about. But in order to keep it afloat, LTASEX depends on very modest donations. As little as one dollar per month through their Patreon Campaign will make a huge difference for LTASEX, and sexual health at large.

Here is the Jerome with four reasons to support LTASEX.

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Kate McCombs: 6 Sex Ed Videos I Love

Photographer Daniel Go

Photo credit: Daniel Go

From butt toys to hymen myths, here are six popular sex educations videos curated and recommended by renowned sex educator Kate McCombs, MPH.

While each video covers separate topics about sex and sexuality, what they all have in common is accessible messaging. Each aim to help us re-think certain preconceived ideas or poorly addressed aspects on sexual health. All do it in highly entertaining ways! Don’t miss the insightful and musical metaphor of sex at the end!

This piece is originally published on Kate’s blog.

BY KATE MCCOMBS | KateMcCombs.com

I love reading blog posts as much as the next social media fiend, but sometimes there’s nothing like a good YouTube video to illustrate the point. But in the sea of poorly-made click bait with the term “sex ed” attached, it can be hard to find the really good stuff. So I’ve compiled a list of some of my all-time favorite sex educational videos. I hope you enjoy.

1. The Most LOLworthy: Ducky DooLittle’s “Not In Your Butt”

In her playful demeanor, Ducky describes a number of things found in people’s butts in emergency rooms. It’s both hilarious and educational about what things should never go through the backdoor.

2. The Mythbuster: Laci Green’s “You Can’t POP Your Cherry”

There is still so much misinformation circulating about the hymen (or “vaginal corona” as it’s now called). Laci busts through all the myths in this clear and helpful video.

3. The Surprise: Charlie McDonnell’s “Sex & Consent”

English video blogger Charlie McDonnell isn’t a sex educator but made a simple video about the importance of consent in sexual relationships. It’s friendly, accessible, and I love that in a channel devoted to his random musings and science facts, he slips in a little stealth sex education to his young audience.

4. The Most Playful: Lindsey Doe’s “The Vulva – The Vagina’s Neighborhood”

Dr. Linsey Doe from Sexplanations describes the key parts of female genital anatomy using a number of
different illustrations. I love that she drops in a little etymology too, like that the mons veneris is named after the goddess Venus.

5. The Communication Hacker: Reid Mihalko’s “Safer Sex Elevator Speech”

In this video, Reid talks to Cathy Vartuli about exactly how to talk about safer sex and STI status with a new partner. It’s such a stressful conversation for many folks, and the way Reid breaks it down makes it much more manageable to have this important conversation.

6. The Most Inspirational: Karen B. K. Chan’s “Jam 2013″

If I could only show someone one 5-minute sex ed video, this would be it. Karen explores how instead of thinking of pleasure as a scarce resource, think of it like practicing a musical instrument. It’s one of the most brilliant and insightful pieces of sex ed I’ve seen.

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KATE MCCOMBS is a NYC-based sex educator, writer, and maker of puns. Ultimately, all of Kate’s work is about helping people feel more comfortable talking about sex. She believes that meaningful conversations + accurate information can help us create a healthier and more pleasure-filled world. Kate writes articles and teaches workshops about sexual health, pleasure, and communication.
Follow Kate on Twitter @katecom

Top 10 Things To Do Before You Have Sex

message to teensIf you’re considering having sex for the very first time or for anytime thereafter (and by “sex” we mean any sexual activity in which you can transmit an STI), there are things you and your partner should know and do, especially if there is risk of unwanted pregnancy.

In this article, Dr. Karen Rayne breaks down the important things you should evaluate before becoming sexually active, such as asking yourself: “Do I really want this?” “What am I looking for in having sex with someone else?”

So take note and see where you stand in terms of readiness.

This post was originally published on Un|hushed

BY DR. KAREN RAYNE | KarenRayne.com

(Just to be clear, these are things to do before you have sex: oral sex, sexual intercourse, or anything else that could get you pregnant or an STD.)

1. Have an orgasm.

Yes, before you start having sex, you should give yourself an orgasm. It’s important to know what feels good to you before you can show another person what feels good to you.

2. Know the other person’s sexual history.

And I don’t mean just vaginal intercourse for this one!

3. Know the other person’s STD status, as well as your own.

The only way to know this for sure is to be tested! And if you’re both virgins, well, you’re not going to be for long. You might as well get that scary first STD testing out of the way so you’ll know what to expect next time around.

4. Talk about exactly what STD protection and birth control you will be using.

These two issues go hand-in-hand (for heterosexual couples), and it is the domain of both parties to be intimately involved.

5. If you are part of a heterosexual couple, talk about what happens if the woman gets pregnant.

Here are a few options to talk about, in alphabetical order: abortion, adoption, raising the kid alone, raising the kid together. With the understanding that reality is different than the theoretical, make sure you’re both on the same theoretical page.

6. Have your best friend’s blessing.

We can rarely see someone we’re in love with clearly. It is often our best friends who can see our lovers and our potential lovers for who they really are. Listen to what your best friend has to say, and take it to heart. If it’s not what you wanted to hear, give it some time. Wait a month. A good relationship will be able to withstand another month before having sex. Then ask a different friend, and see what they have to say.

7. Meet your partner’s parents.

At the very least, make sure you know why you haven’t met your them. The best sex comes out of knowing someone well, and knowing someone’s family is an important part of knowing them. (Even if they’re really, really different from their family.)

8. Be comfortable being naked in front of each other.

You don’t actually have to strip down in broad daylight to make sure you’ve reached this milestone, but it sure helps!

9. Have condoms on hand.

Make sure they fit right, that they’re within the expiration date, and that they haven’t been exposed to extreme conditions (like the inside of a really hot car). Condoms should be part of any respectful sexual relationship. There need be no assumption of hook ups outside of the relationship, just an assumption of good sexual habits being made and kept.

10. Make sure that your partner has done all of these things too.

Part of a happy, healthy sexual encounter is taking care of everyone’s emotional needs and physical health. Both people need to pay attention to themselves and to their partner. That way each person has two people looking out for them. It’s just the best way to do things.

rayne2sm DR. KAREN RAYNE With a doctoral degree is in Educational Psychology, Karen provides advice and support to parents on how to educate their children and teenagers about sex and sexuality. Karen’s knowledge about adolescent development and education provides her with a solid background for guiding parents through these tricky conversations. And, as a college professor, helping young adults grapple with sexuality, she is known to change student’s lives. On twitter @KarenRayne

How She Made a Condom Hater a Condom Lover

limp on condomsThe folks at Condom Monologues share an all too familiar story: You’re in the heat of the moment. Amazing sex is about to begin. So you reach for a condom. But just as you’re about to strap it on your man, he goes limp. The lustful moment swiftly plummets to awkwardness. What do you do?

We’ve all heard the excuse not to use condoms because they ruin sex. Many of us have experienced partners who hate condoms to the point that there is a real physical reaction against them.

But there are ways to overcome condom hate and have even better safer sex.

Condom Monologues demonstrate how a condom hater can be converted to a condom lover. The storyteller explains how she used this opportunity to teach her partner about proper condom fit and offers to explore new types and sizes with him.

After all, if someone doesn’t like condoms it’s likely because they haven’t found the right one yet.

So what at first seems like a date gone wrong can actually transform into a wild journey of sexual exploration!

This post was originally published at Condom Monologues.  

BY CONDOM MONOLOGUES | CondomMonologues.com

A one night stand of fun, no-strings-attached sex was exactly what I needed. Undesired, however, was a man who went limp at the sight of condoms.

We quickly hooked up. Hot, passionate kissing that evolved into a scene of heavy lust. Before we gravitated to the bedroom I asked him if he had condoms on him as I was unprepared- guilty as charged. Pleased that he did, we confidently carried on without inhibition.

He was over 40 years old. To me that signaled “experienced”. Plus being an amazing kisser, I was so excited to share me body with him.

He handed me a Lifestyles KYNG. Up pops the first warning sign. I thought to myself, “This guy doesn’t need a large size condom.” He was perfectly average. But this wasn’t the right time to bust his misplaced ego. However, the wrong fit could put us at risk of malfunction, so I planned that if the condom seemed too loose I’d simply ask if he had a different stock of rubbers.

But a greater malfunction occurred.

I peeled open the condom. 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 use to them.”

Guess this 40 year old wasn’t as experienced as I imagined.

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 other person in an incredibly confusing situation. I would go so far to say it’s an act of disrespect for the person’s well-being to complain and try to adverse protection.

Speaking from my own experience, it felt implied that the problem was I wanted to use protection. This guy wasn’t just complaining. There was a real physical disdain against the condom.

An initial wave of pity ran through me- how embarrassed he must feel for this involuntary action- followed by a flash of insecurity in myself.

Feelings of doubt were brief. Doubts in my own sexual worth and worry that this man is now going to feel we can’t have great sex because I insist on condoms. I consciously had to fight these powerless thoughts and remind myself that condoms to me equal hot, worry free sex. It’s hot because it’s a gesture of taking care of each other and of being socially responsible. Intelligence is sexy.

Besides, a man who doesn’t like condoms and obviously doesn’t know how a condom should fit is another warning sign that he likely has had unprotected sex before and might have an STI.

My response: I told him that we can keep trying. And we did, manually. Two condoms later, no improvement in his stamina. So, penetration was out, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying each other in different ways. He was respectful in that way.

Our relationship is left with my offer to help him find the right condom that’s perfect for him. This of course means plenty of trial and exploration ahead. So this may become a tale of a condom hater converted to condom lover. We shall see.

Monologues are independent stories and the opinions shared are the author’s own.

 

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condom-monologuesCONDOM MONOLOGUES Affirming safer sex and sexuality one story at a time… Condom Monologues dispel harmful myths about safe sex and sexual stereotypes that permeate our ways of understanding what is “healthy sexuality”. They accomplish this through sex-positive, pleasure-focused approaches to sexuality that affirm the diversity of people- genders, sexualities, kinks and relationships.
Find them on twitter @CondomMonologue

Breaking the Hush Factor: A New Book for Talking to Teens about Sex

A new book that teaches adults how to have meaningful discussions about sex with teenagers.

Breaking the Hush Factor: Ten Rules for Talking to Teens about Sex is not your typical parenting book. It’s for parents and other adults with teenagers in their lives. It offers practical advice that is purposely inclusive of all genders and sexualities, with a sex positive approach that goes beyond risk prevention. Readers will be guided through a step by step structure of how to have those intimate and sometime difficult conversations.

Author Dr. Karen Rayne has a long track record as a sexual health advocate. She has been working in sex education with all ages for the past decade and is Chair of the National Sex Ed Conference. Dr. Rayne founded HaveYouSeenSex.com and Unhushed in order to open the conversation about sexuality in the home.

The book will be available in stores and online June 14th. An indigo campaign, currently underway, will not only fund publication costs; it is designed to include parents in the co-creation of the second edition.

What is the “Hush Factor”?

The “Hush Factor” refers to the social silence and stigma surrounding sexuality. Numerous studies have shown that having continuous, shame-free and fact-based conversation about sex is one of the most effective ways to increase safer sex practices and decrease unwanted sexual outcomes. According to Planned Parenthood, parents are the most important sex educators for their children. Teens who report having good conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity and use condoms and other contraceptives when they do have sex.

Having “the talk” in positive ways is crucial for helping young people navigate the choices they face and stand up for themselves in all situations, both sexual and otherwise.

Breaking the Hush Factor gives adults the ability to have honest discussion with teens by helping us overcome the cultural shame attached to sexuality and sexual pleasure in particular.

In short, parents need to read this book. Listen to Dr. Rayne discuss her ten steps in this video.

4 Reasons Why Grown Ups Need Sex Ed Too

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When we think “sex education”, we tend to picture a class full of awkward teenagers. We don’t image adults sitting in class. Most 20-somethings have a basic understanding of where babies come from; most have already experienced sex with someone else. And yet few adults feel comfortable talking about sex with their partner(s). Sex educator, Kate McCombs knows this all too well. She explains that many of us (adults) don’t know what we want sexually and therefore, don’t know how to communicate our desires.

The purpose of this article is to challenge the notion that sex education stops after adolescence. Kate McCombs highlights that our bodies and sexual desires change throughout life and this requires access to information that can help us navigate those changes. Here she offers four solid reasons why adults need opportunities to expand their sexual knowledge.

Here are her main points:

  • Not everyone enters adulthood with the same quality of sex education. And rarely does our national sex ed curriculum adequately prepare us for adult romantic relationships.
  • Good communication about sex takes continued learning and practice. It cannot be readily taught in a textbook.
  • Let’s halt the expectation that adults must be “experts” at sex. Instead, let’s promote sexual curiosity with willingness to listen and learn.
  • Many adults feel alone in what they are experiencing. Accessing  informative spaces in which adults can ask personal questions is an important health need.

BY KATE MCCOMBS | KateMcCombs.com

A week does not go by that an adult does not ask me a very basic sex question. I’m delighted to offer an answer – it’s my job – but it does strike me that something is off when otherwise educated people have big gaps in their knowledge about something as nearly-universal as sex.

Adults need sex ed just as much as young people do. Sexual desires, needs, and physical functioning evolve over time and because of this, we humans need information to help us navigate those changes. But how do you learn such things when you’re an adult and you’re not connected to an institution like school to provide the sex ed? I’d like to normalize the idea that adults need opportunities to expand their sexuality knowledge too.

In major cities, many sex positive retailers and organizations offer grown-up sex ed workshops. Here in New York City, we have a number of progressive sex toy stores that offer classes.

But what about communities that don’t have these types of resources? Although there are a growing number of adult sex ed outlets, there is still a gap between the need and the services to meet that need. Here are four reasons we need more grown-up sex ed:

1. If we don’t get the information during school, we need to get it as adults.

As most of us know, sex education for young people – if it happens at all – is rarely adequate at preparing them for their adult romantic lives. If we’re not properly educating youth about sex and relationships, how do we expect them to fare as adults? For some examples of this education gap, take a look at Melissa White’s article where she asked adults what they wish they’d learned in sex ed. Even if people received sex ed in school, it’s unlikely that it included messages about pleasure or healthy relationships.

In-home sex toy parties fill some of the need for pleasure education, but the consultants doing the presentations sometimes know more about selling the products than they do about sex education and communication. While I love teaching about sex toys, I also suspect that many people in need of good sex ed might not feel comfortable in a sex toy retail environment.

2. Communicating about sex can be hard.

Many people struggle with basic questions like, “How do I tell my partner I’m interested in _____?” or, “How do I tell my partner I don’t enjoy ____?”

People in my workshops frequently tell me that they struggle to talk about sex with their partners. They’re sometimes afraid to seem like they don’t know enough or, for some women especially, they worry that they know “too much” (internalized slut-shaming at its finest).

Sometimes the challenge is that they don’t have enough clarity about what they do want, which seriously compromises their ability to communicate their desires. Other times they don’t want to “ruin the moment,” as if talking about sex is somehow anathema to having good sex.

Good communication – about anything emotional and interpersonal – is challenging for many people. It takes learning and practice, as well as vulnerability and empathy. Those things are challenging to teach in an article or a one-off workshop.

3. Adults are often expected to be “sexperts.”

I’ve encountered many folks who believe that part of being an adult is being an expert at sex. Linguistically, we even use the word “adult” as an all-encompassing euphemism for “sexual.” Many of the articles in mainstream magazines reinforce this idea when they talk about “mastering techniques.” There’s an incredible diversity of things people enjoy sexually, and the only way to really know is to ask.

Instead of encouraging people to become “sexperts,” I encourage people to embrace their inner “sex geek.” Being geeky is about being curious, which allows you to acquire proficiency through asking questions and researching things about which you want to learn. Asking inviting questions – and listening with empathy – goes far in making you awesome in bed.

4. Many adults feel alone in what they’re experiencing.

When I teach workshops, one of the most common type of question I get is some variation on, “Am I normal?” This is true whether I’m teaching college students or menopausal women.Vast-Majority-250x308

I recently taught a workshop to a group of moms in Dallas, Texas, that was hosted in someone’s home. I spoke with many of these women one-on-one, and it was remarkable to me how many of them seemed embarrassed to ask their questions.

They asked me things like, “Is it normal to have bladder control problems after having a baby?” and, “Is it weird that I don’t orgasm from intercourse?” The answer to both of these things is yes, totally normal. I think it’s important to highlight that these were professional, educated women. If these women don’t have access to this kind of information, how can women with less access get the information they need?

~~~

Clearly, there’s a giant education gap in the skills people need in order to navigate their sexual lives. While there are some fabulous resources in some communities, there is still an unmet need that I’d love to see remedied.

kate_mccombsKATE MCCOMBS is a NYC-based sex educator, writer, and maker of puns. Ultimately, all of Kate’s work is about helping people feel more comfortable talking about sex. She believes that meaningful conversations + accurate information can help us create a healthier and more pleasure-filled world. Kate writes articles and teaches workshops about sexual health, pleasure, and communication. Follow Kate on Twitter @katecom

What Is a “Beacon of Permission”?

Photo credit: Carol Jones

Photo credit: Carol Jones

When you’re hanging out, do you and your friends, peers, sex partners, etc., talk about sex? Not just about who is a good or bad kisser, or what certain people are like in bed. Rather, do you have heartfelt conversations, do you ask personal questions that lead to more healthy, informed choices in your’s and other people’s lives?

Not many people have this opportunity with others. It is more common, instead, to avoid sex conversations altogether. When sex educator, Kate McCombs was asked during a panel discussion, “What can we do to make the world a more sex-positive place?” McCombs response was, “To become a beacon of permission.”

What she means by this is to become a sound board with whom others feel safe to talk about sex and ask questions they might not otherwise feel comfortable discussing.

It is about intentionally creating a safe, non-judgmental, shame-free space to talk about sex in a health-promoting way. As McCombs wrote elsewhere, “It’s someone who acts as a beacon to shine light on the shame shadows that traditionally surround conversations about sex.”

This does not mean to talk about sex in some radical, edging or pop-cultural fashion. Key to Kate McCombs’ concept is that the dialogue must be honest, educational and healing. When people are more informed about themselves and their bodies they are better equipped to take care of themselves and the people they care about. If we approached personal sex conversations with less shame and sensationalism, and more honesty and open-mindedness, we can explore concepts of sexuality in more healthy, positive ways. It makes the world a better place for us all.

This article was originally published here.

BY KATE MCCOMBS | KateMcCombs.com

As is glaringly obvious, I love talking about sex.

For me, being a sex educator isn’t just about teaching about sex in a vacuum – it’s also about talking about it with others in order to normalize discussions about sexuality.

Far too often, people feel uneasy talking about sex. And I don’t mean sensationalized, pop-culture sex. There’s a lot of that talk happening. I’m referring to genuine, sincere discussions about sex that lead to healthful, mindful choices and meaningful connection in people’s lives.

Some people might avoid sex conversations altogether, while others might make jokes to mask their discomfort. I’m all for finding the playful, humorous sides of sex, but I recognize that laughter can sometimes be an indicator of embarrassment or shame.

Many of us – not just professional sex educators and therapists – have the unique desire, knowledge, and skills to become what I call “beacons of permission” in the world. By “permission” I mean permission to have honest, educational, and even healing conversations about sex. Many people who describe themselves as “sex positive” or “sex geeky” fall under this category.

Does the following sound familiar? Many of the sex-positive folks I know describe themselves as always being “that friend” to whom others could turn when they had sexual questions. That sort of unofficial peer education is a manifestation of that permission-giving.

When I tell new acquaintances what I do for a living, I often become the sounding board for sex and relationship questions and (occasionally) whispered confessions. Nearly all of the sex educators I know describe having similar experiences.

This is what being a beacon of permission looks like: by communicating that you are a safe person with whom to talk about sex, you create spaces wherein people can explore ideas that have been marinating for days or decades.

Not all conversations about sex are equal. Most people notice that sex occupies a significant percentage of the airwaves. From “sexting” moral panic, to the recent sexual exploits of a B-list reality TV star, the media is full of sex, but it’s very rarely explored in a way that leads to better understanding of sexuality.

I suspect that some people may become so over-saturated with the sex alarmism and titillation that permeates the media that they may find it more difficult to hear messages that are actually educational, useful, or health-promoting.

Not all conversations have to be serious. I think it can be deeply cathartic to laugh about sex (see “Burritos and Ball Jokes”). But I think that bringing greater intention to the conversation – intentions like “shedding light on a taboo topic” or “reducing sex-negativity” – can go a long way in shaping our understanding of what it means to talk about sex.

So when an audience member at a panel I was on asked, “What can we as sex geeks do to make the world a more sex-positive place?” I lit up. I responded by describing this concept of being a beacon of permission and intentionally fostering meaningful dialogue.

I suspect that people are hungry for this kind of meaning, so when a safe-space creating, sex-positive person enters their lives, they’ll usually take the opportunity to engage. Whether you would consider yourself a “sex geek” or not, I encourage you to become a beacon of permission to others.

I argue that in order to reduce sex-negativity, the world needs to start by having more of these safe spaces. I’m grateful that it’s my job to help facilitate them.

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kate_mccombsKATE MCCOMBS is a NYC-based sex educator, writer, and maker of puns. Ultimately, all of Kate’s work is about helping people feel more comfortable talking about sex. She believes that meaningful conversations + accurate information can help us create a healthier and more pleasure-filled world. Kate writes articles and teaches workshops about sexual health, pleasure, and communication.
Follow Kate on Twitter @katecom

Should You Provide Sexuality Education to Your Patients?

Photo credit: Eva Blue

Photo credit: Eva Blue

It is a rare thing these days to receive comprehensive sex education from a health care practitioner. When it is offered, it’s typically limited to the health of sex organs. However, as Melanie Davis explains in the following article, sex and sexuality go beyond the biological. Crucial aspects of sexuality that influence one’s individual choices are often overlooked by health care providers- such as one’s degree of autonomy as well as knowledge about safer sex tools.

The article speaks to health care providers and offers concrete examples of how sexual health envelops aspects about identity, relationships, and intimacy- all of which impact a person’s overall health.

This article was originally published here.

BY MELANIE DAVIS, PhD | MelanieDavisPhD.com

Physician involvement in sexuality education began in 1904, when dermatologist Prince Morrow, MD published Social Diseases and Marriage. His goal was to protect women whose husbands were bringing home sexually transmitted infections (then called venereal disease) from sex workers.

Sexuality education and medicine became more enmeshed when other physicians and the American Purity Alliance joined Morrow’s work to reduce STIs as a way to promote sexual morality. Today, healthcare providers don’t usually discuss sexual morality with patients, but you are an important source of information about sexuality.

Sexuality education is a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs, and values about identity, relationships, and intimacy. Sexual health and decision making are critical aspects of sexuality education, and you may have more opportunities to educate patients than you may realize.

The Breadth of Patient Sexuality

If you limit your exam room consultation to discussions of the function and health of sexual organs only, you risk missing out on information that could have an impact on a patient’s sexual health and overall wellness. There are five categories of sexuality that comprise every person’s sexual being:

  • Sensuality = awareness, acceptance and enjoyment of our own or others’ bodies.
  • Intimacy = the degree to which we express and have a need for closeness with another person.
  • Sexual identity = how we perceive ourselves as sexual beings in terms of sex, gender, orientation, expression.
  • Sexual health and reproduction = attitudes and behaviors toward our health and the potential consequences of vaginal, oral, and anal intercourse.
  • Sexualization = using sex or sexuality to influence, manipulate, or control others.

The area of sexuality in which healthcare providers address most often is sexual health and reproduction for two reasons: 1) It is where most acute medical issues fall, and 2) There are fewer gray areas that can be time-consuming to discuss. However, the other areas of sexuality are less concrete but equally important to discuss, as these examples illustrate:

  • Patients may avoid sexual intercourse or masturbation because they believe genitals are ugly or shameful.
  • Patients may not experience sexual pleasure because they don’t understand their sexual anatomy or the sexual response cycle.
  • A partner’s turn-ons may hurt your patient emotionally or physically.
  • A patient may be struggling with gender identity or sexual sexual identity.
  • A patient may be too embarrassed to disclose sexual coercion/abuse.
  • Research shows that patients often fear being judged by their providers or being embarrassed, so they may not bring up their concerns. Be sure to open the door to conversations about sexuality — One quick way to begin is to ask, “If there were anything you would change about your sex life?”

Contact me if you’re interested in learning more about essential, yet easy educational conversations you can have with patients about sexuality.

melanie_davisMELANIE DAVIS, PHD, consults with individuals and couples to help them build sexual knowledge, comfort, and pleasure through the New Jersey Center for Sexual Wellness. Through her firm Honest Exchange LLC, she provides professional development in sexuality. She’s a popular speaker on self-esteem and body image, and the sexual impact of cancer, menopause and aging. She’s an AASECT-Certified Sexuality Educator. On Twitter @DrMelanieDavis