Why, What, How to Talk to Your Sex Partner

Photographer Jaded One

Photo credit: Jaded One

No matter how much you study up on sex, without communication your relationship is sunk! Sexual communication isn’t easy and what we see in the media is rarely useful in terms of real-life scenarios. Scarleteen is here with comprehensive pointers on communication as a whole, and specifics on what to look for in productive sexual communication.

This article is meant to help you navigate the challenges of talking about sex with sex partners— from how to talk and to what to look for in the talking. Here are some main points to take away:

  • Clear sexual communication keeps both partners physically and emotionally safe.
  • Before engaging sexually with a new partner, look at how you communicate with them about other things.
  • Pick emotionally safe and neutral spaces to talk about sex.
  • There are several keys to productive dialogue- don’t miss the list below!
  • If you feel like you don’t feel comfortable communicating with someone, consider holding off on partnered sex with them until you do.
  • If you start with open communication and keep talking, it will get easier and more comfortable.

Read the original article at Scarleteen.

BY HEATHER CORINNA | Scarleteen

You can read everything from the Kama Sutra to The Joy of Sex, watch porn vids until your eyeballs fall out, have a ton of sexual experience or psychically channel Mata Hari or Casanova, but if you don’t know how to openly communicate with your partners, with your words, chances are neither you nor your partner are going to have really healthy, beneficial and satisfying sexual experiences, especially in the long-term.

Communicating clearly and well about sex and relationship issues, before and after you become sexually active with someone — the whole works, not just when whispering sweet or saucy nothings into a lover’s ear — not only puts you in a place where you can have satisfying sex and sexual relationships, short and long-term, and feel good about them, it helps keep everyone safe and sound both physically and emotionally.

If you have a car, you know that you’ve got to keep a pretty good eye on the oil in the engine: if you run out, no matter how great of shape your car is in, it’s not going to keep working, and may well explode in your face. Solid communication is the oil that keeps the engine of your sexual relationships running smoothly.

How to Talk About Sex

Talking with your partner about sex isn’t just about asking what one person has or hasn’t done before, wants to do, or about what gets everyone hot under the collar. Talking about sex with a partner also involves discussing what pace you’re comfortable with, your sexual health and your partner’s health, what you want or need to be comfortable engaging in a given sexual activity, how you masturbate, how you feel about your body, what feels good and what really doesn’t, safer sex and birth control, your sexual ethics and beliefs, relationship model negotiation, the works. Good sexual communication means you are creating and maintaining an environment in which you and your partner(s) can really talk openly about sex — in and out of bed — even when what you have to say isn’t very sexy or isn’t what the other might want to hear. It means being able to say no and having no be accepted and easily respected without pressure to say yes: it means being able to say yes knowing it doesn’t mean you or they have to say yes every time.

It’s no big shocker that talking about sex openly and intimately isn’t very easy. Most of the media around us doesn’t portray sexual discussion realistically or wholly: we’re shown either only the super-fantastic earthshaking stuff or Very Big Problems, not all of the shades in between that make up most of our sexual experiences. Most of the talking about sex we see in the movies only happens when people are having sex, and tends to consist of little but monosyllables or the standard “That was great,” after sex is done. And it isn’t just teens who have a tough time with sexual communication. Many adults in long-term sexual partnerships don’t have the hang of it, and plenty still prefer to avoid sexual discussions rather than practice them. A rare few of us grew up in households where sex was discussed healthily and openly. Good sexual communication generally requires more than a single word response. For a lot of people of all ages, honest and open sexual communication is brand new terrain.

Before you become sexually active with someone, take a look at how you communicate with them about other things. Are you able to talk openly and freely about your feelings for each other, about relationship models, time management, previous romantic/sexual relationships and peer and family relationships, and deal with crises? Are you friends: do you talk like friends? If not, it’s wise to take a pause and evaluate if that partner is a smart sex partner for you yet: after all, if you don’t feel comfortable talking about needing a little more time together (or a little more space) or what’s going on with your family, it’s going to be a serious challenge to talk about wanting to be touched more here or there, to need to change how the two of you are practicing safer sex or birth control, or about having a yeast infection. If daily communication, especially about things which are very close to your heart, doesn’t feel pretty easy just yet, work on that first, or consider that that person may not be an ideal partner for you.

Look at your own existing sexual communication in other parts of your life. Are you able to discuss sexual issues with your friends or your physician with a decent level of comfort and honesty (even if things sometimes feel a bit awkward)? Can you use language for sexuality – like the correct words for your sexual parts, or real terms for sexual activities – comfortably?

If you’re already at those points, then you’ve got a great foundation for sexual communication. You can lay it down from the onset – before you have any kind of sex at all — just by saying something like, “Before we have sex together, I want us to aim to always talk about sex honestly and freely, even when it seems weird. I feel like that’s important for both our physical and emotional safety as well as so that we can have really great sex.” Just making your intentions clear like that opens the door, allowing both you and your partner permission to talk about sex with maturity and be honest when you do.

Want to try on a few basic conversations one might have with a partner or potential partner that are pretty common, just to get an idea of how we can have them, and how hard it really ISN’T? CLICK HERE, and have a look at how some varied talks about sex with a partner can go.

Those sample conversations don’t have to be literal scripts for you, and my vernacular may not sound like the way you and your partners talk: I’m 37, and you’re probably not. “Gag me with a spoon,” and “Like, totally, that’s grody to the max,” were part of my teenage lingo: thank christ, they’re probably not part of yours. But the basics remain the basics: sound sexual communication is all about being honest (even when it feels awkward or embarrassing — but, if you’re going to be naked and/or sexual with someone things are going to be awkward and embarrassing sometimes, no matter what), being forthright and open (which anyone can do while still being kind to the other person), owning your own stuff (and the other person being able to do the same), and accepting that sometimes, because we need to communicate important things, sex might not seem so sexy for a bit, and we may even shelve sex we were going to have in exchange for talking about it. Even if that seems like a bummer at the time, I can guarantee you that it’ll mean the next times you DO have any kind of sex, it’s far more likely to be emotionally, interpersonally and physically better.

Where to have a talk? Pick emotionally safe, neutral spaces to talk about sex in. Often, it’s best to talk about sex in-depth when you’re not in the middle of having sex, when no one is naked (since most people feel more vulnerable that way), and when you’re not in an environment which can make it feel like having sex is more important than talking about it. Obviously, too, talking about sex between two people very personally isn’t a conversation for when you’re in a big group, hanging out with friends, or in the busy halls at school, where even the walls tend to have ears.

Suffice it to say, there will be times that it either feels just fine to talk about sex while in bed, and times when it’s also unavoidable. For instance, if you’re setting a limit on what you want to do in the midst of your partner starting to do that activity without asking, you need to set that limit right there and then. Or, if you two are laying around after sex and strike up a conversation about your sex life and it feels safe and comfortable for you to have it then, then no problem.

Check out some general themes we usually see in productive and communicative sexual conversations:

  • “I” statements. In other words, “I feel that…” rather than “You make me feel like…” Or, “When you do X, I experience Y,” instead of “You do Y to me.” “I feel ready for sex,” not “My friend Joe is having sex with HIS girlfriend.” When you’re speaking for yourself and about yourself, frame it that way. Even if you are calling out a partner on their behavior or actions, people tend to stop listening when an expression sounds more like an accusation.
  • Acknowledge the awkwardness. In so many ways, anything sexual between people IS awkward, and talking about it often is, too, especially when those conversations are being had for the first time. You can let a lot of the air out of the balloon just by saying that you feel awkward, and by being okay with that: it helps make it okay for your partner to feel awkward, too.
  • Same goes double for accepting that sex talk can be loaded. As a longtime sexuality educator – completely outside of my personal life – I’m acutely aware that people can fly off the handle pretty easily when talking about their sex lives, and that most people are pretty hypersensitive about sex. That’s unsurprising: sexuality is very personal, it makes us feel very vulnerable and exposed, and there’s an awful lot of pressure in the world to be sexually perfect, no matter how unrealistic that is. Prime the pump (as it were) and make sure your partner is in the right headspace to have a discussion about sex at a given time, just by asking if they are, and if they’re not, just make clear you need to soon, and would like them to let you know when it is a better time for them. Reinforce care for them by letting them know that you love and care for them and that you like being with them: you just want things to be as good between you as possible. Be aware of their personal sensitivities and insecurities and speak with kindness. “I think maybe your penis is too small,” for instance, is not a sensitive thing to say (and probably not even the real issue). “I’m feeling like this would feel even better with something fuller, maybe your hands?” is a serious improvement. “I’m having a hard time working out the difference between our reality and what I see in porn,” is far more accurate, sensitive and productive than “Why can’t you do what everyone in porn does?”
  • Watch your language.Part of communicating well (whether you’re talking about sex or something else) involves using terms which both people know the meaning of and are comfortable with. You may hit roadblocks to productive sexual communication if, say, you’re talking about “tea bagging” or “fingering” and your partner has no idea what you’re referring to (hint: when you say tea-bagging and they ask if you prefer herbal or black tea, they don’t understand you), or if your partner calls your genitals a “pussy” or a “prick” and those terms seriously turn you off or are gross to you. Be sure that when you are talking about sex, that you do so without making too many assumptions, and with care to what language you are using to express yourself; be open to making changes or clarifying in order to better that communication. Ask about what words work for your partner; tell them what words and language feel best to you. Everyone also has different levels of comfort when it comes to pillow talk — talking about sex during sex. Some people may like a partner to “talk dirty” during sex who either isn’t comfortable with that in general, or who is comfortable with that, but not yet. Plenty of people have a hard time — or just don’t like — talking about sex during sex, for the effect of heightening arousal, in general. Again, these tend to be matters of compatibility, and by discussing them — even in advance of sexual activity — even partners with some divergence of opinion can often find middle ground that works for both of them.
  • Make sexual communication an ongoing process. In other words, don’t expect one talk about one thing to be the only talk you’ll have or to net instant results. Most people tend to need time on their own to mull talks about sex over, since partnered sex can be so complex and sometimes tough to sort through, and a lot of the time you won’t have “The” talk, you’ll have a series of evolving talks about any given issue. As well, folks may not want to have a six hour gab-a-thon about a sensitive or emotionally loaded issue. It might be better to talk a bit about something one day, then suggest you go do something mellow and unloaded and talk about it more in a few days.
  • Expect the Best. If you walk into a sexual conversation anticipating that it will go poorly, it’s much more likely to. You’ll probably be more timid than you would otherwise, won’t do the best job of really stating your case, and may be less likely to be honest. If, instead, you walk in with the expectation that what you have to say is productive and important, and your partner can absolutely handle talking about sex (and if they’re having sex, they’d better be able to talk about it, too!) and listening to you, you’re more likely to communicate well and most honestly, and your partner is going to hear your confidence and trust in them in your voice.
  • By all means, accentuate the positive. Unless you’re talking with someone who is being abusive or is not minding your boundaries, when you have an otherwise positive sex life with someone, you can make them feel at ease and secure by being sure that even in areas you may be being critical, you’re also acknowledging the good stuff. For example, let’s say that you really enjoy sex with your partner, but their utter lack of communication makes you feel clueless as to what to do to be sure they’re enjoying it too. To keep positives in there, you might say something like, “I love being with you, and I love how you give me clues about what you like with your body. I think things could be even better, though, if you could also tell me, with words sometimes, what you like or want.”
  • Don’t ditch your sense of humor. Obviously, there are some conversations in which humor just isn’t appropriate – like when a partner is seriously stomping over your boundaries, or a partner needs to talk about previous sexual abuse with you. But in a lot of conversations about sex, it’s fine to have moments of lightness, and it’s helpful to inject a little laughter to help everyone feel more comfortable.

There are some people who strongly feel that any kind of talking during or about sex kills their buzz. Trouble is, we just HAVE to talk about sex at least sometimes, and if we’re really fully present with sex, then talking about it shouldn’t be a huge bummer. Someone who feels that way may also not be in the healthiest headspace: maybe talking kills things for them because they’re trying to pretend something is fine when it really isn’t. Maybe they’re trying really hard to avoid being vulnerable or close (in which case it’s mighty silly for them to be having sex, which is all about that), or want the sex they’re having to be more about a fantasy than the reality. Maybe they don’t want you to talk because they don’t want to leave you real room to say no or have a say. Maybe they’re really just not ready for sex with someone else, because being able to communicate is a big part of being ready.

If it feels to you that sexual issues cannot be discussed by you or your partner — either because you don’t feel ready, or because you think talking about them will spur on anger, upset, jealousy or massive insecurity — then you might want to wait for partnered sex with that person until you both do feel able to talk more comfortably, and have more practice doing it outside of bed, where any conversation tends to be a lot more loaded. Suffice it to say, if it feels patently unsafe to ever talk to your partner honestly about anything to do with sexuality, that’s just not a safe person to be with sexually at all.

Often, it also takes a few tries — and sometimes more than that — before we meet someone whose needs and wants are compatible with ours, or can work with a partner to find middle ground that works for both people. Because of that, it can be tempting to try and let things go unsaid we really need to be talking about, like limits and boundaries that aren’t being respected or communicated, wants or needs that aren’t being met, relationship models we know we can’t deal with, or sexual velocity that is just going too fast. Resist that temptation if it happens: you don’t want to set patterns or precedents for things that aren’t okay with you or aren’t working for you, because that makes it even harder to work them out in the long run. Put your limits and boundaries onto the table as soon as they come up. Even if it’s difficult, awkward, or feels risky to do, it’ll be a lot easier to set limits earlier rather than later, and taking risks to better understand each other is always a healthy risk to take with a good chance of delivering something positive and healthy.

Once you have some basic solid communication practices and dynamics down, it’s just a matter of basic care and feeding: if and when you do start having partnered sex, you’ll keep talking to one another, all the time, and it should become second-nature to always be communicating, sharing ideas, feelings and experiences without trying too hard. It’s not unusual, when you first start having partnered sex to go without heavy verbal communication for a while, because it’s new (and that newness can make things so exciting that even sex that isn’t physically so great is made better by the rush of something new), because you’re both caught up in all the things that feel good, and because things that aren’t yet as you like them, will just take more time. But over time, not only are you likely to need to talk more, you’ll both probably want to talk more, too.

Partnered sex is one of those things that tends to get better the longer you do it with someone, but part of why is communication that increases over that time. So, communication is important, but the sex you’re having also doesn’t need to feel like a lecture series to be healthy. You’ll probably find – as most people do — that when you start from a place of open communication, and keep communicating regularly and as needed – just opening that door not only makes communication become easier and easier over time – and when you get good at it with one partner, it tends to get easier with other partners over time — those regular habits will allow you to have more times when body language and monosyllables do you both just fine, and all the better than they would have if you didn’t have great verbal communication, too.

(Adapted and expanded from S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College)

heatherHEATHER CORINNA is an activist, artist, author and the director of Scarleteen, the inclusive online resource for teen and young adult sex education and information. She is also the author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College and was a contributor to the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. She’s received the The Champions of Sexual Literacy Award for Grassroots Activism (2007), The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Western Region’s, Public Service Award (2009), the Our Bodies, Ourselves’ Women’s Health Heroes Award (2009), The Joan Helmich Educator of the Year Award (2012), and The Woodhull Foundation’s Vicki Award(2013).

 

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

Best Lines of Defense Against Partner’s Excuses Not to Practice Safer Sex

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This post is for anyone who has ever complained about condoms/dams, or has faced complaints from a sex partner; or you are new to safer sex (or you’ve been out of the game for a while) and want to start practicing. In many ways, this post is actually for everyone! We’ve pooled together resources from Condom Monologues and Lucky Bloke to help prepare you with the best lines of reasoning and defense to common excuses against protective sex barriers.

Note: Negotiating safer sex is not confined to heterosexual relationships in which the female is making the male do something. This is an issue that happens in all types of relationships and power dynamics across genders. Knowing how to assert health boundaries is a tool for everyone (of all genders) to have:

Partner: “Condoms never fit me.”
You: “If you’re too big to fit any of these different sizes than you are too big for me.”

There is a deluge of condoms on the market today, all in a variety of smells, tastes, materials, and yes, sizes. There are condoms that are as small as 1.25″ in diameter and ones as large as 2.3″ in diameter. You would be hard-pressed to find a sexually active man who didn’t fall in that range! Need help determining his condom size? Find it here: http://www.luckybloke.com/choose-size

Partner: “It doesn’t feel good.” “I can’t feel anything”.
You: “I can’t enjoy sex if I don’t feel safe.”
“The safer I feel, the hotter the sex.”

or

Partner: “I want to be closer to you/feel you.”
You:“I can’t feel close to you if I don’t feel safe.”

Condoms, dams and lubes have come so far that, in a lot of ways, sex can actually be enhanced with these safety tools. Most importantly, you can feel safe knowing that you have greatly reduced your risk of catching STIs or getting pregnant when you aren’t ready to. Think of protective barriers as sex accessories.

Heather Corinna explains it best: “Asking someone to care for you in any way is not a barrier to intimacy: it’s not asking that keeps space between you…sexual health or even just how to use condoms and use them in a way that works for both of you is not something that keeps people apart, but that brings people closer together.”

Partner: “You think I have an STD”. “You don’t trust me.”
You:“This isn’t about me thinking that here is something wrong with you; this is about both our health.”

You know what? Using a condom and other protective barriers shows that you both care about yourselves and each other! Having unprotected sex is not an act that builds trust. Instead, it is an act that can occur as a result of already-built trust. Knowing that your partner will be there for you if sex results in a pregnancy, and knowing that your partner is not exposing you to a sexually transmitted infection, are what enables you to trust them with the act of bareback sex. See how that works? Trust is earned.

Partner: “Just this one time.”
You: “We’ve got all these condoms/dams. Let’s do it more than once!”
“Once is one too much for me.”

Being prepared with a variety of condoms/dams will be a great help. It is everyone’s personal responsibility to take care of their own health. Don’t assume one partner will be prepared, unless you have talked and made this arrangement with them.

It’s best to prepare with a variety of shapes, textures and flavors, latex and non-latex, because you want to find barriers that suit both you and your partner best. Plus experimenting adds a whole new dynamic to play. There are variety sample packs, like the one’s curated by Lucky Bloke, that can help you on your safer sex discovery.

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

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

Should Older Women “Use It or Lose It”?

use it or loose itFor both sexes, the old saying “use it or loose it” is indeed true. Sex educator and aging specialist Melanie Davis explains why maintaining a sex life is healthy and does your body good.

As we age, however, our sexual bodies change and Melanie Davis advises that we adapt to those changes and re-think our ways of being sexual. For example, investing is lubrication, trying new sex positions to protect joints, being sexually active during the afternoon instead of the evenings, etc. Melanie Davis explains the biological changes to expect in post-menopause and offers ways to accommodate these changes in order to maintain a healthy sex life (men are no exception to the “use it or loose it” rule and do experiences changes as they age too. This article happens to focus on women.)

In sum, our sexuality is not solely for reproduction. Just because a woman’s body no longer produces eggs does not mean she is void of sexuality.

Here are Melanie Davis’ key points on why the “use it or loose it” approach is beneficial to your health:

  • Solo or partnered sex exercises muscles and increases flexibility. The contracting vaginal muscles during sex and orgasm conditions the vaginal walls and works the tendons and muscles of the pelvic floor.
  • Sex can be physically energetic which gives the heart and joints a great workout!
  • Research has shown that orgasm can ease pain for hours.

All of these benefits point to the power of “using it!”

This article was originally published here.

BY MELANIE DAVIS, PhD | MelanieDavisPhD.com

I’ve consulted with several women lately who are 50-65 year old and are planning to have sex after a multi-year break. Their main concern has been whether that old “use it or lose it” adage is true.

It can be, since the ability to enjoy penetrative sex depends in large part to tissue moisture and suppleness. The good news is that women can maintain and regain their sexual enjoyment.
Decreasing estrogen in an older woman’s body plays a large role in her level of sexual enjoyment. If you look at sex from a strictly biological standpoint, once there’s no guarantee of “good eggs” due to age, the body shuts down the reproductive factory, starting with estrogen production. Estrogen keeps tissues supple and triggers transudation (the process of natural lubricant flowing through tissues in the vagina and vulva). Once a woman can no longer reproduce, the body has no biological use for sex; ergo, there’s no use fornatural lubrication or supple tissues.

But that’s not what women want to hear! Women consider ourselves more than reproductive vessels, and many women want to be sexually active — for myriad reasons — until the day they die.

Because the loss of estrogen causes tissues to thin, the already delicate vaginal, vulvar and anal skin is more apt to tear or feel painful from handling that once might have felt great. Also, the muscles in the pelvic floor start to get lax, so the bladder and other organs may droop, causing unpleasant pressure during penetration. This news can sound dreadful, and many women just assume their sex lives are over. However, if women make accommodations mentally, behaviorally, and, if need be, medically, they can enjoy post-menopausal sex. The key to enjoying sex while aging is to understand naturally occuring changes and to adapt to them.

Older women may need to consider some sexual behavioral changes, i.e., body positioning to protect joints and tissues, using condoms or dental dams if they have new partners, and rethinking when they engage in sex. For example, switching from late night to late afternoon sex can be helpful because medications have kicked in and fatigue hasn’t. Now’s also the time to load up on lubricant — silicone or water-based or even olive oil from the kitchen cabinet (but don’t use oil with condoms!)— to lubricate vulvar tissues and the entrance to the vagina or anus. If tissues are uncomfortably dry, see a healthcare practitioner for advice on whether an estrogen-containing product is indicated.

The act of sex, solo or partnered, exercises muscles and increases flexibility. The clenching and unclenching of vaginal muscles during sex and orgasm conditions the vaginal walls and works the tendons and muscles of the pelvic floor. And, if a woman expends a modicum of energy and movement during sex, the heart and joints get a workout. Orgasm has another benefit — research has shown it to ease pain for hours. All of these benefits point to the power of “using it.”

If you don’t have partnered sex, pleasure yourself. If you’ve never masturbated before, experiment with what feels good to you. If you have a partner who’s willing to get back into the groove after a long break (or if you have a new partner), schedule an internal exam with your healthcare provider to see whether your vagina is supple enough for penetration. If you’ve had some atrophy, stretching with dilators or physical therapy may be indicated.

Communicating with a partner is important because older women may require more time to become aroused enough to naturally lubricate. And those delicate tissues mean that the level of sexual touch and/or penetration may need to change. Older adults typically feel an decreased need for athleticism in the bedroom, too. Getting used to this change may require on-going conversations so both partners get the sexual satisfaction they desire.

Older women also need to attend to their self-esteem as they deal with the loss of their younger body — including less firm breasts, changing fat deposits, the thinning and graying of pubic hair and less plump labia. There may also be the diminishment of a partner’s looks or sexual function to adapt to, as well. It can be helpful to re-think was sex “looks like,” so to speak. Perhaps the goal need no longer be orgasm, but intimacy — at least some of the time. It’s also good to be aware that intimacy may be very different in older age if one’s partner dies and cuddling with a friend becomes the easiest way to satisfy skin hunger.

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

Scarleteen’s: Condom User Manual

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Condoms have a lot of advantages. They are the most effective form of protection against many STIs. They are the only method the protects against both STIs and pregnancy. They are affordable and accessible. Also, condoms are one of the only birth control methods in which both partners can share responsibility.

While using a condom is easy once you get the hang of it, the first few times can be a bit tricky. Heather Corinna from Scarleteen is here with a helpful step-by-step guide to condom application as well as a ton of tips, tricks and valuable information to keep you safer sex savvy.

This Condom User Manual includes:

  • For people with penises, it can be helpful to practice condom application alone in a no-pressure environment.
  • Try out a couple of styles of condoms, multi-packs are great for finding what works for you.
  • Latex allergies should not keep you from condom use, there are several non-latex options available.
  • Lubrication is very important. Always use additional lube for pleasure AND safety.
  • Condoms are necessary for oral sex (both vaginal and anal).
  • Women should keep their own condoms on hand to be sure that they are protected. Don’t rely on partners.

Read the original article at Scarleteen.

BY HEATHER CORINNA | Scarleteen

condom2Using a condom is easier than it looks, but the first few times, it can be tricky, especially if you’re nervous about knowing how to use one, or have never even opened one before. It’s important to know how to use condoms like a pro, to assure that they work to help prevent unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections or both, and because you want them to feel as good as possible for both partners. No matter what your gender is, or what your partner’s gender is, if one of you has a penis (or you both use a toy), knowing how to use a condom properly can make you safer and can make a big difference in your relationship.

Do yourself a favor — if you’re the person whose body part or toy a condom is going on, try it at home by yourself first, without the pressure of being watched, without worrying about losing an erection, or without the uncomfortable feeling that you’re being graded on your condom skills. You or a partner can also practice on a banana (silly, we know: but hey, it works!) with the same condom until you get it right. Either or both of you can put the condom on when the time is right, so it’s good for everyone to know how.

Condom use is just like tying your shoes: tying them all the time may be a bother sometimes, but if you don’t do it, you’ll trip and fall on your face. The consequences here can be far worse. A few STIs are incurable, and once you have them can create some health issues you may need to deal with for your whole life. A couple of them can shorten that life, and all of this also goes for your partners (and their partners, and their partners…). All of them can impact your health and the public health and cost you time, energy and money to deal with. If you’re in a relationship with an opposite sex partner, and condoms are your only method of reliable birth control, I don’t need to tell you why they’re important, even when you’re not the one who can wind up pregnant. One fantastic thing about condoms is that they are one of the only methods where both partners can share responsibility when it comes to birth control. They also make an excellent backup when using other methods. So, here’s how to do it right.

The Basics:

Copyright of Scarleteen. Re-published with permission.

Copyright of Scarleteen. Re-published with permission.

1) Use a good quality condom that is new, and well before the expiry date. Every condom has an expiration date on the package, so just take a look at it before you open one. be sure you’re also using a condom that hasn’t been kept anywhere where it can get worn or too warm or cold (it isn’t a good idea to keep them in your car, wallet or pocket for that reason).

When you first buy condoms, see if you can get a few different brands and styles for yourself. It can take some trial and error to find the kind that best fit you and feel best, so getting assortment packs, or a few small boxes of a couple different kinds is a good idea.

2) Open the condom wrapper carefully with your fingers, and roll it out a little so that the edge is rolled on the outside of the condom. That rolled-up edge needs to be on the outside, facing up, or the condom won’t roll down right. Put a few drops of water-based lube (such as Astroglide, KY Liquid or Liquid Silk) inside the tip of the condom: that not only helps with getting it on, it makes condoms feel a lot better during use. Only put a condom on AFTER there is a partial or full erection (after the penis has “gotten hard”).

3) Squeeze the tip of the condom with your fingertips to leave some extra space in the tip, and roll the rest down the length of the penis, while still pinching the top. The rim of the condom should be as close to the base of the penis as possible. When you’re down to the base, run your fingers from the tip all the way down to press out any air bubbles: this helps keep condoms from breaking.

4) Put some more latex-safe lube–lube that doesn’t contain any kind of oil–on the outside of the condom, and you’re good to go. While you are using the condom, neither you nor your partner need to hold onto its base: condoms are designed for hands-free use.

5) After ejaculation (or not, but you’re finished having genital sex — before you withdraw — hold the base of the condom (the rolled-up part) with your hand. If you withdraw without holding the base, the condom could slip off.

Keep your hand there while you withdraw, and until the penis is all the way out of the vagina, anus or mouth. Pull it off with that same hand on the rim of the condom and your other hand by the tip. Pulling it off by the tip alone not only makes a big mess, you could drip all over yourself what you just worked so hard to keep out. Tie a knot near the base of the condom.

6) Throw the condom away in the rubbish bin – NEVER reuse condoms. And please don’t just toss them outside a car or in a park: not only is that just plain gross and uncouth, it’s unhealthy for the rest of us. (Plus, that also means that now and then, as happened to me when I used to teach Kindergarten, some poor teacher winds up with some little kid finding one, waving it all over everyone and everything, and then said teacher having to quickly come up with a very good story about what exactly the “slobbery balloon” is, knowing her wee ones have just been exposed to gawd knows what.)

Never put two condoms on at once to try and be “extra safe”. Both of them will most likely break due to extra friction, and it just doesn’t work or feel very nice for the wearer. One condom, used properly, is as safe as it gets.

If that isn’t safe enough for you, don’t have sex yet where you need one — stick to outercourse — or, if it’s about birth control worries, back up condoms with a second method.

Some extra tips:

• You or a partner being allergic or sensitive to latex does NOT mean you can’t use condoms. It just means you need to use condoms made out of another material. The female condom is nonlatex, and there are a couple brands of male condoms (like Avanti or SKYN) which are also not made out of latex, but which provide just as much protection for you and yours. “Lambskin” condoms, while nonlatex, don’t provide protection against STIs, so those aren’t the best choice.

• If you are uncircumcised, gently push your foreskin back — only to the point where it’s comfortable — while you’re putting the condom on. When the condom is unrolled about 1/3 the way down the shaft, with one hand pull the foreskin together with the unrolled part of the condom upward while with the other hand unroll the condom to the base of the penis. That way, the condom will allow the foreskin to move as it should. It sounds a lot harder than it actually is — just practice a few times first and you’ll get the hang of it.

• Lubrication is really important. Let me say it again: lubrication is REALLY important.Condoms have a high rate of success, but that rate drops when they aren’t used properly, and one of the easiest ways to break a condom is by letting it get dried out. Buy some lubricant when you buy condoms. Not only will it help them work better, well-lubricated sex is generally more enjoyable sex for both you and your partner. Even if a person who has a vulva is plenty wet on their own, our own lubrication doesn’t tend to work as well (or last as long) with condoms as the stuff made for condom use does. Even when a condom is already lubricated, it’s a pretty stingy amount of lube. Do NOT use butter, oil, body lotion, Vaseline or ANY lubricant other than lubricants intended for use with condoms. If you could buy it in a store aisle where food is displayed, it isn’t the right kind of lube.

• Condoms don’t have to be a pain. Don’t try and rationalize your way out of using one, or put up with a partner who does: you’ll both need to get used to using them for a good part of your life, and even if one partner lets you get away with it, you can be sure another one won’t. Bad attitudes about condoms also tend to form a self-fulfilling prophecy, making them seem like more of a drag than they are.

Condoms keep both you and your partner safe. They’re one of the least intrusive kinds of birth control there is for people of all genders when it comes to sexual side effects. And when you don’t have to worry about getting diseases or getting pregnant, sex is a lot more fun. Being a partner who steps up to the plate and just puts on a condom, without a partner having to beg, cajole, nag or argue, also shows a level of maturity and care most folks are looking for in someone they sleep with. Once you get used to using condoms, it’s a total no-brainer, and when you’re using good condoms properly, they really don’t make a huge difference with sensation.

• You should also wear a condom during oral sex just as much as during vaginal or anal sex, especially with new partners. Most STIs are transmitted through bodily fluids and mucus membranes… both of which exist in and on your genitals and your mouth. While there are more STIs transmitted via direct genital contact, and the risks are higher with vaginal or anal intercourse than with oral sex, there are plenty which can be transmitted orally.

• If you’re a woman who sleeps with women and you use sex toys together which cannot be sterilized through boiling, you’ll want to use condoms every time to cover those toys. While lesbian women have far lower risks of STIs, BV–bacterial vaginosis–in particular gets passed around a lot between women, and if you’re sharing toys, that’s an easy way that can happen. Keeping the toys clean, or covering them if they can’t be cleaned to the point where all germs are killed, keeps everyone safe and healthy.

• Not only do thinner condoms feel better, but because they cause less friction they’re also less likely to break. Yippee! Remember that you don’t have to stick to old-style, plain condoms. The thinner condoms, or those with textures, are just as safe as the plain ones, and many people enjoy the feeling of newer styles better. Want to read about the different styles of condoms to find out what might be just right for you? Check it out!

• When it comes to condoms, don’t scrimp. If you can’t afford them at all, check out your local Planned Parenthood, other sexual health clinics or even community centers or school nurse’s offices. They often give them out for free. And if you find when you go to use a condom you have that it’s broken, or was already opened, or has some other flaw, don’t gamble. Either get a new condom that IS in perfect shape, or if you only have that one, nix sex that requires condom use until you get working condoms.

• Hey, Women! Do yourself and your partners a favor by having your own stock of condoms: don’t be passive and rely on the guys to get them or always have them around. Condom sales studies show that the majority of the time, condoms are purchased by men, and we often counsel folks here through pregnancy scares because two people found they both were relying on the other to be in charge of condoms, and neither were prepared. If women and men alike take charge when it comes to having condoms around, it not only helps prevent finding yourself in a precarious situation, it also empowers both to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to sex together, which makes not only for better sex and relationships, but for feeling better about sex and shared, equitable responsibility.

heatherHEATHER CORINNA is an activist, artist, author and the director of Scarleteen, the inclusive online resource for teen and young adult sex education and information. She is also the author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College and was a contributor to the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. She’s received the The Champions of Sexual Literacy Award for Grassroots Activism (2007), The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Western Region’s, Public Service Award (2009), the Our Bodies, Ourselves’ Women’s Health Heroes Award (2009), The Joan Helmich Educator of the Year Award (2012), and The Woodhull Foundation’s Vicki Award(2013).

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

4 Effective Condom Alternatives to Latex Sensitivity

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Latex sensitivity or latex allergy causes symptoms that can range from unpleasant to— in severe cases— deadly… nothing about that is sexy. So what is one to do when it comes to condoms? Lucky Bloke, global condom experts, to the rescue with several safer sex suggestions.

This article is intended to inform you of the various non-latex condom options available and what the benefits are of each. Here is some essential know-how:

  • Condom technology presents the latex sensitive with multiple, pleasurable alternatives to latex condoms. Here is a sample pack of non-latex options.
  • Polyurethane condoms are thinner and less elastic and form fitting than latex condoms. They do, however, transfer heat better.
  • Polyisoprene condoms are stretchier and more resistant to breakage than other condom options. They are also very soft to the touch and offer an enjoyable sensation.
  • The nitrile FC2 “female condom” is the only option that works no matter the size of the penis.

This article was originally published on YourTango.

BY MELISSA WHITE | CEO of LuckyBloke.com

If you or your partner has a latex sensitivity, all hope for a fun (and safer) sex life is not lost. Condom technology has come a long way, and there are some incredible alternatives to latex available. In fact, non-latex condoms can even be more pleasurable for couples, regardless of latex sensitivities. Lucky Bloke is here to share four top non-latex condom options:

1. Polyurethane condoms. Polyurethane condoms are made from a special type of plastic. They not only prevent pregnancy, they reduce your risk of STIs.

These condoms have no odor and tend to have a longer shelf life than latex condoms; they are not as sensitive to temperature or UV lighting. Best of all, polyurethane condoms transfer heat very well between the condom and skin. As a result, many people find that polyurethane condoms offer a more intimate and pleasurable sensation than latex condoms.

Compared to latex condoms, polyurethane condoms are thinner and less elastic. They are not as form fitting as latex condoms, so it’s important to keep that in mind when you’re getting frisky. It is highly recommended that users pair a quality water-based or silicone-based lube with polyurethane condoms to reduce the risk of slippage or breakage.

Our top pick: TROJAN | Supra which offers a standard fit

2. Polyisoprene condoms. These are relatively new to the market after gaining FDA approval for preventing pregnancy and STDs in 2008. These condoms are made out of a synthetic latex material which is just as strong as latex without containing the proteins that trigger allergic reactions.

Since this material was created in a laboratory setting, it has been engineered to offer a few key advantages over polyurethane or latex condoms. Notably, polyisoprene condoms are generally stretchier and more resistant to breakage than other condom options. They are slightly thicker than polyurethane or latex condoms and as a result, are a bit more form fitting. Despite the added thickness, polyisoprene condoms are very soft to the touch and offer an enjoyable sensation.

These condoms pair very well with water-based lubricants and silicone-based lubricants, but should never be used with oil based lubricants.

Our top picks: LifeStyles |SKYN which offers a standard fit; LifeStyles | SKYN Large which offers a larger fit

3. FC2.  The FC2 (aka the female condom) offers an advantage for women who want to ensure protection from pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infection. The female condom is a strong, thin, and flexible nitrile sheath inserted into the vagina, prior to sex. It has a flexible polyurethane ring on one end, a soft nitrile ring on the other, and is absolutely latex-free. It is pre-lubricated with a slick silicone-based lubricant, but additional lubricant can be used, as well.

Many advances have been made to the FC2 condom. It is not much larger than a “male” condom and it has no latex odor. There are so many advantages to this condom that it is impossible to list them all here.

The FC2 is a great choice for any condom user who has any type of allergies or chemical sensitives. Also, as the woman wears the condom, they are the only option that works no matter the size of the man’s penis. This is incredibly important for men who benefit from a slimmer, more tailored condom. The FC2 is the only non-latex option for these couples.

The FC2 is also the ideal alternative for any couple that faces condom-related erectile challenges. And if this isn’t enough, couples who seek enhanced pleasure (better heat transmission, more stimulation, and a natural feel) should absolutely check the FC2 out.

Our top pick: FC2 | Female Condom which offers a fantastic fit, regardless of penis size

4. Natural skin condoms. Natural skin condoms are one of the oldest methods of preventing pregnancy, and are made from a thin layer of sheep cecum (which is part of sheep intestines). Due to their porous nature, lambskin condoms should only be used to prevent pregnancy. They are not effective at preventing STIs/STDs. Unless you are absolutely certain that both you and your partner are STD-free, lambskin condoms are NOT the option for you.

Many people who use lambskin condoms say that they’re extremely pleasurable due to their thin construction, and how well they conduct heat. In fact, many men who use lambskin condoms have reported that they’re barely able to tell that they’re even wearing a condom during sex. For those who are concerned about the environment, these condoms are also completely biodegradable. They’re not as elastic as latex condoms, and they’re a bit more generous in fit than latex alternatives.

Since these condoms are made from an animal by-product, they do have a certain smell that might take some getting used to. Of the three latex condom alternatives, lambskin condoms are by far the most expensive at several dollars per condom, and are currently only manufactured by TROJAN. Despite these potential drawbacks, lambskin condoms remain popular and can be used with any lubricant.

Our top pick: TROJAN | NaturaLamb which will fit all men albeit a bit differently

Even if you don’t have a latex allergy, it’s not a bad idea to keep a few non-latex condoms at hand if you’re sexually active with multiple partners. You never know when you might end up in a sexy situation with someone who has a latex sensitivity. Safe sex is everyone’s responsibility.

For those of you in a monogamous relationship, there’s a lot to be said for keeping things fresh in the bedroom; trying out new condoms might just give you the incentive you need to get busy.

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