Let’s talk positively about pornography

Last year, more than 500 million X-rated videos were rented in the United States. Unless this involves 500 perverts renting a million tapes each, porn consumers are a very, very large group. They are, in fact, us.Oprah, Jerry Springer, Ann Landers and self-appointed decency groups love to talk about the dangers of pornography: It warps your mind, destroys your marriage, steals your money and undermines America by turning regular people into dangerous animals.

Is this your experience?

There’s plenty to say about porn that isn’t being said. It’s fun. It makes masturbation hotter, heats you up for your partner, adds spice to a couple’s sex life, and makes many people feel more normal about their fantasies and preferences.

Perhaps most importantly, it validates a vision of sexual abundance and uninhibited playfulness. In porn-land, the actresses never say no, the actors never lose their erections, nobody’s ever too tired, angry, or nervous and the sex makes everybody smile.

A few fortunate people live like this. And some people explicitly reject such a world. The rest of us-the average Joe and Jane with kids, bills, bellies and sexual anxieties-desperately need a positive vision of sexuality. Men and women who have one need it validated; people who don’t need to get one.

It’s unfortunate that surgically enhanced actresses, improbable situations and silly dialogue are the main repository of the sex-positive narrative in this country. But it’s better than nothing.

Our culture is obsessed with narrowing people’s sexual options and compulsively repeating lies about sexual danger. Pornography is one of the few places the average person can go to behold positive, unapologetic eroticism.

When Washington, the Vatican, the TV networks, and the sexual disaster industry get together to provide a positive, loving picture of sexual abundance that will nourish people, “pornographic” excess will be left to cooking channels and home shopping networks. Until then, sexy videos, magazines and Victoria’s Secret will be a critical part of America’s mental health.

Don’t be ashamed of it.

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Men! Some doctors think a wholesome, health-boosting, fitness-building bicycle should carry a Surgeon General’s warning: “Ride at your own risk.”

The hard seat where you rest your tender tissues has been related to erection problems, and urologists have case files to prove it.

The cause is simple: Compression on the perineum – the area between the anus and the genitals – damages blood vessels, thus affecting blood flow.

Take precautions, but recognize there are no easy answers and no surefire solution.

“I do warn people, but I don’t say you need to give up this healthy activity,” says Dr. Richard Lieberman, an Allentown, Penn., urologist who frequently treats bicycle-caused erectile dysfunction. “Anyone who’s strapped into an automobile knows a lot of things have risks.”

Still, the impact of cycling on sexual health is a serious issue, says Dr. Irwin Goldstein, a Boston University urologist who’s done two studies on the subject and is a champion of radical redesign of bicycles.

Goldstein, who’s performed penile implant surgeries on cyclists as young as 18, has documented that as many as 5 percent of male cyclists experience erectile dysfunction of some kind.

“I’m not anti-bicycle. I’m pro-common sense,” he says. “If any other product on the market caused this much harm, it would have been banned long ago.”

Cycling also been implicated in conditions such as clitoral neuropathy (numbness), says Goldstein.

He is unimpressed by new designs of bicycles and bicycle seats. Goldstein’s ideal two-wheeler has a seat like a toilet seat and no metal bar in front.

But professionals disagree on this point. Lieberman says current designs are probably an improvement if people find them more comfortable.

Both doctors say these new products should undergo rigorous scientific testing — including measuring the blood flow of avid cyclists.

Terry Precision Cycling, which has five seats for men and six seats for women, has sold about 130,000 of its Liberator models since 1992. The most common design sports a 2-inch hole in the middle of the seat, intended to eliminate pressure on the perineum.

“Our intent was not to make a saddle that purports to cure impotence,” said Paula Dyba, vice president of marketing. “We don’t want to make medical claims. But we know we are making cyclists more comfortable. When we get letters from people saying they don’t experience numbness anymore, we know it must be positive.”

According to Lieberman, the following cannot guarantee you won’t run into problems, but they are measures worth taking:

  • Get on and off your bicycle carefully and gently to ensure minimal impact to the perineum.
  • Try to minimize sudden impacts to the perineum.
  • Take particular care on mountain bikes, even though the dramatic jumps and bumps may be a large part of the fun.
  • Consider buying a special bicycle seat if it relieves numbness or other obvious problems.
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    Our emotions affect our sexual functioning. It sounds obvious when you say it, but many people behave as if they don’t realize this.

    Sexual response is a reflex. We perceive a physical or mental stimulus (say, a caress or a fantasy). This message travels to the brain, which sends a message down the spinal cord to various parts of the body, instructing them to respond with tingling, extra blood flow, etc.

    Emotions are electrical and chemical events in the body. They either facilitate or disrupt the sex-related messages going up and down the spinal column. Thus, if your partner says, “your skin tastes good,” your emotions facilitate a sexual response. But if your partner calls you the wrong name, your emotions disrupt the sexual response. This is how common feelings such as anger, anxiety, sadness and frustration interfere with reflexes such as erection, lubrication and orgasm.

    Many people tolerate negative emotions during sex in silence. Most men and women have experienced sex that made them feel uncomfortable. This could be due to anxiety about performance, fear or anger about being coerced, or sadness about having their needs ignored.

    Bodies in these situations rarely respond in an ideal way. Unfortunately, people frequently blame themselves, rather than the situation, for their inadequate response. This is often the beginning of believing that they have a dysfunction. That leads to more anxiety during subsequent lovemaking, undermining sexual functioning even more.

    Unlike computers, our bodies respond to irrational factors like expectations, memories and emotions. This means that being aware of our emotions is essential for satisfying sex. Your feelings may embarrass, surprise or confuse you, but they’re real, and their impact on sexual function is also real.

    Penises and vulvas usually tell the truth: a frightened penis often shrivels; an angry vulva often tightens shut, and sad mouths rarely relax and enjoy kissing.

    Admitting to yourself how you really feel may be uncomfortable, and discussing it with a partner may be even more uncomfortable. But there’s no substitute for connecting with yourself–or your partner–emotionally. It’s a key step toward healthy sexual functioning.

    Tips: Before, during and after sex, don’t ignore how you feel just because you think it’s unromantic or inconvenient.Talk with your partner about feelings you have about sex, your body or your relationship. If you consistently feel bad about sex or your relationships, consider therapy.

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