7 Sex Hygiene Rules That Everyone Should Follow

Sex is far from a sterile situation. Swapping body fluids with someone else isn’t exactly sanitary, nor is putting something of yours into someone else’s somewhere. Sex is fun and messy and germy. We don’t share toothbrushes with our partners but we will share each other’s spit. The rules are weird. Sex can be the best kind of dirty, but it can also give us unwanted infections, irritations, and other dangerous turnoffs if we’re not careful. In order to keep ourselves healthy — even if masturbating alone — we need to follow a few hygiene rules when it comes to the before, during, and after stages of sex. And remember, consent is sexy and communication is key to great and safe sex.

Get Tested For Sexually Transmitted Infections

If you have or are open to multiple sexual partners, get tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and ask that your partners do too. Using condoms and dental dams significantly reduce the risk of contracting an infection, but nothing is guaranteed. Regular exams can help you catch an infection early and before it can do long-term damage. And if you do have an infection, be honest with your partner or date if you think things could become physical.

Wash Your Hands … And Your Junk

This may seem pretty simple, but soap and water does wonders for removing bacteria from your body, specifically your hands, penis, and anus. Bacteria can cause yeast infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs) for folks with vaginas (someone with a penis can also get a UTI if anal play is involved), so before touching the vulva or incorporating digital or penial penetration into your sexy time, do a quick wash and dry. Folks with uncircumcised penises need to be mindful to clean under the foreskin because bacteria can build up if not properly cleaned. Infections aside, think about all of the places your hands have been and the stew that your junk has been sitting in all day. Ew.

See Something, Say Something

You or your partner may be the only one looking at certain body parts during sex, so if you see something that looks off — redness, a lump, a rash, or a tear — don’t ignore it.

Keep Your Toys Clean

There is no shame in the sex toy game, but toys need to be properly cleaned and stored before and after use. Toys can spread infections and bacteria in the same ways body parts can. This is why if you are swapping the same toy with a partner, you should either wash it between users or put a condom on it. Check to see what the manufacturer recommends for a cleaning routine, but usually soap and water will do the trick. When you are cleaning your toys, be sure to clean ridges or uneven surfaces thoroughly and keep an eye out for tears. And when you are done using and washing your toys, be sure to store them in a protective bag or the box it came in. Not that box … the package. Oh, forget it. Clean your toys when you’re done playing, then clean them again the next time you get them out.

Once You Go To The Anus, You Can’t Go Anywhere Else

If anal play is fun for you and your partner(s) or something you are curious about trying, have at it. But the rectum has a lot of infection-causing bacteria. “The rectum isn’t a ‘dirty’ place, but it has different bacteria than the vagina does. Introducing those bacteria can upset the balance of the vagina, leading to infection,” says sex therapist Vanessa Marin. To reduce the risk of infection, never go from anus to vagina, whether it’s with the mouth, finger, penis, or toy until you have changed the condom or dental dam, cleaned the toy, or used soap and water to clean whatever you used for anal play.

Pee After Sex

Peeing after sex, whether alone or if vaginal penetration has happened or not, is another step you can take to flush away whatever bacteria may have accumulated near the urethra before it can make its way to the bladder and cause a UTI or other infection. For folks with a penis, peeing after sex is not as critical but still important. Penis owners are more likely to get a prostate infection (if they have a prostate) if anal sex is involved. Wearing a condom is the best way to reduce this risk, but if you don’t use protection while having anal sex, be sure to urinate the E.coli from your shlong and wash up with soap and water.

Stay Hydrated

Speaking of water, we should all be drinking more of it. But proper hydration improves our sex life too because dehydration can cause erectile dysfunction and vaginal dryness. The image of those two scenarios meeting seems less than ideal. Vaginal dryness can cause itchiness and irritation; lube can help and should already be a bedside staple. Adding lube to your sex life can reduce friction and decrease the chance of injury or a condom break, both of which increase your risk of a STI. Lube can be water, oil, or silicone based, so be sure to see what you and your partner prefer; if you are using lube with a sex toy, make sure it’s compatible with the material.

Hopefully these are already rules you know and use, so consider them a reminder and not a mood killer. Honestly, no one has the time or desire for a UTI or hepatitis. Expect your sexual partners to use these rules too; consenting to STI checks, condoms, clean hands, and washed toys is just as important as consenting to the acts that will follow.

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No, You Don’t ‘Owe’ Your Spouse Sex

Sex. It’s a small word — three letters, one syllable — but the mention of it (and the act itself) packs a punch. Sex is sensuous and sensual. It is exciting, arousing, and in some ways hedonistic. It allows us to give into our most carnal and animalistic desires. And sex is both powerful and provocative. Sex is erotic. However, the sexiest thing about sex isn’t physical; it isn’t about ass, tits, penetration, or porn. The sexiest thing about sex is how it affects our mind and mood. It is the euphoric feeling we get before, during, and after.

According to an article on Medical News Today, “sex has repeatedly been associated with improved moods and psychological, as well as physiological, relaxation.”

But not everyone enjoys sex, at least not at all times. In fact, a 2017 study found 19 percent of adults do not engage in sex on a regular basis and 40 percent of women actively avoid sex. Many cycle through periods of low or no libido. And yet many men (and some women) believe sex is owed to them. It is a “wifely duty,” a routine — one which should be performed with frequency and regularity, whether or not the desire to do so is present. But this notion isn’t just wrong, it’s offensive and obscene.

For some, this is obvious. You may be nodding your head in agreement, as you already know that obligatory sex is bullshit. But some individuals feel pressured into sex. They are manipulated, coerced, or being controlled. Some individuals feel a sense of shame and guilt for not being “in the mood” and engage in the act anyway because of it. To them, sex is an obligation, a task they must perform, or a chore, like doing the wash or drying the dishes. And some individuals have sex just to “get it over with.” They feel that in doing so they will buy themselves a few days of peace and quiet. Their spouse will “back off” and leave them alone.

But none of these approaches are healthy. Having sex in this manner is not sustainable, for you or your partner. And it is dangerous. It treads a fine line.

“It is absolutely normal to not be in a mood for sex for some periods of time,” Zhana Vrangalova, a prominent sex researcher and New York University professor of human sexuality, tells Mind Body Green. “Our level of spontaneous sexual desires — the frequency and intensity with which [we] think about and desire sex without being ‘provoked’ by something sexual — fluctuates a fair amount over the course of our lives. These fluctuations are due to all sorts of biological, psychological, and relational factors.” In other words, there are numerous reasons why an person may not want to have sex.

They may be too tired, for example. Exhausted from a long day at work or a long day of chasing after feral children. Some are in discomfort or pain. Having sex while you’re depressed or your back is spasming is no fun. Many middle-aged women have low libido. Menopause and perimenopause does a fucking doozy on your body (and biology) and can lower libido. Trauma can impact libido too; many victims of sexual abuse struggle with intimacy and arousal.

Unless they are asexual, most people don’t want to be in a sexless partnershipIt is not ideal, and it removes a key aspect of intimacy from your relationship. But no one should be made to feel like they owe somebody their body. Sex is not a chore, job, or a part of a sound marital agreement or contract. There’s nothing about blowjobs in wedding vows.

Saying “no” is your right and your choice. Your body is still yours and yours alone. You still get to decide what to (or not do) with it.

Refusing sex does not make you bad or wrong.

You don’t owe anyone anything. Not your time, your attention, your words, your advice, or even an apology. You most certainly don’t owe anyone sex, even if they are the love of your life. Because you are a person, with a mind of your own and bodily autonomy. You have a choice.

So speak with your partner. Explain your feelings and your position, and let them know if you are disinterested in sex or struggling with you libido. If they love you, they will support you. They may not “get it,” but they should empathize and understand. And if they don’t, fuck ’em. Literally. Tell your partner to go fuck themselves. Because there shouldn’t be shame or blame here. You have a right to your thoughts and feelings. You can always say “no.”

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Sleeping With My Ex Was A Terrible Idea, But It Taught Me A Few Things

I’m gonna start this story off with a newsflash: Having sex with your ex is a terrible idea. Actually, I’ll rephrase. Having sex with your ex if you haven’t asked yourself, “Am I sure I know what I’m doing?” is a terrible idea.

Or at least, for me it was.

So stupid. I have too many regrets for the page about having sex with my ex-husband, and one very good reason why I don’t regret what I did at all. And I’d like to talk about that. But first, the dirt.

Like many bad decisions (or at least the ones I’ve made), my ex and I made this one while horny. We’d separated a few months before, enough for us to really start missing the sex.

It all started with his damned triceps.

Sex with my ex-husband was my weakness. I trained him well. He was eager to learn and learned fast.

Plus, there’s a special kind of magic knowing someone on a deeper level of trust and comfort, isn’t there? It’s not wrong or uncommon for a pair of exes to miss this intimacy. Especially while the split is still fresh. Or at least, this is what I told myself after I came home early from dealing cards one night.

My ex-husband and I were still living together at this point. He’d insisted I take the room upstairs while he nested on the couch. This is where I found him, playing Street FighterWe’d avoided each other since we broke up as much as we could. I prepared to go straight upstairs when I noticed his triceps flex, and I thought, Oh, mama, this isn’t going to be good.

My ex was staring at me, controller in hand, as I went to the fridge to place some leftovers inside. When I came back, he still faced my direction — eyes level with my ass. He was not discreet, and I was all for it. I missed that look. I missed us — my first regrettable choice. I allowed myself to get caught up in familiar feelings instead of telling myself, we are exes for a reason. Are you sure you don’t want to walk away? It might hurt.

I was ready for some Jack and Rose making steamy handprints in a carriage kind of sex. A “Notebook” style kissing in the rain before heading to the attic moment.

If this instance taught me anything, it’s that there’s no shame in missing what you once had in a relationship. Even if getting over someone is often the best course of action. But people change. Relationships change. If you go back hoping to find familiarity and you aren’t prepared for things to be different, you might be a little sore for a while.

I wish I’d known that then — but all I knew is I was going to get some booty.

I didn’t ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” first.

Courtesy of Evelyn Martinez

“Did you get a new tattoo?” my ex-husband asked. His eyes now rested on the new doodle peeking from under my collarbone, his game now abandoned. “Can I see it?”

When he asked to touch it, I let him. He said, “the skin is soft.”

And I replied, “want to watch TV upstairs?” I don’t even remember what my ex and I watched — it was either an old episode of Rugrats, or some fail videos on YouTube. It didn’t matter.

All I know is we were laughing at something.

Then we were kissing — a lot — followed by a few other maneuvers you can use your imagination on. The sex was confusing. Hot, but also not.

In fact, performance-wise, it was some of the best we’ve ever had. He kissed me harder, pulled my hair a little tighter. He looked into my eyes with such intensity it kind of scared me (and I couldn’t get enough of it).

Intense is always a good distraction. Of course, I reciprocated. I’m pretty sure we almost broke the bed frame and the couchWhen you know it’s the end of your relationship it’s amazing how much you can let go.

But once we finished, another regret came: not asking myself first, “What do I want from this decision?”

When making choices, it’s a smart idea to ensure you understand what you want from making it. And the possible consequences. Especially when dealing with heart matters. This is the realization that came to me as my ex-husband hopped out of bed and told me, “I need to go pee.”

I felt dirty, then annoyed that I wasted our time.

Look.

If you want to sleep with your ex after a break-up, you do you. In fact, break-up sex, in my experience, has been a positive way to say good-bye to a past relationship.

BUT.

From the start, I’d entertained the option, prepared myself. If everyone is on the same page, who cares? Maybe you feel safe and familiar with this partner, and you both agreed to have a “friends with benefits” deal.

(A recent study by Wayne University finds having sex with your ex can actually make you feel more positive. Fascinating.)

Whatever your reason, as long as it’s not a harmful one, good for you. With the right mindset, a lot of “unusual” life circumstances can work. And that’s the key — being in the right mindset.

I’m not sure what my ex-husband and I expected to get out of having sex one more time. Neither of us wanted to get back together. We didn’t hate each other at all and were still kind of friends, sure, but sleeping together felt so off — so final. I didn’t want to do it again.

Mostly it just hurt to the point I felt nauseous, then dirty, then plain annoyed I had wasted our time. Even after we did it three, four, five more times to be sure. The last go around, I put my all into it because I knew that was it. I will say this — I don’t regret giving 110 percent. It was like a gift, which is weird but honest. A part of me wanted to give him a hard time forgetting me, and that’s exactly what I whispered in his ear. And he made sure I had a hard time right back.

But after all the fun we were done — like done done, and it sucked. There’s no other way to put it. This last one was probably my biggest regret of all — the hurt. I regretted hurting myself. I regretted hurting my ex-husband. I feel like this is a popular regret. With relationships comes hurt.

In my ex-husband’s words, “it’s like riding a roller coaster for the last time as the theme park closes.” Luckily, he and I had been ready to shoot ‘Ole Yeller for a while now. We only needed a push.

“I should go back downstairs, huh, Ev?”

“Probably.”

I smiled. He smiled. I let him smack my butt one more time for good measure, and we were happy never to touch each other again. And that’s okay — more than okay.

Painful moments are excellent teachers.

Once he left, I melted into the mattress like a cracked egg, more satisfied than sad. I’m not sure what changed in me, but I was actually relieved. I may have regretted so many things about the last few questionable hours of my life. The truth is, when I thought about it all, I was actually grateful. Judging by the next time my ex and I ran into each other and we could laugh with each other, I had an inkling he felt the same.

Painful moments are excellent teachers — especially when learning to let go. They’re also necessary, which is why, when I thought about it, I didn’t really regret all my questionable choices that night because it taught a lesson I’ll take with me for life.

There’s always a moment in a dying relationship where you realize it’s done, and it can be hard to accept, you will probably do some regrettable things before the end. But take it from me, once you know, save yourself and walk away. Just go. I have a sense you’ll be grateful for the signs and your time back more than you’ll be heartbroken, but that’s me.

And having weird good-bye sex with my ex was definitely a sign. But it’s all good. That’s one funny thing about life — you can’t go back. All you can do is learn, and, of course, leave with one hell of an exit.

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If You Never Feel Sexy Any More, Here’s How To Get Your Mojo Back

Ohhh, pandemic life. Wearing leggings and sweatshirts 24/7, hair in some makeshift style, showerless days — it all adds up to feeling like a hot mess … minus the hot. Feeling sexy seems like a long-lost memory, and you wonder if you will ever feel sexy again. The good news is you are not alone, and you can definitely get your sexy back.

You are stressed, trying to balance an impossible load, and exhausted. Mothering, schooling your kids, work duties, and just plain surviving are overwhelming your psyche. There is little to no room for anything else. You just don’t have the energy to flip the switch from tired, overworked mom to the sexy vixen. Moreover, it seems impossible to find the energy or desire for sex.

Everyone has bad days. But these days feel never-ending. Add on top of that lack of variety in your day, a more sedentary lifestyle, being around your partner 24/7, and lack of opportunity to have sex. Any feeling of sexy you used to have seems like a distant memory. And all you can do is reminisce about what it felt like to look in the mirror and like what you see looking back at you.

First of all, women’s libido and feelings of sensuality fluctuate regularly. And fatigue, change in lifestyle habits, stress, anxiety, loss of connection with your partner, and more can all contribute to these fluctuations. That’s just everyday life.

However, the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University has conducted several studies on the impact of COVID-19. Researchers found that the more stressed, disconnected, or lonely a person felt, the greater the negative effect on their sex life. They also observed that 24 percent of married people reported having less frequent sex since the pandemic began, and 17 percent of women reported a decrease in both sexual and emotional satisfaction since the start of the pandemic.

In other words, this is totally normal. The sexy feelings you used to have are still there; you just may need to work a little harder to find them. And frankly, you aren’t obligated to feel sexy if you don’t feel like it. The thing about sexiness is it’s not just something you can turn on and off at will. But if you miss it, here are a few things you can do to get your sexy back.

Dress the part

Ditch the sweats or leggings and put on something that makes you feel desirable. It doesn’t have to be anything over the top or uncomfortable. It can be a cute maxi dress hiding in the back of your closet or a satin pajama set. Sometimes looking good on the outside helps you feel better on the inside.

Buy new undergarments

The granny panties you bought yourself to get through postpartum that come up to your belly button need to go. And if your period panties have become your everyday panties, it’s time for an upgrade. Crummy underwear don’t exactly help you feel like a hot momma. Buy yourself some nice undergarments that don’t come 5 to a pack and feel soft against your skin.

Watch or read something sexy

Grab a romance novel or binge-watch something hot. It’s a fun way to escape the monotony of your day and rev your senses a little. You can even take it up a notch and ask your partner to read along with you or meet on the couch after the kids go to bed and pick something hot to watch together.

Exercise

Don’t groan; just try it. Most people don’t find exercise to be fun or relaxing. But whether you like it or not, there is no denying it is good for you. It helps release endorphins, which can increase your libido and help you connect to your body more. Not to mention it can increase energy levels throughout the day and lead to better sleep at night.

Get away

Being that home is the source of stress for many of us right now, the answer may be to get away from it all. Whether it’s by yourself or with your partner, a night in a hotel or an escape to a local Airbnb may be exactly what you need to get your mojo back.

Plan sex

Let’s be realistic, with kids running around the house 24/7, trying to balance work schedules, and keeping your home from looking like a disaster area… who has time for sex?!?! Making a plan to have sex isn’t the sexiest thing. But if that’s what it takes to make time for sex, then do it. It may be awkward at first, but once you get things going, you can just relax into the moment and enjoy yourself.

Breathe and relax

These days it’s easy to run around from sun up to sun down in a constant state of stress or anxiety. But it’s essential to find time in the day to intentionally breathe and relax. You will find your shoulders dropping a bit, your jaw unclenching, and maybe even your mood lightening. Besides, it’s tough to feel sexy when you don’t feel relaxed.

Don’t compare yourself to others

Different people have different definitions of sexy and different libidos. It’s not fair to yourself to measure your sexy against some ideal rather than your norm. Try to remember your sex drive and sensuality pre-pandemic and use that as your barometer to get back to your normal.

Get a good night’s sleep

Lack of sleep directly affects your libido. It can also contribute to the deregulation of your hormones. And we all know what can happen when hormones are all out of whack, and there is nothing sexy about it. A good night’s sleep prevents improves your mood and increases energy levels. So be sure to get some shut-eye.

Turn your cell phone off

That little phone has a lot of distractions. Spending some time unplugged every day can help you connect more to yourself and that special someone. And stop bringing your cell phone to bed. It is easy to waste hours scrolling through nothing important when you could spend some intimate time with yourself or the person next to you.

Masturbate

There is nothing wrong with pleasuring yourself. Some would even advocate it should be a regular practice. Go the old-fashioned route, grab a toy, or take advantage of your showerhead. The key is it’s purely for your pleasure, and you can focus on what makes you feel good.

The flip side of this is to simply honor the fact that sex or feeling sexy is not your priority right now. Your mind may need to focus on preserving your mental and physical health or balancing all the things that are on your plate right now. And that is ok.

Forcing yourself to feel something that is just not there isn’t going to help anyone. The point is to do what works for you and get your sexy back at your own pace.

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Edging Might Help You Have Better Orgasms

You know how if you are really thirsty, water just tastes so much better? Or, maybe you’ve gone some time without sugar and you take a bite of your grandmother’s apple pie and you aren’t just tasting it — you’re having an experience.

We all know the saying, “Good things come to those who wait,” and while I believe there are times that’s total bullshit, there is something to be said for tempting yourself with something until you are a bit uncomfortable, then giving in. 

Not to mention working really hard to make something happen in your life is really freaking rewarding when it blossoms into fruition.

I try to explain this to my daughter: She loves shopping for clothes with the money she earns from her dishwashing job (I have no idea where she gets this, ahem) but also wants to save money for a car. Like many teenagers, she wants her wheels handed to her; as her mother, I explained that waiting and hard work will make her appreciate a car a lot more than if I just showed up with a new ride adorned with a big bow on top.

However, did you ever think this could apply to your sex life? Well, it does! Reaching the edge of orgasm, then stopping (also known as edging) can make your orgasms more explosive than ever.

I realize this might not appeal to you if you have kids and literally 20 minutes while they are entertained with a show. And of course once we fall into bed at night after a long day, a lot of us want to get off, then watch the back of our eyelids because we literally don’t have energy to dream, much less make sexy time last longer. But if you get the opportunity, it’s definitely worth a try.

So how do you play this edging game, and what’s in it for you? Allow me to explain.

Scary Mommy spoke via email with Dainis Graveris, a Certified Sex Educator and Relationship Expert at SexualAlpha, who had some great suggestions on how to get started.

First, you need to rethink your masturbation goals and make edging the focus, not the climax. “You should not just masturbate to relieve boredom or sexual pressure,” says Graveris.

Another important tip is to not look at porn or any kind of sexy photos if you are trying to edge. According to Greveris, this will help you focus inward, or on your sensations, which is the whole point.

Movies and pictures are actually outward distractions and take us away from ourselves. Edging familiarizes you with the different stages of arousal, so before you incorporate edging with your partner, Graveris suggests exploring your body and sensations by yourself first.

To start, set the mood. Turn down the lights, lock the doors, light some scented candles, turn on your oil diffuser, put on some music — whatever gets you relaxed and focused on yourself.

Next, Graveris suggests closing your eyes and fantasizing about someone (or something) that arouses you. Then, “Touch yourself until your vagina gets wet,” says Graveris.

Notice what happens once you become excited: your heartbeat gets faster, your muscles tense, your skin begins to flush, and blood starts flowing into your clitoris and vagina. “This stage is the excitement stage of arousal,” says Graveris.

It’s important to stay present and focused. The goal is on a scale of 0%-100% (50% being sexually excited, and 100% being an orgasm) to hover around 80% and then bring yourself back down to 50%.

You do this by stopping stimulation as soon as you feel you are nearing climax. “Take your hands away from your vagina or clitoris and keep the pacing slow,” says Graveris.

After practicing this a few times, bring yourself to orgasm and pay attention to how you are feeling and observe if your orgasm is longer or feels more intense. 

Graveris says to make sure you keep sessions to 15-20 minutes; this doesn’t have to be a marathon event. 

If you are looking to try this with a partner, Graveris says you must be vocal. “When you’re about to come, you can cue or tell your partner to stop the stimulation and focus on a gentler type of touch in other parts of your body. For example, your partner can stop licking or touching your clitoris and simply run their fingers along your thighs. They can also move to touch or kiss your breasts. Repeat these steps until you’re ready to come.”

And there are many perks to this practice, according to Graveris. “Edging boosts your awareness of your body and what it’s feeling. You become more in tune with your body and sensations that you become more confident about what gets you off and how to reach it.”

It can also help women learn more about their bodies and pleasure points when done solo. 

“Aside from reaching orgasms, you can also achieve more powerful, longer orgasms with edging,” says Graveris.

I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to go hide in my closet for a bit of Mommy Alone Time for a few minutes a week if it means I’ll be able to have a more intense, longer orgasm. It’s definitely the kind of hard work I’m willing to put in to make my vagina happier.

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I’m Definitely Not OK With My Partner Going To Strip Clubs 

I was on the phone with my best friend, and I’d never heard her so upset. During what was supposed to be the happiest year of her life  she’d gotten engaged and was planning a wedding to a man she was madly in love with — she was crying, shaking, and couldn’t eat.

This lasted about a week. 

The reason? Her fiancé was going to his bachelor party, and although he said he didn’t think there would be strippers there, and her brother who was going said there probably wouldn’t be strippers there, she kept seeing the signs.

Her fiancé would get defensive and say he had no control over what his friends had planned, even though she voiced to him (over and over) that she wasn’t comfortable.

Her brother would tease her and make jokes. Her soon-to-be father-in-law lectured her about how it wasn’t that big of a deal, and all guys saw strippers at bachelor parties. It’s just what they did.

This was almost 25 years ago, and I have never again seen or heard her in that state.

When my ex-husband had his bachelor party (which was a whole weekend getaway), I didn’t think much of it. I trusted him and I wasn’t worried about a thing. It was before cell phones and I wished him well and sent him on his way.

He came home and literally said to me “I never want to see another naked woman besides you again in my life.”

He went on to tell me they went to a strip club on Friday night. He went on the stage and got a lap dance and several women danced for him.

On Saturday afternoon, they went back. 

On Saturday evening, his friends had five strippers come to their hotel room for a private party. One of his friends was slipping one of the strippers a lot of cash to take my fiancé into a hotel alone and give him a private show. That is, until his brother stopped him. “He’s not going to want to do that.”

The strippers stayed all night long.

I remember feeling kind of sick when I heard all this. However, I knew the man I was about to marry, and aside from watching these women dance and strip, I don’t believe anything else happened. He did say that it was exciting at first, then it got old. He was glad his brother stepped in because he felt like he had to “man up” and act “all horny for the strippers” or he knew his friends would get after him. 

He was 23 at the time, and he cared a lot more about what his buddies thought back then.

He never went to a strip club or attended a party if there were going to be strippers there again. That was his choice. He could tell by my reaction to his stories it wasn’t something I’d put up with again, and our relationship wasn’t worth risking for a night out with his friends watching women take off their clothes. 

I’ve had friends who are strippers. I have zero disrespect, and I believe you get to choose what you do for work. But they’ve told me some stories I’d rather not know about all walks of men and the things they have done with them and for them.

My current boyfriend told me he went to a bachelor party when he was 21, and the woman who came to strip for them in the hotel room charged $20 to take a shower with her. She took a shower with every man there for twenty minutes. They couldn’t touch her, but they could do whatever they wanted with themselves. All of these men had girlfriends or were married.

I realize women have bachelorette parties and see male strippers too, but it’s not as common and we all know it. I know there are couples who enjoy going to these clubs together, and women who don’t mind if their man watches strippers.

But I do mind. Quite a lot. As in, it’s a deal breaker for me. 

I don’t blame any woman for anything my partner does. If he crosses a line with me, it’s on him. And for me, crossing a line is watching another woman take her clothes off, dance topless, give a lap dance, or take a shower with them.

I’m so fucking sick of men thinking this is a rite of passage for them and saying shit like “men will just be men.”

The excuse that it’s “not cheating” doesn’t cut it for me. It’s not about cheating — it’s about disrespecting the person you are with. Full stop.

If the person you are in a relationship with doesn’t feel comfortable with you going to strip clubs, or attending a party where there’s booze, drugs, and naked women, then you shouldn’t. 

It’s not about trust. I can trust someone all day long and still wonder why they need to watch another woman undress … not to mention pay them money to do it. 

I don’t care if nothing else happens or there’s no sex involved. It disturbs me greatly to think my partner needs to partake in an activity like that.

Don’t doubt my confidence. In fact, I’m so fucking confident I’m not afraid to say when something doesn’t work for me. I will not stand there and act like I’m down with something I’m not. 

This has become normalized, and it makes me sick. Women are supposed to suck it up and accept the fact men want to go look at real-life naked women. We are supposed to be comfortable with it. We are supposed to be “strong” enough to believe in our man and trust them beyond a doubt.

If you ask me, looking at strippers, especially if there is alcohol involved, isn’t trustworthy behavior. It goes beyond anything physical happening. It boils down to this: I simply don’t want to be with someone who thinks it’s his right to go to a party or club and watch naked women and that I should just accept it.

I don’t care if he thinks he’ll look “whipped” in front of his friends if he doesn’t go. I don’t care if he tells me over and over I’m the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen and no one can compare.

It makes me feel completely and utterly disrespected, and too many women have been made to feel like they have to just accept this behavior and swallow their feelings on the subject.

They don’t.

It’s 2021 and it’s time to hold men to a higher standard than this horseshit. 

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Confessions Of An Exhibitionist

When you hear the term exhibitionism, what do you think of? Open, unrestrained sex? Peeping Toms in trench coats? Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in “Eyes Wide Shut”? Well, none of your assessments would be wrong. Exhibitionism is, by definition, an act of exposure. It is sexual in nature. Voyeuristic. Exhibitionists are turned on by the notion of “turned on,” or caught. And while exhibitionism is (generally) presumed to be a bad thing — in fact, exhibitionism is considered a deviant behavior, a mental health disorder — it isn’t all about unsolicited dick pics or strangers exposing themselves on subways. How do I know? Because I was, for some time, an exhibitionist. I spent most of my 20s in a state of inebriation and undress.

Of course, I don’t fit the “bill.” I identify as a woman, which — by default — is something of a shocker. Most exhibitionists are male, according to Psychology Today. Additionally, Psychology Today points out, “risk factors for the development of [an] exhibitionistic disorder include antisocial personality disorder, alcohol abuse, and an interest in pedophilia.” One’s sexual identity also plays a role. But women can be exhibitionists too, particularly when one of the aforementioned “risk factors” is involved. In my 20s, I had undiagnosed bipolar disorder and, when manic, I indulged in my vices. Tequila took the place of water. Beer became food, and sex replaced sleep. I acted randomly, impulsively, and my behaviors were often careless and reckless

I made out with (and groped) women.

I slept with men.

But it wasn’t enough to just have sex. I wanted to be heard, caught, and seen so I engaged in sexual activities in public. I’ve given hand jobs on the hoods of SUVs, blowjobs in bushes, and I’ve literally had sex on the street. I’ve also “done it” in numerous places: in restrooms, laundry rooms, stock rooms, and on a baseball field. I flashed my breasts regularly. I was “that person,” the one who also ended up nude at parties. Why? Because I was sick. Very sick. And because, subconsciously, I liked the attention.

I needed it.

I yearned for it.

Exhibitionism filled a hole in my head and heart.

I am not alone. In 2016, Mic published an article entitled “What It’s Like to Be a Female Exhibitionist” and, in it,  Sarah* — a 35-year-old married, white female from Texas — explained why she is drawn to voyeurism, exhibitionism, and being seen, exposed, and displayed.

“I found that I liked it. I liked the attention, [I] liked that I could sort of control them [men], liked that they were looking at me,” Sarah said in an email interview. “So I’ve continued doing it.” At the time the article was written, Sarah admitted she exposes her breasts frequently and spreads her legs wide open, giving strangers a full view upskirt. She also views her behavior as harmless, as I did.

“I suppose that what I do is the same as a man who gets an indecent exposure charge, but it feels less threatening somehow,” she said. “If a man were turned off by what I do, I guess it would be similar, but it does feel different.” Sarah has never received any complaints from men. Plus, most women fantasize about having sex in a “unusual” location or public place. But Sarah’s behavior, and mine, is problematic.

“When women flash, nobody reports them,” Gloria Brame, a sex therapist and certified sexologist, told Mic. “A woman without clothes is viewed as vulnerable, i.e. rapeable. and a man without clothes is viewed as potentially [a] rapist… as the generally larger of the two genders and the generally perceived as much more powerful and certainly more violent, a naked man feels more threatening to most people than a naked woman.” But both can be offensive.

I never considered the kids who may have seen me through their bedroom windows.

The women and men who may be triggered or upset by what they saw.

The good news is that — these days — my manic episodes are well managed. I take several medications to keep my mental illness at bay, but I still have voyeuristic tendencies. I still like to be seen, but in a “safe,” distanced, and mutually agreeable way. So I share nudes with a couple who engages in similar behaviors. I flash my husband, but not my neighborhood. I do not expose myself to anyone else, and occasionally, when I’m feeling particularly outgoing, I’lI use video chat-based websites, like Omegle, to engage in virtual sex with other consenting adults. But that’s it. That’s all. My “sex in the streets” days are long since behind me.

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I Grew Up During The True Love Waits Movement, And It Messed Up My View Of Sex

In our high school sex-ed class, the teachers (who were also male sports coaches and usually taught PE) showed us slides of genitalia covered with various red sores. This was one tool that was supposed to scare us out of having sex. Another tool was the responses the teachers would give us to our anonymous sex questions. We had the opportunity to write our questions on slips of paper and throw into a hat—a literal hat—and the coach would pull out questions, read them aloud, and answer them. Only, he rarely answered them. This only prompted the smart-ass kids to write questions like, “You know what STD you can get at Red Lobster? Crabs!” The whole experience was a joke, except the outcome wasn’t funny. Instead, our lack of true sexual education was damaging.

The teacher emphasized the two big dangers of sex: pregnancy and STDs. I can’t recall any conversations about consent, boundaries, sexual assualt, or sex other than vaginal. I think one teacher, one time, showed us how to put a condom on a banana, which of course pissed a lot of the parents off. This led us to believe that everything but vaginal sex was safe and fair game. These “don’t have sex” rules also applied to what was taught in church. The wrath of God would only come down upon us (how exactly, I’m not sure) if we dared to make our way around the bases, a home run being the ultimate no-no. The abstinence messages we received messed up a lot of us, creating an unhealthy view of sex and no understanding of our bodies or boundaries.

Purity culture was known for the True Love Waits movement which taught us that our virginity was a gift that should only be bestowed upon our opposite-sex partner (the one who also waited to have sex) on our wedding night. After that, we could have as much sex as we wanted and hopefully procreate as fast as possible. This was the gateway to a happy, fulfilling, sin-free life. Plus, this way we didn’t bring any shame upon our parents or ourselves. Win-win-win, right?

If you’ve watched “Bridgerton,” you know when Daphne tries to discuss sex with her mom (ahem, the honeymoon with the Duke), and her mom gives her zero real info. Helpful, right? The message then, and the message that can still pervade some communities today, is simply “don’t do it.” Your virginity is a gift, and you shouldn’t just hand it over to anyone. True love waits. I guess this means that your love isn’t true if you don’t wait?

Many of us in our youth group wore our virginity like a badge of honor. Some of us even wore bands stating “true love waits” on our wedding ring finger, which would one day be replace with a diamond band. We were indoctrinated with Joshua Harris’ book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”—the book that the author himself later condemned. The premise of the book is that courtship—ahem, prep for marriage—was what God wanted from us. Of course, this also meant sticking to safe and non-sexual side-hugs and the occasional cheek kiss until our wedding nights.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with waiting until one’s honeymoon to have sex, no matter how traditional or archaic others think it is. The problem isn’t making the decision to wait. The problem is the lack of informed consent—consent to make a boundary that one lives by. None of us who were taught abstinence-only were informed.

For me, the TLM movement really messed up my view of sex and my ability to have a healthy sexual relationship with myself and my partner. TLW is extreme, going from zero to sixty. Well, sort of. The assumption is that you keep your hormonal urges under control until your wedding night, yet there was no definition of what was and wasn’t okay. Therefore, many of my fellow youth group members were working their way around the bases, including oral sex, without giving in to the ultimate sin. Safe sex practices were never discussed, but as long as no one was pregnant—all was blissfully and ignorantly well.

We didn’t know much about our bodies. There was never any talk of masturbation, the importance of well-woman exams and STD screenings, or birth control. Like in “Bridgerton,” the expectation is at you’d you’d have sex—lots of it and really, really good sex—for all of eternity with your one true love after you walked down the aisle. But this is rarely how it goes. Girls raised in purity culture didn’t know anything about what was where on their bodies, what an orgasm even was, or how to have one. (Or that if you did have one, it was perfectly healthy and not sinful).

The church was very quick to condemn homosexuality, divorce, and, of course, premarital sex. They spent so much time telling us what not to do, that there was very little talk of what we could do. We needed to put away all lustful thoughts and girls were to dress modestly. What did this teach? That girls were responsible for boys being tempted by our bodies and that normal sexual feelings were sinful. I can’t even begin to tell you the hours I poured over my Bible, looking at the cherry-picked verses our youth group leaders had us memorize, in response to getting naked with my boyfriend inside his car.

How are we supposed to just turn off the guilt the moment we get married, switch gears, and go at it all without an ounce of doubt or shame? The answer is, it’s nearly impossible. After you’ve been indoctrinated to believe that sex is a mystery, a gift, a responsibility, and a sin outside of marriage, when you do enter into a forever union (supposedly) with someone and are given the go-ahead to make whoopie, you’ve got issues.

It’s taken years and years for me to unlearn what I was taught (and not told) about sex. Trying to move away from embarrassment, difficulty, and confusion isn’t quick work. We can’t just flip a switch and go on to have a magically healthy and enjoyable sex life—not with ourselves or with someone else.

I’m resentful that purity culture and a lack of sex education has caused me (and my peers who were raised similarly) so many lost years and experiences. What did we miss out on because we just couldn’t shake the beliefs that there was something wrong with us because we desired sex? The only thing we can do about it now is keep working through our past and toward the future we want, and make sure we don’t teach our children the same damaging lessons. One thing I now for certain is that there was hardly any truth and no loving in the True Love Waits movement.

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Are You Having Mindful Sex?

Humans are too busy. We rarely slow down, we’re easily distracted, and we sometimes miss out on wonderful experiences because of the pace we keep. The pandemic has added to the chaos, and while we may want to run away from it all, our only option on most days is to mentally escape through exercise, television, or a hobby. Our minds can usually drift in and out of what we are doing without much loss of enjoyment in the thing we are trying to do. But there are times when grounding yourself in the moment and being fully present is what’s going to give you the most enjoyment. Sex is one of those times. If you are able to have mindful sex, you will likely be able to have mind-blowing sex.

First of all, sex shouldn’t ever be a chore or done out of obligation. If you don’t want to have sex, don’t. But there are layers of desire when wanting to have sex. Whether you are ready to tear each other’s clothes off or are both up for it but need some extra time to get the engines started, reframing how you think about sex will make it more meaningful and pleasurable.

The first step in being sexually mindful is to let go of the goal of an orgasm. Listen — I want to have an orgasm when I have sex, and I want my partner to have one as well. However, if that is the only point of having sex, then there is a lot lost in the middle. And it’s a lot of pressure! Our bodies act differently on different days for a lot of reasons, and sometimes an orgasm just isn’t going to happen for one of you. You should never be made to feel that there is anything wrong with you if you don’t get there, nor should you ever feel fully responsible for “giving” your partner an orgasm.

Laurie Mintz, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Florida says we need to think less and immerse ourselves more in the sensations our bodies are feeling during sex. It’s the idea of having your mind and body in the same place at once. She describes this as sexual mindfulness — as opposed to sexual spectatoring. If we’re constantly worried about how our bodies look, about our performance, or thinking about our work email during sex, then it’s hard to relax and experience the sensations enough to know what we want and need. In those moments, we become spectators; voyeurism can be a fun part of sex too, but that includes intention and presence as well.

To counter those sometimes negative thoughts that can pull us out of our sexual experiences, it’s important to focus on how our bodies feel. We need to trust that we deserve pleasure and that our partner wants to make us feel good. And if little distractions pop up that take your focus away, Mintz says it’s okay to acknowledge them and then let them go. It’s not always our to-do lists or the dog roaming around the bedroom that pulls us out of the moment; it can be our own fears that our partner is bored when they are giving us oral sex or whatever else they may be doing. We worry our partner is frustrated that we are “taking too long” to orgasm. Or maybe we get frustrated with ourselves. *Revisit my words about orgasms.*

As sex expert Emily Morse said on Dax Shepard’s podcast Armchair Expert, “Communication is lubrication.” Talking about sex before, during, and after will help you stay in the moment because you have provided the groundwork for trust and vulnerability. You have already established what you are in the mood for and what you like. You aren’t put off if your partner redirects you, because communication is expected and desired. For me, my partner’s pleasure is just as important as my own during sex, so I want and encourage her to tell me if something is or isn’t working. I also trust that her feelings won’t be hurt if I ask her to change what she’s doing so that my experience is more enjoyable. Sex should feel good, and all people involved need to let go of egos and selfishness.

Staying present and being mindful during sex means paying attention too. Michelle Mouhtis, LCSW, a New Jersey-based therapist and relationship coach, says to focus on the different senses we experience during sex. Listen to the sounds your partner is making, look at the way their chest is moving while they breathe, notice how their mouth feels on your body, observe how they taste. Not only does paying attention to your body help you have great sex, but it can help your partner too. Some people may not feel comfortable talking during sex, but body language speaks volumes. If your partner’s body isn’t relaxed or fully enjoying what’s happening, you will know. That’s when you — as a mindful sexual partner — can stop and ask what they want or what you could do differently. On some days the answer may be to get a toy or try a new position. On other days, it could be to stop and snuggle. Intimacy can include sex, but a back rub or nap together may be what you both need too.

I hope that all of our sexual experiences are mindful ones, but I also know it takes practice and sometimes a little bit more time to really settle into a hot session of love making. Sometimes all you have time for is a quickie, and those are fun and valid too! But performative and unsatisfying sex is often mechanical and bad sex. Sexual mindfulness is about being present while being intimate with someone. And even though the idea is to let go of the goal of an orgasm, orgasms are often easier and more intense when the focus is on the journey.

If you are struggling to stay present during sex, it’s important to look at why. This can be tough because examining our mental health, relationships, or even our sexuality can be overwhelming and life changing. But everyone deserves to feel physically and emotionally taken care of.

As a sexual assault survivor, I want to mention that I know what it’s like to dissociate during sex. If you or your partner is a survivor, it’s important to talk with each other and a therapist to be sure everyone feels safe during sex. Flashbacks or physical reactions to previous assaults can’t be predicted, so please make a plan to take care of yourself and your partner if staying present isn’t possible.

Now carve out some time and practice mindful sex with a partner. Or schedule some time with yourself — giving yourself pleasure and finding out what you like is empowering and a great way to build sexual mindfulness.

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Watching Porn Helped Me Discover My Sexuality

Years ago, I developed a secret crush on a female friend. I was married to a man at the time and was operating under the assumption that I was heterosexual, so the crush on my friend was incredibly unsettling. I needed to convince myself it was an aberration; a glitch.

I made up excuses for why this crush had appeared: My friend was very intelligent, and my feelings were simply exaggerated admiration. My friend had helped me through a tough time and I was experiencing transference, that thing when a patient falls in love with their therapist. My friend was a vessel in which to deposit my irrational, impossible-to-fulfill desires because I wasn’t content unless I was inventing problems for myself. Or I was simply having an early mid-life crisis.

Notice how none of these early excuses for how I felt about my friend had anything to do with my sexuality.

Later, when I was working on a sex scene in my novel that was inspired by my secret gay crush (because I needed to hit all the queer clichés while being in complete denial of my queerness), I realized my only experience with lesbian sex was the pathetic glob of fumbling, terrified fantasies in my head. So I decided to look it up. My first innocent query was on YouTube. YouTube, of all places, because my pining gay ass forgot YouTube doesn’t allow sex on its platform. The first time I attempted this search, I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of my daughter’s pre-kindergarten at the local Baptist church and using the key words — I kid you not, wait for it — “girls kissing.” Bless my heart.

At some point, still desperate to ensure the scenes I was writing for my book felt authentic, I googled “movies with realistic lesbian sex scenes.” One of the top results was for the movie “Blue Is the Warmest Color.” I found a clip of the super-intense sex scene from that movie and watched the whole thing.

Parts of my brain felt like they were exploding. New nerve endings appeared in my nether regions. I immediately knew I was no longer watching only for the purpose of writing realistic sex scenes. I still wasn’t ready to admit I was gay though.

It finally occurred to my dumb baby-queer ass to search actual porn. I floundered through stupid keywords (“girl-on-girl,” “women fucking”) that led me to lesbian porn made for men that made me want to flatten penises with shovels. Eventually though, I found videos of women having intimate sex in a way that didn’t seem so performative, so airbrushed and spray-tanned, so fake-orgasmy. I saw eye contact, nipples pinched up in arousal, chests and necks and cheeks reddened with rushing blood. And the feelings it gave me … it’s hard to describe. Not just “I want that.” It was also that I felt stupid and embarrassed for not having known before that this was something that was an option. I was confused, ashamed, terrified, and sick with longing. I still wasn’t ready to admit I was gay though.

So I “tested” myself — with porn. In an effort to observe my own reactions, I watched various combinations of genders and styles. Heterosexual sex targeted at men. Heterosexual sex targeted at women. Gay sex of various iterations. Lesbian sex targeted at men. Lesbian sex targeted at women. Any one of these, with toys added. Which combinations triggered arousal?

The cisgender heterosexual sex, quite frankly, disgusted me. No wonder I’d never watched porn before. When I thought of porn, I assumed it was all heterosexual porn targeted at cis-het men and their eager, overzealous penises. So much pounding. So many poor, shrieking women with pigtails. So many frantic, gaggy blowjobs. *Insert barf emoji*

But the vagina-vagina sex drew me back every time, and not just in a “Yep, that’s a turn-on” kind of way. It was more like, “That’s not fair, I didn’t know!” I was furious — with myself for being a clueless dolt, and with all the heteronormative bullshit that had contributed to a lifetime of assumptions of what and who and how I was “supposed” to be.

It’s really hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced an awakening like this how much of a full-body slam it is. It was way bigger than just wanting to fuck someone with a vagina the way I saw in those videos. It was an identity thing, profound and unburiable. I went to Pride parades and wanted to cry the whole time because I knew I was part of that community but couldn’t tell anyone. I was invisible and alone.

Two years ago, I started dating my partner and once again discovered a “new” option I hadn’t previously considered. My partner is nonbinary. Does falling in love with and being extremely sexually attracted to a nonbinary person mean I’m pansexual? I don’t know, and honestly, I don’t care. I have never felt so at home in all the ways. My partner’s name is Amber so I call myself an “Ambersexual.”

With Amber, I learned the difference between the excitement of being desired and actual, pure desire. The first is an ego thing — you’re the target of someone else’s desire. The desire is flowing toward you. With true desire, your desire begins inside you and flows outward, to the other person. I’d never felt that before. I never felt the urge to stroke any part of a man’s body. I had felt a craving to want to be desirable enough to be touched, but not a desire to touch. One boyfriend in college had The Perfect Body™, and being with him felt like an upgrade of my worthiness. But did I ever want to touch his penis? No. No I did not. Not ever.

I would have eventually figured out my sexuality without porn — the crushes on unavailable friends were going to keep coming. But porn hurried the process and clarified things for me in a way that didn’t require me to engage in sexual acts with other people. I recognize porn is problematic in many ways; it creates unrealistic expectations for people and can even lead to sexual dysfunction. The industry can be extremely exploitative and in some cases contributes to sex trafficking. But, for me, it was a tool I used to chip away at the walls that were hiding who I really am, and I’m grateful for that.

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