Jul 182013
 

This is a post by one of my Summer 2013 interns. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

Belief #2: STIs are dirty.

Science says: The medical definition for “infection” could be described as the invasion and multiplication of microorganisms in body tissues, causing competitive metabolism, toxins, intracellular replication and antigen antibody response. Keeping this in mind, STI’s are still cell growth that occurs if conditions and resources are appropriate, which could turn into an infection if the environment is conducive to it. Though the effect of STIs are certainly undesirable, it is still more accurate and objective to describe them as as infections, and it is unnecessary not use the term “dirty”.

Yeah, but what does this mean? We have a natural tendency to not want ‘dirty things’ around us. This carries the same evolutionary reasoning as to why people are generally uncomfortable around the dead and decaying because from a prehistoric context, death and decay was a clear sign that danger wasn’t far behind. Proclaiming that STIs are dirty leads too much room to insinuate a “STI’s are dirty, therefore I am dirty” kind of mindset. If the implication is no one wants to be around filth and disease, then it makes it very difficult for an infected individual to feel good about being open about their status, which risks increasing reclusively.

Additionally, as one of the previous interns mentioned, it also sets up an inaccurate link between STI status and hygiene, which perpetrates the idea that if an individual has good daily hygiene, they risk thinking of themselves as impervious to disease or infection.

Solutions? Just as it is important to be open and honest about the subjects we discuss is it also important for us to be critical of how we choose to talk about these subjects. When talking openly about STI’s, it’s always a good idea to avoid using language that has intense negative connotations. Also, it should be noted that infections have implications in our health that are necessarily a detriment; for example, getting a vaccine promotes the same physiological mechanisms as sexually transmitted infections, but you don’t see medical professionals or educators calling them “dirty”. If you start thinking of STI’s as one of the same, you build a healthier relationship with the word, which will in turn, create a healthier relationship with the concept.

Stay tuned for Part III

Jul 162013
 

This is a post by one of my Summer 2013 interns. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

I was listening to a radio show a couple of years ago that dropped a statistic that essentially prompted my learning excursion into the psychology behind sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and the stigmatization that surrounds them. According to the radio show, research done through the University of Cincinnati found that a little over 40% of individuals that receive calls from a health clinic regarding their STI status did not call back or, in a more technical sense, were deemed “lost to follow-up.”

Despite the fact that, in the context of the radio show, the comment was used to make a bigger point about the efficacy of health services, I still could not get that statistic out of my head. I understand that a telephone call is probably not the most effective method of alerting someone to their medical condition, but surely that alone can’t account for over 40% of non-responders based on that technicality alone.  It led me to think about the attitudes and opinions that are associated with STIs, and I wondered if stigmatization could partially contribute to this lack of follow up.

Sociologist, public health officials and health researchers have conducted many studies of the institutional factors that impact STI follow-up. Indeed, the literature I’ve read talks in great length about the role socioeconomic status, neighborhood and resource availability play, but I have been hard pressed to find literature that analyzes how stigmatization affects follow-up. Given our brains work on cognitive blueprints for processing information, saying something in a particular fashion could possibly condition one to think a specific way as the structure of how something is said could be associated with other ideas that are negative. Therefore, I decided to take it upon myself to compile a short (and by no means complete) list of common ideas about STIs, and try to break them down and bring to light some of the misconceptions that could perpetuate stigmatization.

Belief #1: If you’re smart and educated, you will never get an STI.

Science Says: Just as no contraception can guarantee with 100% certainty that you will not get pregnant, no amount of barriers can guarantee with 100% certainty that you will not contract an STI. Infection spreads by the exchange of risky fluids* (or skin to skin in the case of herpes and HPV), and so even though by wearing a condom/female condom/dental dam you significantly decrease the likelihood of exchange, if fluids are still being produced by both partners, then there is still going to be a (albeit possible, but not probable) chance for STI transmission.

*Here is a quick list of risky fluids: (1) Blood (2) Semen (3) Vaginal discharge (4) Pre-cum (5) Breastmilk (6) Anal Fluid

*Here is a quick list of non-risky fluids: (1) Saliva (2) Mucos (3) Sweat (4) Tears

Ok, but what does this mean?: Besides the false advertising, teaching that “you will never contract an STI if you do x, y and z” leaves very little support for those who actually are proactive about doing x, y, and z and unfortunately still end up with an STI. Those in that position may wonder what they did wrong, or (perhaps more accurately) if they didn’t do everything right enough. Family, and health practitioners may assume they were careless or ignorant and may offer less support. This reinforces the feelings of shame they may have, which could increase the likelihood that they will withdraw.

Solutions?: Talk about it! Not only will it decrease the big, bad, stigmatization that seems to be associated with STIs, hopefully by participating in a dialogue, there will be greater clarity about STIs and answers to some of the questions people may have about STIs. When you open up a conversation, you quickly find that you are not alone with your concerns, and support will be more forthcoming.

Part II is on its way!

 

May 102013
 

This is a post by one of my Spring 2013 interns, Rebecca. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

Alright!  Alright…we know we have gone astray, but how do we get back on track?  How do we continue to improve our sex lives?  Following are three simple tricks you may start playing with next time you are getting frisky in the bedroom.  These tricks of the trade can and will (if you decide to use them) have a huge impact on your sex life.  Alright?  Alright.  First, talk about your body…parts.  Second, provide feedback.  Third, consider agreeing upon a word, phrase,  motion, or set of motions that lets your partner know where you stand.

Talk about your body!  That’s right!  It is time to let go of the “down there” lingo and actually say what you are referring to.  There is a high cost (you know…mediocre sex) for being general when you are referring to your body.  You know, because there is a lot down there.  I am a huge proponent of anatomically correct language, because why not draw upon an already existing mutual vocabulary that is smashingly specific?  However, some individuals find anatomical language: strangely anatomic.  Everyone needs to find language that works for them.  Now, that isn’t a get out of jail free card!  You still need to “find” that language if you haven’t already.  If you presently don’t have a label for your “down there,” then challenge yourself to use a label.  If you presently have a label for one part of your body try becoming even more specific (i.e. penis, head, shaft).  If you are all about the labels, try bouncing around label genres to create different moods (i.e. using anatomically correct when being romantic or  slang when being frisky). The labeling process may feel odd at first, but the more you do it, the less awkward it will feel.

Alright, next we want to provide feedback while getting intimate.  Positive feedback!  Every time you are with your partner sexually, find one thing they are doing that you particularly enjoy, and then tell them, “I like the way you are touching me there,” or “oh yes, keep doing that.”  Then the next time you are with them, pick something else they are doing that you are digging and vocalize that.  The reason I am a huge fan of this technique is because vocalizing what you like eventually results in well-deserved confidence for your partner (and yourself, if you both practice this) because your partner turns into a pleasure-giving machine.  Although they may not start out this way, the more you tell them what you like, they will ease up on the stuff they aren’t getting positive feedback on and hone in on the stuff that you tell them you enjoy.  Very quickly your partner will have a menu of all your favorite things.  Wouldn’t you like a list of their top ten favorite things?  Wouldn’t that make you feel just that much more confident in the bedroom?

Sometimes in the heat of a moment, you get sucked into territory you didn’t expect.  What if you unexpectedly feel uncomfortable?  Or the moment brings up a history of emotions?  Or you just don’t like the way the interaction feels anymore?  There is something really nice about have a predetermined words or motion to communicate desires that are may be difficult to say in the moment.  A motion, such as a tap on the shoulder, means “I’m not sure how I feel about this. Can we back off for a second?”

As far as words go, many individuals enjoy the red/yellow/green code.  Red means stop right there and don’t you move a muscle!  Yellow means, I’m not too sure how I feel about this, let’s slow down, maybe talk about it, maybe not and green means Yes! YES!  The red/yellow/green code is particularly nice because of the yellow aspect.  We often think of sexual interactions as black or white, where we want something or we don’t.  In reality, our sexual experiences involve experimentation, which results in grey areas.  The yellow allows for that nuance.  Yellow says, “Maybe if the licking was done just a little different you would love it,” or “this is too much for me today, let’s come back to it tomorrow.”

Motions are the exact same idea.  Tapping their chest could be red, tapping on either shoulder could be yellow, and deep pressure into their upper arms could be green.  Having a motion may be an excellent substitute for a word, because sometimes yelling “Oh my gosh! You fierce animal you! Green!” is challenging to make sexy.  Then again, sometimes it isn’t.

The code system may be particularly useful for survivors of sexual violence.  It is common for survivors to experience emotional triggers during sexual interactions that bring them back to their assault(s).  Triggers can happen unexpectedly even with partners they love.  Having a word or motion to help a survivor communicate their needs can help a survivor say what they need to, during a highly emotional moment when typical phrases might fail them.  Considering the high rates of sexual violence in this country (1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18, 1 in 3 women in their lifetime), there is (unfortunately) a good chance that at some point in your life you may engaged sexually with a survivor, whether you are aware of their history or not. Incorporating predetermined words or motions to communicate one’s desires may provide a safety net for a survivor when traditional phrases such as “stop” or “slow down” may be even more difficult for them to say.  Setting up these boundaries may provide extra support to an individual in need without you ever knowing.

These three fabulous tricks (if I do say so myself), of course, only touch base on a few communication skills. Nevertheless, these may be a nice place to start.  Challenge yourself.  I think you’ll be surprised how just talking to your partner about what you are doing will be both liberating and empowering.

May 092013
 

lovehoney bionic butt plug

This is a post by one of my Spring 2013 interns, Natalie. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

What a neat little contraption this toy is: the Lovehoney Bionic Bullet is a 2-in-1 vibrator AND butt plug (and vibrating butt plug) with a number of varying speeds. The Bullet is body- friendly (aka phthalate free and awesome) and is a great toy for amateur anal-players, although the bulbed shape makes it accessible for both beginners and those who have dabbled in anal play.

The girth of this plug is a little wider than most beginner plugs, but is quite enjoyable once you’ve been warmed up and lubed up, and the vibrating element makes the experience all the more intense. This toy has five different vibrating rhythms and speeds which are great to play
around with and make the experience of the Bionic Bullet different each time. I’ll warn you here though, some of these are pretty powerful vibes and can take a little getting used to, or might be too strong for those extra-sensitive folk.

That said, the removable vibrator: Getting the little bullet vibe out of the bigger plug itself was more difficult than it should have been, and the turning it off is a little difficult because you have to cycle through all of the vibe speeds to turn it off, but those were my only two
complaints. The look and feel of this toy are perfect: the Bionic is a gender-friendly purple color while the silicone provides a lovely texture that makes easy insertion and little friction, not to mention easy cleaning!

This is the first LoveHoney toy I’ve tried, and I was not disappointed. The vibrating element means it can also be used for external stimulation before (or after, or instead of!) using it for its originally designed purposes, and the removable vibrator is sized so that it can easily be
taken with you wherever you go.

The last but not least plug I’ll make for this toy (pun intended) is that it uses just one AAA battery to run and lasts for multiple uses! I loved this since I had some AAAs lying around the house and didn’t need to make a special trip for a more uncommon battery type.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend the Bionic Butt Plug for a variety of reasons and for a variety of types of people. Whether you’re just getting started with anal play or need something to juice up your existing collection of toys, the shape of and vibration patterns on this one make it unique,
stimulating and worth a buy.

P.s. I’d recommend trying this with Sliquid’s Sassy Boody gel--the two make a great pair!

Thanks Lovehoney!

May 072013
 

Hello all!

I will be taking one or two interns for the Summer 2013 and here is the post about it, as many have asked. Please read below, pass on to anyone you think may be interested.

Pay: Unpaid, but happy to work on getting college credit. Free toys, etc, as bonuses, as well as a reference/future letters for future employment.

Time commitment: Approximately 5-8 hours a week. Schedule is flexible.

Location: Telecommuting interns welcome. Must have access to internet, preferably Skype or at least G-chat, and/or phone. Skype or in-person (Denver) meeting required on monthly basis.

Description (these are all of the things I’m looking for — am happy to divide it more into a sex ed intern and a marketing intern, if that’s what people applying tend to want) – inclusive but not limited to:

*Work on managing/organizing social media; creating press release lists, etc

*Streamline, create and mail monthly newsletters.

*Work on creating a one sheets for my books (as well as signings, podcast interviews, etc).

*Create marketing plan for both sex education and relationship counseling parts of job.

*Contact national schools, universities, sex toy stores, dungeons, kink conferences, book stores and more regarding bookings (involves procuring contact information).

*Create pamphlets on specific activities, safer sex, communication styles, and more.

*Help to write/create posts on healthy and enjoyable anal sex, g-spot play, kink basics, understanding gender and orientation, and more for website and handouts.

*Organize demo sex toys – catalog, etc.

*Work with gaining sponsorship, raffle items and bookings for Fall semester 2013/Spring semester 2014.

*Compile resource lists (inclusive of queer, kink and poly communities) for relationship violence, sexual assault/violence, doctors, therapists, etc.

*Work on translation of posts into Spanish

*Work on offering video workshops in both English and ASL

*And more as the needs may arise.

If interested, please send your answers to the following inquiries and a writing sample (blog post, paper, press release, etc) to shannakatz at gmail dot com by May 25th.

Name:

Age (must be 18 due to nature of some content):

Social media contact info:

Location:

Language(s) spoken:

Other jobs/activities you have/participate in:

Sexuality education/experience:

Internet experience:

Marketing experience:

Why you’re interested (and what parts you’re interested in particularly):

What you could bring to this internship:

What makes you a unique applicant:

May 062013
 

This is a post by one of my Spring 2013 interns, Rebecca. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

Botanically Infused Oceanics by Sliquid:  I love this lube, love, love,love. 

Why is this lube absolutely and positively fantastic?  Let’s start with the appearance.  Oceanics comes in a sophisticated little bottle that I feel comfortable leaving out on my dresser.  The label itself is classy and could easily be mistaken for some fancy beauty product.  It does have “Sliquid” written on the front which may give the product away, however, I am not convinced it necessarily does.  Either way, the swanky packaging is a lovely perk that made it easy to leave the bottle out and about in an easily accessible location.  The bottle has a push-to-snap-open cap which is pretty easy to use, even when my fingers are slick.  Although I personally prefer a pump (tremendously convenient) for my lube bottles, the top on this bottle does its job.

When I first got the lube, I put a dab the size of half-a-pea on my finger.  To the touch the lube is so smooth it is almost silky.  Additionally it felt cool, clean, and refreshing to the touch and is quite thin.  A little of this stuff goes a long way, for that little dab covered my entire first finger and thumb thoroughly.

I began rubbing my fingers together and discovered this baby was long lasting, especially for a water based lube.  Even better, the lube never got sticky, stringy, or goopy.  Instead, when the lube had finally soaked into my fingers (as water based lubes do) my fingers felt like they had been well moisturized.

To make this lovely lube lovelier still, I discovered that this lube has no taste.  Zero.  Zilch! You heard me!   I actually continued tasting the lube repeatedly to a point where it was just awkward because I was convinced that I was missing the taste.  It took me longer than I would like to admit to finally realize there isn’t one, or at least none that my taste buds can detect.  If anything, there is a tinge of sweetness but that could very well be my imagination building upon the ever so subtle sweet smell the lube has that makes you ask yourself, am I in the botanic gardens?

When actually using the lube I discovered that all of the finger trial observations remained true.  The same cool, clean, and refreshing feeling I experienced when trying it on my fingers was even more present.  Although water based lubes are known for drying out more quickly than other lubes, I found that I didn’t need to reapply.  Then again, on my lube filled adventure I was not engaging in prolonged sexual activity with a partner, but instead flying solo with my vibrator.   So, although it is long lasting, if you intend to use this lube for extensive partnered fun, you’ll probably have to reapply.  Having to stop the fun to put on more is probably the biggest downside to this lube, but to be expected with water based lubes. {Editor’s note: with water based lube, just add some water to reactivate, instead of adding more lube!}

An upside to water based lubes is that they don’t ruin sex toys or condoms.  So I had no concern that my lube was melting my toy while I was using it, ::whew::, like silicone lube will do to silicone toys.  Another upside to water based lube, and thus this lube, is that it is easy to clean up.  In fact, it requires almost no clean up because most of it was absorbed by the time I was finished.  The rest came off easily with soap and water and there was no mess left on my sheets.  Hallelujah!  Even BETTER, Oceanics has no harmful chemicals!  The lube glycerine and paraben free and certificated organic.  Talk about rad(ical), at least in modern America.

Overall, I dig this lube and recommend it to anyone questing for a quality water based lube.  It is smooth as all get up, has essentially no taste but does have a slight smell of flowers.  A little of this lube goes a long way and lasts for a while.  Plus, at no point did it get stringy or goopy.  Oceanics is condom safe, sex toy safe, and safe for your body for a totally reasonable price.  Boom!  This lube rocks – click here to get your own bottle!

 

May 032013
 

This is a post by one of my Spring 2013 interns, Rebecca. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

The first sex (and I use this term loosely to define all forms of sexual interactions) advice we generally receive is the just feel it method.  I am not exactly sure what “it” we are supposed to be feeling, but don’t ask questions because that exposes your *gasp* “lack of knowledge” or your *don’t say it!* “lack of experience.”  Because let’s be honest, using your crystal ball and 6th grade lesson on anatomy makes you an expert at pleasing your partner.  Duh.

Anyway, just feel it.  You want one thing to lead smoothly to another.  It needs to be romantic.  It needs to be smooth.  It needs to be intimate.  Don’t ruin it by talking or fussing.

Mmmmm yes.  That advice is a little like getting thrown into the Olympic pole vaulting competition, in which someone hands you your vaulting pole and says to you “just feel it.” They then pat you on the back and send you sprinting towards a pole that is 18 feet in the air and parallel to the earth.  Now I don’t know about you, bit if that were me I would take any advice you can get.  But you know, I would  this hunch that in about 15 seconds I would be feeling a lot of different things, and none of them would be what Mr. Just Feel It, was referring to.

Ways and reasons you get clued to the downsides of the just feel it method:

1)      Someone gives you wise sexual advice, OR,

2)      You realize your sexual experiences are continuously dull and disappointing, OR,

3)      You, or someone you love, experience(s) a sexual assault

It might occur to you that the just feel it method doesn’t work. At all. Period. The end.

Not only does the just feel it method lead to a lot of miscommunications, but how on earth are you supposed to have decent sex?  Did you know that there are six vital steps one must hone to have a successful pole vault?  Nor did I (thank you Wikipedia). There are six!  The approach, plant and take-off, swing up, extension, turn, and fly-away.  Yup, like pole vaulting, sex isn’t a one-step endeavor. I think it’s time to start looking for some decent advice.

After searching high and low, low and high, and back around again, hopefully you stumble across the just communicate method.  Now, that shockingly simple advice may be the best sexual advice you will ever receive in your lifetime.  So…what’s the problem?

Let us return to pole vaulting for a hot second.  Now you are at the start line, and Mr. Just Feel It transforms into Ms. Just Jump.  Telling an Olympic pole vaulter to just jump is indeed the best advice you can possibly give them.  Truly. It focuses them on the big picture.  However, this advice assumes a certain level of skill (years spent honing the art of vaulting). For them, all they need to do is focus on what they already know how to do.

“Communicate” is the best advice you can give a professional communicator, but unfortunately when it comes to talking about sex we often find ourselves tongue-tied. In a society of “just feel it,” we have learned to keep our mouths shut in the bedroom.  On the whole, we don’t know how to communicate our wants, desires, boundaries, and fantasies. Sex (again, in the loose sense of the word) is an art, a skill, a practice.  And communicating around sex is also an art, a skill, and a practice.

Now, I am no communication guru (but good Lordisa I am trying), but I do have a few little tricks that can turn into a sexual revolution.

Curious?  Check out Communicating in the Bedroom, Part 2!

Apr 292013
 

This is a post by one of my Spring 2013 interns, Rebecca. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

G-Whizz is a lovely, adorable, and petite g-spot vibrator made by Lovehoney.  The vibrator is made to both stimulate the clitoris and the g-spot. I have to say, this vibrator is a straightforward creation that covers all your basics.

One upside of the G-Whizz is that the vibrator takes one, yes you heard me, one AA battery!  Every other vibrator I own takes two AAA batteries that always seem to hide themselves in the nooks of my apartment.  This battery upgrade is an excellent example of little things making big differences.  Another upside is that the vibration options cover all of your bases.  The vibrator has 7 different pulsating patterns and 3 different vibration speeds resulting in 10 total options.  Soft, strong, fast, and slow, with some really nice pulsation patterns.  During my first usage, I was skeptical of some of the settings, but as I continued to use the vibrator, they grew on me – you know, different moods, different desires.  I was particularly impressed with the slower, softer settings.  As for strength, I found the vibrator to deliver.  I personally enjoy a vibrator with a little oomph behind it and although my mind was not blown away by the strength (and I’m not sure I would want to be), I was quite happy with the power this tiny vibrator has.

This vibrator operates with a single button that serves as both the power button and the settings switch.  A downside to this vibrator is that once you turn it on you have to cycle through all the settings to get to the one you would like to use.  Although this is common in the world of vibrators, this is a personal annoyance I have.  Thankfully though, to turn off the vibrator you do not have to flip through all the settings.  Instead you just hold down the button and it switches right off.  Praise the wise women of the world, because when I’m finished, I’m finished.

While using the vibrator I was particularly impressed with the material.  The vibrator is silky smooth to the touch.  As for volume – you know, the important question of whether the other people that also live in your house will hear this lovely, adorable, and petite toy vibrating when you may not want them to – I will say it is about average.  I wouldn’t call the vibrator either noisy or quiet.  When the vibrator is set to one of the softer settings, it is mighty hushed, but as the intensity of the vibration increases so does the noise (how logical).  If noise is particularly important to you, I wouldn’t consider this vibrator the quietest of them all.  Either way, if your doors have a standard thickness, I’ll think you’ll be okay.

The shaft of the vibrator is quite stiff, however, the head of the vibrator has some flexibility.  Overall, the toy is firm enough to keep its shape, but it does bend slightly when you put pressure on it.  This flexibility is nice because it allows the vibrator take shape with your body.  However, this flexibility inhibits the ability to apply firm pressure on your g-spot.  When I tried to apply the pressure I enjoy, I found the head of the vibrator giving way.  I ended up using the vibrator mostly for clitoral stimulation and it rocked my world in that department.  Also important to note, I found that I didn’t need very much lubrication for this toy.  The first time I used it I didn’t use any extra lubrication and found I didn’t need it.  The times following I applied a water based lube (silicone lube on silicone toy equals one strangely warped and melted toy…really) and I found that really enhanced the silkiness of the toy.

Overall, I would consider this to be a nice toy that does what it claims to do.  It covers all of your basics and is reasonably priced (19.99 euros, which is about 26 U.S. dollars).  It’s darn attractive, always a plus.  It is also small, which is fabulous for when you want to tuck that baby away.  However, if you have a particularly high g-spot the length of this vibrator may not work for you.  The G-Whizz has some enjoyable soft settings, but also packs a punch.  I personally found the vibrator to be great for clitoral stimulation, and I assume it is great for g-spot stimulation if you don’t mind the flexibility of the head.

This vibrator is a nice introductory vibrator for someone newly exploring their g-spot.  I believe it would also be a nice vibrator for a more experienced individual who just wants a simple, straightforward toy that does the trick.

Thanks Lovehoney for sending this toy to me for review.  You can bet your great Uncle Ron’s homemade donuts that I’m enjoying it.

Apr 222013
 

This is a post by one of my Spring 2013 interns, Natalie. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

College students–and high school students at that–hold a longstanding trend of hookups. Formerly more generally referred to as one night stands, hookups vary from having a main squeeze to friends with benefits to one night stands. At my school at least, the contradictory element of hookups lies in a belief many students hold: that hookup culture dominates and everyone participates, while the truth indicates it’s fewer students then everyone seems to think. Whatever the numbers, a survey done earlier in the year showed that during hookups, females on my college campus orgasmed during hookups only a fraction of the frequency time their male counterparts did (not implying only straight people here, just that men orgasmed in hookups regardless of the gender of the person they were hooking up with, and women didn’t, also regardless of their partner’s gender).
The myth of the vaginal orgasm has long pervaded us, and people are starting to see that. Few and far between seem to be able to satisfy woman identified folk, and it can be difficult to have a satisfying hookup without satisfying sex–which just leads to awkwardness and tension on both sides of the spectrum. I mean, this is why Shanna wrote her book on cunnilingus, after all! So what can we do to promote the female orgasm and better our hookups in general?

Communicate!
Yeah, this one gets thrown at you over and over. But that’s cause it’s important. Even just “that feels good” or “what are you into?” can open the door to way better sex than you’d have in the first place.

Experiment.
Experiment with various safe, sane, and consensual sexy acts. You might find a position or toy you’ve never tried before, and it might become your new favorite way to play.

Masturbate!
Know your body so you can show others how to make you feel great. This may include looking at your genitals: how can you know what you might like if you don’t even know what you look like “down there?”

Talk to your friends about sex.
In a nice, non-objectifying way. By asking others what they do to talk about having safe sex in the context of a hookup you can learn how to protect yourself and help others at the same time. Plus, these chats generally lead to hilarious stories.

I also recommend reading Pat Califia’s “42 Things You Can Do to Make the Future Safer For Sex” in his book, Public Sex. A comprehensive list of acts that will open your own views on sexuality, from pleasure to politic, each act will make you think–at the very least. I’ll list a couple for you here:

*Study sex.
*Find a new fantasy.
*Make art about how sex feels.
*Teach somebody how to come with a rubber barrier.
*Vote.
*Write a love letter to an unloveable part of your body.
*Hand out clean needles and free condoms. If you can’t do this, give money to the people who are doing it for you.

Apr 182013
 

This is a post by one of my Spring 2013 interns, Rebecca. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

Masturbation and sexual violence in particular are two topics that can be especially challenging to teach but absolutely necessary.

Masturbation is normal for all individuals, regardless of developmental ability. The exploration of genitals and self-pleasure is a common human experience which generally begins in infancy.  Individuals on the spectrum are no different.  In fact, most individuals on the spectrum learn to masturbate on their own at some point in their life, however, many have trouble reaching orgasm during masturbation.  The challenge to reach orgasm may become problematic for two reasons: First, it may result in ritualistic behaviors. Second, it may be the only realistic outlet for sexual release for some people with autism.  If masturbation becomes a problematic behavior perhaps due to a lack of orgasm, check out The Center for Disability Information and Referral; they will be able to refer to informational videos about masturbating to orgasm.

Regardless of whether or not the behavior is ritualistic, a strict structure around masturbation is will help the individual to understand when masturbation is appropriate and when it is not.  Designate areas where it is okay to masturbate.  For example, an individual’s bedroom is generally a good option.  Avoid teaching the bathroom as an appropriate place to masturbate because using the bathroom may become a stimulus to masturbate.  Set up rules that designate an appropriate time to masturbate. Teach the individual that sometimes, masturbation is not an option.  Provide the individual with alone time or private time and give them the tools (verbal, ASL, PEC, etc) to communicate their desire for private time.  If this individual follows a strict schedule, incorporate private time into the schedule.  If/when the individual requests private time, refer to the schedule reminding them when they will have time to themselves.

Part of the teaching process regarding appropriate masturbation is teaching inappropriate masturbation.  When someone is engaging in inappropriate masturbation, interrupt the behavior by asking the individual to cease the behavior without emotional affect.   Remind the individual of when masturbation is appropriate with whatever means you communicate (such as verbal, i.e. “private time in bedroom” or visual, i.e. image of their bedroom).  Then redirect individual to an appropriate activity.  Particularly successful redirections may include ones that require the use of their hands (bead work, puzzles, etc.) a physical activity (bouncing on a ball or trampoline), or one that requires a lot of focus for that individual.  If their bedroom is available, you may redirect them to their bedroom.  Be wary of redirecting them to their bedroom immediately because the individual may learn to request masturbation by engaging in it.  Perhaps create a first/then demand i.e. first puzzle then private time, or have them engage in another activity and once engaged have them practice requesting private time appropriately.

Sexual violence is another challenging topic to approach.  Although there is no absolute way to completely protect a person you love with ASD from victimization, there are steps that can dramatically decrease the likelihood of abuse.  The National Child Traumatic Stress Network suggests the following steps:

1.  Teaching children accurate names of their private body parts.

2.  Avoid focusing exclusively on “stranger danger.”  Keep in mind that most children are abused by someone they know and trust.

3.  Teach about body safety and the difference between “okay” and “not okay” touching.

4.  Let children know that they have the right to make decisions about their bodies.  Empower them to say “no” and determining when they do and do not want to be touched, even in non-sexual ways (e.g. politely refusing hugs), and to say “no” to touching others.

5.  Make sure children know that adults and older children never need with their private body parts (e.g. bathing or going to the bathroom)

6. Teach children to take care of their own private parts (i.e. bathing, wiping after bathroom use) so they don’t have to rely on adults or older children for help.

7. Educate children about the difference between good secrets (like surprise parties – which are okay because they are not kept a secret for long) and bad secrets (those that the child is supposed to keep secret forever, which are not okay)

8. Trust your instincts! If you feel uneasy about leaving a child with someone, don’t do it.  If you’re concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.

Obviously many of these lessons depend on the developmental abilities of the individual and some of these are unrealistic for some individuals.  Adaptations can be made to communicate these messages.  Additionally, supporting a school or program in their efforts to make an individual with ASD as independent as possible (eating, bathing) is critical.  Off Limits: A Parent’s Guide to Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse, by Feather Berkower is an absolute must read for every parent (present or future) and caretaker.  Although her books targets prevention techniques for parent’s with typically developing children, many of the concepts and ideas are applicable to those with ASD.  Feather will completely blow your mind and change your concepts around what prevention work means.  I cannot recommend this book more highly.

Sexual violence in the neurologically different population is happening at astounding rates.  Additionally, individuals on the spectrum who have been abused may engage in abusive behaviors towards younger siblings or ASD peers without an understanding of their actions.  There are steps to protect the ones we love on the spectrum from suffering in this way.  In fact, individuals on the spectrum should instead be given the support to live happy and sexually liberating lives!  May we move in that direction.

 

*Peter Gerhardt does fabulous work regarding the intersection of autism and sexuality.  Much of the information in this blog came from articles he has written and lectures he has given at conferences.  For more information I recommend a quick google search on his name.  Lots of quality information will pop up.  Also, don’t forget to talk to talk to the therapists, caretakers, and teachers in your life.  They too may have some fabulous suggestions in this arena.  Why not make this this education process a team effort.  Two heads are (almost) always better than one!