Category Archives: Sexual Health

This Bi Visibility Day, let’s hear it for the “B” in LGBTI!

This Bi Visibility Day, let’s hear it for the “B” in LGBTI!

2018-09-25

Today is Bi Visibility Day and this year we’re marking the moment with a brand new mini-campaign focusing on busting the myths surrounding bisexuality.

Bi people suffer many of the same abuses as gay men and lesbians – including criminalization, violence and discrimination. They also have to deal with an additional set of negative stereotypes, such as the myth that being bi is a phase or that bi people are promiscuous, confused, or just seeking attention. Some people wrongly believe that bi people don’t experience violations because they can “choose” to be in relationships that will be perceived as straight. As a result, most bi people fear coming out – even to their closest family and friends.

None of these assumptions are true, but they leave many bi people feeling misunderstood, isolated and at risk of harm. You can help change that!

Click on the link, below, to visit our new campaign action page, where you’ll find a new animated myth-busting video, advice on how to be an ally to the bi community, and a factsheet for those looking to learn more. Please take a moment to read up, watch the video and share a message of support on social media.

https://www.unfe.org/bivisibility/

This Bi Visibility Day, let’s hear it for the “B” in LGBTI!

In solidarity,

Team UN Free & Equal

www.unfe.org

FYI: Masturbating Wrong Can Lead To Sexual Dysfunction

FYI: Masturbating Wrong Can Lead To Sexual Dysfunction

2018-09-18

Do you masturbate? If you answered ‘no’, you’re likely to be one of those automated internet bots; or else you’re probably lying, according to a recent survey on sexual health and behavior. The study showed that for people in their twenties, 84.6 per cent of women and 93 per cent of men admitted to masturbating! But if so many of us are doing it, why aren’t we speaking openly about it?

Why is masturbation taboo?

Why do kids love to put sugar on corn flakes? This is because corn flakes are, well, bland; and this is no coincidence. The product was designed by a medical doctor called John Kellogg – a proponent of the anti-masturbation movement who intentionally made corn flakes neutral tasting as he believed a bland diet would reduce sexual desire!

This idea that masturbation is bad has been reinforced by other ill-informed health professionals of the 20th century. It was said, for example, that rubbing one out could cause blindness, cancer, tuberculosis and a range of other ailments – ideas which have since been disproved. And of course, since biblical times religious institutions have told us that masturbation is a mortal sin. Why is our society so uncomfortable about the simple act of tugging the slug?

Life is chaotic and unpredictable – we all know this, on some level. As a society, then, we experience an unconscious need to gain a sense of control over ourselves, our lives and our world. Sexual urges are natural and inevitable – we’re going to experience them one way or another. But masturbation is an act which we can choose to control.

By portraying masturbation as dirty, bad, forbidden and unhealthy, we are giving ourselves a wonderfully simple choice: don’t masturbate and you’ll be good; do the five-finger shuffle and you’ll be bad. This may be part of the reason why masturbation is a taboo topic: it’s comforting, on a psychological level, to have things set out in black and white and to portray something that we don’t fully understand as being bad.

Why should we speak more openly about masturbation?

Upon reaching a legal drinking age, an adolescent is likely to pay a trip to the bottle store. Ideally, the teen should also get a lecture on how to drink responsibly. The same should apply when it comes to masturbation! Let’s explore why.

1. Sex addition is a growing phenomenon

Can you become addicted to masturbation, or perhaps porn? Sex-based addictions and compulsions aren’t yet counted as official diagnoses in their own right, at least not by the American Psychiatric Association. But that doesn’t mean that these problems aren’t real! A visit to any sexual health clinic – or my own consulting room, for that matter – will show that compulsive porn use and masturbation (which often go hand-in-hand) can cause big problems in people’s lives. It’s by talking about these risks -and creating a space where people feel comfortable to ask for support – that we can combat this problem.

2. Incorrect masturbation habits are linked to sexual dysfunction

Some of us may have developed a habit of rushing through masturbation – we learnt this when we were shameful adolescents, nervous about being caught or overheard by our parents. Rushing the process, however, trains our bodies to do the same during sex; and this can lead to a form of sexual dysfunction called premature ejaculation, which can be extremely distressing and emotionally debilitating for men who suffer from it.

Furthermore, do you use porn to help you masturbate? If so, you’re not alone; but researchtells us that porn actually changes the structure of our brains, desensitizing us to sexual stimuli and making it unlikely that we’ll be aroused by anything other than porn. This can put you at risk of serious sexual health concerns such as erectile dysfunction and performance anxiety.

3. Men feel unnecessary emotional distress

While societies attitudes toward masturbation are slowly shifting (particularly for men), those who do wax the carrot often end up feeling embarrassed, guilty or ashamed from participating in this natural and healthy process. Women who masturbate are potentially at an even greater risk of feeling shame, given the taboo that surrounds female masturbation in particular!

Apart from being unpleasant, these sorts of emotions can cause unnecessary harm. One study, for example, found that men who felt guilty about solo sex experienced higher levels of general distress, anxiety, depression, alcohol use, relationship problems and general sexual problems! However, this unnecessary guilt can be avoided if we’re able to speak openly and normalize this ordinary aspect of our sexuality!

4. Masturbation is healthy

Despite what 20th century doctors – and perhaps your grandmother – have been saying: masturbation won’t make you go blind, become impotent or grow hair on your hands. Quite the opposite, doctors today will tell you that masturbation, especially when done correctly, is healthy!

The benefits are extensive: masturbating can lower your risk of prostate cancer and may improve your immune system; it creates a cocktail of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin and also lowers your levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) which can protect from you from other stress-related illnesses. One study even suggests that masturbating more primes your body and mind for intercourse, meaning that you’re likely to have more sex; and if you know how to masturbate correctly you can program your brain and body to last longer in bed!

In my own therapy room, clients usually become visibly uncomfortable when we start talking about masturbation! Ironically, it’s once they start opening up about this important aspect of their sexual and psychological health that they truly stand to gain from what sex therapy can offer.

As a society, we have come a long way since repressive, Victorian times. Nonetheless, we still have a long way to go. We need to start combatting the taboo and stigma that accompanies discussions of masturbation, so that those engaging in it (i.e. everyone) can make sure that they’re accessing the multiple health benefits on offer!

Daniel Sher is a registered clinical psychologist. He serves as a professional consultant for the Between Us Clinic, which provides sex-therapy online programs.

https://www.menshealth.com.au/incorrect-masturbation-habits-are-linked-to-sexual-dysfunction?category=Sex

4 Common Sexual Insecurities, And How To Fight Them

4 Common Sexual Insecurities, And How To Fight Them

2018-09-07

Sex and anxiety go together like socks and flip-flops; i.e. not well at all. We’re all a little bit insecure, whether we’re aware of this or not. When it comes to the bedroom, however, us men are particularly prone to doubting ourselves. Unfortunately, sexual insecurities can have a devastating effect on our sex lives, relationships and self-esteem.

What’s the link between anxiety and sexual performance?

Anxiety can trigger various forms of sexual dysfunction. How? This happens because anxiety hijacks your brain and body, generating a burst of hormones and electrical activity that sends you into fight-or-flight mode. It’s impossible to have sex in this state because on a biological level, your brain is pushing your body to fight or flee – not fornicate. We discuss four common sexual insecurities faced by men and what you can do to address them.

Penis Envy

Most men would like a bigger penis, but why is this such an issue for so many? The short answer (ha!) is that our joy-sticks carry a lot of symbolic weight, representing everything from power and dominance to competency and success. We are also told that a real man should be, well, Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones: dominant, confident, aggressive and super ripped.

But nobody is all of these things all of the time; and so we carry a perpetual sense of insecurity, which we project onto our junk. Unfortunately, however, this can lead to serious self-esteem issues and research shows that men who worry too much about the size of their penis are more likely to face erectile problems and premature ejaculation.

Regrettably, there are limited penis enlargement strategies that actually work. While surgery may add a few centimeters to your flaccid penis, it does not change the size of your erection and it can cause serious nerve and tissue damage. Other strategies – creams, devices, weights and pills – are not effective, so don’t even waste your time.

So, what can you do? Keep in mind that statistically speaking, your penis is probably of normal proportions, despite that niggling voice in your head that says otherwise. Moreover, remember that in most cases penis size doesn’t really matter that much: research shows, for example, that only a minority of women are concerned about this issue; and 85% of females were perfectly happy with the length of their partners’ gear.

This means that ultimately, you’d be better off investing your energy into aspects of yourself that can be changed. Like what? You could work on your communication skills and take your emotional connection to a higher level. You could also work towards becoming a foreplay master. These skills will be far more useful in the bedroom than an elephant trunk in your pants.

Body Image Concerns

Body image concerns are becoming an increasingly common source of sexual insecurity among men. Who wouldn’t want to be stronger, slimmer and more ripped? Studies have shown that 40% of us are unhappy with our bodies and a quarter of men prefer to have sex with the lights off as a result.

Apart from negatively impacting your sex life, these sorts of concerns are linked to self-esteem issues, eating disorders, depression and more. But no one should have to feel ashamed of their body and if this is causing you serious distress or getting in the way of your ability to live a normal life, speak to your doctor or psychologist about getting some support. Apart from that, if you’re able to adopt a healthy lifestyle in terms of your diet, exercise and sleep schedules, this may help you change the way you feel about yourself by increasing your self-esteem and confidence.

Worrying About Satisfying Your Partner Sexually

Why are we so hung up on this, especially when it’s not necessarily such a bad thing? One study showed that men desperately want their partners to orgasm because this makes them feel more masculine. So, we’re obsessed with giving orgasms because we care about our partners, but also because we’re caught up in our own fragility.

What can you do? Remember that penetrative sex with an orgasm at the end is not the be all and end all. Rather, we need to focus on creating an experience of mutual pleasure. Sexually, this often means concentrating more on foreplay. But don’t restrict yourself to that: a fulfilling sex life is built on solid emotional foundations. Aim for satisfaction by giving her a massage, cooking her dinner and providing your undivided attention after asking about her day. All of this will ease the pressure and help you to realize that your relationship can be intensely satisfying, even if she doesn’t climax every time.

Falling into the Performance Anxiety Cycle

The three sexual insecurities listed above are common sources of sexual anxiety; and the big problem is that a single case of erectile dysfunction is often enough to make a man anxious about whether or not he can get an erection the next time he tries to have sex. After a bad sexual experience or two you might find yourself deep in the sexual performance anxiety cycle, which is challenging to get out of.

In fact, so many of us are insecure about our erections that in 2017, Pfizer earned $1.2 billion from Viagra sales in the U.S. alone! However, while drugs might work for erectile problems that are caused by aging or medical conditions, these sorts of pills fail to address the underlying cause in people who have erectile dysfunction that’s caused by psychological factors.

It’s common to worry about being able to get or keep it up. But because of the way that anxiety affects the brain, worrying about your erection reduces your ability to have one. Whether or not you’ve actually been diagnosed with erectile dysfunction, the best way of tackling this common form of insecurity is by treating the underlying sexual performance anxiety that causes erectile problems in so many of us.

wning Your Sexual Insecurity

Insecurity is part and parcel of being a man, even though so few of us are able to speak about it. It’s important, though, that we become comfortable with the parts of ourselves that don’t quite match up to what our society deems masculine. One way of doing this is by focusing on an aspect that so many men are acutely aware of: sexual insecurity. If we’re able to heal or at least accept the four sexual insecurities that we have discussed here today, we’ll be able to improve our own sex lives whilst also strengthening our relationships and ultimately become better men by being more open, honest and self-aware.

Daniel Sher is a registered clinical psychologist. He serves as a professional consultant for the Between Us Clinic, which provides sex-therapy online programs.

https://www.menshealth.com.au/how-to-overcome-sexual-insecurity

Porn Makes Men Think Women Will Do Just About Anything

Porn Makes Men Think Women Will Do Just About Anything

2018-08-29

Taxi-driver themed porn makes men think women will have sex with strangers on their commutes, a new study suggests.

en who watch certain porn genres tend to think that women are more likely to engage in unprotected, rough sex with strangers or co-workers, according to a new study. Many prior studies had examined “the association between porn use and various attitudes,” co-author on the study Daniel Miller of James Cook University in Australia told Fatherly. “However, the nature of these studies made it hard to determine causation.” Until now.

Indeed, past research has demonstrated a correlation between violent ideas and a preference for violent pornography, but it is hard to say whether porn influences attitudes. It could be that porn causes men to have colder attitudes towards women, or that men who already felt that way are more likely to consume that type of porn. More concrete studies have shown that men who watch porn in which condom usage is not depicted are less likely to use condoms themselves.

Miller and colleagues added to this body of research with a study of 418 men, conducted online to allow for more candor. “Coming into a lab and watching porn while a researcher is present is a very weird situation,” Miller says. “Porn watching is a private activity.” Participants were surveyed on their porn use over the past six months, and then shown either a 22-minute video of taxi driver-themed porn (where a driver propositions a woman for sex) or a 22-minute non-pornographic educational video. Then men were asked to evaluate how likely a woman was to except a sexual proposition from a taxi driver or her boss.

They found that viewing the taxi-themed porn did not influence how men evaluated women’s willingness to have sex. But past exposure did. Men who had watched taxi-themed or boss-themed pornography within the past six months were more likely to think that women would be interested in having unprotected, rough, porn-like sex with a stranger or manager. “I was surprised by how many participants indicated that they had watched taxi-themed porn in the past,” Miller says.

“I was expecting it to be a little more obscure than that.”

Miller acknowledges that participants were not randomly selected and are not likely representative of all men as a result — older, and less educated men, are unlikely to respond to online surveys. Miller recommends follow up research look at the effects porn has on the propensity to have one-night stands, and how it influences how men interpret women’s willingness to have sex. “If you are a porn user — and according to surveys, very large segments of the population are — it might be worth considering if porn has had an influence over your thinking, even at a very basic level,” Miller says.

“Are there men who just assume the over-the-top, oftentimes rough, sex depicted in pornography is the norm, even among two people who just met? This study would suggest that this is quite possibly the case.”

4 Sexual Health Benefits of Barre Workouts

4 Sexual Health Benefits of Barre Workouts

You’ve probably heard of barre, a ballet-inspired workout that blends Pilates, dance, yoga, and technique driven exercises that focus on strengthening small muscles you may neglect in other types of training. But many guys have zero interest in trying a barre workout, thinking it’s exclusively reserved for women.

Think again, though, because you can totally benefit from taking barre. Not only will it build lean muscle, but it also may be able to improve your sex life. Which makes sense, when you think about it: the pulsing, tucking, and holding motions that are key to barre also work out the pelvic floor muscles, which are key to orgasm.

 

What is barre?

Barre class is basically a mixture of ballet, pilates, and yoga. It mostly focuses on the lower body, such as the thighs, gluteal muscles, and legs, as well as the core. Most exercises are done at the bar.

“In comparison to strength training, which focuses on improving more massive movements (e.g., squatting), barre works toward enhancing smaller, ‘isometric’ movements,” says clinical sexologist Dr. Damian Jacob Sendler.

Those “isometric” movements are a form of strength training in which you apply tension without contracting the muscles — and they can lead to greater gains in the bedroom. Here’s the low-down on barre and why you should sign up ASAP. Leggings are optional.

1) It improves your circulation and increases the strength of your erections.

It’s no secret that ballet dancers are in really, really good shape. “In one classic study from the 1980s of a group of professional ballet dancers, barre exercises increased the amount of calories burned, improved normal oxygenation of the heart muscle, and improved core strength of the leg muscles,” he says.

Improved oxygenation allows the brain and heart to work better together and utilize oxygen more effectively, he says. And that plays a role in “driving greater sexual performance in attaining and maintaining an erection for more extended periods of time,” he adds.

Better circulation = more blood flow to the penis. “Blood plays the central role in causing penile engorgement, so healthy flow of the blood into penile tissue ensures successful erection,” he explains.

2) You have more staminas and can hold positions for longer.

You’ll get your heart rate up with each pulse and hold, which helps to build endurance in general. “This may be air squats, lunges or holding a plank posture for 1-3 minutes,” says Dr. Holly Richmond, also a clinical sexologist. “Improved cardio means increased stamina in the bedroom—you can have more sex and for a longer duration,” she says. (And hey, that’s the dream, right?)

3) You become more flexible.

Greater range of motion and flexibility is another key feature of barre workouts. “Being flexible allows you to get into and hold various and more challenging sexual positions,” says Richmond. You can get deeper, spread your legs wider, and bend with ease. So, if you’ve been tempted to try a few “advanced” sex positions, barre might just help you get there.

4) You’ll have stronger orgasms.

“Perhaps most specific to barre workouts—and one of the reasons I chose them after I had my children—is how effective they are for strengthening the pelvic floor,” says Richmond.

This benefit isn’t just specific to women. Research backs this up, indicating that weak pelvic floor muscles are associated with erectile dysfunction.

Many barre exercises utilize squeezing, pulsing, thrusting and holding of the muscles in the glutes and hips, which strengths those crucial pelvic muscles, Richmond says.

“Essentially, you just have to squeeze your pelvic floor like you are trying to stop peeing with every isometric barre pulse. After 4-6 months of barre workouts, most of my patients (men and women alike) report stronger orgasms,” Richmond says.

This article originally appeared on Men’s Health.

https://www.menshealth.com.au/sexual-health-benefits-of-barre-workouts?category=Sex

Health workers ‘should help people with STIs notify their partners’

Health workers ‘should help people with STIs notify their partners’

2018-08-24

Health workers should help people with sexually transmitted infections notify their partners about their condition, according to new official guidance.

Helping people diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections (STI) inform their partners may stem the spread of infection, according to a new draft quality standard by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice).

The new document states that healthcare workers, such as GPs, practice nurses and sexual health consultants, should support people diagnosed with an STI to notify their partners.

“Partner notification may be undertaken by the healthcare professional or the person diagnosed with an STI,” the document states.

It added: “Supporting people who have been diagnosed with an STI to notify their partners can help to reduce the transmission of STIs.

“It can also ensure that their partners are tested, and if necessary treated, as soon as possible to prevent health complications.”

Services should ensure that they are prepared to talk to people about “partner notification” and to support people to inform their sexual partners, Nice said.

In 2017, there were 422,147 diagnoses of STIs made in England, it added.

The new quality standard, which has been put out to consultation, aims to improve the care for people accessing sexual health services.

It also states that patients should be seen within 48 hours of requesting an appointment, to reduce the likelihood of them passing on infections and to reduce complications of illness.

A Nice spokesman said: “It’s important that partners of people diagnosed with an STI have the opportunity to be tested themselves and if necessary treated, in order to prevent the spread of infections and to reduce their risk of developing health complications.

“That’s why our draft standard supports best practice in current sexual health services, that help and support should be provided to people who might otherwise find it difficult to tell their partners about their STI.”

Welcoming the new standard, Dr Diana Mansour, vice president for clinical quality for the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said: “One of the recommendations of the draft standard is that people diagnosed with an STI are encouraged to notify their partners.

“FSRH strongly supports this recommendation so that STI morbidity is reduced in the community.

“For healthcare professionals, this means supporting people to contact their own partners or to directly contact, test and treat partners of those with an STI without revealing the patient’s identity.

“Partner notification can make patients feel uncomfortable. It might pose a strain in relationships new and old or cause embarrassment with more casual partners.

“However, STIs can pose serious health consequences both to the patient and their partners such as infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease.

“STI rates are on the rise, with a 20% increase in syphilis cases in 2017 compared to 2016, so we encourage people to visit their local sexual and reproductive health clinic and be tested.”

How Yoga Enhances Sex And Sexual Health For Men And Women!

How Yoga Enhances Sex And Sexual Health For Men And Women!

2018-06-22

With the growing popularity of complementary therapy and alternative medicine, more and more people are practicing yoga. Although many engage in yoga as a form of exercise, its origins teaches how to attain balance in all aspects of life, most especially concerning diet, exercise, breathing, relaxation, and positive thinking and meditation. Two of the most common questions asked of yoga are: “Does yoga enhance sex?” and “How yoga enhances sex”.

CAN YOGA IMPROVE YOUR SEX LIFE?

Healthier men and women can engage in more fulfilling sex if they are well. Multiple studies have demonstrated that individuals who are more physically active experience a more satisfying sex life. Do sexy yoga poses count as exercise? Here are three of the available evidence to prove that you can use yoga to increase sexuality whether you are a woman or a man:

 

•A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2010 demonstrated how 40 sexually active females experienced improved sexual satisfaction by practicing yoga for better sex. The study subjects were taught 22 yoga poses that are believed to positively influence sexuality by stimulating the abdominal and pelvic muscles, as well as by enhancing good mood, and improving joint health and digestion. 75 per cent of the study subjects claimed that they experienced more satisfying sex after training for yoga. This study establishes how to improve female sexual health by practicing yoga.

•Another study also published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2010 showed that male sexual functioning responded well to the practice of yoga. The study involved 65 sexually active males who reported marked improvements in all parameters used by the researchers to gauge enhanced sexual function. Some of the parameters are desire, satisfaction, erection, orgasm, and ejaculatory control.

•A study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy in 2009 reviewed available empirical as well as anecdotal data available at the time to determine how yoga is related to erectile dysfunction (ED). According to researchers, evidence was available linking yoga with the relief of stress and high blood pressure. The study also pointed out how yoga helped improve weight management. All of these factors have been found to be three of the determinants of ED. Improving these conditions, therefore, also improved ED, and yoga enhances sex.

WHAT YOGA POSES TO PRACTICE TO ENHANCE YOUR SEX LIFE

Yoga poses for men and women are available. Don’t worry if you can’t perform these poses absolutely 100 per cent, most especially if you’ve never practiced yoga before because all of these can be modified to suit a beginner. Learn yoga for improving sex by starting with these 5 poses:

1. Downward Facing Dog. Go down on the floor. Place both palms against the floor. Do the same for both feet. Make sure your palms and feet are laid out flat against the floor as you bring your back up. To ensure you are performing the pose with the proper posture, your upper body and lower body should form a “V”. If you are a beginner, you can make the slope less steep.

2. Forward Plank Pose. This will have to be one of the easiest yoga sex positions to imitate, although it will have to count as one of the most difficult ones to hold. Start by going face down on the floor. You can either stretch out your arms so that your elbows are straightened or, place your elbows and lower arms to be perpendicular against the floor. Support the lower part of your body with only your toes, each pressed against the floor.

3. Cat-Cow Pose. You will find that once you get well accustomed to the cat-cow pose you can easily adapt it for a yoga sex position level up your next ‘sexercise’ session with your partner. Start by kneeling on the floor. Place your legs slightly apart with the back of both feet laid flat against the floor. Lean forward so that you are down on all fours. Place your palms against the floor, arms and elbows straight. Bring your head up so that you are facing the ceiling. As you look up, bend your hips so that your lower back forms a deep “U” shape. Hold the pose for at lease a minute.

Then, without moving your legs and arms, bring down your head to face so that you are staring directly at your thighs. As you bring your head inward, bend your hips up so that you form a hunchback. Hold the pose for a minute. Keep alternating between the poses.

4. Bridge Pose. This is the yoga version of kegel exercises. It tightens the muscles of your vagina and pelvis. This can be considered as one of the sexual yoga poses that you can try as a sex position. To do this pose, start by lying on the floor with your knees bent, legs slightly apart. Place your arms and palms flat against the floor. Relax your head, nape and shoulders against the floor. Hold your legs and arms this way even as you raise your back and thighs in such a way that a straight incline forms from your shoulders to your knees. Hold the pose for several minutes before bringing down. Repeat for several minutes.

5. Shoulder Stand. This pose firms up muscles on your shoulders, neck and nape, and also stretches and strengthens your hips and lower back. For beginners, do this pose next to a wall. Raise your legs, thighs all the way to your shoulder blades, up. Lay your arms across. For advanced yoga practitioners. Do the same without the wall to support your body. Bring both palms and arms to rest on your lower back to support it as you raise your body.

CONCLUSION: While a Virectin review can help you decide on whether or not a male enhancement supplement may bring positive improvements to your and to your partner’s sex life, yoga teaches you how to be more sexual. By striking a balance in your life, the sexual benefits that you can derive from yoga will no longer be confined to instant, one-off sexual satisfaction. Yoga enhances sex but, with continued practice, your sexual health, not only your performance during a sexual act, is improved now and in the years to come.

https://theinscribermag.com/how-yoga-enhances-sex-and-sexual-health-for-men-and-women/

Sex and gender both shape your health, in different ways

Sex and gender both shape your health, in different ways

When you think about gender, what comes to mind? Is it anatomy or the way someone dresses or acts? Do you think of gender as binary — male or female? Do you think it predicts sexual orientation?

Gender is often equated with sex — by researchers as well as those they research, especially in the health arena. Recently I searched a database for health-related research articles with “gender” in the title. Of the 10 articles that came up first in the list, every single one used “gender” as a synonym for sex.

Although gender can be related to sex, it is a very different concept. Gender is generally understood to be socially constructed, and can differ depending on society and culture. Sex, on the other hand, is defined by chromosomes and anatomy — labelled male or female. It also includes intersex people whose bodies are not typically male or female, often with characteristics of both sexes.

Researchers often assume that all biologically female people will be more similar to each other than to those who are biologically male, and group them together in their studies. They do not consider the various sex- and gender-linked social roles and constraints that can also affect their health. This results in policies and treatment plans that are homogenous.

‘Masculine?’ ‘Cisgender?’ ‘Gender fluid?’

The term “gender” was originally developed to describe people who did not identify with their biological sex. John Money, a pioneering gender researcher, explained: “Gender identity is your own sense or conviction of maleness or femaleness; and gender role is the cultural stereotype of what is masculine and feminine.”

There are now many terms used to describe gender — some of the earliest ones in use are “feminine,” “masculine” and “androgynous” (a combination of masculine and feminine characteristics).

More recent gender definitions include: “Bigender” (expressing two distinct gender identities), “gender fluid” (moving between gendered behaviour that is feminine and masculine depending on the situation) and “agender” or “undifferentiated” (someone who does not identify with a particular gender or is genderless).

If a person’s gender is consistent with their sex (e.g. a biologically female person is feminine) they are referred to as “cisgender.”

Gender does not tell us about sexual orientation. For example, a feminine (her gender) woman (her sex) may define herself as straight or anywhere in the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex and asexual or allied) spectrum. The same goes for a feminine man.

Femininity can affect your heart

When gender has actually been measured in health-related research, the labels “masculine,” “feminine” and “androgynous” have traditionally been used.

Research shows that health outcomes are not homogeneous for the sexes, meaning all biological females do not have the same vulnerabilities to illnesses and diseases and nor do all biological males.

Gender is one of the things that can influence these differences. For example, when the gender of participants is considered, “higher femininity scores among men, for example, are associated with lower incidence of coronary artery disease…(and) female well-being may suffer when women adopt workplace behaviours traditionally seen as masculine.”

In another study, quality of life was better for androgynous men and women with Parkinson’s disease. In cardiovascular research, more masculine people have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease than those who are more feminine. And research with cancer patients found that both patients and their caregivers who were feminine or androgynous were at lower risk of depression-related symptoms as compared to those who were masculine and undifferentiated.

However, as mentioned earlier, many health researchers do not measure gender, despite the existence of tools and strategies for doing so. They may try to guess gender based on sex and/or what someone looks like. But it is rare that they ask people.

A tool for researchers

The self-report gender measure (SR-Gender) I developed, and first used in a study of aging, is one simple tool that was developed specifically for health research.

The SR-Gender asks a simple question: “Most of the time would you say you are…?” and offers the following answer choices: “Very feminine,” “mostly feminine,” “a mix of masculine and feminine,” “neither masculine or feminine,” “mostly masculine,” “very masculine” or “other.”

Self-report gender tool. (Lisa Carver)Author provided

The option to answer “other” is important and reflects the constant evolution of gender. As “other” genders are shared, the self-report gender measure can be adapted to reflect these different categorizations.

It’s also important to note that the SR-Gender is not meant for in-depth gender research, but for health and/or medical studies, where it can be used in addition to, or instead of, sex.

Using gender when describing sex just muddies the waters. Including the actual gender of research participants, as well as their sex, in health-related studies will enrich our understanding of illness.

By asking people to tell us their sex and gender, health researchers may be able to understand why people experience illness and disease differently.

http://theconversation.com/sex-and-gender-both-shape-your-health-in-different-ways-98293

Don’t Put This Up There

Don’t Put This Up There

2018-06-12

From yogurt to oregano oil to lemon juice (OUCH!), the internet is chock-full of suggestions and remedies for women’s sexual health.

By Jen Gunter

People always want to know the most unusual object I’ve retrieved from a vagina.

I’ll never tell.

One, because the woman involved could recognize herself and feel betrayed. Yes, some items are that unusual.

The other reason is that the unfortunate sequence of events that ends with a visit to my OB-GYN practice or the emergency room is almost always the unanticipated consequence of sexual experimentation. Lots of objects seem sexually adventurous until the moment one realizes they are not. And realizes that they are stuck.

Sexual experimentation with household items is nothing new, though the nature of the object has changed slightly to match the times — think along the lines of a progression from a soda bottle to a diet soda bottle to an energy water bottle to a Kombucha bottle — over my 25 years of practice.

Another change I’ve noticed in that time is the increased touting of various “natural” and “ancient” vaginal remedies with household items. The reasons could range from “vaginal maintenance” (a term that, as an expert, I struggle to further qualify) to the treatment of yeast infections to contraception to improving sex lives.

There are two themes at play that seem simultaneously opposing yet complementary: that natural is best and that the vagina is so dirty, fragile or in need of nourishment (or all three) that it is one wrong pair of underwear or wet bathing suit away from complete catastrophe.

And this is how lemon juice (ouch), yogurt, garlic (double ouch), cucumber and oregano oil (super, mega ouch) are finding their way into vaginas worldwide. No, you are not reading a recipe for tzatziki sauce.

Many of these supposed natural therapies claim to have supporting science, although what is offered as proof is easily dismissed with a cursory knowledge of reproductive physiology. Lemon juice is recommended to acidify the vagina (it cannot). Yogurt is suggested because its bacteria could help repopulate the healthy, vaginal bacteria (commercial yogurts don’t have the right strains). Sea sponges are recommended for menstrual hygiene (testing has revealed they have bacteria and debris and they could introduce far more oxygen — a bad thing — into the vagina than a tampon or menstrual cup).

What is simultaneously fascinating and depressing is that these “newly discovered ancient therapies” are neither ancient nor effective. Instead they are the result of celebrity wellness sites, social media and even some doctors recycling material from health almanacs and digests that used to be found at the grocery store and repackaging their content under the guise of female empowerment.

What is science with its stodgy physiology and evidence-based medicine against the allure of the patient anecdote and the promise of a cure? Stories and confidence are what sells.

It’s possible that remedies like yogurt, garlic and so on were tried centuries ago as medicine, spermicide or sexual custom. But who cares if something was used historically if it has since been deemed ineffective or harmful? Blood letting for fever, mercury for vitality or syphilis, and animal dung as spermicide are all ancient medicinal practices, but that doesn’t mean we’re revisiting those therapies today.

In other words, all these so-called “ancient” sexual remedies were retired for a reason.

I get the allure. So many women are still uncomfortable speaking openly about genital health, and the internet offers privacy — not to mention community and validation. When all these needs are met, accuracy can seem secondary.

It is always best to see a health care professional for a diagnosis. We women do know our bodies, but there is so much crossover with symptoms that when women attempt self- diagnosis they are likely to misdiagnose more than 50 percent of the time. That’s worse than flipping a coin.

Researching symptoms and treatment options is always good, but to keep your internet hygiene in check (which requires far more effort than vaginal hygiene) these are the things that should send you screaming:

  • Run if the therapy is said to be “proven.” The degree to which something is supposedly “proven” to treat a medical condition is inversely proportional to the number of studies supporting that claim.

  • Run if something is being sold. Anyone selling a product is by definition biased, whether it is “Big Pharma” or “Big Natural.”

  • Run if the recommendation is homeopathic products. A recent studytells us that doctors who recommend homeopathy are more likely to deviate from standard medical guidelines. In other words they are more likely to practice bad medicine.

  • Run if the advice relies on testimonials. I would never tell my patient “Well Sarah S. said it worked for her!” Sarah S. is not the same thing as science.

  • Run if it involves inserting food vaginally for health reasons. This is nonsense.

  • Run if they recommend vaginal cleaning of any kind. For instance, I’ve been hearing about “vaginal steaming.” It’s well meaning, but woefully misinformed. If your bottom is sore, use a sitz bath.

It’s stunning that in this great age of information that can we have so much misinformation about our bodies and our sexuality. The internet has changed the speed at which we can acquire medical information, but certainly not the accuracy.

Dr. Jen Gunter is an obstetrician and gynecologist practicing in California. The Cycle, a column on women’s reproductive health, appears regularly in Styles.

 

 

 

 

Breaking sex talk taboo in Indian culture

Breaking sex talk taboo in Indian culture

n a nation where sex temples in Khajuraho or Shivling are worshipped, talking about sex in open is still considered a taboo in Indian society. With India having the largest adolescent population in the world, along with a thriving market for contraceptives, the country cannot afford to stay silent about its sexual health anymore, writes: SUBHANGI SINGH

When it comes to sex talk or sex education in India, the government brazenly ignores it, schools disregard it and the adults firmly push it under the carpet. The demographic diversity, in terms of age, sex, marital status, class, religion and cultural context, add the final nail in the coffin. What is absurd that in India where Khajuraho, known as the land of sex temples, is open for the world to worship, visit or make movies inspired from its sex sculptures,discussion on the subject sex, on the other hand, is sidelined considering morally disgraceful in the same society.

Jyoti (name changed) is an 18-year-old newly married girl from Agra. Jyoti shares the same predicament as most young married Indian girls in semi-urban areas. She narrated, “I don’t want to have kids right away. I have heard about contraceptives like Nirodh and Mala-D. But, I dare not bring it up with my husband. He might think I am too forward or that I have a promiscuous past. My mother will also be very pissed if she gets a whiff. Also, I must get pregnant within a year or people might think I am baanjh (infertile).” Such stories echo throughout north India. It is a built-up on multiple social phenomena, almost unique to South Asia and entrenched through its social institutions.

In a country where half the pregnancies are unplanned, a third of which are terminated by choice, the need for unmet contraception is huge. Government-run programs are often cosmetic in nature, only concerned with achieving their targets. In 2012, after a botched up female sterilisation camp in Bihar, resulting in complications experienced by several patients, activist Devika Biswas filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India. The Court finally ruled that such incidents violated components of Article 21 of the Constitution, i.e. the right to health and reproductive rights. The Court also ordered the discontinuation of such sterilisation camps, ensuring that no such fixed targets exist. Adult Indian women, let alone adolescents are mostly unaware about their sexual and reproductive rights.

Dr. Shefali Wadhwani Sharma, a gynaecologist at GMCH, Chandigarh reveals, “We often get girls in critical condition, who come in with a perforated uterus due to mishandled D&C abortions, done by unqualified caregivers like midwives, etc. Such is the social stigma that adolescent girls admitted with ruptured ectopic pregnancies refuse to admit that they have been sexually active. Young girls seldom get intimate checkups done until faced with acute medical emergencies. To avoid such cases, it is imperative that education about menstrual hygiene and sexual health becomes a part of school curriculum. Sexual health is a vital part of holistic healthcare and healthy women a keystone of women empowerment.”

The latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS), 2015-16, bears some good news. Use of contraception in single women has gone up from 2 per cent to 12 per cent in the last decade. Female sterilisation (36 per cent) is still the most popular form of modern contraception used, permanent or otherwise. However, women, especially adolescents, still lack sufficient knowledge about the dangers of unsafe sex and intimate infections. Religious and cultural obligations often dissuade them from practicing proper sexual/menstrual hygiene and/or using contraception. Most women still use ‘traditional’ contraceptive methods like monitoring menstrual cycles and ‘pulling out’, unaware that these methods are not only unreliable tools of family planning but also leave them vulnerable to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Reproductive Tract Infections (RTIs).

Even in urban setups, girls admitting to sexual needs are slut-shamed. Trisha (name changed) is a 26-year-old single, financially independent woman who resides in New Delhi. “Once I dropped my bag at my workplace, spilling out a condom amongst other things. After that, the double entendres and indecent proposals continued for a month. I finally changed the job after a few months due to various reasons, this incident being one of them.” said Trisha. She continued, “When I visited a gynaec at a private clinic to get checked for late periods, I was welcomed with questions about my sex life, marital status and warnings about my biological clock ticking away. She also wanted to know if my parents knew! She ignored me when I tried giving background of my general health.” Such moral policing from healthcare providers, misconceptions and lack of trust about regular contraception methods, have led to rampant impetuous use of over the counter emergency contraceptives.

Government and private NGOs are now resorting to innovation to get the message across. Comedian Abish Mathew recently released a funny animated short film about the importance of maintaining good sexual health. Agents of Ishq, a multimedia project about ‘sex, love and desire’, is sprinkled liberally with humour to make it appealing for this generation. Population Foundation of India (PFI) is an NGO which has partnered with Doordarshan to spread awareness about sexual health, contraception and other taboo subjects, through a soap opera titled Mai Kuchh Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon..

Inclusion of Men

Although government programs and even NGOs that focus on youth reproductive and sexual health often limit their focus to females alone, men/boys play key roles as fathers, brothers, and partners. Often the male members of the family are key decision makers of the household in the largely patriarchal Indian society, necessitating participation of the male population in these programs. The patriarchal narrative also restricts men/boys from addressing their own reproductive and sexual health issues, the admission of which can render them weak in a society that teaches them to be macho. Information, education and communication about male sterilisation are inadequate, not only in society but the public health system as well. In the absence of a credible source of information and lack of inclusion in public awareness initiatives, men often ignore their sexual health issues which in turn can lead to mental trauma, male fertility issues and infections.

During the decade (2006-2016) between successive NFHS surveys, condom use declined by 52 per cent while the number of vasectomies conducted fell by 73 per cent, indicating a greater reluctance amongst men to use birth control. Only 5 per cent Indian males use condoms and male sterilisation forms a dismal 0.3 per cent of modern contraception used. Most Indian men consider vasectomy as an equivalent to castration. Majority of them are unaware about the ease of the procedure and the reversible nature of it. India is one of the few countries in the world where female tubal ligation is more popular form of permanent contraception than vasectomies, despite the fact that the ligation procedure is more complicated and requires greater post-operative care. The pitiful picture is worsened by the fact that men are taught from an early age that reproduction and subsequently, fertility, contraception and maternal healthcare are a ‘woman’s affair’.

As Dr. Sumeet Devgan, a consultant urologist at the Grecian Hospital, Mohali points out, “Young Indian men lack the open peer discussions prevalent in women and are reluctant to seek professional medical help for their sexual health needs. We often get cases with mismanaged self-medication for STIs, etc. We need to stop referring to sexual and reproductive health and rights as women’s issues; they are men’s issues as much. Given that use of contraceptives in India is riddled with social barriers, a systematic institutional approach with inclusion of men is required to result in better uptake of contraceptives and safe sex. On-ground work to engage men in taking shared responsibility, while still promoting women’s rights, is vital for sustained behavioural change.”

Half-hearted solutions

To spread sexual health awareness and establish dialogue between sexes, we need comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) at school level. CSE teaches the young about affirmative sexuality, informed consent, safe sex, etc. A similar program called Adolescent Education Program (AEP) was introduced by the government in India in 2007. But after several protests and moral policing, citing ‘inappropriate content’, the program was banned in several states. It was rolled out in select government/private schools with limited implementation. Though it covers issues like body image, gender and sexuality, violence and abuse, STIs, etc, it leaves out issues of negotiation and consent in intimate relationships. Even urban educational institutions are reluctant to include these programs to avoid ‘unnecessary sexualization’ of kids, according to an owner of a reputed private school.

The government also has a National Adolescent Reproduction and Sexual Health (ARSH) strategy, released in 2006 and various states have implemented their own versions of it; e.g. Himachal Pradesh has set up Yuva Paramarsh Kendras (YPKs) which work with health institutions, schools/colleges, youth festivals, etc. In 2008, the National Population Stabilization Fund (Jansankhya Sthirta Kosh) started a helpline (Ph: 1800-11-6555) to provide confidential counselling services regarding sexual and reproductive health problems. Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram launched in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is a health program for adolescents in the age group of 10-19 years, to provide preventive, curative and counselling services with routine check-ups at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Last year, the government also started an online distribution service of condoms which met with a good response. Several NGOs like PFI, Mamta and Haiyya are working extensively to raise awareness and remove the stigma attached to discussing sexual health and needs. But a large chunk of our population is unaware of the existence of such programs.

Technology has also helped bring these issues out of the closet by providing anonymity and peer participation. Online portals like Menstrupedia and ‘She and You’ provide a safe and anonymous environment to discuss taboo subjects like menstrual hygiene, STIs, contraception methods, etc. ‘She and You’ has started an initiative #JustSayIt, through which they want to break the awkwardness by hosting a series of events and making women open up about the very things they shy away from like sex, menstruation and their intimate health.  The start of such programs is a welcome change. Sadly, it is restricted to small pockets in India with limited public awareness. The recent government restrictions on advertising for condoms and emergency contraceptive pills don’t help. The lack of proper implementation, poor quality of resources and inadequate training and sensitisation by the government has led to policy failure. According to a 2013 UNPF review, delaying childbearing could reduce India’s projected 2050 population of 1.7 billion by 25.1 per cent. With an ever burgeoning young population, India cannot afford to stay silent about its sexual health anymore.

 

 

http://www.tehelka.com/breaking-sex-talk-taboo-in-indian-culture/