Blog, How To, Uncategorized

What Place Does Pleasure Have in an Emergency?

Orange flowers grow from black charred wood

What Place Does Pleasure Have in an Emergency?

Written by Emily Athena

If you live anywhere on the west coast, chances are you are or were close to a fire or socked in with smoke. To our nervous system, this is an emergency. Being afraid or uneasy is an appropriate response to these conditions. We are evolutionarily hardwired to engage with (fight), run away from (flee), or disassociate from (freeze) threats, and fires and smoke are most definitely threats to our survival.

However, at this very moment most likely you are somewhat OK, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this. While you might know that intellectually, your body could still be on high alert. How do you tell your body that despite these dangerous conditions, you are OK?

There are more nerve pathways running from the body to the brain than the brain to the body, which means that telling yourself you are OK via speech or thought is not the most efficient way to communicate with your body. Most bodies respond more readily to changes in feeling. Then the question becomes, how do you change how you feel during a time of emergency?

3 ways: External orientation, body attention, and pleasure!

First, look around. Let your eyes leave the screen and wander through the space you are in. Can you see that despite what’s happened, your current surroundings are a safe place to be? Let your eyes register what is safe and pleasant about where you are. Take your time with this. You can even name the safe things in your environment to yourself (soft blanket, green houseplant, tea kettle, etc). Do you notice any changes to your breath, body, or thoughts by simply looking around? External orientation informs your body that in this exact moment, you are safe where you are.

Being vigilant about staying informed is an appropriate response during an emergency, but it can get overwhelming. If you feel overwhelmed, see if you can take a mini-break from the information hunt and instead notice your body. 

  • Can you feel your body?
  • Can you feel your lower body?
  • Can you feel the effect of gravity on your body or maybe where your body makes contact with the support beneath you or ground below you?
  • Can you feel a place or sensation in your body that feels pleasant? If not pleasant, neutral?

Focus on that for as long as your attention will let you. Again notice if there are any changes in your breath, body, or thoughts by doing this. Maybe all you feel is grief. That’s OK. Can you feel the aliveness in feeling such a profound emotion and perhaps the relief of releasing tears if that’s what wants to happen?

Taking in even the smallest bits of pleasure makes more space within us to handle adversity. It strengthens our wherewithal to withstand stress. What stress drains in us, pleasure replenishes.

Pleasure is anything that feels good. Think about the simple, embodied, everyday pleasures that are readily available to you. Orient toward those things that bring you more in touch with the feeling of pleasure in your body as opposed to numbing out and escaping. You probably already experienced this by looking around your space and noticing your body. Some other examples include laughter from watching comedy, connecting with loved ones, helping out or volunteering, sharing a meaningful conversation, smile or hug, cuddling, listening to your favorite music, dancing, positive imagery, eating your favorite food, self-pleasure, sex, etc.

All of it counts, even 10 seconds of feeling a little bit better than terrible is a respite for your nervous system. Engaging in pleasure is not selfish, frivolous, or escapist. You do not need to do anything to deserve it. Pleasure is a healing resource and a necessary part of living through an emergency. Engage with it and gently encourage others too as well. Our communities will be stronger for it, for when we are connected to pleasure we are kinder, more present, and more available to those around us.

Blog, Education

Enjoying Sex as We Age

Enjoying Sex as We Age

How to be a Sage

Written by Jane Steckbeck

“It takes most people decades to reach their full sexual potential. Although our culture equates ripe sexuality with youth, true sexual maturity is often accompanied by soft bellies, gray hair and wrinkles…[t]he best lovers are sages—mature people who are able to act in alignment with their authentic self and to be in ongoing, conscious connection with others.

-- Sheri Winston, “Women’s Anatomy of Arousal: Secret Maps to Buried Pleasure.”

While our cultural training may disagree, my experience with clients in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and yes, even 80’s, and with workshop participants (having attended over 40 workshops on Love, Intimacy and Sexuality), and with people who attend my public talks and classes, a lot of people over 50 are having passionate, connective and rich sex lives.

I can assure you that having a fulfilling sex life after 50 is entirely possible—if that is something you want. This post will cover a few practices that are common amongst sages and will offer “empowerment reframes” for anyone who wants to experience passion, pleasure and intimacy after 50.

1. A sage recognizes that great sexual intimacy is NOT dependent on intercourse. Sages understand that shared pleasure can include oral sex, hand stimulation, long cuddle sessions, erotic massage, sensation play…and much more! While important for procreation, intercourse is absolutely NOT necessary for sharing pleasure or experiencing orgasm. Finding ways to share intimate touch without the goal (or pressure) of intercourse and “performance” can provide couples countless ways to connect sexually.

Empowerment Reframe: I am a beautiful, sensual and sexual person no matter my age. I can experience pleasure in many ways and am eager to explore new ways of sharing pleasure with my partner.

2. A sage appreciates that his/her aging body may have wrinkles, sags or extra weight, but he/she is comfortable with such changes. A sage understands that we are sexual beings from birth to death and good sexual connectivity does not depend on our weight, skin tone, or other external factors. A negative body image certainly tanks libido whereas self-confidence and a steadfast belief in our worthiness as a sexual partner can keep us engaged and savoring the vitality we experience though sexual connectivity.

Empowerment Reframe: I am worthy of pleasure, sensual and sexual touch regardless of how my body looks.

 

3. A sage knows that it is worthwhile to cultivate libido by engaging with erotic stimuli and/or agreeing to show up for sex even if not initially “in the mood.” Low libido can be a serious impediment to enjoying sexual connectivity—and yet, what is a primary goal of sex? For many, it is connection and sharing intimacy. A sage recognizes that if he or she wants intimate connection, then seeking erotic stimuli and showing up for sex is vital. Remember, more people than not experience responsive desire as opposed to spontaneous desire—which means that we have to expose ourselves to erotic stimuli to become aroused—then desire follows. Follow this link to my recent blog post about responsive desire and this link for ideas for how to awaken libido at any age.

Empowerment Reframe: I can mindfully awaken my desire by seeking out erotic stimuli (erotica, ethical porn, podcasts, romance books, etc.). I understand that the more I have sex, the more I will want to have sex!

 

4. A sage understands that self-pleasure is an important component of retaining vital sexuality as we age. We are first and foremost our own sexual partners and not having a sexual partner does not need to derail your sex life! Masturbation is a primary form of sexual expression and can help us retain deep connectivity with our sexual energy and ourselves. For people over 50, masturbation is even more important for a multitude of reasons: it helps us retain healthy blood flow to genitals, keeps us interested in sex and can keep us informed about how our sexual response is changing. Mother Culture has given masturbation a terrible rap—I encourage everyone to re-think this one.

Empowerment reframe: Whether partnered or not, I have a robust self-pleasure practice and enjoy my solo sexuality a great deal. If I do find a partner, I’m ready to play. If not, I’m happy with my sex life!

 

5. A sage problem-solves around issues that are age related, like painful intercourse. For many post-menopausal women, this is an absolute reality—it certainly was for me until I found a solution—and fortunately, there are solutions. Any woman experiencing pain with intercourse should consider the following:

1) Visit your GYN to ensure that your pain is due to menopausal changes and nothing more;
2) Consider pelvic floor physical therapy or massage; in Eugene, we’re fortunate to have the Pelvic Wellness Center and Sage Red Healing to help;
3) If you want to work with vaginal health on your own, try the Vaginal Renewal Program through “A Woman’s Touch: Sexuality Resource Center.”
4) With your health care provider’s guidance, consider using a topical estrogen product. Personally, I found tremendous relief from painful intercourse with Bezwecken Cubes, which provide a low-dose of bio-identical estriol.
5) Look into the OhNut, a fabulous new product that allows women to control the depth of intercourse. Check out this review for a first-hand description of how it can work!

Empowerment reframe: I can have intercourse without pain. It may take some effort to get there, but if I want this, I can make it happen. I will not have intercourse if it hurts!

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  • Silicone 4 Piece Dilator Kit

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  • Unscented Vulva Balm

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  • When Sex Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Banishing Sexual Pain

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6. A sage recognizes that our bodies may take longer to experience arousal and orgasm…and that taking time is perfectly acceptable. I hear women raise the concern that they take “too long” to experience orgasm, so they can’t possibly expect a partner to “work that hard.” Oh, my. Actually, you can ask for this and you’re worthy. There is such a cultural belief, mostly held by women, that if it takes “too long,” it’s not ok. (God forbid a woman’s pleasure requires some genuine effort on behalf of her partner…) Here’s how it can be made easier: use erotica to stimulate arousal and sex toys to stimulate the vulva. Sex toys (vibrators) help bring blood flow to the genitals and can facilitate orgasm. When used with a partner, the vibrator can do the heavy lifting—and guys, a vibrator will never replace you. Most women want loving connectivity with their partners. Use of a vibrator together can foster connectivity while delivering results without anyone working too hard. For a great resource on understanding female arousal, check out Sheri Winston’s “Women’s Anatomy of Arousal.”

Empowerment reframe: My partner and I can learn to use erotica and sex aids (toys) to help stimulate my arousal response and achieve orgasm. I’m worth the effort and my pleasure and orgasms are as important as my partner’s.

 

  • Naked at Our Age

    Talking Out Loud About Senior Sex

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  • Sex After Grief by Joan Price

    Sex after Grief is the first book to address sex and grief together and treat sex as a normal, positive, life-affirming part of emerging from such a difficult time.

    Joan Price, the top expert on senior sex, draws on her own experiences as a widow since 2008, when she lost the love of her life to cancer. She shares her raw grief journey, sexual reawakening (and the many stumbles along the way), and attempts to dip back into dating, along with excellent advice on handling each step.

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  • The Menopause book

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  • The New Love and Sex After 60

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In my experience, people over 50 who want to have passionate sex lives can indeed have them. It takes bucking our cultural training, flexible thinking, the willingness to problem-solve, a positive self-image and the belief that we’re worthy of sexual connectivity and pleasure. Be a sage and enjoy sexual intimacy at any age!

This piece was originally published on Jane Steckbeck's website. Read it in its original context here.
Blog, Education, How To

Your Guide to Anal Adventures

Anal August: Every Body's Got a Booty

What comes to mind when you think about anal sex? For many people, the idea of anal play conjures some unpleasant reactions. Some have had negative experiences with previous attempts, and some have negative connotations about what butt stuff is like, or the kinds of people who might want it. But the truth is that anal is an option for everybody who wants to participate in it -- every body’s got a booty, after all!

No matter what you may believe, safe, pleasurable, and fun anal play is within reach. Your anal session probably won’t look like it does in porn, but trust us, that’s a good thing. Anal scenes in pornography often skip over the extremely important setup and foreplay that safe and pleasurable anal sex requires, and skip over most of the safety and hygiene practices that are required. Simply put, porn exists to turn us on, not to teach us.

But don’t worry; that’s what we’re here for! Here, we will walk you through the process -- from before you begin, to after you’re finished. We encourage anyone who is looking to get into anal to keep an open mind! You may have preconceived notions or personal fears about anal sex, and it’s important to work through those feelings if you want to have a good anal experience. Everyone’s anal adventure is different, because every body is different! So keep an open mind, listen to your body, and pay special attention to what feels good. Remember, the purpose of all play is pleasure!

So with that in mind, let’s get into it:

Anatomy

Let’s begin by talking about butts themselves! If we want to please that part of our bodies, it’s important to know the anatomy we’re working with. On the outside, there are lots of ultra-sensitive nerve endings that can be stimulated in a myriad of ways. The perineum -- or the area between the anus and genitals -- is a haven for nerve endings. Often, this area enjoys being stimulated with pressure or gentle massage.

The opening of our anus itself is also packed with sensitive nerve endings. Many people think that anal play must include penetration of some kind, but that is absolutely not true! Rimming -- the act of stimulating the anus externally using mouth, fingers, or a vibrating toy -- is a sensation that many enjoy. If you’re considering trying anal stimulation but feeling a little hesitant or uncertain, rimming and other kinds of external play is a great way to start exploring!

The inside of the anus is defined by two rings of muscle. The external ring we can consciously control, and it is this muscle that we use when we bear down or clench our anal muscles. However, the internal ring is more complex. We cannot consciously control our inner anal ring; it tightens or relaxes subconsciously, and is often affected by our mood. For example, if we are feeling nervous or afraid, that muscle will tighten. Trying to force entry through this ring when it’s too tight can cause extreme pain, which is why many people have negative experiences with trying anal penetration. Instead of moving too quickly or rushing to penetration, we must slowly coax our bodies into relaxing. This can mean waiting until we are relaxed, working to change our mindset and giving our bodies time to follow, giving our bodies other kinds of pleasure to relax it manually, or even having an orgasm before trying anal penetration!

Within the body is the rectum, which is the area that will be occupied with toys or body parts when we experience penetration. The rectum contains within it a huge amount of nerves, making it extremely sensitive. Sensations of friction and fullness often create pleasure internally. For some bodies, the rectum is also the place to access the prostate. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that most penis-owners have, and is located a few inches inside the anus on the inside wall of the rectum. Many prostate-owners find that stimulating the prostate, either with fingers, penises, or toys, gives them extreme pleasure that can lead to orgasm. For bodies without prostates, anal penetration can stimulate the g-spot -- or even the clitoris -- from a different angle, leading to different pleasurable sensations.

No matter your anatomy, the anus is full of sensitive nerves. Anal play is all about learning how best to stimulate them!

Supplies

Humans have evolved to use tools, and there are a few items that we suggest to help you as you engage in your anal exploration.

First -- and most importantly -- lube! Because the rectum doesn’t produce its own lubrication (unlike the vagina), it’s critically important that any anal activity is supplemented with ample amounts of lube. There are many different kinds of lubricant out there, and what you use is largely dependent on personal preference, and the materials of toys you would like to use. For rimming, many people enjoy a flavored water-based lube. Many use coconut oil for external play and digital anal penetration, because it is long-lasting, slippery, and protects the sensitive skin cells of the anus and rectum. For penetration with toys, a hybrid lubricant or a very thick water-based lubricant may be preferred, depending on the material of the toy. For penetration with a penis, silicone lubricant will last the longest and provide the smoothest glide. Experiment with several different kinds of lubricant to see what your body responds to best! Just be careful to check the ingredients to ensure they are non-toxic, body-safe, and compatible with whatever toys you want to use.

While it can be difficult to get lubricant inside the body, lube shooters make that process easier. Similar to a syringe, the shooter utilizes a plunger to draw lube inside, and features a small spout that allows you to deposit the lube internally with ease. Don’t be stingy with lubricant, either -- make sure you’re applying plenty, and re-applying often.

Many people like to use toys for anal stimulation. The most important thing when looking for toys to stimulate your booty is to make sure that it has a flared base. Unlike the vagina, the rectum does not have a set end point, meaning that toys without a flared base run the risk of being pulled into the body and getting stuck. In the worst cases, it can require a hospital visit to remove stuck items. 

Toys that are designed with this flared base for anal stimulation are often called 'butt plugs.' Plugs come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. From plugs that are smaller than the average index finger, to much larger inner-band training plugs, there is a plug for every body and every experience level. Straight plugs will help you get used to the sensation of “fullness” commonly associated with anal penetration, while curved plugs are often designed to put pressure against the prostate. Explore and experiment to find what size and shape is right for you! You can also use anal beads, which are toys that gradually increase in size along their length. Beads help to slowly help your body stretch to accept penetration. When removed slowly, beads teach your body to relax and slowly open. In addition, there are many different anal training toy sets, typically consisting of multiple toys in gradually increasing sizes. These sets are particularly helpful if you hope to work your way from the beginner level into larger toys, or penetration with a dildo or a penis. 

 Many people use plugs to prepare their bodies for penetration, while others wear plugs during other sex acts for additional stimulation. Some plugs vibrate for an extra kick of sensation. Plugs can be made of glass, stainless steel, aluminum, or body-safe silicone, and each material has different benefits and creates different sensations. When choosing an anal toy, personal preference is paramount, and the possibilities are endless!

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Hygiene & Safety

One of the main reasons that some people are hesitant to try anal play is due to their conceptions of anal hygiene. It’s important to note that while anal sex does involve the part of the body where fecal matter comes from, and it’s possible to encounter some during anal play, it’s unlikely that you will encounter a lot. Because fecal matter is not actually stored in the rectum, and only moves into the rectum when we actively have to defecate, the area we are playing with should be mostly clean. Lifestyle, diet, and physical or digestive abilities will have an effect on the body, and it’s best to know your body well before engaging in anal play.

But if you are concerned about hygiene, there are a few steps that you can take to make sure your experience is as clean as possible:

You should always go to the bathroom and empty your bowels 30-60 minutes before engaging in anal play. Once your bowels are empty, you can wash the outside of your body with gentle soap and water. Hypoallergenic baby wipes are also very helpful for pre-play cleanup!

If you desire extra cleanliness, you may enjoy a gentle enema 1-2 hours before engaging in anal play. There are simple bulb-styles that are easy to use in the restroom, as well as in-shower options to work into your bathing routine. We suggest using warm water only; our booties don’t respond well to chemicals, perfumes, or strong soap.

Remember never to use the same object to stimulate the vagina or the mouth that was just in contact with the anus or rectum without washing up, first. This means no moving from anal penetration to vaginal or oral penetration with the same toy or body part, unless you wash it first. If you’ve been using your fingers to stimulate someone anally, make sure you wash your hands before moving on to other sensitive anatomy. Failure to keep our tools clean will spread bacteria and encourage infections in both ourselves and our partners. When in doubt, pause and wash up!

If the idea of running to the sink between every act isn’t appealing, barriers are a wonderful help! Barriers do more than make your sex safer, they also make it more hygenic. If you want to use a toy without stopping to clean it up afterward, you can simply place a condom over the toy. Then when you’re ready, remove it for instant cleanup! If you use your fingers to stimulate the anus or rectum, you can always wear gloves. That way, you can simply remove the gloves when you’re finished instead of stopping to wash your hands. Gloves can also introduce a different sensation, and the application of gloves can become a very erotic part of your scene-setting. If you’re worried about your bed, you may choose to lie a towel down beneath your hips to protect your space from any mess that might occur, and help to streamline cleanup.

Remember that all kinds of sex have the potential to get messy. Mess is a part of life! If you do get messy during sex -- whether while participating in anal or any other act -- just keep calm, and clean up! You may be able to get back into a sexy mood after a quick shower, and continue participating in other kinds of play. Or you may be turned off enough by the mess that you need to end the scene if it gets too messy, and that’s ok, too! You are the only person who gets to set your boundaries, and decide when to stop.

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Take It In Steps

One of the most important things to remember when engaging in anal play is to move in steps. Diving in too fast risks hurting the receiving partner. You never want to begin with penetration. Instead, start with external play! We highly recommend rimming as a method to warm your body up to the potential for anal penetration. Using fingers, lips, or tongue, or toys to stimulate the anus from the outside helps the body become aroused, increase blood flow and sensitivity to the area, and help turn the receiving partner on. The more relaxed and turned on the receiving partner is, the better your anal adventure will be! Only attempt penetration once your partner is relaxed, their body is warmed up, and ample lubricant has been applied.

Many people like to engage in ‘training’ before participating in anal sex, which means using small penetrative toys to help your body get used to being opened up. Training can last anywhere from a few hours, to a few days! Some find that wearing a butt plug for awhile before participating in anal play makes the experience easier, because their body is already engaged. Others may enjoy using fingers or small toys to prepare their body for penetration with a penis or a larger toy.

When you think you’re ready to engage in penetration with a larger toy, our best advice is to go slow and slippery! You can use a lubricant shooter to make sure that there is lube throughout the rectum, and apply a generous amount to the outside of the penetrative object, whether it be a toy or a body part. Remember to breathe, don’t tense up, and take it slow.

If you experience pain, stop and apply more lubricant! If you’re still experiencing pain when using plenty of lube, then it may be an indicator that your body isn’t ready. You may need to go back a step and work on training for a while longer. Every body is different, so listen to yours! It’s a common cultural myth that anal sex will hurt, but that’s not actually true! Sex -- no matter what kind you’re participating in -- should never hurt (unless you want it to).

If you experience pain during anal play, pause. Consider taking a short break, giving yourself more warm-up time, adding more lubricant, or switching positions. Many people ask us about numbing agents or desensitizers, but we do not suggest using these kinds of products. If you’re feeling discomfort or pain, it’s usually best to listen to your body. Pain and discomfort is an acute form of neurofeedback to warn us of harm to our bodies, and removing your ability to feel discomfort creates the potential for injury. 

Aftercare

So you’ve had a successful anal experience. Well done! But remember that the scene doesn’t stop on a dime, and many people will need physical aftercare, emotional aftercare, or both!

Once you’re done, take some time to clean up. Baby wipes are incredible for a fast cleanup! Don’t feel the need to sit down in the bathroom and try to squeeze the lube out of your body right away; instead, give your muscles time to relax. Take a break. This can be a wonderful time for a soothing bath -- ideal for both mental relaxation and physical soothing.

Some slight discomfort is normal after anal penetration. It’s also normal to see a small amount of blood afterward. If you do notice a bit of blood, it’s a good indicator that you didn’t have enough lube throughout the entire interaction. Make sure you are reapplying often enough during penetration! You can soothe upset external skin of your anus with coconut oil, or unscented cocoa butter. If there is a lot of blood, or extreme pain at any point, you may need to see a doctor! If you do, be honest with them about the cause of your pain. We promise, your doctor has heard it all before, and they will know what to do.

Don’t forget to tend to your emotions, too! Emotional aftercare can be just as important as physical aftercare. Participating in anal sex can make the receiver feel extremely vulnerable. The receiving partner may need plenty of praise, attention, and affection. Talk to your partner about how they feel, and what they need! Perhaps they will want to watch their favorite television show, eat their favorite snack, or cuddle up in their favorite blanket. Be attentive to their needs, and make sure to clearly state your own!

It’s important that both partners check in with each other about their feelings, takeaways, likes, and dislikes of their experience once you’ve both cooled down both mentally and physically. Discussing with our partners what was good, what was great, and what could be done better, is how we improve our experiences.

Closing Tips

Congratulations! You’re almost ready to go safely out into the world of anal exploration! But before you do, let us offer a few final tips that can help set you up for a successful anal adventure:

  • Remember, anal sex shouldn’t hurt. If it does, stop, troubleshoot, and adjust. Pain shouldn’t be a part of anyone’s sexual experience (unless they want it to be).
  • Lube, lube, lube. We know we’ve talked about the importance of using plenty of lubricant a lot already in this guide, but we just have to say it one more time: USE PLENTY OF LUBE. When in doubt, add more. There’s virtually no such thing as using “too much” lube.
  • Get turned on first! If you’re already feeling sexy, then it’ll be a lot easier for your body relax enough to enjoy anal. Sometimes, anal sex is easiest (and the most pleasureable) after you’ve already had an orgasm. Experiment with what works for you and your body!
  • Make anal a side act. If you know you love clitoral stimulation, then try adding anal play in simultaneously with your favorite clitoral toy! Experiencing pleasure in one part of the body deepens our overall connection with our entire physical selves, and opens our bodies up to even more pleasure.
  • Breathe. Often, when we are trying something new or experiencing something unfamiliar, we tend to physically tense up and our breathing becomes shallow. It’s important to stay relaxed and present, and taking deep breaths is one of the best methods for connecting to your body. If you find yourself getting tense or anxious during anal play, focus on taking a few deep breaths to help you relax.
  • Practice makes perfect! If your first attempt at anal sex isn’t flawlessly executed, that’s ok! Experience is the best teacher, so as long as you remain interested in and excited by anal play, you should keep exploring it. Move at your own pace, and make your own rules based on your wants and needs.
  • Anal isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok, too! Every body responds to different things. While some people may want and enjoy anal play, others simply don’t. Your boundaries are yours to determine, and should always be respected by your partners -- no ifs, ands, or butts.

And with that, we set you free to begin -- or continue -- your anal adventure! Be safe, have fun, and check in with your partner/s frequently. And remember: every body’s got a booty.

Blog, Education

“What Protections are You Using?”

Two People Wearing Face Masks and Drinking a Milkshake

Communication and Coronavirus

How We Can Use Our Interpersonal Relationship Skills to Communicate About COVID-19 Safety

By Felix Hart

As we learn to live in the era of coronavirus, learning how to communicate about potential spread and contamination risk is vital. Recently, I have been struck with how similar these discussions can be with sexual health discussions around sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Questions like, “When was the last time you were tested?,” and “Who have you come in contact with since then and what do you know about their sexual history?” feel very similar to questions around COVID like “Who do you live with, and who have you come in close contact with recently?” and “What are the risk factors at their jobs and homes?”

There’s a big difference between having sex with someone and getting within 6 feet with them, but the conversations require the same kind of honesty about risk and precausions taken. The words seem similar when vetting a new sexual partner as they are when discussing boundaries with a person who you want to be in a “germ family” with. 

Unsure where to start? Here are some potential questions to address with people you are close to right now:

  • What have their previous exposure and risk factors been?
  • What steps are you both taking to stay safer and reduce risk?
  • How will you communicate when a new exposure happens, or if someone in your world gets sick? How will safety precautions change if someone does get sick?

To make these types of conversations easier, plan to set aside a time to talk specifically. These conversations can feel awkward, and people may initially be reluctant to have them. Acknowledging that there is stigma and shame around illness can help us understand why many of us are hesitant to share our STI status or make plans for if one of us gets sick. Try starting by discussing why you feel the need to have the conversation in the first place. This will ensure that everyone’s concerns are heard and can be properly honored.

Just as with STIs, there is a shame-and-blame mentality emerging in our culture around this virus. This mindset is important to recognize so that we can unlearn it and change the narrative.

It’s important to recognise that getting an STI is a normal part of being sexually active--in fact, the CDC reports that more than 1 in 6 adults have genital herpes!¹ Similarly, getting Covid-19 is possible even if the person has maintained physical distancing guidelines and worn a mask whenever they have left the house.  In neither situation should the person be stigmatized. Instead, we must offer resources to help those who need it to receive the care they need.

Everyone has a different risk profile when it comes to Covid-19. Some of us are immunocompromised or older, and getting sick could have dire consequences. Some of us are connected to someone who is at greater risk so we need to take more precautions. But whatever your risk profile is, communicating about it to those you live with and come into contact with is essential to keep those at a higher risk safe during this time. 

Good communication skills are always amongst the most important tools we have in our relationships with others, and this strange new time we are living in is proving that. We only hope that this opportunity to better hone these skills will last long after the end of this pandemic!

Felix Hart is an As You Like It employee who brings a systemic, interconnected viewpoint to relationships, communication, health, and education. They have a background in cellular biology and are currently a Couples and Family Therapist intern at the University of Oregon centering diverse sexualities, identities and relationship structures.

Blog

Our New COVID-19 Policies

Last Updated: August 30, 2020

It is with both caution and excitement that we have re-opened our brick-and-mortar storefronts!

While we are overjoyed to be open to the public once again, we also want you to feel safe shopping with us. Please know that we are still taking extreme care to do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community, including the following new policies:

❤️ Our cleaning procedures not only meet, but exceed the CDC guidelines for clean spaces, and our staff will continue to maintain the highest possible standards of hygiene for as long as COVID is a risk to our community.

❤️ As part of our cleaning procedures, we have set up a personal sanitation station just inside our front door, and we ask that our customers use the provided hand sanitizer when they first arrive in our retail space.

❤️ Our staff will be wearing masks while serving you. We ask that all customers bring masks, and wear them while in our store. Masks must be worn as advised by the CDC to cover both mouth and nose at all times while you are inside our retail space. If you do not have a mask, a disposable mask will be provided for you.

❤️ If you plan to try on lingerie, gender affirming products, or other clothing, please shower before coming to shop. Any clothing item that is tried on and not purchased will be pulled from the sales floor for several days to prevent spread of germs.

❤️ For the safety of all, the number of shoppers allowed in our store at a time will be limited. Please be mindful of party size when you shop with us. If you arrive to find our space already at capacity, we ask that you wait your turn to shop. Chairs will be provided at a safe distance from the front door if you must wait.

❤️ We will continue to offer private shopping hours, especially for the elderly, vulnerable populations, and essential workers who cannot make it to our regular hours. To book your private shopping hours, visit us on our Facebook Pages, or reach out to your home store by call or text.

❤️ We will continue to offer free curbside pickup on all online orders, and free shipping on all over $50 when you use the code justbecause at checkout.

❤️ Since our in-person events have been postponed for the immediate future, we have converted our event space in Eugene into a gender-affirming, resource, and lingerie space. This will allow for more customers to shop at once while maintaining safe social distancing.

❤️ For up-to-date hours and contact information for our two locations, scroll to the very bottom of this page, or visit our Locations page.

Finally, we want to extend a hearty thank you to our community for the support we have received over the past several weeks. We could not have made it through this challenging time without your help. While we know that the challenges are far from over, we feel confident in our ability to persevere, largely thanks to support from all of you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. 

With Love and Gratitude,

Kim Marks and the AYLI Team

Blog, Education

Insider Advice: Navigating the Sex Toy Store

This article was originally published 2/13/20 by the Eugene Weekly.
Written by As You Like It Employee, Melissa Padgett

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and you may be tempted to buy your sweetheart something sexy — but what? Chocolates? Massage Oils? Lingerie? Sex toys? All are excellent choices. But while some are easy to shop for, some are more of a challenge — especially if you want to surprise your sweetheart. 

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Blog, Education

Pleasure for Every Body

Pleasure for Every Body: The need for discussion of disability in sex
By keisha janney

Having a satisfying and pleasurable sex life should be available to everybody and every body who wants to have one. 

Sadly, one marginalized group in particular exists whose sexual health and wellness is still rarely addressed: disabled people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in four, or nearly 61 million, adults in the United States live with a disability. That means you or someone you know is probably living with a disability.

Unfortunately, we get a lot of messages from the mainstream media that tell us that we should be having sex in particular ways, or in some cases, not having sex at all. In the media, we rarely see positive images of disabled people. It is even more rare to see disabled people having sex. More often, we are portrayed as sexless and undesirable. Yet, like most adults, disabled adults also desire a full range of sexual pleasure!

Disabled people might benefit from additional tools to help them explore their full pleasure potential. There are a range of items that can be used to reduce barriers and to help create pleasure. The following are a few ideas for people with physical disabilities to experience pleasure.

For many bodies, using a firm foam wedge can be used to position yourself or your partner(s). A wedge can provide more support than a typical pillow and can be used in a variety of positions. Slip a wedge underneath your hips while you are on your stomach for penetration or stimulation from behind. Position the wedge under your hips while on your back to relieve pressure on your back or hips and still get a great angle for oral or penetrative sex.

For solo play, there are a variety of options for people with penises or vaginas. For clitoral stimulation, vibrating wands carry a lot of power and a longer handle that can be easier to hold than a traditional bullet sized vibrator. Some wands even minimize vibration in the handle to minimize irritation to a nerve injury or carpal tunnel. 

There are also several styles of insertable toys that can be put in place and operated with a remote or via Bluetooth. For stimulating a penis, vibrating sleeves can be used with an erect or flaccid penis to create pleasurable sensation. Additionally, there are a wide variety of anal plugs that vibrate, rotate and stimulate any backside!

Sometimes barriers to pleasure might require the support of a professional. If you and/or your partner(s) are experiencing sexual difficulties related to disabilities, consider reaching out for assistance. Eugene has several intimacy coaches, couples therapists and physical therapists who specialize in working with bodies of all abilities. These are professionals who have specific experience to help you find the pleasure you desire.

Pleasureable sex is not out of reach for any body!

Keisha Janney, MS, CFT, is a part of The Eugene Intimate Health Center and an individual and relational therapist in private practice. In addition to her work, Janney enjoys crafting, volunteering and spending time with her dog. For more info: eugeneintimatehealthcenter.org.

This article was originally published in the Eugene Weekly.

Blog, Education, Uncategorized

2-Minute Lube Crash Course

Lube is one of the essentials for a healthy and pleasurable sex life! And the lube you choose can unbelievably enhance your play, or ruin the moment entirely.

There are four main kinds of lubricants on the market today: water-based, silicone-based, hybrid, and coconut oil. Each kind of base has its own benefits and drawbacks, and potentially the most important factor when choosing a lube is preference. That’s why we encourage you to find a shop with testers available (like As You Like It!) so that you can feel, smell, and taste your options before buying. Some lubricants are warming or tingling, while some are flavored and edible! There is a vast range of lubricant options available, so no matter what you’re looking for in a lubricant, one exists that is perfect for you.

But how do you remember all rules for using lube? And how do you know what kind of lube to use for what kind of play? Great question! We made you handy chart to use as a cheat sheet.

These rules are not always hard and fast. Always ask a doctor or a sex educator you trust if you are unsure. For example, although silicone is a body-safe material, there is some debate on whether or not it is balanced with vaginal PH. However, for people who experience painful vaginal intercourse, a silicone lubricant may be your doctor’s recommended lubrication for vaginal sex. All bodies are different, and everyone’s body responds differently. We encourage you to explore your own chemistry!

In your exploration, remember that not all lubricants are created equal. Because lubricants belong to a relatively unregulated industry, you must be cautious and do your research when deciding what brand of lube to purchase. Not all lubricants on the market are body safe. Please be sure you are reading the ingredients of any lubricant that you are considering purchasing, and to know what to look out for, or make sure to purchase from a store that you trust to carry body-safe products, like As You Like It!

Bear in mind that even lubricants with the same base can have extremely different properties, including cushion, drag, texture, and scent. And no two lubricants are exactly alike, so if you haven’t found one that you love yet, keep looking! Your perfect lube match is out there — you just have to find it!

Blog, Product Reviews

Review: The Suckler

 

“When I first heard about suckler toys, I was skeptical. Would it really deliver? The top two brands are the Womanizer and the Satisfyer. I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the money on one — I am not a clitoral only kind of woman. But an unexpected windfall gave me the opportunity to try out a Satisfyer. The idea behind this toy is that there is a moveable membrane at the back of a small, silicone-lipped opening on the device, This membrane vibrates back and forth creating a vacuum when the silicone “lips” seal around  a small area of flesh – most often a nipple or a clitoris.

“The first attempt, I started cold turkey, no foreplay, just a little lube and the suckler itself. It proved to be a great tease, engorging my clit somewhat, arousing me and feeling very nice, but never quite sealing the deal completely. After a little while, I finished myself another way and reported the results to my sweetheart. But when he went off to work and I found myself home alone, I decided that a second try was in order. Holy Moly! This time that little sucker immediately latched onto my clitoris and I reached orgasm in just a few seconds! I barely had time to think, it was just happening! Since then, the Satisfyer has moved to the front of the drawer under my bed.”

-Reviewed by Melissa, AYLI Employee

Education, How To

Tips For Setting the Mood

Tips For Setting the Mood:

In my youth, my former partner and I made a habit of playing loud music almost every time we decided to have sex. This is because each of had lots of roommates and thin walls. It probably clued them off what we were doing because our classic choice was the album ‘Kid A’ by Radiohead. I might be dating myself, but this was a time before internet radio and mp3 players were really a thing so if it was a particularly good night for us, they’d have to listen to the entire record twice.

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