Jun 032014
 

6763959_10420a4b6a_mThe biggest news for May of 2014 is really that Medicare lifted the blanket ban on covering genital surgeries for trans people. The National Center for Transgender Equality has a good summary (PDF) of what the decision actually means. If you’re trans and interested in surgery and are a Medicare recipient, I recommend calling the physician who’s prescribing your hormones and consulting with them about next steps. The news was covered in multiple outlets including the NY Times and CNN.

The other piece of news I spotted that is not getting as much traction as I’d like is this: Urine is NOT sterile! For a long time it’s been believed that urine produced by healthy people is sterile – at least until it passes through the urethra. Turns out not to be the case. Something to keep in mind if you have contact with urine. Source

Interested in the other news? Read on!

  • Work continues on the possibility of three-parent babies. While much of the research and reporting talks about preventing mitochondrial diseases, I still think it opens a wonderful door for three-parent poly households. The latest news is fairly political, but supportive.
  • Another study out of Europe indicates that transgender hormone therapy is safe. This was a 1-year study of both men and women, just over 100 people total No deaths or serious adverse reactions were reported. Highly recommend you skim the abstract for yourself! For US readers, please do note though that the hormones used in the study were different formulations than those used in the US. Source.
  • A published case study reminds us that not all “odd” physical things during medical transition are related to transition. This was a case of a trans man who had undiagnosed acromegaly from a benign brain tumor. Eek! He was correctly diagnosed and treated, thankfully. Source.
  • A Swedish review of transgender-related records found a transition regret rate of 2.2%. Other prevalence data, including the usual male:female ratios, are included. Source.
  • A study of gay men found that they have worse outcomes from prostate cancer treatments than straight men. Source.
Nov 052013
 

News for the month of October - CC BY 2.0 - flickr user  cygnus921It’s that time of month again! No, not when we try to take over the world… it’s time for the monthly news! In no particular order, then, here we go:

  • Analysis of herbal supplements finds that many are contaminated with species not listed in the ingredients label. Herbs are typically classified as supplements in the United States, and are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration the way medications are. The FDA website has more on the regulation of herbsSource.
  • One dose of Gardasil may be enough to protect against cervical cancer (but please remember to follow your physician’s instructions about vaccines!). Source. At the same time, the HPV vaccines may be less effective for people of African heritage than for people of European heritage. Source.
  • More evidence that monthly changes in sex hormones in cisgender women are associated with changes in sex drive. Source.
  • Germany’s “indeterminate” birth certificate sex designation law comes into effect. The “Indeterminate” marker is, from what I understand, intended to denote intersex babies, not transgender people. The BBC did a fairly good summary of some community reactions. Source.
  • Low prolactin levels in cisgender men as they age has been correlated with reduced sexuality and sexual functioning. Low prolactin levels were also correlated with general unwellness. Prolactin is a hormone most well known for being involved with lactation in breast-feeding parents, but has other effects too. Source.
  • A new study examining sexual satisfaction in women with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS) or Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser Syndrome (MRKH Syndrome, aka Müllerian agenesis). Women with CAIS reported less sexual satisfaction and confidence than women with MRKH Syndrome, who mostly reported being satisfied with their sex life. The abstract on this paper is fairly scarce so I’ll try to grab a copy for better examination. Source.
  • A study in Ontario, Canada found that 1/3 of trans people needed emergency medical services in 2012, but only 71% were actually able to receive it. 1/4th of those in the survey reported avoiding the emergency room because they are trans, and just over half needed to educate their provider. Source.
  • Another study has found a decrease in psychopathology (i.e., symptoms of mental illness, such as depression or anxiety) when trans people transition. The biggest drop was just after starting hormone therapy. Source.
  • A study on the changes in sexual desire/activity in trans people was published. In a nutshell, sex drive went down for trans women with hormone therapy but recovered a bit after surgery (compared with those who wanted/planned surgery but hadn’t had it yet). In contrast, trans men generally had their sex drive go up with hormones/surgery. Source.
Jun 252011
 

Bondage(noun): the state or practice of being physically restrained, as by being tied up, chained, or put in handcuffs, for sexual gratification. Bondage can be done with many materials, including: rope, chains, body wraps, and cuffs (whether metal, leather, hand- or thumb-). Today we’re focusing on rope bondage.

A few notes before we begin: First, remember BDSM should never be done without consent. Also, consider using a safeword. Second, some acts may be illegal in your jurisdiction. Please check your laws and choose your actions accordingly. Third, I won’t be talking about suspension, or self-bondage. Those are topics for another time. And lastly, for simplicity’s sake, I’m going to use the term “top” for the person doing the tying, and “bottom” for the person being tied.

Rope? Yep, rope. What kind? Many kinds! Multifilament, nylon, and hemp are common materials for rope. Natural materials usually need some conditioning before use. Make sure the rope doesn’t have the potential to splinter, stretch or shrink.

A warning: Do Not use things like ribbons, scarves, or ties instead of rope. They narrow as they tighten and can end up cutting through skin. Ow!! Essentially: don’t use ribbons/scarves/etc any place you wouldn’t be willing to use dental floss.

Safety concerns:

  • Falling: Restrained arms and legs limit how well the bottom can balance. This increases the chance of a fall. If the bottom’s arms or hands are tied, they may not be able to catch themselves. Falls can be avoided by: a) having the bottom sitting, lying down, or leaning, b) watching the bottom carefully, c) making sure they don’t get lightheaded, d) tying certain areas but not others (e.g., the ankles, but not the hands).
  • Fainting. Yes, bottoms can and do faint. Some people are more prone to fainting than others. Bondage can create a light-headed sensation. Be careful when doing bondage with those at higher risk.
  • Joint issues. The positions involved in some bondage can make some joint problems worse. Choose positions accordingly, and change positions as needed. Discomfort should be taken seriously, since it can signal an imminent problem, like torn ligaments or dislocated joints. Ow!
  • Restricted blood flow. Without fresh oxygen, provided by blood flow, tissue can die. Dead tissue cannot magically recover. Check bound extremities (hands and feet) frequently. If they are cool to the touch or pale in color, loosen the binding. Also watch out for tingling and burning sensations.
  • Rope burn. Rope can burn skin when it’s dragged across it, just like a carpet burn. Synthetic fibers are particularly prone to this. Slow down.
  • Nerve damage. Tingling and/or numbness in a limb? Loosen the rope immediately! The best way to help prevent this is to communicate frequently.
  • Breathing constrictions. Some positions can make breathing difficult – avoid these or limit the bottom’s time in them and communicate frequently.
  • Emotional. Bondage can be a very emotional experience. Aftercare is highly recommended. If you think you might need professional help, there are bondage-friendly professionals you can turn to.

Special precautions may need to be taken with people with certain medical conditions, like diabetes (which affects circulation), fibromyalgia, or joint problems.

So… how can you improve the safety of rope bondage?

  • Frequent, open, and clear communication before, during and after the experience. Don’t just rely on a safeword!
  • Be careful about who you do bondage with. This goes for both tops and bottoms – both are vulnerable here.
  • Be very careful about mind-altering substances, like alcohol and marijuana. Many people avoid them altogether when doing BDSM. The ability to think and judge clearly is very important for safety.
  • Never tie certain areas of the body, like the neck and joints. I really do mean Never on this. Neck restriction can choke, and joint restriction can do a lot of damage. Just don’t do it.
  • Make sure the rope isn’t too tight. One way to tell is the “one finger” rule: Can you slide one finger between skin and rope?
  • Keep EMT (bandage) scissors nearby, just in case. They’re designed to cut fabric off skin without hurting the skin.

Curious? Want more information? Check out these resources (recommendations are always appreciated!):

  • SM 101 by Jay Wiseman. Has a good beginner’s section on bondage, including technique and rope selection.
  • Bondage safety on Wipi
  • Wikipedia’s article
  • TwistedMonk.com has tutorials
  • Graydancer’s Ropecast (a podcast)
  • And, as always, your local BDSM community and its workshops. Can’t find your local group? Try your adult shops, or FetLife.
Apr 032011
 

Besides feeling good and being great fun, foreplay is important! Foreplay allows more time and stimulation for full arousal, which will likely make whatever activity you’re going to do easier and more pleasurable. Psychologically, foreplay helps lower inhibitions and increases emotional connectedness.

What physically goes on during arousal in foreplay?

For men, the most obvious change is the erection of the penis. Not all penises become erect when a man is aroused – this is especially true for older men. The glans (tip) of his penis may swell, and the foreskin, if he has one, may retract. He will also produce pre-ejaculatory fluid (pre-cum) which comes out through his urethra – this is produced by the bulbourethral glands (also known as Cowper’s glands), near the base of the penis. Why does this happen? Erection and foreskin retraction allow for easier penetration. Pre-ejaculatory fluid helps lubricate the urethra. It also contains chemicals that neutralize any remaining urine in the urethra (Urine is acidic and could be damaging to sperm).

For women, the most obvious changes are lubrication of her vagina (this is produced by the cervix of the uterus). Her vagina expands and the cervix lifts, creating more room in her vagina. Her labia change shape and color in response to increased blood flow, and her clitoris becomes swollen. Why does this happen? Largely to make vaginal penetration easier. Lubrication eases movement within the vagina, and the enlargement of the vagina allows larger items to penetrate. Also, for women, it may help with achievement of orgasm.

There are a bunch of ideas surrounding foreplay that may or may not be true. Here are a few:

  • “Men don’t really need foreplay, and women do.” I don’t think so. A fairly recent study found that both men and women need about ten minutes to reach (physical) peak arousal (Source). So physically, I’d say no. The study didn’t, however, look at mental arousal which could be a factor.
  • “Foreplay increases sexual satisfaction and chance of orgasm.” Maybe….maybe not. While the popular media and personal anecdotes definitely support this idea, a study of Czech women found that duration of sex was more important than the duration of foreplay. So the jury’s out on this one. My money, though, is on the statement being true.
  • “One technique is guaranteed to work on everybody.” Not true! Everyone is different. This is where communication is crucial.
  • “Aim for these erogenous zones.” Not as easy as it sounds. An erogenous zone is supposed to be one with heightened sensitivity…but it’s different for every person and for each situation. For a common example, look at feet. Some people find their feet to be very sensual and erotic. Others don’t feel much with their feet, and some can’t stand having their feet touched at all because they’re too sensitive. The best way to find out where they are? Explore!

What counts as foreplay? That depends very much on the people involved. I think I’ve managed to come up with a few categories of activities, though…

  • Sensual touch: including with  hands, fur, leather, metal, lips (kissing), body paint, temperature (ice/hot wax, etc) and breath. Massage (with or without oils). Includes pain and impact play (e.g., flogging).
  • Psychological play: including dirty talk, humiliation, and roleplaying.
  • Erotic dress and teasing: including strip teases, erotic clothing,
  • Preparatory: Getting ready for a “special night” – cooking, eating special foods (or feeding them to someone), getting dressed up all nice, bathing with extra care, etc.
  • Bondage: including rope, chains, leather, and handcuffs…and anything else you can think of.
  • Voyeurism: watching others having sex – whether with pornography or live.
  • Misc: talking, erotic games, tantra

All of this brings up what is probably the most important part of foreplay (or, heck, any relationship-based act): Communication. Your partner(s) are not psychic, so communicate, communicate, communicate! Even if it’s embarrassing.

There are a couple of things that may cause problems with foreplay or arousal that I feel I should mention. Physical problems or illnesses can make some foreplay activities difficult if not impossible. Nerve damage can affect otherwise sensitive areas. Erectile dysfunction and vaginal dryness are relatively common, especially as we get older. Psychology can also affect everyone’s foreplay (not just women!). Trauma especially can have debilitating effects on sexuality. Some medications or drugs can also affect sexuality. If you’re having troubles with anything like what I’ve mentioned, start by talking with your partner(s). Still need help? Try talking with your doctor or a qualified sex therapist – they ought to be able to help.

The take-away message? Foreplay is good for your sex, good for your relationship(s), and good for you. Go have fun!