Good to Know: STI Prevention Hacks

Photo credit: Peter Gerdes

Photo credit: Peter Gerdes

There is nothing worse than getting your sexy on only to realize that you don’t have any condoms (or dams). Preparation makes safer sex very easy to practice without interrupting your groove.

But did you know that there are quick solutions if you do find yourself unprepared?

Bedsider here sharing five ways to expedite your access to safer sex tools. Only one thing we would add to this list: Purchase easy-travel pillow packs of lube so that you can have them with you anywhere you go.

This post was originally published here.

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

Think STI prevention kills the mood? Or that it’s always kind of a hassle? No way.

A little planning makes it very easy to protect yourself against an unintentional pregnancy and STIs. But what do you do when there’s no time to plan ahead and you really, really want to have sex? These hacks can help you stay safe in the moment without losing a minute of sexy time.

Stay healthy and happy,
Bedsider

P.S. Curious about the implant or shot? Our Real Stories feature women and men talking about the methods they use.

condom ad condoms too loose

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

How Can I Use Safer Sex Methods Without Killing the Mood?

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

Here are their key points of advise:

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

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

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

Unsure what size

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

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

How Can I Orgasm During Sex?

how to orgasmAchieving orgasm is different for everyone despite what films, books and the internet have you believe.  Not every woman can reach heavenly climax through penetration alone. In fact, for more than 70% of women, penetrative vaginal sex is usually not enough to make her cum.

In this Team Sex Ed video with Kate McCombs and Louise Bourchier, you will learn three main ways to increase the likelihood of reaching orgasm during vaginal intercourse:

  • Stimulate your clitoris using a hand or sex toy during sex.
  • Find a sex position that puts more attention of the G-spot.
  • Try the coital alignment technique.

Watch the video for more explanation on each one of these sexy pointers.

This article was originally published here.

BY KATE MCCOMBS | KateMcCombs.com

“How can I orgasm during sex*?” is one of the most frequently asked questions I get from women in my workshops.

The sex we see in porn and rom-coms alike would have us believe that this is somehow easy to achieve, but in fact, fewer than 30% of vulva-owners orgasm from penetration alone. In other words, it’s totally normal to not orgasm from penetrative sex.

But if the idea of orgasming during penis-in-vagina sex is sexy to you (a desire that is also totally normal and valid), I have a few suggestions for how to make it more likely. As part of our #TeamSexEd summer series, my dear sex ed friend Louise Bourchier and I filmed this video with our three top tips.

We filmed it at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles while we were out there teaching a Female Orgasm workshop for the Los Angeles Academy of Sex Education. I gotta say, it was pretty fun talking about orgasms in front of the Hollywood sign.

I hope you enjoy it!

*To clarify, when they’re asking this, they nearly always mean penis-in-vagina sex. There are many, equally-valid ways of defining “sex.” Broadening your definition of “sex” is a good start for increasingly the likelihood that an orgasm will occur.

condom ad condoms too tight

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

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

Breaking The No Condom Habit

screen-capture-5It is not uncommon for people to falter. Practicing safer sex every single time can be a challenge for some. One reason for this is feeling insecure about initiating condom use. How can you shore up an assertive and sexy way to lay down the condom rule?

Basic courtesies in sex may feel unfamiliar because there simply is no discussion about it in our standard sex education or popular media, which is why we highly recommend this article by Robin Mandell of Scarleteen. It unpacks from where these nuanced communication difficulties stem. The author gets straight to the heart of why it is so important to take responsibility in managing your sexual safety. She offers great tips on how to incorporate condoms as a normal part of sex.

Here are some stellar points to remember next time you feel uneasy about introducing safer practices:

  • Taking care of your body and your partner’s body is smart and sexy!
  • Stigma around STIs has twisted safer sex practices to seem like an unsexy act of distrust. This is complete ignorance! It is about caring for each other’s health and what’s wrong with that?
  • No matter who your partner is, you can say “no” to sex if the person refuses to use a condoms. Because after all, to refuse or complain about such a thing is not respecting your sexual boundaries. Now THAT is unsexy.
  • Talk about STI testing and safer sex practices with all your sex partners. Using condoms is something that can come into casual conversation.
  • Practice how to put on a condom yourself and be prepared with your own stash of safer sex tools.
  • Condoms also make oral sex fun and safe.

The original article was published on Scarleteen

BY ROBIN MANDELL | ReadySexyAble.com

This question was posed to Scarleteen.

CuriosityCat asks:

I am 20 and sexually active. I don’t have a long term partner but have had and do have various partners. I have an IUD so I’m protected against pregnancy, however I know condoms are still hugely important. My problem is that I am completely stuck for what to say to make a man put one on. At the moment, it’s just getting carried away then really kicking myself later. I have to be more diligent with this, but please- do you have any advice for laying down the law? A non awkward, but still sexy way of asserting myself?

Robin Mandell replies:

In a sentence: you could just take one out of your bag, hand it to your partner, and say “Here, put this on.” Or, “Let’s get a condom on first.”

Or, if you want to keep the touch between the two of you going without a condom-stop, how about, “Why don’t I slide this on for you.” Remember, you can put a condom on, too, and some folks find making putting condoms on part of sex, rather than having them be an interruption, sexy, playful and fun.

It really is as simple as any of that, yet I know it can feel a whole lot more difficult. Especially when you’re not yet in the habit, so it feels out-of-place instead of typical. Once condom use and insisting on it is your normal, it really does feel a whole lot different, and can be very easy to be totally relaxed about. Bonus: when you’re relaxed about it, your partners will tend to be too, so there’s likely to be no muss and no fuss.

There are a few things I’m not sure of, in answering this question: Are these partners friends? Strangers? Something in between? Do you have some type of ongoing sexual relationship with them, just single encounters, or does it depend on the partner? Answers to these questions may impact how you negotiate condoms, but they don’t have to have any impact on whether they’re used or not. Where these sexual encounters take place can also affect the mechanics of how you incorporate condom use in a way that feels comfortable and still sexy for you.

No matter who your partner is, though, or where you are, using a condom really can be a hard limit for you, hard in that if a partner refuses, you can take that sexual activity off the table, instead opting to engage in other sexual activities that don’t pose the same kinds of risks. And that doesn’t have to be paired with any drama or ultimatums (nor should it be.) It can be as mellow as, “Yeah, I wanted to have sex, too, but I need condoms to be used for that. If you don’t, that’s cool, but not when it comes to sex with me. You’ll need to find someone who is okay with that, then.”

It can be tough to say “no” to something you really want, or to say “no” to someone you really like or are attracted too, but this is your health we’re talking about. Theirs, too.

Taking care of your body is sexy as far as I’m concerned, and doing things that show you’re caring for someone else’s body is also sexy in my book.

The huge stigma society has built up around STIs and STI transmission, plus the very real dangers of some STIs, has made safer sex practices seem like a chore, or like the unsexy part of sex. There’s even some cultural weirdness around just being caring about ourselves and other people when it comes to sex, which is pretty strange for something that’s supposed to involve our humanity.

Really though, any action that ensures people’s health and safety, whether it’s checking with someone to make sure they’re okay with a given sexual activity, readjusting positions to avoid a sprained knee, or, using barriers to make sex safer, can feel like a natural, normal, typical part of sex. Just like, say, “Does that feel good?” can.

The fact that we don’t see these safer sex negotiations often happening in media representations of sex — such as in movies, or how-to articles in popular magazines — doesn’t help matters; thus, basic courtesies in sex can feel strange and unfamiliar to us, or we might feel afraid that our partners will be turned off by them. Of course, it’s not like someone feeling turned off now and then will end the world or anything, and that’s bound to happen for one reason or another sometime, whether it’s about asking for condom use or about doing something sexual in the exact same way the ex who broke their heart did. Partners– or us — experiencing a buzzkill now and then is also a typical part of sex in our lives.

Regardless of how casual — or not — a sexual relationship is, it’s still okay to, and advisable to, discuss safer sex practices with partners. Using condoms is something you can introduce in casual conversation, even using a buffer like: “I was reading this article about sex the other day, and….”

It’s also important to remember that in addition to making genital intercourse safer, condoms also make oral sex safer. Many STIs can be and are transmitted through oral sex–such as chlamydiaherpes, and gonorrhea.

It sounds as if up to now you’ve mostly been concerned with preventing pregnancy. It might be helpful to review STIs and their modes of transmission. It’s also worth noting that for STIs transmitted primarily through skin-to-skin contact condoms offer less protection.

Regular STI testing is super-important for any sexually active person, too, whether they’ve had multiple partners or have been in only one monogamous relationship so far. But because one of the markers of STI prevention has been found to be limiting partners, it’s especially important for people who have multiple partners to be tested consistently. It’s also pretty important to discuss STI testing with partners; if you don’t feel comfortable discussing this, or don’t feel as if you are getting a straight answer when you ask about it, it’s even more important to practice safer sex with the assumption that they haven’t been tested or haven’t been practicing safer sex in the past.

For ideas on communication strategies, check this out.

I’m not sure what your concern is with making the effort to use condoms. A few of the reasons we sometimes hear are: It feels like an interruption to the sex. The guy says he can’t feel anything/can’t orgasm/can’t whatever wearing a condom. One partner or another says they don’t have anything, so condoms really aren’t necessary.

In spite of all the sexy, apparently romantic notions about sex, engaging in sex with another person, no matter what the nature of the relationship is, is inherently going to be awkward sometimes. Sticking bodies and people’s deep stuff together closely is kind of awkward, after all. That’s part of the fun of it, as we negotiate the random whims of our bodies and minds to hopefully find mutual pleasure and fulfillment. That said, while stopping to put a condom on can feel like a blip, it doesn’t have to be an awkward blip.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Learn, with the aid of a banana, dildo, or willing partner, how to put a condom on yourself. Like I already mentioned, for many partners this helps the process blend into the sexual experience more. That way, too, you can understand that condom use also isn’t about “making” a guy do something: it’s about something people do together for each other.
  • When you get the sense that sexual activity could happen, take a quick break from what you’re doing and pull condoms out of your purse, nightstand, or wherever you’ve been keeping them. You can say something like: “No pressure. Just wanted to get these out just in case we want to do something where we need them.”
  • Just stop what you’re doing and hand them a condom. Sometimes, you don’t even have to say anything at all. I know it can feel awkward, but the more you do it, the more natural it will feel. The more whatever it feels, the more whatever you act about it, and the more whatever a partner often will, too. Many of us have things we need or don’t in order to be comfortable with sex, or anything else, and those just become part of the deal.

As to whether condoms reduce sensation, they really don’t have to. At least not any more than say, the birth control pill can change how someone taking it experiences sex: sure, there are some differences, but they are most often small ones. Yes, they feel different than when condoms aren’t being used, but no, they don’t have to be a mood-breaker or sensation-blocker.

Two tricks to getting condoms to feel good and comfortable are to put a couple of drops of water-based lubricant inside the tip of the condom before putting it on, and to make sure the condom fits well. Condoms aren’t one-size-fits-all, and a condom that’s too small or too big is much more likely to create big sensation differences than one that fits the wearer well. If you’re providing the condoms, you might find it useful to have a variety of types and styles on hand so your partner can choose what seems right to them. Variety packs can be found online, and at some drugstores. be sure to include some thinner condoms, too: sometimes people think they need the thickest condoms or they will break, when in fact, breakage rates are no different for the thinnest condoms, and a thinner condom means less change in sensation.

If you make using a condom a requirement for engaging in specific sexual activities, the choices will become to either engage in that activity with a condom or to not engage in it at all. You really don’t need to fall for the claim that condoms ruin everything. They don’t hurt, and, if the fit and style suits the person, they shouldn’t significantly reduce sensation for most people. Then too, orgasm never has to be associated with one particular sexual activity, though I know it often is. If a partner balks at using a condom for intercourse, for example, because he has difficulty reaching climax while wearing a condom, that doesn’t make intercourse impossible. It just means that another activity, such as manual sex, will need to follow if he wishes to reach climax.

Unless you know for sure that someone has recently been tested, and you trust them to report the results accurately (or have seen the results report), it’s safest to engage in sexual activities in ways that protect yourself. The absence of symptoms is not a clear indication, as many STIs are asymptomatic (without symptoms) for a long while.

In short, you can get partners to use condoms by providing the condoms yourself and being relaxed, confident and firm in your conviction that sex just also means condoms.

condom ad condoms too loose

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. She’s discovered 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

scarleteenSCARLETEEN is an independent, grassroots sexuality education and support organization and website. Founded in 1998, Scarleteen.com is visited by around three-quarters of a million diverse people each month worldwide, most between the ages of 15 and 25. It is the highest-ranked website for sex education and sexuality advice online and has held that rank through the majority of its tenure.
Find Scarleteen on twitter @Scarleteen

What Is a “Beacon of Permission”?

Photo credit: Carol Jones

Photo credit: Carol Jones

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

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

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

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

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

This article was originally published here.

BY KATE MCCOMBS | KateMcCombs.com

As is glaringly obvious, I love talking about sex.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unsure what size

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

4 Things That Make Your Period Easier and Sexier

Image from Beth Granter and the "Seeing Red Project"

Image from Beth Granter and the “Seeing Red Project”

We often learn about menstruation in early sex education, usually around the time when female students are starting their periods. Typically boys and girls are separated from each other to talk “in private” and taught about deodorant, pubic hair, disposable pads and tampons. However, there are more choices when it comes to menstrual flow than what is often taught in sex ed class.

Sex educator, Kate McCombs expands on those options from a pleasure-inclusive perspective, offering four things that will make your period easier and sexier. She talks about how menstruation doesn’t have to be an unsexy obstacle or messy hassle of “ragging it”. Here are her practical tips to relieve any discomfort and embrace menstruation as a vital sign of good health.

Revisit the way you relate to your period and take a look at these lesser known products she recommends.

This post was originally publish here

BY KATE MCCOMBS | KateMcCombs.com

Managing a period isn’t always easy. For those of us with uteruses who are post-puberty and pre-menopause, learning to care for oneself during menstruation is both a rite of passage and a necessary life skill.

In school, the sex ed we got (if we were lucky) included things like how to use maxi pads and tampons or how to use a hot pad for cramps. But there are some grown-up period management skills that I didn’t learn in my middle school health class.

This post is all about those things – the things I learned as an adult that make that time of the month go more smoothly.

1. Silicone menstrual cups. Reusable silicone menstrual cups, like the Diva Cup and Lunette, have become an essential instrument in my period-management tool kit. They’re soft and flexible, about the size of a shot glass, and shaped like the cup portion of a wine glass. They last for years, are eco-friendly, and can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time during light flow days.

My favorite thing about menstrual cups: For folks who are concerned about containing the blood, the cup makes it easier to receive oral sex during your period. If you insert it in the shower and rinse off, blood doesn’t get outside your body until you empty your cup again.

To learn more about them, check out this piece I wrote called “Why I <3 Menstrual Cups”.

2. Liberator Throe. It’s velvet on one side, satin on the other, and it’s designed to keep lube and bodily fluids off your bedding. Any liquids the Throe comes into contact with will not seep through the fabric, so it keeps your sheets and upholstery clean.

You can see how this makes period sex easier. Just throw down the Throe, and period sex can be more spontaneous and easier to clean up.

3. Black nitrile gloves. When Andy and I were discussing the Throe for period sex, he mentioned to me that he often gets questions about safer sex during menstruation from customers in the Good Vibrations stores.

Andy Duran of Good Vibrations store suggestion for both sexier safer sex and a sexier period: black nitrile gloves. If you happen to be bothered or turned off by the sight of blood, these gloves make it less obvious because of the dark color.

It’s also easy to turn them inside out when you’re taking them off so any blood stays contained. And how hot is a tight-fitting black glove?

4. Dear Kate underwear. These amazing stain- and leak-resistant panties are designed to be backups for whatever menstrual product you’re using. They’re cute, comfortable, and made in the USA. Not to mention they have an awesome name 😉

The CEO of Dear Kate, Julie Sygiel, has an engineering background and spent two years developing the first line of Dear Kate panties. She created a problem-solving product designed to make a period feel sexier.

(An off-label use for Dear Kates: wear them as post-coital panties at any time of the month for containing any lube and bodily fluids that escape when gravity takes effect.)

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

5 Ways to Stay Sex Positive when Dealing with Depression

Photo credit: Martjin de Valk

Photo credit: Martjin de Valk

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

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

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

Key points to remember are:

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

This article was originally published at theRedheadBedhead

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

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

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

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

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

Continue reading at The Readhead Bedhead

condom ad condoms too loose

 

 

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

Silicone-Based Lube: Alternative Uses

Photo credit: "Stereotype"

Photo credit: “Stereotype”

There are many reasons why silicone-based lube plays a worthy addition to your sex life. As we discuss elsewhere, not only does silicone lube heighten sensitivity, it can also make sex safer because it reduces the risk of condom breakage, particularly when using ultra thin condoms.

Studies show that silicone lube is the safer choice when engaging in anal sex. As well, it feels and works just like oil- a little goes a long way, it’s waterproof, and it lasts longer than water-based lubricants because it doesn’t absorb into the skin. Silicone lube is also a great option for toy play. Be careful though. Silicone lube should never be used with toys made of silicone or Cyberskin (read more about toy safety).

If that’s not enough reason to convince you to try silicone lube, consider all its other handy alternatives. For example, you can use silicone lube for shaving (to help keep the razor sharper for longer). Also, some lubes, such as Erosense Luxe, are an ideal alternative to message oils.

There are even more unexpected benefits. In this fun video, sex educators Kate McCombs and JoEllen Notte run through the many ways people have re-purposed silicone lube for everyday home remedies. This is definitely worth a watch for any first time enthusiastic lube user!

This post was originally published at KateMcCombs.com

BY KATE MCCOMBS | KateMcCombs.com

When you get a room full of sex educators together, inevitably the conversation takes some interesting turns. One of the things we love to talk about are “sex geek hacks.”

Sex geek hacks are little ways we re-purpose our sex geeky belongings for off-label uses. Sometimes you’ll see articles for how to turn every day items into sex toys (my personal favorite being the hands-free lube dispenser) but this is a different approach. We take sex accessories and use them for non-sex purposes.

Image from katemccombs.com

Image from katemccombs.com

There are countless examples of sex geek hacks. From dildo bookends, to Pure Wand-as-home-defense-weapon, sex geeks are a creative bunch.

One of my personal favorites is using the Liberator Jaz mini as a laptop desk. It’s the perfect size and weight and doesn’t feel heavy on your lap. It also feels delightfully on-point when I’m writing articles about sexuality.

I’d say the overwhelming favorite among sex geeks is the alternative uses for silicone-based lube. Every time I mention it on twitter, I get heaps of enthusiastic replies and suggestions for new uses. JoEllen Notte (a.k.a. the Redhead Bedhead) and I made a little video about just these things.

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

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.

You’re Doing it Wrong!: 4 Ways to Mess Up Masturbation

Photographer Thomas Hawk

Photographer Thomas Hawk

We know today that self-love does not cause blindness, infertility or make one a deprived loser. Contrary to historical falsehoods, masturbation is not bad for you emotionally, physically or sexually.

It is a normal, healthy part of sexuality. It is absolutely common that all genders masturbate.

Knowing how to masturbate and knowing what you enjoy is to take initiative of your own sexuality. And yet masturbation remains a topic often mocked or underestimated.  In this post, sex educator JoEllen Notte identifies four unhealthy, misdirected attitudes and assumptions that run amok today.

Here are the important points she raises:

  • Not everyone enjoys masturbating, and that’s OK.
  • If you enjoy it, devote time and resources to it. It is important to your well-being.
  • Experiment and try new things with yourself.
  • Many people are anxious that something is permanently wrong with them if a certain method of masturbation doesn’t please them. This is nothing to be anxious about. “You Are Not Broken!”

You can read the original article here.

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

Found on the RedHeadBedHead.com

Found on theRedHeadBedHead.com

It’s Masturbation May, a time to celebrate the wonder that is self-love. It has come to my attention that there are some fairly common practices that can make masturbation not-so-fun, so I have put together this list of 4 things I’d like to see eliminated from the masturbatory playbook.

Assuming everyone must like it

I recently got a message from a reader who wanted toy advice because “I don’t enjoy masturbation. Whenever I ask friends, they think I’m just shy or embarrassed by my body or something but I’m not, it’s just not my thing. I enjoy sex. Should I try a g-spot toy or a rabbit instead of just a clitoral vibrator? Would I like it more then?”

I started off by asking if they actually wanted to be masturbating and tell them that it was okay if the answer was “no” and then gave the rest of my input. The response I got back was incredible: “No one has ever told me it was ok to just not be interested! I thought I was weird because I have plenty of drive for partner sex but no real interest in masturbation, it just doesn’t feel pleasant. Maybe I’m just not into it.”

That’s right folks, just like any other sex act, masturbation is not everyone’s cup of tea. I can hear you now “But the learning! The exploration! THE ORGASMS!!!” I know, masturbation has a lot of benefits and I sure as heck love it. You know what else I love that has a lot of benefits? Kale. Not everyone’s into that either. It’s okay. (Somewhere, someone with a Hitachi in one hand and a Vitamix in a the other just screamed out in anguish)

If masturbation isn’t your thing, that’s cool. If someone tells you masturbation’s not their thing, listen to them instead of telling them why they are wrong or gasping and shuddering like a fish out of water. No shame either way.

While we’re on the topic of shame…

Continue reading at The Redhead Bedhead.

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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