The CSPH: Sex Advice for Intersex People

From the documentary film Intersexion (2012)

From the documentary film Intersexion (2012)

Intersexuality is not uncommon, it’s just rarely spoken about or represented in everyday media and conversations.

Not many people go public announcing their sexual identity or gender- especially if it’s marginalized. However, according to the Intersex Society of North America, approximately 1 in 1500 births require a “sex differentiation specialist” to be called. Many more are born with subtler forms of sex anatomy variations.

Considering the shame and stigma surrounding bodies that do not neatly conform as male and female, finding intersex-based resources, arts, and communities can be difficult. In this article, The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (The CSPH) unearths and recommends some quality gems from within the intersex community.

This article is for both those who identify with intersexuality and anyone who want to learn more. Don’t miss the links to some incredible documentary films!

This article is originally published on The CSPH website as part of their Q&A series.

BY The CSPH | theCSPH.org

Q. Any sex info/advice for intersex people? I can’t find any positive porn, info, or stories about intersex people’s sex lives anywhere on the internet.

A. Note from the author: This response is partly for the person who asked the question, and partly to be informative to those who might be reading it and do not know much about intersex individuals.

Unfortunately it’s not that common for individuals to be “out” as intersex, and what is considered intersex varies widely even between doctors; what one physician would classify as intersex, another would consider a minor variation of biology and may not even mention it to the patient. Each doctor’s approach to treatment of an intersex individual (if required) is subjective as well. This, in turn, impacts the amount of sex advice, writing, and pornography that’s available.

What is intersexuality?

The term intersex refers to the biological condition of having reproductive and/or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the usual definitions of male or female. There are many misconceptions  regarding intersex people but intersex anatomy differs from person to person  and can include having in-between male and female genital characteristics (e.g., a scrotum shaped like labia, a noticeably large clitoris, etc.) or having male physical traits externally but female anatomy internally. While intersexuality can be identified at birth, sometimes intersex anatomy is only found at puberty, in adulthood (e.g., during infertility testing), after death (when autopsied), or not at all.

Our bodies’ biological/physical sex does not always define our gender or the societal roles we play (i.e. man/woman/other identity). This is the same for intersex individuals and such a nebulous term may or may not be used to define their gender. Some live their entire lives completely unaware of their intersex anatomy; however, others may be “assigned” a gender at birth, determined by the most prominent gender traits, via reconstructive surgery and/or ongoing medical treatments. Some may transition from one gender to another and use the label transsexual or transgender instead of intersex. Some define themselves based on their intersex anatomy while others have no obvious physical traits of their intersex anatomy and instead identify as male, female, queer, trans, femme, butch, or various other labels.

Sex advice for the intersex person

With so many variations, every intersex person’s biology may impact their sex life in different ways, or not at all. A good start are books or sites that provide great general sex information and also address aspects of your unique sexual anatomy:

Though not all intersex people are trans* or identify that way, there may still be valuable information on trans* sites. Anatomy and the impact it may have on your sex life is often discussed in the trans* community, such as this post from the Self Made Men blog.

If you’re an intersex individual and comfortable talking about it, we encourage you to start posting some advice you wish you’d had at the start of your sexual journey. Honest, sex-positive information for everyone can only become widespread if all communities are heard and not just “talked about” by professionals and “experts.”

Note: if you have a medical condition associated with your intersex diagnosis, the Accord Alliance Advocacy and Support Groups list  can help you find a support group with more specialized information for that condition.

Many of the sites listed encourage new questions, so drop them a line if you can’t find what you’re looking for. If you have a very specific question, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your doctor or find a sex positive practitioner here.

Intersex positive art and writing

Though they don’t focus specifically on sex, there are some amazing writers and artists talking about their intersex life and experiences:

Other recognized “out” intersex individuals include Cheryl Chase (intersex activist), Alec Butler (playwright and filmmaker), Stanisława Walasiewicz (Olympic athlete), Caroline Cossey (model), Eden Atwood (jazz singer), Eva Robin’s (actress), Sarah Gronert (professional tennis player) and many more .

Porn and intersexuality

Finding positive porn about any orientation, gender, race, or body type can be difficult as there is no shortage of bad porn. On top of that, pornography fetishizes deviations from the “norm”; whether it’s hair color, orientation, or anatomical differences. Among the most popular fetishes are adult films that showcase “Trannies, Shemales, and Hermaphrodites.” Those are all terms that should NOT be used to refer to intersex or trans* people as it is a maligned, incomplete, and offensive view of their sexuality. In fact, those films usually feature performers with penises and augmented breasts, some of whom may identify as trans*, rather than biologically intersex individuals. Furthermore, it’s important to note that the aforementioned terms are also incredibly offensive to the trans* community. (Still, here at the CSPH we encourage self-definition and if someone uses those terms to refer to themselves, we support their autonomy.)

A quick search for “intersex porn” brings up very few results, but by looking at sites and studios that support a diverse view of sexuality and gender, we find more options:

Starting with sex and body positive pornography will lower your chances of coming across any triggers and maintain a more respectful view of intersexuality. If you’re still having trouble finding films that suit your erotic tastes, try altering the way you search. Start off with a genre of film (e.g. lesbian, oral sex, BDSM, etc.) and then include terms like “intersex” or “trans” to help you find more options.

Additional resources

Keep an eye out for Intersex Awareness Week events near you!

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.

Disabled People Need Sexual Health Care Too

Image by Maria Iliou. From the Disabled Artist Guild.

Image by Maria Iliou. From the Disabled Artist Guild.

BY ROBIN MANDELL | ReadySexyAble.com

Most safer sex guides take it for granted that all of us are going to have the manual dexterity (ability to move our hands) to unwrap and use a condom, that getting STI testing is as easy as booking (and keeping) an appointment at a free or low-cost sexual health clinic, and that communicating with a partner about safer sex is as easy as having a few face-to-face conversations about it. For those of us who have any sort of physical, cognitive, or psychological disability, these and other “basic” safer sex strategies may not be so easy.

It doesn’t help that disabled people are assumed to be nonsexual, or to have more important things to worry about than the “luxury” of sexual feelings or a sexual relationship, or any number of other myths about sex and disability all of which miss the mark in one way or another.

People with disabilities who are sexually active, or planning to be sexually active, need to practice safer sex, and get regular sexual healthcare, just like anyone else.

A Quick Overview of Safer Sex

If you’re disabled, know that you have the right to whatever expression of your sexuality you want to have, and you have the right to be safe when expressing your sexual self, both alone and with partners.

Safer sex is about taking care of your sexual health, and protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Preventing unwanted pregnancy is known as birth control, not safer sex, but it’s still part of your sexual healthcare if pregnancy is something that can happen to you or someone you’re sexually involved with.

Safer sex includes using barriers (such as condoms or dental dams) for genital contact with a partner, and getting regular sexual healthcare, including STI testing.

Let’s look at a few considerations around safer sex specific to being someone who has any kind of disability. You can get more safer sex info by reading through the other articles on this site.

Sexual Health Care

Most sexual health services aren’t set up to meet the needs of disabled people. In the U.S., many providers don’t get training in working with patients who have disabilities. Coupled with assumptions about disability and sex, this can lead to you not getting the sexual healthcare you need. That might be a healthcare provider who doesn’t ask you about sex, or asks in such a way that assumes you’re not having it.

Or, it means examination tables that don’t accommodate people whose bodies don’t move in the ways expected for traditional exams. This includes staff unable, unwilling, or untrained to assist with positioning your body on the table.

Or, it means reams of forms to fill out, and informational pamphlets and brochures that are only available in print.

Even one step into a building- or doorways that are too narrow- can keep you from seeing a healthcare provider of your choosing.

Healthcare providers aren’t immune to the myths about disabled people and sex, which can result in them assuming their disabled patients aren’t having sex and consequently not asking questions about sexual health, evaluating someone’s need for birth control or STI testing, or even conducting routine genital exams.

Sometimes healthcare providers can fall into the trap of thinking that any problem a patient presents with is related to their disability; or, it may be assumed that what would be a problem for some people (such as fertility problems or the need for frequent STI testing)) will not be a priority or even a problem for disabled people.

Steps you can take to get the sexual healthcare you need if you have a disability:

  • Look for a sex-positive healthcare provider.
  • Find a provider who can meet your disability needs. Members of the Gimp Girl community have put together this list of accessible gynecologists. The list is short, but can give you an idea of what sorts of accommodations you can ask for, and expect, from any private medical practice or clinic.
  • Be prepared to ask for the sexual healthcare you need. Sadly, preparing yourself might also include being ready to fend off judgment, condescension or surprise.If your provider doesn’t bring up sex, you can. You can ask for STI testing, or to discuss birth control options.
  • Be sure when you’re discussing birth control, or if you are being treated for an STI, that the treatment won’t interfere with any medication you take and that any possible side effects won’t trigger physical or psychological symptoms of your disability.

Some assumptions you might encounter:

  • “Oh, I guess we don’t have to talk about birth control, do we?” Quickly followed by the next question in the provider’s list.

Possible response: “Yes, actually, I do need to talk about that. I’ve been wondering what method would be easiest to use considering the problems I have with my hands.”

  • “Is there someone who can help you with your birth control pills?”

Possible Response: “No, I want to keep that private. Maybe I need a different kind that will be easier for me to use on my own.”

  • “I know it’s hard for us to do a pelvic exam on you. Let’s skip it this year.”

Possible Response: “I know it’s hard to examine me, but with what I told you about my sexual history, is a pelvic exam advisable medically? I don’t want to skip any steps I need for my health.”

Sometimes, if the provider assumes the answer to a question, like that you don’t need to have birth control, or of course you’re not sexually active so there’s no need to talk about that and they can move right along with the questions, their words are accompanied by nervous laughter. You might want to drop through a hole in the floor when hearing that, but just because they’re nervous doesn’t mean you have to be. As disabled people, we’re often encouraged to help people feel less nervous around us. This is your healthcare provider, though; it’s their job to meet your healthcare needs and to deal with whatever feelings they have around doing that on their own time. So, just take a deep breath and set them straight about what you need from them.

Once you’ve found a provider you’re able to work with, talk with them to make sure you’re getting the best care you can. The following resources might help you and them. (Unfortunately, most of the writing and research on this topic has been geared towards patients who have what medical people have defined as female genitals. If you don’t have a vagina/vulva, your healthcare needs will be different but your provider can still work with you to find creative solutions to disability-related problems that might come up during examinations.)

Table Manners and Beyond: The Gynecological Exam for Women with Developmental Disabilities and Other Functional Limitation, and Reproductive Health Care Experiences of Women With Physical Disabilities: A Qualitative Study are both resources you and your provider can read through together to help problem-solve any accessibility challenges you’re having with your healthcare.

Accessing Safer Sex Supplies

Transportation problems, inaccessible buildings, worries about being judged, or lack of trusted help can keep you from getting safer sex supplies. Perhaps you’re in a wheelchair and need to ask a store employee to reach your preferred pack of condoms. Or maybe you have a visual impairment and need to ask for help reading the wide variety of lube bottles. Being in these situations may make you feel vulnerable to being asked intrusive questions or judgmental comments. Considering that people ask visibly disabled strangers how they have sex, these fears aren’t unfounded. How can you get supplies while maintaining self-respect and privacy?

Many resource centres on college campuses and sexual or reproductive health clinics provide free condoms. If you get your healthcare needs taken care of at a private practice, and you have a good rapport with your provider, consider asking them if they can obtain condoms, gloves, or other safer sex supplies for you.

You also might consider asking a trusted friend to pick supplies up for you- they can find somewhere that offers them for free so no one has to pay -and handing them over when you see each other.

Many reputable suppliers also sell safer sex supplies online at decent prices and provide clear , detailed information on what you’re buying.

Communication

Do you have the words to talk about sex, and about your body? A lot of us, whether we’re disabled or not, don’t grow up learning the right words for our body parts, or clearly understanding how our bodies work.

When you’re talking to someone you are (or want to be) having sex with, making sure you can communicate accurately and clearly is important. You can’t consent to take part in a sexual activity if you can’t understand your partner, or if they can’t understand you. It’s hard to agree on safer sex practices if, say, one or both partners are unable to speak clearly, are hard of hearing or deaf, or has trouble paying attention to written or spoken words for more than a moment.

You and your partner might want to have a few ways you communicate with each other about sex, both when you’re discussing it and when you’re doing it.

Your communication toolbox can include talking or signing, gesturing, writing notes back and forth, or any other way you can both understand each other. If verbal communication is difficult, or doesn’t happen at all, you’ll want to agree ahead of time on how you’ll communicate things during sex like “I need more lube” or “let’s get the dental dam.”

If talking and writing are both difficult, you might try reading through safer sex information together, and using words or body language (such as nodding your head, shrugging, looking confused, and so on) to indicate when you’ve read something you want to start doing, or that you want to learn more about.

If you use any assistive or augmentative communication devices, you might find the following list of sexual vocabulary words and phrases useful. These can also help you when you’re communicating with a healthcare provider or caregiver.

A Word On Coercion

Disabled people are at an increased risk of experiencing sexual assault. Sometimes that abuse can take the form of sexual coercion, someone talking you into sex you don’t want to have, or attempting to convince you to ditch the safer sex practices you’ve made it clear you want to use. Some people with disabilities are told—sometimes by partners, sometimes by family or friends–that they should be grateful for any sexual attention they get even if it’s not precisely what they want or need.

I call BS on that!

If someone is trying to talk or force you into sex that isn’t safe for you in any way, and they’re trying to use your disability (or anything else) to convince you, that’s just not okay. A person’s disability is no excuse for abuse.

More Resources on Sex and Disability

The following are some sex-and-disability resources that you may find useful:

ROBIN MANDELL is a healthy sexuality and disability rights advocate based in the Washington D.C. area.
She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies from Queen’s University in Canada and a Professional Writing Certificate from Washington State University. Over the years, Robin has amassed extensive experience working with people at vulnerable times of their lives, both as a crisis hotline worker and a sexuality and relationships education advocate with Scarleteen.  Robin has discovered over the years that disability issues receive significantly less attention in academia and social justice movements than they’re due. She has developed a passion for starting dialogues on sex, disability and accessibility, and has come to the realization that, as much as she just wants to be like everybody else, she can use her visible reality as a blind woman to start these dialogues. Robin blogs on disabilities, sexualities, and the connections between them at ReadySexyAble.com and has published articles on various sexuality and sexual health topics at Scarleteen and Fearless press.

Ask Oh Megan & The CSPH: Unsafe Sex Toys

 

48- megan-unsafe-toysConsumers beware. Did you know that the US government does not regulate or test sex toys?

Therefore, toy manufacturers can make products out of whatever material they want. This lack of oversight raises serious public health concern as the wrong toys can introduce infections, bacteria and harmful chemicals into the body.

For now, the erotic toy business is self-regulated. There are manufacturers and adult stores that actively try to change safety standards and raise awareness of body safe products, such as Good Vibrations, Smitten Kitten, Metis Black and many more. But it is important that consumers do their own research and educate themselves before purchasing a sex toy.

In this five minute video by Oh Megan and The Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health, Megan Andelloux answers the question:

What sex toys are not body safe? Here are some key points:

  • In general, toys made of materials that can be sterilized in boiling water or do not absorb bacteria are safe.
  • Unsafe toys can store and introduce infection into your or your partner’s body.
  • Sex toys should never smell. If a toy is scented it generally means the manufacturer is masking the bad smell of off-gases in the material.
  • Steer clear of any material, like Siligel, that can change shape or size.
  • If a toy is translucent or see-through, use it with a condom and throw away after 6 months of use.
  • Toys made of CyberSkin, like FleshLight, are not safe because the material can flake off in the body and expand.
  • Do not put porous material into the body such as toys made with a branded cord, wood or leather.
  • Silicon is recognized as the best body safe toy.

This video was originally published here

BY The CSPH | theCSPH.org

Your sex questions answered by Megan Andelloux, Certified Sex Educator, and founder of the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health! Megan answers REAL questions that she has been asked by people like you! Megan has been in the sexuality field for 16 years, and has visited over 75 different schools, is a faculty instructor for the Brown School of Medicine, and is the author of the book “Hot and Fast: Spontaneous Quickies for Passionate Orgasms”

Here Megan gives advice on sex toy materials that are not safe for the body.

If you have a question for Megan Andelloux about anything from sex toys, to gender, to fantasies and sexual health and reproduction – Just ask!

megan_andellouxMEGAN ANDELLOUX is a Clinical Sexologist and certified Sexuality Educator, listed on Wikipedia as one of the top sexuality educators in America, her innovative education programs, writing, social media presence, and ambitious speaking schedule has made her one of America’s most recognized and sought-after experts in the growing field of sexual pleasure, health, and politics.
Follow Megan on twitter @HiOhMegan

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.

Why Changing the Meaning of Consent Is Good

Image by Condom Monologues

Image by Condom Monologues

BY LARA WORCESTER | Condom Monologues

**trigger warning: This post references sexual assault and abuse.

Condom negotiation is often framed in a very particular way: a lady convincing a guy to wear the condom despite all his excuses not to. This very limited view overlooks (or simply reduces) the meaning of consent to an action that only happens at a certain point during sex. A contributor on Condom Monologues shared how her permission and safety was derailed while her sexual partner assumed absolute consent.

“I know fundamentally I cannot give consent without feeling safe. One time during sex (however safe I felt) the guy took the condom off without telling me. He figured, once we got this hot and heated there were no cues that I was saying “no”. I feel guilt sharing this story because I know people will judge me for having sex with this guy even after his display of Jerk-Assness; even after he breached my consent.” – a Condom Monologuer

Experiences like this are rarely represented in daily media. And yet, her story explicitly illustrates a fundamental component of consent that activists have been pushing for years: consent is an ongoing process.

This storyteller’s candor is a bold response to a “consent culture” that has made significant gains in recent years to legally redefining the term, particularly on US college campuses. Just this May 2014, the White House launched a website to inform students of their rights and guide schools on how to prevent and deal with sexual assault cases. The initiative also redefined consent as a “voluntary agreement” in which “silence, or absence of resistance does not imply consent.” This means that the government has finally dropped the problematic “no means no” model- an approach which implies that sex can happen as long as no one says “no”.

What is replaced with this new definition is “yes means yes.” In other words, real sexual consent happens only once there is an obvious and enthusiastic “yes”.

This is a big win for activists who are cultivating a “consent culture” that push hashtags like #ConsentIsSexy or market condom packages that read sobering messages like “My Dress Does Not Mean Yes.”

Catchy slogans are useful and have made great waves. However, the nuances of sexual relationships can get lost in their wake. Consent becomes reduced to an absolute end, with no discussion of the process or means, not dissimilar to how condom negotiation is taught in sex education as I mentioned earlier. In reality, however, consent is not isolated or all-encompassing. It is an on-going, never-ending process in which all parties must engage.

What the “enthusiastic yes” model does is shift the perspective to emphasize consent as a collaborative navigation. When consent is understood as fluid, experiences like the one shared at Condom Monologues, can be acknowledge without victim-blaming or shaming. Promoting consent in this way abandons the myth that we have to be mind-readers and just know what pleases the other. It reinforces the requirement for considerate communication. After all, isn’t that what human intimacy is all about?

For great sex tips on how to navigate consent and talk with your partner, read more from Elena Kate of Rad Sex.

LARA WORCESTER is co-founder & editor at Condom Monologues, and a Lucky Bloke contributor. She’s a published social researcher with a Master’s in Gender & Sexuality studies and has worked with various HIV/AIDS organizations including Stella and the HIV Disclosure Project.

Let’s Talk About the Cervix and Pleasure For Once!

Jenelle Notte: The cervix looks similar to the bagel. Photo credit: Denis Wilkinson

Jenelle Notte: “The cervix looks similar to the bagel.” Photo credit: Denis Wilkinson

The cervix seems to have become synonymous with HPV and cancer. Yes, today HPV is the most common STI in the United States. According to the CDC, “HPV is so common that most sexually active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.” So it is no surprise that there is a lot of information out there about threats to the cervix.

There is more to the cervix than only being laden with medical health problems, yet very few of us know about the cervix outside of reproductive health issues. In fact, there is little discussion of the cervix just as it is with no external forces affecting it.

This realization comes to us from JoEllen, The Redhead Bedhead expert. Departing from the main discourses on cervixes- that is, it’s role in pregnancy, HPV and cancer- JoEllen writes about how the cervix relates to pleasure. We’ve also included at the end a helpful video from Megan Andelloux about how people can avoid their cervix getting bumped or causing pain during sex.

The main points of this piece are:

  • The cervix exists independently of any cautionary medical tales.
  • It functions to channel things like menstrual blood from the uterus and sperm to the egg.
  • The cervix changes in it’s texture and shape, and moves throughout the menstrual cycle. When it’s enlarged it can be easier to bump during sex, which explains why sex can feel different at different times! Interesting!
  • There are certain sexual positions and toys that will reduce the chances of bumping the cervix (unless you like it bumped!). See video at the end for tips!

Read the full article on The Redhead Bedhead.

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

Recently I got curious about my cervix. Why, you ask? Well, I’ve been having a lot of fun sex (hooray for cute boy who makes me smile) and I noticed that a certain position that I enjoy thoroughly was resulting in my cervix getting bumped some times but not others. I realized that I didn’t know much about the cervix and so I decided to do some research which quickly became frustrating when I realized that 99.876% (rough estimate) of the talking that gets done about cervixes involves either getting pregnant or cancer. I wanted to know about my body, just existing- what the heck, maybe even experiencing pleasure- but it seemed that unless it was part of a cautionary article about HPV….or an instructional post about how to get knocked up no one wanted to discuss it.

Today we’re talking cervical facts, what it looks like, feels like and does and even why mine sometimes gets hit in that one position and sometimes doesn’t. So here goes-

What does is look like?

Picture a puffy disc with a depression (a dimple, if you will) at its center. True to form I, in looking for images to illustrate the appearance of the cervix, landed on food:

This is a bialy. Basically a bagel with a dent instead of a hole. It is delicious. It also looks like a cervix.

Read the full article at The Redhead Bedhead.

condom ad condoms too tight

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

One Thing About Sperm I Bet You Didn’t Learn in Sex Ed

This video is much more pleasant and accessible than anything I bet your teacher showed you in health class.

Do you remember when you learned how babies were made? Do you remember what information was covered? There are a lot of new and important things we know now that were not available in 1990s textbooks.

Here’s a snappy video from Bedsider delivering a lesser known fact about sperm. Watch this and you’ll be convinced how necessary preventative birth control really is (if you aren’t already!).

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

Video originally published on Bedsider

bedsiderBEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
Find Bedsider on twitter @Bedsider

6 Ways To Make Safer Sex Sexy

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BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

Sometimes, in the heat of the moment it can feel like safer sex is a huge, unsexy wet blanket, taking sex from something steamy and fun to something clinical and full of fumbling. It doesn’t have to be that way though! You can engage in safer sex practices and keep it fun and sexy. All it takes is a little preparation and a little know-how. Here are 6 things you can do to have the sexiest safer sex ever!

Learn your options

When it comes to safer sex, there are so many options available to you. Condoms come in various sizes, thicknesses and materials. Check out the variety of condom samplers available online. (Note: Many men who face erection issues with condoms are trying to wear ones that are too small!). Don’t know your size? Check out this handy condom size chart.

Dental dams and condoms come in a variety of flavors. There are tons of lubricants to choose from and you can mix and match to find your ideal pairing! Get educated as to what your options are. Here are lube samplers worth exploring. That’s what’ll help you determine what makes sex both sexy and safe for you.

Learn what your like

Now that you know so many options exist it’s time to find the ones that will make up your sexual toolbox. Whether it’s condoms that feel fantastic, lubes that make things glide more smoothly, or the dam that comes in a flavor you actually enjoy, get out there and find favorites. Enlist a partner to help you hunt. Best. Testing. Process. Ever.

Keep a stockpile handy

One of the biggest spoils to good intentions is lack of preparation. Suddenly folks find themselves about to get down without a condom in sight. Cue frantic late-night runs to the pharmacy or (perhaps more likely) someone just saying “What the hell?!” and forgoing the safety measures altogether. So always be prepared.

Once you have found something you like, make sure you have a ton on hand or nearby at all times. Build a safer sex toolkit. Find a fun, convenient way to store it. I use a cool, glam, 1950s make-up case and it is STOCKED: Regular condoms, female condoms, flavored condoms, dental dams, nitrile gloves and two kinds of lube – all at the ready. This kind of set-up saves you from the frustrations of being unprepared.

Learn about your partner

I’m constantly saying that I think we need to talk more about our sex. Thankfully, I’m not the only one. Check out beforeplay.org, a website devoted entirely to the concept of talking openly before sex. LOVE this!

Something I recommend all the time is Safer Sex Elevator Speech. It’s an amazing tool for initiating the safer sex conversation. it comes from sex educator Reid Mihalko of ReidAboutSex.com. I love the Elevator Speech because it is quick and easy, allowing both partners to get on the same page and quickly get on their way to getting it on.

Find out what everyone is comfortable with, what everyone’s safety needs are and how you will meet them. Most importantly, do not argue about safety. That’s not sexy! If your partner wants more safety measures in place than you do go with that. Why? Because if you are right and the safety measures were unnecessary, well then, nothing happens. But if you are wrong, don’t use them and it turns out that you should have, well, you will have a problem on your hands. If you really don’t feel comfortable with the precautions a partner wants to take, you may want to consider alternate activities or exploring whether you and that partner should be playing together at all.

Make it sexy

It’s important to treat safer sex measures as a part of your sexual play rather than a speed bump along the way to real fun. Don’t let your sexual energy drop just because you need to put on a condom. Keep kissing, keep touching, keep talking. Use it as a means of building sexy anticipation.

Enjoy yourself

Sex is play time for adults, so make sure you have all the fun! Try ALL the condoms! Play with how you use that dental dam. Giggle with your partner when you snap on nitrile gloves (silliness can be hot). Experiment. Try things. Enjoy both, yourselves and each other.

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

Teenage Sex Myths: The Best Argument for Sex Ed

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Sex education is important no matter how you look at it. That belief can be strengthened even more just by spending a few moments looking over some of the pervasive myths that still exist among teens, particularly in the USA.

Some teens still believe things like jumping up and down in a hot tub after sex may prevent pregnancy and that condoms are manufactured with holes so won’t protect you anyway!  Lies. Throw in other myths involving Mountain Dew and it makes you want to prioritize sex education with English and Math!

In this article, JoEllen the Redhed Bedhead, deciphers 10 Common Sex Myths that illustrate why we need to teach teens (6th – 12th graders) matter-of-fact reproductive health.

This article was originally published on The RedHead Bedhead site.

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

One of the weirdest things I think about this time of year is the time a few years ago when I was talking to my middle-school teacher mother who had, over the course of the previous year, spoken to me several times about her shock at how much sexually activity was going on between her 6th-8th grade students. She was talking about her students again but this time she was shocked to find that a number of them still believed in Santa Claus. Now, I’m not going to lie, I mined this for some comedic gold (“Okay, I’ll go down on you but if I end up on the ‘Naughty List’ for this I’ll be so mad!”) but it really does highlight a huge fundamental flaw in our (and by “our” I mean “America’s”) attitude toward children and sex ed. These kids are engaging in sexual activities while still in a very, young, naive and vulnerable place, a place where they still thought it was plausible that an obese man and some reindeer magically delivered toys to the entire world every December 24th. So, what else might they believe? What they need the most is education, information and guidance but, as we live in the world of  abstinence-only education that says sex is something kids should be shielded from they are left to draw their own conclusions, with some frightening consequences.

I’ve rounded up 10 sex myths that I think really illustrate why we need to be teaching kids how this stuff works. These range from things I heard growing up, to things my mom’s students say now, to things that are making the internet rounds.  Almost half of these relate to how one can or cannot get pregnant. Now, I know there is a ton kids need to be learning about but as the country with a teen pregnancy rate that is the “highest in developed world” this seems like something we want to get on addressing.  Check it out:

“I can’t get pregnant the first time I have sex.”
Nope, every single time can get you pregnant. Particularly cruel as teenagers are extra-fertile.

Read the full article at The Redhead Bedhead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The original article was published on the Huffington Post.

BY MELISSA WHITE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The CSPH: Will The Nuva Ring Affect How I Have Sex?

oh megan nuva ringThe Nuva Ring is used now by around 1.5 million women worldwide and has been hailed as a wonder contraceptive by many. The birth control makes reversible hormonal contraception simple as the user can insert it for a period of 3 weeks to help prevent pregnancy.

However, the Nuva Ring is not a widely known contraceptive and those interested in learning more or are new to using the product may have some questions.

In this video, sex educator Megan Andelloux addresses some of those questions and tells the viewer:

  • The Nuva Ring fits into the back of the vagina and is held in place by the vaginal muscles.
  • The penis likely won’t feel the Nuva Ring although a finger may.
  • Removing the Nuva Ring for 4 hours still leaves you protected from pregnancy if you don’t want to risk it interfering with sex or you don’t want your partner to know you are wearing it.
  • Silicone lube and toys can be used with the Nuva Ring and will not affect it’s quality.

This video was originally published on the CSPH website.

BY The CSPH | theCSPH.org

Like all forms of contraception it’s important you know the full risks and advantages of using the Nuva Ring and talk with a medical professional about it’s suitability for you.

megan_andellouxMEGAN ANDELLOUX  is a Clinical Sexologist and certified Sexuality Educator, listed on Wikipedia as one of the top sexuality educators in America, her innovative education programs, writing, social media presence, and ambitious speaking schedule has made her one of America’s most recognized and sought-after experts in the growing field of sexual pleasure, health, and politics.
Follow Megan on twitter @HiOhMegan

 

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.