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Mashable.com: What I learned about sexual pleasure from tapping virtual vulvas

This morning at my breakfast table I learned how to pleasure another woman with my boyfriend.

Sex education site OMGYes is starting conversations about female pleasure, via some experimental new methods.

In a recent chat with currently controversial feminist icon Gloria Steinem, actress and women’s rights activist Emma Watson endorsed OMGYes, encouraging fans to “definitely check it out…It’s worth it” (“it” being the site’s $29 subscription fee).

IMAGE: OMGYES

The interactive site, backed by several research studies about the pleasure preferences of over 1,000 women, features video interviews with real women talking about their real experiences of sexual pleasure. Most notably, touchscreen video lessons of sexual stimulation techniques allow users to tap and caress a variety of virtual vulvas on-screen.

 

But what is a site like OMGYes actually teaching us about female sexual pleasure? Most notably, when we’re invited to learn about sexual pleasure via a futuristic touchscreen, are we framing sexual pleasure as something to talk about or just another thing to type about from the isolating safety of our handheld devices? Though Emma Watson got gutsy to publicly praise OMGYes as a concept, her language was still vague, peppered in the age-old euphemism for sex — “it” — and still left female sexual pleasure in the background of the site itself. Are we really ready to use OMGYes as its creators intended or is this just another piece of a human sexuality, untranslated from the web to real life?

How it’s packaged

OMGYes certainly makes strides in breaking the silence, by packaging female sexual pleasure in new, educational ways. But its one-sided sexual stimulation experience (created by viewing and virtually touching these women through a screen) runs the risk of continuing to promote female sexual pleasure as something to be achieved rather than cooperated, intuited rather than asked about, and perfected rather than made genuine. This could reinforce the disconnect between pleasure and communication that mainstream porn has already vastly propagated.

 

IMAGE: OMGYES

At times this is even presented in similar packaging to porn: The women featured on the site conform to many classic beauty standards, and their pre-recorded moans of pleasure are soft, dainty and (notably) never audibly climactic, an intentional decision on the creator’s part. OMGYes co-creator Lydia Daniller says, “We’re actually working to counteract the orgasm as goal-oriented view of sex through the entire site, and through the simulations in particular. We wanted to emphasize pleasure for pleasure’s own sake and not pleasure to reach an ‘end goal.’”

Nonetheless, when my boyfriend and I took OMGYes for a spin on his iPad one morning, we couldn’t help but direct our eyes to the prize. We chose to learn about one woman on the site who was teaching us the technique “layering,” via video. We listened to how exactly she likes to experience this kind of touch and why. She cautioned us against moving too quickly or venturing away from her clitoris too far or for too long, which rang realistic. After watching her video and reading the site’s blurb about “layering” we ventured to the virtual vulva, taking turns to practice the moves we were just taught.

The virtual video was good at responding quickly and accurately when we disobeyed our new sex partner’s instruction. After a few minutes, in place of her climax, the video just ended. That’s when my boyfriend exclaimed, “Hey! We won! This is like a video game.”…continue reading on Mashable.com…

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Intro to Vaginas: 9 lessons for bi-curious beginners

Art by Vicky Leta

Art by Vicky Leta

The first time I slept with another girl, it was awkward as hell.

Sure, I had dabbled in the giggling French kisses of curious high school sleepovers, but never did I go to a girl’s room with the intention of having Lesbian Sex Official with her. But this is what I did one tipsy night my first year in college (#classic). As a girl, making out with a girl is easy — their lips are softer, the absence of stubble is refreshing, and mixing lip glosses all over your face is a tasty mess. It’s the rest that stumped me.

The vagina, by sheer design, is just trickier than the penis. And the clitoris? It’s hidden in all these folds and it’s wearing a tiny hood? WTF?! Penises, on the other hand, are just…out there, seemingly more easy-to-please by design. So, mid-roll-around in this girl’s tiny college bed, it suddenly dawned on me: Though I had gotten the penis down, I had no idea what to do with this vagina-having human.

And how could I have? It’s no secret that it’s a penis-penetrates-vagina world out there when it comes to popular representations of “what sex looks like.” Even in regards to this “acceptable” version of heterosexual sex, government-funded sex education programs aren’t doing much for us, no matter how we identify. In fact, the Public Religion Research Institute found in a 2015 survey that four in 10 millennials reported that American high school sex ed classes weren’t helpful to them in making decisions about sex and relationships at all. In a sexist world of sexual shaming, the details of sexually pleasing vaginas are back-burnered in educational efforts, as they have little to do with reproduction and rarely result in anything but pleasure for pleasure’s sake. Because of this, heterosexual men and even women themselves struggle to learn about vaginal pleasure. Throw homophobia and stereotypes into the mix and us LGBTQ folks are screwed when it comes to learning how to screw.

While sex ed is a required part of the health curriculum in the public schools of 22 states and the District of Columbia, information specifically for LGBTQ youth is not mandated as part of the lesson plans. According to a statement from the HRC titled “A Call to Action: LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education“: “Fewer than 5 percent of LGBT students have health classes that included positive representations of LGBT-related topics.”

Though LGBTQ-inclusive sex education is absolutely needed in our high school sex education efforts, what of those of us exploring the spectrum of our sexualities later in life as adults, fumbling around in our dorm rooms, boardrooms and hot tubs, a la Gaby Hoffman’s vaginally curious character in Transparent? Where do we go to learn how to sexually pleasure another vagina?

If formalized sex education in schools is failing us, we’re left to media, porn, word-of-mouth and Google to educate us about how to have good, safe(r) sex. These self-education avenues rarely if ever teach us how to communicate with our partners about sexual pleasure, and they barely skim over consent, two key components of healthy and pleasurable sex. Mass media manages to offer us a limiting, predetermined course of action for penis-and-vagina sex: foreplay, intercourse, male ejaculation, fin. But there is no classical road map when it comes to vagina-on-vagina action (not even a half-baked one!), and the robotic, unrealistic girl-on-girl scenes in mainstream, male-gaze-satisfying porn certainly aren’t helping.

It should be no surprise that back in my college dorm room of yesteryear, things weren’t headed in any particular direction. It seemed to take hours before our shirts came off. Awkwardly stalling with my hands frozen unnaturally at my sides, my gracious hostess finally put me out of my bi-curious misery: “You know, we don’t have to do this at all,” she said. “We can just snuggle.” I wonder how audible my sigh of relief really was.

We were more successful the next time, and over the course of our year-long relationship, I really got the sex-with-a-girl-thing down. These days my lady-laden romance resume speaks for itself: I can do (and even teach workshops about) The Vagina² Sex. And all you straight, bi-curious, bisexual and/or newly queer women can, too….continue reading…

 

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Bisexual Invisibility: I’m bisexual & I refuse to leave the LGBT community

The day the Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage I sobbed into my boyfriend’s shoulder in bed for half an hour. My shoulders heaved and my dog looked worried as he frantically tried to lick my tears away.

When I managed to stifle my drool-crying, I lifted my head and a wobbly tightrope of snot connected his clavicle to my septum ring. “I don’tttt — (hiccup) — want to be straight — (hiccup) — FOREVER!” I sobbed dramatically, before jamming my face back into the snot-pool running down his arm.

But I’m not straight. I identify as both bisexual and queer (choosing my words wisely depending on who I’m talking to, their terminology knowledge or my mood). So, why did I feel straight, so snot-sobbing straight, the day same-sex couples were granted equal access to legal marriage in the United States?

Patrick and I had just gotten engaged . In fact, our engagement party was set to happen that very night. Though I had dated cis-men until I was 21, for the nine years prior to meeting Patrick I had primarily dated queer women . I had even married one in Massachusetts. And once you have a “lesbian wedding,” your “bisexual” label magically becomes a “lesbian” label in the public eye.

This never bothered me much. I had always felt special with my membership to this group of gender-fucking, pierced, shave-headed hotties in the LGBTQ community. I barely kissed the straight community goodbye when I left in 2006.

But when I fell in love with a straight man, I became instantly paranoid. Would my LGBTQ community membership card be revoked? I was devastated, a devastation that had been quietly seeping its way into my heart since I had enthusiastically said “Yes!” to Patrick’s question. It’s why I exploded in a tearful mess that historic day last June. I was overjoyed to read those headlines — and also so, so sad. I felt like the marriage equality victory and its celebration were no longer mine.

A few weeks ago, months after the marriage equality ruling, Alex Anders of the YouTube channel Bisexual Real Talk uploaded a video asking his fellow bisexuals to leave the LGBT community. He cited a 2015 study that implies the LGBT community might be doing more harm than good to the “B” part of the equation. The study reports that bisexual people internalize just as much biphobic discrimination from the “L” and “G” parts of the LGBT community as from the straight community. Bisexual rates of suicide are three times the rate of lesbian- and gay-identified people.

Anders wants the “B” to GTFO of LGBT before our fellow queer folk hurt us even more. “Every time we tell young people who are bisexual to go and search the LGBT community, we are creating certain expectations in their mind.” He believes it’s harmful “when a person is told that they will be able to find solace in a group, and they lower their guard and then they’re discriminated against.”

But I don’t want to leave. And neither should other bisexual people.

I’ve written extensively about my own queer and bisexual identities — and my related identity crises about them — more so now that I’m engaged to be married to a cis-man. My queer sexuality feels more invisible than ever. The thing about bisexuality is that it’s often socially determined by the body parts and gender identity of your partner. No matter how many times you repeat, “I’m bisexual. I’m bisexual. I’m bisexual.” to yourself, when you walk through life holding your cis-male partner’s hand, your attempts at making meaningful eye contact with the other queer couple at the party fail. Your boyfriend’s friends scratch their heads, “I dunno man, I think Patrick’s girlfriend might be gay.”

Socially, bisexual folks are done disservices by both the LGBT community and the straight community via terms such as “gold-star lesbian” (which, lauds the supposed purity of having never touched a penis before, while invalidating those who have). As queer/bisexual writer Ashley C. Ford explains in her piece “I’m Queer No Matter Who I’m With,” the sheer “un-catergorizability” of a bisexual/queer person makes others in our communities nervous and, as a result, we are forced into one lane or the other. Ford writes:

Identifying as queer means being mistrusted, misunderstood and, often, mislabeled for the rest of your life. Every time you date a new person, you have to come out again. Every time someone says, ‘But I thought you were…’ and drifts off at the end, you feel guilty of a deception you didn’t intend, based on a projection of the other person’s assumption…I end up bearing all the blame for someone else’s assumptions that have little do with me.

Yes, this is all true and happens all the time. But I’m still not leaving the LGBT community.

Prompted by Anders’ video, Trav Mamone wrote a piece called “Bisexual Invisibility: The LGBT Community’s Dirty Little Secret” in which they detail the statistics showing just how erased bisexual identities are in the LGBT community and the overwhelmingly negative impacts this has on bisexual mental health.

One solution feels much more productive to me than leaving the LGBT community entirely: “We must debunk the myths surrounding bisexuality that fuel its erasure.” Rather than following Anders’ lead in taking the “B” out of LGBT all together, I propose that we do quite the opposite, and BOLD that beautiful “B,” making it bigger and more visible than ever. Ghosts are being made out of bi people in both the LGBT and the straight communities, partially because we’re dangerously misunderstood by these common bi-erasing myths…continue reading on Mashable.com…

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How Tech is Reshaping Male Masturbation // Mashable.com

“Let me assure you, babe. I’m absolutely ambidextrous when it comes to the touchpad mouse and keyboard on my computer. Being a right-handed masturbator means I’ve gotten very good at typing with my left hand.”

My boyfriend Patrick (31 years old, tattoo artist, handsome as hell) and I are driving to a dinner party. We’ve drifted into talking male maturbation, porn and technology as you do when you’re a curious sex writer without a penis of your own, with an hour-long drive to kill.

As someone who rarely watches porn when I masturbate, I ask him why he needs to do so much mousing and keyboarding when jerking off to Internet smut.

 

“Oh, you know, most guys go through this cycle of blow job, penetrative fucking, cum shot; blow-job, penetrative fucking, cum-shot. That way you hit all of the most high-intensity parts of the porn. But too much of that would probably be desensitizing to sex in real life,” he speculates, “because that’s not how real sex works”.

According to PornHub.com’s 2015 year-in-review, we’ve blown through 1,892 petabytes of bandwidth on the site this past year, equivalent to filling the storage on all of the iPhones sold in 2015 with porn. In 2015 we watched 4.4 billion hours of porn on PornHub.com alone. The U.S. was responsible for 41% of the XXX-rated site’s traffic this year, with women representing 23% of the site’s visitors and men 77%.

Free online porn has become so accessible that in October 2015, iconic porno mag Playboyannounced its no-more-nudity rebranding in an effort to stay relevant in the modern age of digital debauchery; “The political and sexual climate of 1953, the year Hugh Hefner introduced Playboyto the world, bears almost no resemblance to today,” said Playboy Enterprises CEO Scott Flanders.

In 2015, handheld devices brought in most of PornHub.com’s traffic, with 52.9% of visits coming from phones, 10.8% from tablets and only 36.3% from desktop computers. That means men aren’t just holding their penises while jerking off.

Ian Kerner, Ph.D, nationally recognized sexuality counselor, sex therapist and author, says technology-assisted self-love could be changing the physical action of how men masturbate. He calls it “opportunistic masturbation”: “Men no longer need to plan maturbation; an impulsive turn-on strikes and they can go masturbate with the aid of technology, pretty much wherever.”

 

As Patrick confirms, “I use technology 95% of the time I masturbate. My phone means that at any given time with the right amount of privacy I can have a nice, mind-clearing orgasm without having to conjure up that old stand-by mental image. [Writer’s note: Thanks, babe.] When I was young I could masturbate to an erotica story on the Internet or a Victoria’s Secret catalog because that’s what was around. But now, left to my own devices, I’ll scan through half a dozen to a dozen porn scenes before I actually orgasm.”

With hand-held devices, everything men need to jack off is readily available in the pockets and flies of their jeans, providing them with a hyper-stimulating cycle in short, high-impact sessions. As PornHub.com reports, the average visit to their site lasts just over nine minutes — far from the 30 minute average it takes most women to orgasm via direct stimulation and hardly enough time to light some candles before or snuggle after — a disconnect from partnered sexual experiences that could be causing more harm than good…continue reading on Mashable.com…