Breastfeed? How to Make the Switch from Birth Control to Condoms

Photo by Chris Alban Hansen

Photo credit: Chris Alban Hansen

This August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month- a time to empower and support women who have committed to breastfeed. The practice provides many health benefits to a mom and her baby, which is all the more reason mothers should take special care of themselves during this time. Choosing an appropriate birth control is often an important part of this process.

Doctors recommend an IUD or the “mini-pill” (a progestin-only birth control) starting right after birth.  For many reasons, another popular option during breastfeeding is condoms because 1) it’s non-hormonal; 2) in your new, sleep deprived schedule you don’t have to keep track and adhere to taking a pill everyday at a specific time; and 3) it’s inexpensive and, with no prescription required, it’s hassle free!

Considering the vast market, switching to condoms may seem like a daunting task. How do you choose a proper condom? How do you know which will fit right?

Melissa White, CEO of Lucky Bloke and a SheKnows expert, explains three basic steps to condom shopping. She also recommends condoms that will dramatically improve your new-found intimacy.

There are key steps to becoming a condom guru:

  • Know how to find your condom size. All you need is an erect penis and a toilet paper roll!
  • Experimenting is the best way to find the right condom that you and your partner enjoy. Sampler packs are the best, most cost effective way to explore the condom world.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of lube! Especially when your body is going through hormonal changes you may experience dryness more frequently. Lube is fundamental for increased sensitivity and pleasure. Use lube samplers to experiment.

Read Melissa White’s full article here at SheKnows.com

20 Ways to Send a Better Message to Your Teen

message to teens

Photo credit: Jack Fussell

Saying “I love you. I’m proud of you. You’ve got what it takes,” are all positive things a teen needs to hear on a regular basis. This is general, common sense parenting. But there are some topics we talk with our teens about in ways that may be sending the wrong message without realizing so. For example, telling a teen “Don’t have sex,” is likely not going to resonate your teenager’s reality and may close the door of open conversation about sexual health and safety when your teen does decide to become sexual active.

Talking to our teens isn’t always easy. Sex educator, Karen Rayne, who specializes in adolescent education, runs through a list of typical things we say to our teens that may be doing more harm than good.

Her overall message to parents: We tend to try to protect our teens with fear-based messaging. However, these statements forego the depth of relating to their realities. We need to talk to our teens in respectful ways in order to offer sincere support, insight and mentorship.

This article was originally published on Unhushed.

BY DR. KAREN RAYNE | KarenRayne.com

There was a meme running around Facebook and the Internet that is titled something along the lines of “What your teenager needs to hear” or “Message to my teenager” or something similar. The author is listed as “unknown.” I hate this list.

So I’m going to break it down, point out what’s wrong with it, and try to parse out what should be there instead.

Here’s the list, with my commentary interspersed:

1. “Yes, your freshman AND Sophomore years count towards your GPA for college entrance. Screw it up and you’ll work for crap wages your whole life.”

Yes, it’s true, your freshman and sophomore grades do count towards you entire high school GPA. But admissions offices look at trends as well as overall averages. If you made crap grades your freshman year and great grades your senior year, that shows progress and development as a person. Colleges love that sort of thing! It is, in fact, exactly what they’re looking for and want to develop in their student body! So congratulations!

2. “No means NO. In every possible circumstance.”

This is true. Well done for spotting it, and it’s something teenagers need to hear. Really, it’s something that adults and children need to hear too. Can’t we all hear this a little more? But, the conversation needs more than this. While I understand that this is intended to be a somewhat clever and pithy list, there are some topics that need just a hair more attention and nuance paid to them, and this is one of those things. We also need to say that the only thing that means yes is a yes, that silence means no or hold on or let’s talk about this some more. And sometimes, particularly when a girl is underage, even if she says yes, an adult needs to say no.

3. “Join every sport, every club, every after school activity no matter what the cost. It’s cheaper than bail.”

Well that’s just not true either! Sports, clubs, after school activities, these are all really, really expensive! I suspect, though, that you mean they’re not potentially damaging to a young person’s future, unlike finding themselves with many hours to fill with unsavory and illegal activities. But if the goal here is really to keep your kid out of trouble, is suggesting they join the theater club (where they typically smoke a lot of pot) or sports teams (where they often drink a lot of alcohol) really what you want? And maybe what you should be suggesting is that your kid not do anything illegal. I think that, again, you’ve lost your point in your attempt to be pithy.

4. “Repeat after me: I am never in that much of a hurry…I am never in that much of a hurry. Now say that every time you get behind the wheel. It will save your life and that of your best friend in the seat next to you.”

I’m just not down with the extreme scare tactics. It’s no good for anyone. So just take a deep breath and instead of threatening them with death, which is oblique and far away, point out the very real and far more intellectually accessible possibility of totaling their car.

5. “Don’t do drugs or drink – it is so not worth the trouble.”

Ever? Don’t drink ever? Adolescents learning how to drink appropriately is one reason why European college students don’t binge drink like US college students. Teenagers need their parents to teach them how to drink in family settings, not just tell them not to do it. And “Don’t do drugs.” Well, this is sure referring a wide range of potential activities, isn’t it? Lumping pot together with coke is just a bad idea. They’re too different – the affects on the body too far flung – to address them in one big group.

6. “Don’t get a credit card. You earn it or you live without it.”

Actually, your teenager will need a credit score at some point, and getting a credit card with a low limit ($200, $300) and talking about appropriate use is a really good thing. In fact, it’s something parents should consider to be part of their responsibilities to their children.

7. “If I yell at you, it’s because I love you. And also, because you pissed me off. To avoid the latter, don’t be an idiot. And don’t disappoint me. More importantly, yourself.”

Can your teenager yell at you because they love you? Why do you hold them to a higher standard then you hold yourself? (This same issue comes up in number 18. I don’t like it there either.) The “don’t be an idiot” part? That’s great, actually. And it is more important that teenagers don’t disappoint themselves than that they don’t disappoint their parents, so I’m glad that was in there too.

8. “Make a vivid picture inside your head of every great moment of your childhood. You’ll need those to get through adulthood.”

Maybe…sometimes…depending on your childhood…and your adulthood.

9. “Make snow angels as often as possible. Make a bucket list. Check it off!”

Yes! More like this! This one is good because it is beautiful and whimsical and encourages young people to think about what they want in life and then go do those things. We all need more encouragement like this.

10. “Stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.”

This is also a great one, and the urgency of it has only grown stronger over the years.

11. “Be always benevolent. Yes, that’s a word. Look it up.”

Ugh! So insulting, snarky, dismissive. I knew what benevolent meant when I was a teenager, and I would have stopped reading any piece of writing directed to teenagers that assumed I was (1) lacking an extensive vocabulary AND (2) uninterested in understanding what I was reading. No author should assume this of their readers regardless of their age.

12. “Call me for a ride even if you are so drunk you barely know my number. I’ll probably be mad for a while but I’ll respect you for calling and I won’t kill you. Riding with someone who is drinking will.” (PS – remember #5?)

Love this one. LOVE IT! (My issues with #5 remain and are exasperated by this one. Conflating drinking with drinking and driving is irresponsible. One can be done appropriately, the other cannot.)

13. “Be a leader, not a follower. Unless you are following the kid with the highest GPA and (s)he is going to a study group, then by all means be a follower!”

Such a conflicting message! First of all, there are often good reasons to follow someone. In fact, finding the right person to follow to the right places can be an amazing career move! This little instruction guide halfway acknowledges this fact (following someone can help you learn things and be a better student), while expressly stating the opposite. How are teenagers supposed to know when which rule applies?

14. “Love your siblings, even when you don’t like them. Some day you will be trying to get them to take care of me in my old age. If they are mad at you, you are stuck with me.”

This one I can get fully behind. Particularly given the rest of these little missives that are lacking in-depth thoughtful approaches to relationships or life in general.

15. “I’ve been there, done that on more things than you can imagine. I’m not stupid and I know what you are doing. I was once you (times ten).”

I think this is supposed to be a threat. But I’m not even clear what it’s threatening.

16. “Work hard at everything you do. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”

I happen to disagree, but maybe it’s just a perspectives thing. Some things just need to get done, and being done well enough is just fine. Why stress out more than necessary?

17. “Cover it.” (Enough said.)

I think the intention was to encourage young people to use condoms when engaging in sexual activities, but the speaker (given the parenthetical) isn’t actually comfortable just coming out and saying it. Instead, they are attempting to use the common vernacular of the young people of today. But then the sentence should have been “Wrap it.” As in, “Wrap it before you tap it.” Which, while vulgar, is another message I can get behind 100%.

18. “When I tell you to clean your room, do not point at my messy room and raise your eyebrows. I’m trying to raise you to be better than me.”

Why parents think that their children won’t imitate them is beyond me. Really and truly, utterly beyond me. It’s what children DO! Yes, they are also becoming their own people, etcetera etcetera etcetera, but you are a guiding light in their life, even as they grow into teenagers and adults. They pick up habits from you, both good and bad. You do not get to pick which ones, as much as you might like to!

19. “Learn to type; to budget; to spell correctly and to pray. All are equally important.”

Spelling? Really? The likelihood that your teenager will ever write something important that won’t be spell checked through a computer is extraordinarily unlikely. Spelling is nothing like budgeting in terms of importance to lifelong well-being.

20. “Never be sedentary. Someday soon you will no longer be able to move like that. Enjoy it.”

The threats of the perils of aging directed at young people exhaust me. There are good things and bad things about being young and there are good things and bad things about being old. Saying this just makes you sound bitter about your side of the fence.

This list specifically – and this genre of lists in general – tend to forgo depth of thought in place of an attempt at humor. They are generally written from an older person’s perspective to a younger person, but they are insulting to the intelligence of the younger person. As you get older, you grow into a new position, you grow into a place to offer sincere support, insight, and mentorship to young people. Why throw away that opportunity with insults?

Humor, now, humor is important, critical even, to the process of both parenting and mentoring. If we can’t have fun together, how can we be expected to be serious together? So have fun, laugh, and do so with your standards held high for both yourself and the young person who you’re talking with.

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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 Can I Use Safer Sex Methods Without Killing the Mood?

team sex edForget your dull sex education class. Being safer is not a chore to your sex life. Sex educators Kate McCombs and Louise Bourchier will tell you that all you need is a little preparation and imagination to make safer sex easier and hotter. Take the time to watch this 2 and a half minute video and you’ll be a safer sex superhero in no time.

Here are their key points of advise:

  • Practice using barrier methods (like condoms, sex dams and gloves) on your own when you masturbate before bringing them into your partnered sex.
  • Find the product you really like. For example, find a condom that fits well and lube that you prefer (they are not all the same!).
  • Integrate safer sex methods into sexy time and stay connected with your partner. Some ways to do this are by storing condoms nearby and maintaining eye contact when putting on the barrier. Go here for more ideas on how to make sex with condom sexier.

This video was originally posted on the Kate & Louise YouTube Channel. If you like what you watch, please subscribe.

BY KATE MCCOMBS & LOUISE BOURCHIER | Team Sex Ed! Kate & Louise

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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

louise bourchier 150 150LOUISE BOURCHIER, MPH is a sex educator who knows health and pleasure. She teaches workshops to adult audiences throughout Australia and New Zealand, where her mission is to facilitate access to information that allows people to experience healthy and pleasurable sex lives. She works closely with D.VICE: the toy shop for grownups and is a proud emissary of Sex Geekdom Melbourne.  Follow her on Twitter @louiselabouche

4 Reasons Why Grown Ups Need Sex Ed Too

94- grown up sex ed

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?

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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

20 Things I Didn’t Know About Love, Sex and Dating Until I Hit 40

Photographer Daniel Rocal

Photographer Daniel Rocal

Looking back on your love life, what do you know now that you didn’t understand in the past?

Love, sex and dating are all so multifaceted and complex, it’s a life dynamic that is never fixed or static. Rather, these parts of ourselves flux and change throughout time, and certainly don’t halt in your later life. What you found sexy 10 years ago will not likely match your current appeals. Your opinion about friends-with-benefits will be completely different. Your admiration of feet is now a full-blown fetish.

Sex educator and writer, Elle Chase, draws from her personal experiences to introduce 20 things she now knows about the joys of sex and dating. It’s pumped full of advice.

Try this exercise to tap into the present wisdom of your sexuality.

This piece was originally published at SmutforSmarties.com

BY ELLE CHASE | ElleChase.com

1. When going to a swinger’s retreat, make certain your partner isn’t packing a tiny, leather, Borat-style “unikini” to wear at the poolside fashion show.

2. Being “in love” and being “in lust” are both very disparate and different things that deceptively, can seem like one and the same.

3. Sex is messy. You’ll need a towel.

4. When dating a married man, never cling to the statistic that 1% of men having an affair will leave their wives for their mistress. Because no matter what he says, for every King Edward VIII who abdicated the throne for the woman he loved, there are 25 Joey Buttafuccos and you’re dating number 24.

5. Gentlemanly manners, a good upbringing and general social skills should never be underestimated.

6. Tattoo this Maya Angelou quote on the inside of your eyelids. “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”

7. Though it might seem obvious, always query a date about the circumstances in which he lives. If he resides in a storage facility with no indoor plumbing and a Porta-Potty he cleans himself, chances are you’ll be doing all the driving.

8. Guys you meet on a fetish-dating site will never care if you haven’t dusted before they come over or the bed isn’t made. Don’t stress it. You’re mother will NOT be turning over in her grave (at least not because your house isn’t spotless).

9. Cigarettes, role-playing your True Blood fantasy character on Twitter and bucketloads of Xanax are not a new lifestyle regime, they are a red flag.

10. Contrary to what they may have you believe, the man with a 12-inch dick is not going to be the best sex you ever had. Two words: bruised cervix.

11. Approximately, one out of every five men you sleep with will be as good in bed as they think, or say they are.

12. It’s less important to a man what your body looks like than how you feel about it and what you do with it.

13. This may seem obvious, but never divulge the web address of the erotica and porn blogs you run on the first couple of dates. It sets up unrealistic expectations.

14. Only wax your vulva if it makes YOU feel better. If your lover suggests he’d like to see you with smooth genitalia, tell him you’d like him to go first.

15. Going to bed alone at night isn’t nearly as lonely as going to bed next to someone you’ve grown apart from.

16. When online dating, no matter how hard you work at making your profile accurate, smart, witty and pithy you will always get responses from 23 year old, trade students who wear their baseball caps sideways and think common texting abbreviations are what constitute an irresistible opening email.

17. Sexual chemistry and passion are inextricably linked, however it can take many different forms, come in many different packages and isn’t always instantaneous. If he doesn’t light your fire after 3 dates, he never will.

18. Social media is great place to learn how to flirt with abandon.

19. It takes at least a week to properly seduce a woman.

20. Never reschedule time with friends for a date. Your friends are your gold. The date can wait.

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.

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

5 Ways to Stay Sex Positive when Dealing with Depression

Photo credit: Martjin de Valk

Photo credit: Martjin de Valk

Sex may be the last thing on your mind when you’re depressed. But sex educator and coach, JoEllen Notte explains that being “sex positive” does not simply mean having lots of orgasms. In this article, she defines sex positivity as acknowledging and remembering part of your identity as sexual. This is important because regardless of gender, age, or state of health, a shameless, healthy sex life is the right of every person.

Yet as one is battling with the physical and emotional states of depression, it’s an enormous challenge to care for oneself and take pleasure in one’s sexuality. Here JoEllen offers five tips for doing all you can to make yourself feel good and stay sex positive when dealing with depression because ultimately this is what it is all about: taking good care of yourself.

After reading her piece, consider participating in JoEllen’s online survey about the impact of depression on sexuality.

Key points to remember are:

  • Sexuality can be a positive force in your life in which you grow and develop your passions. It is about respecting you for you.
  • When you aren’t feeling sexual, explore the sensual. Sexual and sensual are not necessarily the same thing.  Sensuality is about navigating your sense around what feels good. It can be as simple as taking a scented bath.
  • Be reflective about what motivates you to make certain choices in your sex life.
  • Sex positivity is not about the quantity of sex you are having. It’s about being aware of what you need that is right for you.
  • Advocate for yourself and talk to your doctor if you feel your depression and/or medication is affecting you sex life.

This article was originally published at theRedheadBedhead

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

I’ve been having a hard time writing these last couple of weeks. New insurance led to a switch in which particular generic form of my antidepressant I received and lo and behold, the different one isn’t quite getting the job done. I’ve been a bit weepy (ok, more than a bit, pretty much anything involving dads gets me choked up… just happened while I was typing that), a bit brain-foggy, having a hard time focusing or getting stuff done (sorry if I owe you an email!), taking occasional sobbing breaks and getting hit with intermittent waves of free-floating guilt and paranoia. It sounds really bad but it’s kind of like when you live on a street with a lot of potholes, people who never drive down it think it’s the worst thing ever but you’ve learned to navigate, right? Anyway, while my doctor and insurance company duke it out (that’s right, they are currently arguing over why it’s worthwhile to treat me with the correct medication) I’m taking my vitamins, exercising and trying to focus outward (speaking of, congrats to the giveaway winners!). To that end I have come up with this handy little list.

Sometimes depression can suck the sexy right out of you which can be even more depressing. Let’s talk about some ways to fight that, shall we?

1. Remember, sex positivity isn’t about having all the orgasms.

I suspect some of you read the title of this and thought “Seriously? I’m depressed and you want me to worry about sex? Why don’t I just cure cancer while I’m at it?!” But remember, staying sex positive doesn’t mean going and having all the sex with all the screaming orgasms. Take that pressure away first off. In this case, I’m not even asking you to stay sex positive in the broader whole-world, big picture sense. I’m talking about you for you. I’m just asking that you remember your identity as a sexual being. Some depressed people don’t want to have sex. Sometimes medications render depressed people incapable of orgasm (we’ll come back to that in a minute) this does not mean sex is something that exists separately from you and only for others. Sometimes one of the hardest parts of depression is the chasm that seems to exist between you and the rest of the “not depressed” world (as you perceive it) don’t add to that by saying “sex positivity? eff that noise! I’m depressed!” just work with me here. 🙂

Continue reading at The Readhead Bedhead

condom ad condoms too loose

 

 

JoEllen-NotteJOELLEN NOTTE is helping to share the gospel of better living through better sex ed (amen!) – serving as both the Education Coordinator & Lead Sex Educator for the Portland Academy of Sex Education and a co-Emissary of Sex Geekdom Portland. Working as an adult retail consultant, she is working to help promote better sex through better adult retail. JoEllen first began fighting sexual mediocrity on her site theRedheadBedhead.com. Follow JoEllen on twitter: @bedheadtweeting

What Does Sexual Consent Look Like?

Image from Bedsider

Image from Bedsider

When it comes to sex, consent is essential. As JoEllen Notte of the RedHeadBedhead.com writes, consent is to sexual play as a doorbell is to a home. We do not question the validity of houses having doorbells. And yet, the topic of sexual consent generates heated debate.

What does consent actually mean? What does sexual consent look like? Do I have to sign a contract with my partner about everything we do together before we take our clothes off?

This confusion is not surprising. Movies typically portray sizzling sex scenes without any talking. The characters are so in sync with each other that communication seems unnecessary. In the article below, JoEllen points to ways in which “enthusiastic consent” is the brunt of media jokes that poke fun at anti-harassment activists as out-of-touch, over-the-top PC mood killers.

How did we get to this political climate around consent?

According to JoEllen, it all begins from a faulty model taught from a young age: The “no means no” model.

In this clever piece, “I Got Your Consentlandia Right Here“, JoEllen runs through the flaws and harmful effects that longstanding approaches to consent have had in our media, our legal system and our personal well being. Then she demonstrates practical ways that consent takes place and how it looks in different contexts. When you’re done reading, you’ll never think of consent as a drag again.

Here are key points to take away:

  • “No means no” perpetuates the stance, “They never said no”, as a valid response to sexual harassment and rape charges.
  • The new model, “Yes means yes”, implies collaboration. Real consent happens only once there is an active, voluntary “yes” or “F*ck Yeah!”.
  • Consent is an on-going process that requires constant communication.
  •  “Yes means yes” allows for no confusion, no mind reading, and much better sex!

This article was originally published at theRedheadBedhead.com

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

The topic of consent has been weighing heavy on my mind this last week. I’ve watched people wrestle with it, spring into action around it, snark about it, debate it, discuss it and even mock it, dismiss it and reduce it to a meme. A conclusion that I’ve come to (a conclusion that I’ve come to many times before) is that most people— even the ones who want desperately to help— don’t really get consent. The fact that the topic breeds debate and frequently causes people to get angry (“What, do I have to fill out a form before I touch someone now?!”) is actually absurd because when it comes down to it, consent is just about not violating boundaries. That shouldn’t piss us off. We’re not outraged that houses have doorbells rather than coming with the assumption that we can all just walk on in, right? Right. But somehow when you suggest to people that they may want to ask before stomping all up into another person’s space, there is backlash. So how did this happen?

Think back to how you were taught about consent. Odds are you weren’t really. You were more likely taught about “no”. If you were born with a vagina, you were probably taught to be careful because people might rape you and you should say “no” or, if you were born with a penis, you were told that “no means no” and if you hear “no” then you should not proceed because, rape¹. What has happened here is that you learned a couple of things:

  1. One partner should charge ahead until they get the red light from the other.
  2. Listen for a cue to stop, rather than a cue to start.
  3. If you don’t hear a “no”, you’re good to go.

This model has proven disastrous in myriad ways. From lawyers who argue that unconscious victims weren’t raped because they didn’t say the all-important “no”, to people who have no idea how to communicate sexual needs because everything we’ve been taught is based in negatives (i.e. what DON’T we want), to the general pattern of blaming victims not rapists because, obviously, they didn’t “no” hard enough, to the fact that no one knows what the hell “yes” looks like, to this bizarre idea that if we ask people if we can touch them before we touch them we will never touch each other again/it will be super-awkward and not fun.

Folks, it’s a steaming pile of horse shit. All of it.

Seriously.

As you may have noticed, I’m a bit consent obsessed and, while consent is not always about sex (in fact, a lot of what we’re talking about applies to most non-sexual situations and, ahem, communities), I’m happy to report that my own life got way easier, more comfortable, more fun and, frankly, sexier once I figured this consent business out….

Continue reading at The Readhead Bedhead.

Unsure what size

JoEllen-NotteJOELLEN NOTTE is helping to share the gospel of better living through better sex ed (amen!) – serving as both the Education Coordinator & Lead Sex Educator for the Portland Academy of Sex Education and a co-Emissary of Sex Geekdom Portland. Working as an adult retail consultant, she is working to help promote better sex through better adult retail. JoEllen first began fighting sexual mediocrity on her site theRedheadBedhead.com. Follow JoEllen on twitter: @bedheadtweeting

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.

How To Start Providing Sex Education in Your Home

Photo credit: Rob Allen

Photo credit: Rob Allen

Sex education involves more than just penetrative intercourse. It involves how we feel about ourselves, our gender/sexual identity, and the relationships we engage in with others.  It is a central part of being human.

In this article, Dr. Melanie Davis offers practical tips for providing sex education in your home. This is an especially useful read if you have never discussed sex with your child or teen, or you are a new parent seeking advise for your child’s future.

Here are some key points by Melanie.

  • Sexuality education begins before you know it. Children are socialized around gendered norms from the moment they are born.
  • Communicate honestly and consistently with your child about sex and sexuality. It’s not a once-in-a-life-time talk. By starting the conversation from a young age, you cultivate an environment in which they are comfortable talking to you about sex/gender and sexual relationships.
  • Parents really do make a difference in sexual health. Research shows that parents are the greatest influence in a teen’s decisions about sex.
  • Review Melanie’s list below for questions to ask yourself (and your co-parent) as you engage in this important role in your child’s life.

This article was originally publish on Melanie’s column, Sex Ed in Small Doses at Psychology Today.

BY MELANIE DAVIS, PhD | MelanieDavisPhD.com

Upon hearing that I teach sexual education courses, a new father commented, “That conversation is so far off, I can’t even think about it.” He was quite surprised when I suggested that the conversation about sexuality began the moment he and his partner became parents.

The minute parents hear, in the delivery room, “It’s a boy,” “It’s a girl,” or “Your child may be intersex,” they begin communicating ideas about sexuality to their children. Consider how many parents bring newborns home in a pink or blue outfit or use the phrases, “He’s all boy” or “She’s such a Daddy’s girl.” These gendered messages are part of your child’s sexuality education.

The “birds and bees” story of old—a confusing analogy that uses flower pollination to describe human reproduction—alludes to only a small fragment of human sexuality. In reality, sexuality includes, but isn’t limited to, gender identity, sexual orientation, eroticism, the ability to love and feel loveable, self-image, interpersonal relationships, sexual physiology and health, sexual manipulation, and, yes, sexual behavior and reproduction.

You may wonder why you would need to introduce all these concepts to your child. It’s not a matter of introducing the information—that often happens without parental intervention—rather, it’s a matter of helping children put the information into perspective. Without your guidance, your children may have a hard time understanding their bodies, their feelings, the images they see, or the words they hear.

You can help your children become sexually healthy individuals who value and respect themselves and others by communicating honestly, consistently and intentionally about sexuality. I use the word “intentionally” because you’ve already been communicating about sexuality even if you haven’t meant to. You have done it if you have:

  • selected your child’s clothing and toys according to “girl colors” or “boy colors,” “girl toys” or “boy toys”;
  • assumed you know your children’s sexual orientation;
  • created rules about nudity or privacy in your home;
  • discouraged or encouraged your children’s exploration of their own bodies:
  • displayed, or avoided displaying, physical affection for your partner;
  • responded to questions about sex comfortably or by changing the topic.

Who do you want to teach your child about sex?

It’s important to talk with your children about sexuality because if they aren’t hearing from you, they are absorbing someone else’s messages. And whose messages are those? Siblings and friends, grandparents, babysitters, teachers and doctors as well as video games, toys, television, magazines, movies and newspapers.

Messages about sexuality may be healthy or innocuous, confusing or disturbing. You can’t control every message your children receive, but you can help them put the information into the context of your values. Research has shown that children want to learn from their parents early on; as they age, they tend to look to their peers for information. By starting the conversations at an early age, you can encourage your children to keep talking with you as they mature.

Many years ago, my daughter, then age 10, attended a birthday party during which the girls watched an R-rated film. She told me later that the film included a scene in which a boy tries to rape a girl at a teen party. Her father and I had talked to her about sexual boundaries and consent, so she knew the male character’s behavior was unacceptable. I can’t say the same for all the other pre-teens at the party, whose parents may never have provided sexuality education at home.

What had we done right? We had talked with our daughter about sexual relationships and the importance of mutual consent, respect, maturity, and protection. What had we done wrong? We hadn’t gotten to know the girl’s parents or their values; in addition, we hadn’t asked what the party entertainment would include.

Monitoring children’s media access is harder today, since many children and young teens have near-constant access to cable TV and online content. It’s all the more important for you to serve as your children’s primary sexuality educator, ready to share your values and wisdom gained through life experience.

Getting Started

Use the topics below to spur discussion between you and your co-parent or teens and other adults who play a significant role in your children’s upbringing. Jot down responses and ideas that will improve communication with your child.

  • What messages did you receive about sexuality when you were a child?
  • Did you have an adult to discuss sexuality with, and if so, what helped create that trusting relationship?
  • What were some of the biggest questions you had about sexuality, and by what age did you want answers?
  • If you would have preferred to learn about sexuality differently, and if so, how?
  • What kinds of messages would you like your child to receive about sexuality, e.g., no-holds-barred access to information, or a more moderate or conservative approach, and why?

Next, make a list of the some of the sexuality information sources in your childrens’s lives, including caregivers, friends, relatives, television, magazines, internet, etc. Consider ways you can support or counterbalance those outside sources so your values and sexuality education play a primary role.

Learning More

For more tips about parent-child communication, see my eManual, “Sexuality Talking Points: A guide to thoughtful conversations between parents and children.”

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