Virginity Myths and Facts: The Hymen

SSSVirginitylThe phrase “losing your virginity” is often used without much thought. When a girl loses her virginity, that means she has penetrative sex for the first time and she breaks her hymen, right?

Not necessarily. As Bry’onna Mention of The CSPH (the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health) explains, defining virginity as having an intact hymen is limiting, excluding those who were born without a hymen or who tore it before ever having sex, whether by falling on a fence post, masturbating, or inserting a tampon.

Now, this may shake your world, but did you know that the hymen is something that stays with you (that is, if you have a vagina) your whole life? It is not something destroyed during your first sexual experience.

The following article explains that inside the tangled misconception of female virginity lies inaccurate beliefs about the hymen. Bry’onna Mention sets the record straight and explains just how diverse hymens actually are. Some people are born with a hymen that covers the opening of the vagina fully or partially, but these are considered rare anomalies and necessary to repair with surgery.

Take a look at the first steps to debunking the myth that virginity is an actual, quantifiable thing. It all starts with our misconceptions of what is the hymen.

The first lesson of debunking the “virginity myth” was originally publish by Bry’onna Mention of The CSPH.

BY THE CSPH | theCSPH.org

“Shiny and new, like a virgin, touched for the very first time.”

Gee, Madonna, that sounds an awful lot like change or some other inanimate metal object. But, virginity is not about newly minted money, no. It’s about having sex for the first time!

Sex (as well as sexuality) is extremely important to our existence on this planet. Without sex, none of us would be here. And not unlike embarking on any new experience, having sex for the first time is kind of a big deal. So important in fact, a term for those who haven’t had sex was created: virgins.

According to Merriam Webster, virginity is the state of never having had sexual intercourse. Now this minimal definition, is actually quite inclusive, and encompasses all gender types and sexual orientations. However, the historical concept of virginity and the etymology behind it (which we’ll discuss in detail in Lesson 2), mostly meant the virginity of cis women, hence the problem.

Yes, concept. Before moving forward, first things first: virginity is a social construct.

Ed Note: The CSPH knows that not all women have a vagina and not all vaginas belong to women. This lesson talks about the social construct of virginity, which is rooted in a hetero- and cis-normative understanding of the world.

Hymen, Shmymen

Inside the tangled webbed concept of female virginity, lies an inaccurate understanding of the hymen. This misunderstanding of the hymen is perpetuated by society’s lexicon and it’s approach to the hymen. Phrases like “popping the cherry,” “loss of virginity,” or “deflowering” leads us to believe that once sexual intercourse occurs, the hymen is destroyed or compromised in some way. This is not true.

The hymen is a very thin, elastic membrane that rests either outside of the vagina or just inside of it. During sexual intercourse, or the usage of tampons, fingers, etc. the membrane (hymen) is simply stretched, due to the elastic nature. However, if one or their partner is too rough, too fast, or if not amply lubricated, the membrane can tear. This can cause a sharp sensation outside the vagina and it can cause bleeding. So, ultimately the hymen stays with one, their entire life!

Different Types of Hymens

Hymens and vaginas, not unlike snowflakes are not all the same.

Sunday-Sex-School-Lesson-1

Image from the CSPH

Average hymen (or The Sailor Moon hymen)

This hymen has a thin membrane that surrounds the opening to the vagina. It can come in different shapes. It is the most common hymen in vulva owners. It is shaped like a half moon. This shape allows menstrual blood to flow out of the vagina.

Imperforated Hymen (or The Tuxedo Mask hymen)

This hymen is extremely rare, but does exist. An imperforate hymen is a thin membrane that completely covers the opening to the vagina. Menstrual blood cannot flow out of the vagina. This usually causes the blood to back up into the vagina which often develops into an abdominal mass and abdominal and/or back pain. An imperforate hymen can be diagnosed at birth. Rarely, the diagnosis is not made until the teen years. Fortunately, there is a form of treatment for an imperforate hymen. It is a minor surgery to remove the extra hymenal tissue and create a normal sized vaginal opening so that menstrual blood can flow out of the vagina.

Microperforate hymen (or the Sailor Chibi Moon)

This thin membrane almost completely covers the opening to a vagina. Menstrual blood is usually able to flow out of the vagina but the opening is very small. This hymen usually will not be able to get a tampon into and the owner will mostly like be unaware of the tiny opening. This hymen can also be treated by a perforation surgery.

Septate hymen (or Sailor Uranus)

The thin hymenal membrane has a band of extra tissue in the middle that causes two small vaginal openings instead of one. Owners of this hymen will also have trouble inserting and removing tampons. Again, a minor surgery to remove the extra band of tissue and create a normal sized vaginal opening can be done.

Image from the CSPH

Image from the CSPH

Now that you know the truth about vulva owner virginity:

tw: mention of rape

Here, in less than 3 minutes, Alyssa combats any and all arguments regarding the “Virginity Standard.”

Make sure you come back next Sunday for Lesson 2! We’ll further dissect the historical concept of virginity and it’s present standing.

condom ad condoms too loose

csphThe CENTER for SEXUAL PLEASURE and HEALTH (The CSPH) is designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Led by highly respected founder and director, Megan Andelloux, The CSPH is a sexuality training and education organization that works to reduce sexual shame, fight misinformation, & advance the sexuality field.

18 Signs of a Sexually Healthy Adult

Photo credit: Mario Klingemann

Photo credit: Mario Klingemann

What does healthy sexuality look like?

As we’ve talked about before, sexuality is a complex mix of things in varying proportions for different people- things that are physical, emotional, interpersonal, cultural and more. Thus it’s difficult to pin down in one all-encompassing definition. That is why The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) developed a list of behaviors that encapsulate what healthy sexuality can look like.

There is one word you will see a lot on this list. Affirmation, which means the declaration that something is true. In other words, to express and experience sexuality in healthy ways is to positively uphold and support yourself for who you are.

This is not an exhausive list (there are many things one could add). If you find that there are some things missing here, it does not mean something is “wrong” with you. It simply demonstrates how sexuality is extremely diverse. This list is one model (of many) to help explain how healthy sexuality is cultivated.

This article was originally published on KarenRayne.com

BY DR. KAREN RAYNE | KarenRayne.com

4th of July Parade

And here is a picture of a young adult – tell me your opinion – is this adult exhibiting Life Behaviors of a Sexually Healthy Adult? Why or why not?

Children and adolescents gather information from watching the adults around them. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (http://www.siecus.org/) has compiled a list of Life Behaviors of a Sexually Healthy Adult. Reading this list, I think an adult (or child, or adolescent) who is exhibiting these behaviors is healthy in more ways than ‘just’ sexually. What do you think?

A sexually healthy adult will:

1) Appreciate one’s own body.

2) Seek further information about reproduction as needed.

3) Affirm that human development includes sexual development, which may or may not include reproductive or sexual experience.

4) Interact with all genders in respectful and appropriate ways.

5) Affirm one’s own sexual orientation and respect the sexual orientations of others.

6) Affirm one’s own gender identities and respect the gender identities of others.

7) Express love and intimacy in appropriate ways.

8) Develop and maintain meaningful relationships.

9) Make informed choices about family options and relationships.

10) Exhibit skills that enhance personal relationships.

11) Identify and live according to one’s own values.

12) Take responsibility for one’s own behavior.

13) Practice effective decision-making.

14) Develop critical-thinking skills.

15) Communicate effectively with family, peers, and romantic partners.

16) Enjoy and express one’s sexuality throughout life.

17) Express one’s sexuality in ways that are congruent with one’s values.

18) Enjoy sexual feelings without necessarily acting on them.

Source: http://www.siecus.org/pubs/guidelines/guidelines.pdf

condom ad condoms too tight

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

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.

Illusions of the Body: How Your Thoughts Look On Your Body

Photographer Gracie Hagen

Photo credit: Gracie Hagen

Sex educator and body positive activist, Elle Chase, argues that being unconscious of how our thoughts effect our self-image is like leaving the kitchen faucet running. You can easily ignore the direct physical consequences because it seemingly isn’t affecting your immediate everyday life.

Inspired by the photography project, “Illusions of the Body”, Elle challenges us to ask ourselves, “Does the way in which you carry yourself match how you feel about yourself? Are you physically representing your positive or negative thoughts on a daily basis?

Read this motivational piece and then take a look in the mirror.

This post was originally published here.

BY ELLE CHASE | ElleChase.com

Look at this woman’s body.
Look at her in terms of the first picture being one of self-appreciation and confidence.
Then look at the second one being of self-deprecation.
Which one do you relate to?

Chicago photographer Gracie Hagan likes to play with with themes of emotion and perception in her work. In one particular photo series entitled “Illusions of the Body” she makes clear that our bodies can take different forms depending on how we carry ourselves. And in my opinion, shows us how easy it can be for your body to take on how you are feeling.

In this series of paired photos, the subject is a nude model in a complimentary or confident pose while in contrast, the second photo of the set, the same nude model is in an unconfident or awkward pose. The differences are extreme but also telling, in the same way bloggers have recently taken to the netosphere to show how those amazing ‘before and after’ photos from the weight loss ads can be manipulated showing a seeming dramatic change in body shape and firmness with the use of the product they’re shilling when in fact, the photos were most likely taken the same day with the model told to hold her body in such a way that makes her body either look 10 lbs. heavier or 10 lbs. thinner.

Granted Gracie Hagen’s photos are intentionally exaggerated to make a point … but are they really that exaggerated? Next time you catch your reflection in a full-length mirror or a store window, notice your posture, the position your shoulders are in, what your resting face looks and feels like, and see if it matches what you’re feeling. How does noticing how you are unconsciously carrying your body make you feel? What would you assume about you if you were a stranger passing you on the street? Do you seem open? Do you seem closed-off? Are you giving off an impression you don’t want to be approached? Do you seem at peace? Do you seem happy? Could this be how you carry yourself always or has today/this week/this month, etc. or a particular event been influencing you? Could this be representative of how you feel about yourself?

How we feel about ourselves determines (to a great extent) how we carry our body, and therefore project to the world (and back to us) how we feel about ourselves. By being unconscious of how our mindset is affecting our carriage is like leaving the kitchen faucet perpetually running. You don’t see the damage it’s causing because it seemingly isn’t affecting your day to day life … the water just goes down the drain. But oh, when you get the water bill you see the price for ignorance is high. Not only that, but in a drought, that wastefulness is irresponsible and depletes the reserve of water for everything and everyone. This is how your psyche suffers from unexamined negative thought. You know you’re thinking negatively, but don’t do anything about it for whatever reason. Unattended, those negative thoughts can cost you your self-esteem and left unabated will wear you down to the point where you have no stamina or comport to turn it around.

I invite you to take a look at these photos and click on the link to see the whole series. And next time you catch your own reflection or become aware of how your body is holding itself, take in what you notice and consider if it matches how you feel about yourself. Ask yourself if you might be physically representing your negative or positive thoughts about yourself on a daily basis and if that is something you would like to be more aware of. When you begin to pay attention to what you are noticing, you become more aware of cause and effect in your life, mind and body. When you become aware of your actions and thoughts (cause and effect) you can choose whether to change them or not. Choice is the gift here … taking back your freedom of choice in how you think and feel about yourself thereby assuming control of your own power and not letting external factors (media, advertising, judgments of others) make a container for you to exist in. YOU get to choose how YOU feel and that small change can make all the difference in the world.

For more information on Gracie Hagen and her photography check out her…

Website: www.graciehagen.com
Tumblr: http://graciehagen.tumblr.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GracieHagen
Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/graciehagen
Instagram: http://instagram.com/graciehagen

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.

Sex and the Plus Size Gal

Photo credit Christi Nielsen

Photo credit Christi Nielsen

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

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

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

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

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

This article is posted on smutforsmarties.com

BY ELLE CHASE | ElleChase.com

Image from SmutForSmarties.com

Image from SmutForSmarties.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’s right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shaving and STIs: How to Minimize Risk of STI Transmission

rose

Do you wax, shave or trim your pubic hair? Even if you prefer the wild bushy look, this post by Jenelle Marie, is relevant to you because everyone, regardless of preferences, should be able to make informed decisions about their bodies. Yet medical facts about shaving and how to manage the risks involved tend to get muffled among all the summer party and craze.

The fact is, genital hair has biological purpose. It acts as a barrier to protect abrasions caused by rubbing and friction. When hair is removed it opens up your skin and forms microscopic entry points for STIs and other pathogens.

But let’s be clear: We are not advocating for or against pubic perfection. As Jenelle Marie states, what you do with your body is your own business.

Here we share her article about important medical factors to consider and the ways to manage risks of shaving.

Here are points to remember:

  • Any kind of hair removal can increase one’s risk of contracting STIs.
  • Some professional services reuse the waxing spatula or do not change the wax often enough, both of which violate health codes and can spread bacteria.

Here is Jenelle Marie’s list of what you can do to reduce your risk and shave safely.

The original post is featured on The STD Project.

BY JENELLE MARIE | theSTDProject.com

So, how do you achieve pubic perfection without winding up with an unwanted infection?

Here’s a list of things you can do to minimize inflammation, microscopic cuts, abrasions, and your overall risk of contracting or transmitting STDs:

  • Consider shaving or waxing less of the area you previous manicured or less often
  • Apply hydrocortisone cream or an OTC antibiotic cream after your maintenance routine
  • Only book professional services at salons with fully licensed estheticians and stringent health policies, like soaking tools in hospital-grade disinfectant between procedures
  • Apply pure aloe vera to freshly shaven and waxed areas to speed healing time
  • Don’t shave, wax, etc. directly before engaging in sexual activities – allow time for your body to heal the small wounds that occur but are not always noticeable to the naked eye
  • Always use fresh, clean and sharp razors
  • Moisten the area before shaving with warm water to help soften hair follicles

Yes, you can have the lightning bolt or landing strip of your dreams, but be smart, aware of your risks, and consider some additional steps to negate your risk of infection.

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

5 Things I’ve Learned from Teaching People about Sex

screen-capture-3

BY KATE MCCOMBS | KateMcCombs.com

Even before I got my first formal sex ed job, I was teaching friends about how to use safer sex methods.

Like most Americans, I didn’t get much in the way of sex ed in school, so it was up to my budding sex geeky research skills to get information I needed on my own. With this knowledge, I became an unofficial peer educator, sharing what I knew with friends (and even their friends) at after-school hangouts and parties.

In college, I became an official peer educator and continued teaching about safer sex and birth control, this time in one-on-one counseling sessions and workshops. It was a great training ground for the sex ed career I have now where I specialize in educating adults about the intersections of health and pleasure.

Through the research I did during my masters of public health, workshops and lectures I’ve taught on two continents, and through years of causal conversations with folks about their sex lives, I’ve learned five key things from teaching people about safer sex

1. Health and pleasure are not mutually exclusive.

The single most common reason people give for not using condoms is that it “doesn’t feel as good.” There is some reality to barriers diminishing sensation for some people, but the research doesn’t back up the claim that it ruins sex. In a study carried out by Indiana University, they found that on the whole, people’s sexual pleasure and satisfaction were not diminished by condom use.

There are many things people can do to increase their pleasure and satisfaction during sex, regardless of whether barriers are used. For some people, using barriers allows them to relax more fully, which increases their enjoyment of the overall experience.

2. Finding the right lube is paramount.

I am a lube evangelist and I still marvel at how many people aren’t aware of the benefits of using lube with condoms. Lube helps transmit more sensation, reduce uncomfortable friction, and keep condoms form drying out. It’s also handy to have around for other types of pleasure, like mutual and solo masturbation.

Not all lubes are created equal. Finding a formulation that feels best to you and your partner’s body is essential and experimenting with lubes can be a fun thing to sex lab too.

3. One size does not fit all.

I remember one of the first times I saw someone teach how to put on a condom. The educator stretched a condom over his whole arm and said, “No one is this big!” and that men who complained that condoms were too tight are just making it up. This is neither helpful nor true.

Condom fit is hugely important in pleasure and safety. A condom that’s too tight can break more easily and a condom that’s too loose can slip off. A bad fit can make using barriers less pleasurable too. Get a sampler pack from Lucky Bloke and find one that fits you like a glove.

4. Communication is key.

For many people, talking about sex at all can be really challenging – especially with the people they’re having it with. Learning to talk, listen, and learn about sexuality is a key adult skill, but there are few opportunities for people to learn the things about sex that help build an amazing, healthy sex life.

Having meaningful conversations about sex with our peers can be great practice for having challenging conversations within our romantic relationships. By fostering curiosity, learning compassion, and creating safe spaces within our relationships, we can more easily negotiate the kind of pleasure and health we desire.

5. It’s important to meet people where they’re at.

Early in my sex ed career, I was very absolutist in my opinions about condoms. People should just wear them! As I’ve listened, learned, and taught more, it’s become clear to me that this message doesn’t land with some people. It’s not empathetic and it doesn’t reflect understanding of the complexity of people’s feelings and desires.

All humans make calculated risks and meeting people where they’re at to help them reduce their risk is a more fruitful strategy then telling them what they “should” do. What I can do is give people information and support them in making choices that align with their health goals.

 

kate_mccombs

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