sexual health

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    We're bringing you this Q&A from the Sex Files in our January/February 2019 print issue, featuring advice from sexologist Dr. Carol Queen.

    My sex drive has really decreased since I turned 40. I'm easily distracted and it seems like it takes a miracle for me to orgasm. My partner is incredibly helpful but I'm just not getting there. I used to be very sexual and always orgasmed. I just want my orgasm back. — Feeling Old

    I wouldn't call you old, but you might be perimenopausal. One of the many effects of the body's shifting hormone levels can be the feeling that your arousal and responsiveness are muffled or attenuated. Many think this is just part of midlife, but not everyone heading into menopause experiences a decline in pleasure. It might be worth a visit to a physician to find out whether your hormone levels are particularly low. I'm not a fan of long-term hormone replacement therapy, but some folks swear by it for getting through menopause and out the other side.

    There are a couple of other possibilities as well. The change you describe is also a notorious side effect of both depression and (irony of ironies) anti-depressants. Have you been experiencing any symptoms of depression? Are you on anti-depressants? What about other meds? Pharmaceuticals that affect blood flow and the nervous system could also have this sort of effect; heart and diabetes meds are known for sexually suppressive side effects. I've also noticed that folks who become sedentary at mid-life can experience this, only to see a fairly miraculous reversal when they start exercising.

    Speak to a doctor, preferably one who knows something about sexuality and menopause. If some other illness is causing this effect, you certainly want to know so you can deal with it. Ask the doc about any medications you're on. Do you smoke? Stop ASAP. Are you moving your body enough? Walking, dancing, and other forms of exercise (especially core workouts) can make a difference. Consider adding new elements to your sexual repertoire: vibrators, erotic talk, sexy movies, and other turn-ons might get your motor running again.

    Carol Queen's latest book (written with Shar Rednour) is The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone.

    Got a sex or relationship question you need answered? Submit it here.

    This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

    Top photo: pxhere

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    21-year-old Parbati Bogati was found dead in a windowless “menstruation hut” in western Nepal, The New York Times and BBC.com report. Lal Bahadur Dhami, the deputy superintendent of the local police, said, “We suspect she died due to smoke inhalation and suffocation because she closed the door of the windowless hut and lit a fire on the floor for warmth during the night.”

    Abiding by an ancient Hindu tradition known as chhaupadi, Bogati isolated herself in an abandoned house. Chhaupadi, meaning someone who bears an impurity, considers women’s menstruation to be unclean and a bringer of bad luck. During their periods or after having just given birth, women are banned from touching people and certain foods as well as entering temples, using communal water sources or kitchen utensils, under this practice. They are then relegated to small structures made of mud or stone

    Many women say they observe chhaupadi because of social and religious pressures. Several cases of suffocation have been reported and a teenage girl died after being bitten by a snake. Reports of sexual assault are also common. Nepal’s Supreme Court banned chhaupadi in 2005 and in 2017 the practice was criminalized. Anyone who makes a woman observe chhaupadi faces a three month jail sentence and a $30 fine, the BBC reports.

    However, activists say police are not enforcing the law and the practice remains widespread in rural areas like Bogati’s. Last month, 35-year-old Ambra Bohara died, along with her 7- and 9-year-old sons, in an apparent suffocation from lighting a fire in the hut to keep warm from the harsh Himalayan winter. Nobody has been arrested for their deaths, The New York Times reports. The incident did propel locals to destroy chhaupadi huts around their village.

    Activists say that they plan to continue destroying the huts but are encountering a great deal of resistance, and lawmakers don’t see the current situation improving anytime soon. When a woman’s bodily autonomy has been so deeply entwined with her religion and its traditions for centuries, changing the current state of affairs seems like a Sisyphean effort. Abortion rights in the US are constantly under attack, with state laws favoring certain religious views over others. Religious moralism and women’s bodies have never been mutually exclusive. But we must keep striving to eliminate the correlation between a woman’s agency over her body and notions of ethics that stem from oppressive religious beliefs.

    Header photo by lanur via Pixabay

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    Another measure to destroy women’s reproductive rights has been enacted into law, The New York Times reports. This week the Ohio House of Representatives passed what’s known as the “heartbeat bill,” one of the most oppressive abortion bills in the country. An unquestionable attack on Roe v. Wade, the bill criminalizes performing abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The bill will now head to the Ohio Senate.

    Doctors who perform an abortion on a fetus with a heartbeat would be charged with a fifth-degree felony and can face up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine as a result of the bill. A fetal heartbeat can be discovered as early as six weeks, usually when most women do not know they are pregnant. And situations involving rape or incest are not exempt under the bill. Doctors are only allowed to make exceptions during a medical emergency or if an abortion would save the woman’s life.

    In a departure from former Governor of Ohio, Republican John Kasich, who had twice vetoed the bill seeing that it was unconstitutional, Republican Governor Mike DeWine signed the bill defending that, “it is the right thing to do,” AP News reports. He continued his justification for attacking constitutional boundaries saying, “taking this action really is a kind of a time-honored tradition, the constitutional tradition of making a good faith argument for modification or reversal of existing legal precedents. So that is what this is.”

    Following Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa and North Dakota, Ohio is the fifth state to pass legislation that bans abortion once a heartbeat is detected. Georgia passed legislation back in March and Governor Brian Kemp, who is openly anti-abortion and has expressed support for the bill, has until May 10th to sign it.

    Before the Ohio bill was signed, the state’s ACLU said it was preparing “a constitutional challenge to the law on behalf of Pre-Term Cleveland and three other Ohio abortion clinics.” Supporters of the bill hope that provoking legal opposition has the potential to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, legalizing abortion until viability, usually around 22 to 24 weeks.

    Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis declared, “the heartbeat bill is the next incremental step in our strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade.” Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, Kellie Copeland referred to the measures as “a dystopian nightmare where people are forced to continue pregnancies regardless of the harm that may come to them or their family.”

    Organizations such as EMILY’s List and the Democratic National Committee have condemned the Ohio bill, which DNC CEO, Seema Nanda, called “the latest example of how the Trump administration’s extremist, anti-women policies have emboldened legislators across the country to attack women’s access to health care.”

    Assaults on a women’s right to bodily and biological agency have grown increasingly hostile as more older, white, male lawmakers feel entitled to make decisions on behalf of women’s healthcare and encroach on their reproductive rights. Such legislation is irresponsible and dangerous as the criminalization of abortion forces medical professionals to consider the bounds of the law before addressing the health of their patient, consequently putting the patient's safety at risk. Furthermore, past history has proven that criminalizing abortion DOES NOT STOP ABORTIONS. But it does prevent safe abortions as health-care providers are barred from providing the best care options for patients in agreement with the ethical responsibilities of good medical practice.

    Header photo by trac1 via Adobe Stock 

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    A legal reckoning has finally come for Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle company, Goop—in the form of a $145,000 settlement, reports The Guardian. Investigations by the California Food, Drug, and Medical Device Task Force into three products by Goop, including two now-infamous vaginal eggs, found the products made unsubstantied scientific claims.

    Goop claimed the vaginal “eggs”—made of jade or quartz—increased bladder control, regulated menstrual cycles, balanced hormones, and prevented uterine collapse. Along with two eggs, the task force investigated the Inner Judge Flower Essence Blend, which the site claimed “could help prevent depression.”

    The vaginal eggs first spurred headlines, and ridicule, a few years backs. Backlash from the medical community was swift. On Twitter, gynecologists begged women to stop using the eggs, citing the risk of bacterial vaginosis or even Toxic Shock Syndrome.

    In a recent New York Times article, Santa Clara district attorney Jeff Rosen says, “The health and money of Santa Clara County residents should never be put at risk by misleading advertising. We will vigilantly protect consumers against companies that promise health benefits without the support of good science…or any science.”

    Despite the settlement, the $66 Jade Egg and $55 Rose Quartz egg are still for sale on the site—but Goop has tweaked the product description. The site now claims the items “cultivate sexual energy, clear chi pathways in the body, intensify femininity, and invigorate our life force.”

    Goop spokesman Heather Wilson released a statement saying, “This settlement does not indicate any liability on Goop’s part. The company has not received any complaints regarding these product claims.”

    It seems the eggs are here to stay. 

    Photo Credit: Andrea Raffin / Wikimedia Commons 

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