relationships

Lelo Ina 2

A female friend recently asked me for my top sex toy picks. Which are the crème de la crème?

In no particular order, I give my highest Squeals of Approval to these body-friendly toys:

Lelo Siri: This small toy is designed for clitoral use, but can also be rubbed over nipples, the outside of the anus, and the labia. This toy has vibrations light enough for a woman in menopause or recovering from illness or surgery and strong enough for a woman who requires significant power.

Fun Factory SmartBalls: These two connected balls are recommended for solo use to strengthen the pelvic muscles, but are amazing for use with your partner during oral or anal sex.

Lelo Tor 2: This cock ring is a great addition to the bedroom mix for women in heterosexual relationships who aren’t able to orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. The Tor 2 can also be used between male partners to heighten the sensations during sex. For those of you who are budget conscious or have multiple partners, you can try Trojan Vibrations’ disposable cock ring.

Hitachi Magic Wand: This external toy has been a go-to product for women for decades! The high-intensity vibrations aren’t for the faint of heart, but there’s no substitute for this level of power. (For those women in relationships, it’s worth noting that regular use of the wand can desensitize the clitoral nerves, thereby making it significantly more difficult to achieve orgasm during oral sex.)

A recent addition to this list would be the Lelo Ina 2. I love the idea of dual stimulation toys that can simultaneously pleasure the G-spot and the clitoris. The Ina 2 provides all of the benefits of a dual stimulation product without being loud or jarring (as is often the case with "Rabbit" toys). It’s rechargeable — four hours of fun for a two-hour charge — with a sleek, aesthetically pleasing design. The toy is pliant enough that you can use it:

  1. Solely for clitoral stimulation;
  2. Solely for internal G-spot stimulation; or
  3. To simultaneously please yourself clitorally and vaginally.

Unlike many dual stimulation toys, the Ina 2 has settings with light enough vibrations so that someone new to adult products won’t be overwhelmed. The settings should also be gentle enough for a woman in menopause or recovering from illness or surgery, but you should still talk to your doctor to determine if you’re able to use this or similar products.

Although this toy has lighter settings, Lelo’s redesign of Ina boasts a very powerful motor that is sure to satisfy a woman who requires very intense vibrations. Press the ‘+’ sign button on the right to increase the vibrations up to six levels. The ‘-’ sign button on the left decreases vibrations, and you can hold it to turn the toy off.

In addition to the varying vibration levels, you can press the top and bottom arrows on the Ina 2 to change the pulsations. Eight different settings truly maximize your options and allow you to find just the right setting for your body.

Lelo’s original Ina was a bestselling toy, but the redesign offers the stronger motor and much more. The shaft portion of the toy is slightly longer and wider to allow for a fuller experience. The Ina 2 is also fully waterproof and makes a perfect companion in the shower or bath.

The toy retails for $159, but I promise that it won’t be collecting dust in a drawer somewhere. The Lelo Ina 2 is a high-quality, versatile product that you’ll be coming back to again and again.

 

Disclaimer: Pursuant to FTC Guidelines, I received the Ina 2 free of charge in exchange for my honest assessment of the product contained therein.

One Foot In Front Of The Other

Four years ago, this blog didn’t exist. I was in a relationship with Lawyer Boy and thinking that I needed to end things for my own well being.

Three years ago, I was blogging regularly and getting the hang of Twitter. I was living with “Buckeyes” Boy, but I began to question his sincerity.

Two years ago, I was recovering from my second round of chemotherapy. The drugs caused me to hemorrhage and soon, I would be thrown into medical menopause. I was in need of companionship during treatment and was spending time with Mr. Agency and Best Boy.

One year ago, I was teaching my first semester at American University. I was dating on occasion, but my priorities had shifted. I had recently finished treatment and was busy with events and fundraisers for five different breast cancer charities.

In four years, my journey has taken a lot of twists and turns. I never imagined just how much undergoing chemotherapy would change my life. My blog isn’t as much of a priority now, and I’m far more selective about which charities I support. I seek stability from my relationships with friends and my significant other and have neither the time nor the inclination for drama. I find more joy out of teaching than I thought possible.

Professionally, it’s been a big month for me, as:

  • I was featured in the October 2012 issue of The Washingtonian about sex and cancer;
  • My Facebook status update, “It’s October 1st. We’re f*%&ing aware. To quote Redman, it’s time for some action,” inspired a post on Forbes.com; and
  • I was quoted in an article about healthy eating during chemotherapy on Today.com.

I’ve been trying to reconcile how I’ve tried to be public about my journey to help and educate others with the fact that I wish this wasn’t my journey at all. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and I’m very appreciative of all the blessings that I have in my life. Nonetheless, not a day has passed in two years during which I haven’t been frustrated by some lingering chemotherapy side effect. I often wish that I could click my heels and go back to the way things were before cancer. I know that I’m doing what I am meant to do with my life, but that doesn’t mean the past two years have been easy. Is life ever really that simple?

I don't know where I'll be in a year, although I hope that my career and relationship continue on this same path. I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other and see where life takes me next.

Has your life taken a twist or turn that was simultaneously very difficult and very positive?

The Love Commitment Giveaway

Would you love to win a copy of Doc Scriven’s book, TheLoveCommitment.com?

Fast-paced and told from a unique perspective, TheLoveCommitment.com is charming, provocative, and delivers to singles and couples looking for a thoughtful and exciting relationship novel. But be warned. TheLoveCommitment.com is not just a novel. It's also a blueprint by which romantic relationships can be structured and streamlined in favor of both men and women, ultimately leading to marriage in two years or less. As a bonus, TheLoveCommitment.com contains questions in the back for Book Clubs as well as those interested in experiencing a real-life, Love Commitment journey for themselves.

Book Summary: Gigi and Timo had been living together in Atlanta for a year and dating for three. But one evening, after she broached the subject of marriage, an argument ensued followed by a break-up that kept them apart for three additional years. When they finally meet again, Gigi and her best friend, Sheila, have discovered a system that transforms love from an art to a science. With it, Gigi has a new man and is leveling the playing field between the sexes. Meanwhile, Timo is trying desperately to re-enter Gigi's life for reasons of love and revenge.


About the Author: Darryl “Doc” Scriven is a graduate of both Florida A&M University and Purdue University. He earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy and has taught at Wilberforce University, Southern University, Tuskegee University, and lectured at dozens of universities across the country and world. Doc is the author of seven books ranging from fiction to academic to self-improvement. TheLoveCommitment.com is his second novel. He is co-founder of The African American Family Enrichment Institute in Atlanta, Georgia and, as such, is committed to building families that will thrive for generations. To learn more, visit www.TheLoveCommitment.com. You can also check out the trailer for Doc Scriven's documentary.


 

If you’d like to enter to win a hard or electronic copy of the book, comment with your definition of commitment.

Giveaway Rules: This giveaway will run through Tuesday, August 14, 2012 at 11:59pm est. One winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org. You must reside in the continental United States to win a hard copy of the book. Pursuant to FTC Guidelines, no compensation was received in exchange for this post or giveaway.

A Turquoise Giveaway

The dog days of summer mean that it’s the perfect time for a great beach read…and giveaway!

In her newly released book, Turquoise – A Love Story, Ayshe Talay-Ongan digs deep into her own life experiences to pen this high-impact novel which spans two decades, three continents and two marriages. She says the novel is written to entertain and inspire both women and men in quest of genuine love who struggle with the roles and expectations heaped on them by societal context or circumstance.

Released earlier this year, Turquoise is the story of an enduring and passionate love affair between a Turkish woman and psychologist Yasmin, and Renan, who is the husband of Yasmin’s school friend, Ani, both of whom are of Armenian origin. Upon laying eyes on Renan for the first time, Yasmin is inundated with the knowledge that she has come upon her destiny, and falls deeply in love. The challenges ahead of her loom, not the least of which is loyalty to her friend, the ethnic divide, political and socioeconomic turmoil, or immigrating from the country of their birth when the going gets tough.

Dot Whittington, the reviewer for The Weekender says, “Turquoise is not a simple romance but a tale of passion and love – the love of a child, a job, two countries and a man.”

Yasmin moves through the years with professional achievements, entrepreneurial ventures and travels, friendships, relationships and a quest for motherhood in a love-starved marriage. Turquoise also explores the violent consequence of historical and cultural contempt, which impacts Yasmin and her family above and beyond the story of unrequited love and family loyalty. According to Wendy O’Hanlon of Acres Australia, “This novel is a strong comment on the evil of how all humans have such traits and some countries are more openly prejudiced than others.” She continues, “This is a big, powerful novel of love, angst, political unrest and ethnic hatred. The author has skillfully penned these pages so that the characters are raw and real, their emotions searing, their plight palpable.”

Dr. Ayshe Talay-Ongan is a psychologist and an emeritus academic. She is the author of three textbooks in developmental psychology. Turquoise is her first novel. Its sequel Emerald is currently under way. More information about the novel and author are available here.

I have to smile that I’m posting about this giveaway today, as there’s a reunion tonight in DC for all those who attended my high school in Turkey. For those of you interested in gemology or etymology, InternetStones.com indicates that the word, “turquoise,” is probably derived from Turkey because the Turkish merchants and dealers took these gemstones to Venice for sale.

If you’d like to enter for a chance to win the book, Turquoise, just include your favorite gemstone in your comment.

You must enter by Friday, July 20th for a chance to win a hard copy or e-version of the book. Hard copies may only be shipped within the continental United States. The winner will be chosen via Random.org. Good luck!

* Pursuant to FTC Guidelines, this promotion is being conducted without compensation.
 

The Man

“It continues to amaze me which men step up and which men don’t, when their significant others are battling breast cancer,” my reconstructive surgeon said.

Your doctor can tell you how to best equip yourself to fight the disease or prevent a recurrence, but there’s no guide for how to make your partnership work in the midst of a health crisis. Some relationships flourish, and some flounder. You might think that you know what commitment entails or what it means to truly be there during the toughest of times, but it’s all speculation until you’re in that situation.

I had assumed that my most recent relationship would end around the time of my double mastectomy in late April. The Man and I had only been together for two-and-a-half months, after all. It was unrealistic for me to expect that he would be there for me during my surgery and recuperation.

Thankfully, I was wrong. So very wrong.

I found a man who isn’t just around when times are difficult, but a man who is present, helpful and loving. He takes initiative, and he tells me how proud I make him. He reminds me that being a survivor is sexy and that I’m strong.

I’ve been far more private about this relationship than I have with any other relationship. Some of it stems from how my career and brand have changed over the past three years. Another contributing factor is that I no longer seek volatile partners in intense relationships with every detail to later be shared and dissected online. Life has thrown me enough drama. I look for stability now in my personal and professional life, and I want to hold it close. And, finally, I’m involved with a humble man who is very private and views our time together as sacred. I respect that and would never do or post anything that would disappoint him.

With that said, I appreciate that many friends are readers, and quite a few readers have become friends. Given how many of you have prayed for my health and rooted for my happiness, I feel comfortable sharing this with you all —

There are those who leave when the going gets tough.

There are those who think that just showing up is enough.

And, then, there are those few who innately know what to say and do to make a situation better. There are those select people who value intimacy far more than they value sex and who take the time to communicate and build a solid foundation. These are the people who stick around and give of themselves unconditionally when others would walk out.

Thank you, mi amor, for being that rare man.

My 2nd Cancer-versary

June 22, 2010

My telephone vibrated in my lap. I asked my hairdresser if she could turn off the blow dryer. As I answered the call, I knew, even before the breast radiologist told me. Six previous biopsies had been benign (non-cancerous), but I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be so lucky with biopsies numbers seven and eight. When my doctor finally said the words, “breast cancer,” it felt surreal. I leaned up against the wall in the back of the salon and exhaled, as I shed a few tears.

In October, after my first round of chemotherapy, I had described my diagnosis and treatment as “a blip.” My cancer was caught early. I never doubted that I would survive. I would go through treatment, beat this horrible disease and move on.

Oh, to be so blissfully ignorant now!

There will come a day when I don’t think about cancer and what it has taken from me – directly and indirectly. But, for now, that seems far into the future.

On my second cancer-versary, I find myself rather reflective. I have so many reasons for which to be thankful! Most importantly, this was caught early, and I am in remission. My diagnosis has also strengthened old bonds and led to new relationships and opportunities. But, I’m not the same person I was two years ago. As much as I love who I am now and how my life has evolved, that doesn’t mean that I don’t grieve the old me on occasion.

Last night, I went online to look at the photo album from the night that I was diagnosed. I surprisingly found a photograph that I didn't know existed. It's not the best shot, but I remember vividly where my friend and I were standing in the bar, what we said, and our body language. That was the first time I told someone in person that I had cancer.

  

With K Street Kate

With Rania Jaziri of Jordin's Paradise, June 22, 2010

I miss the City Girl that I see in this photo.

For those of you who have followed my journey and offered support online and off, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Please make sure that you have an annual appointment with a doctor and know how to conduct a self-breast or testicle exam. If you're a sexually-active female, visit a gynecologist and get a pap smear every year. If you’re female and at least 40 years of age (35, if you have a family history), schedule your mammogram annually. If you find or feel anything off with your body, trust your instincts and call your doctor. If you’re an adult and don’t have a primary care physician, get one!

There is so much in life that we can’t control. Staying on top of our health is something we do have control over.

With gentle hugs, much appreciation and best wishes for many decades ahead for all of us, Stef

Absence makes the heart grow…

Let’s start the week off with a reader’s relationship question.

Question: My boyfriend and I were living in the same city for five months before he left….. 1200 miles away. I knew he would be leaving before we started dating, but we are pretty much perfect for each other. We decided to stay together while he was gone because we are very happy together. I figured I would get used to him being gone, and that it would get easier with time, especially since we already have a trip planned together coming up. But, I'm a worrier, a dweller, an all-around anxiety driven person. It has been almost two months, and I still cry quite frequently. I am miserable without being with him. We text every day, and talk on Skype sometimes. But Skyping and seeing him almost makes me sadder. I just want to be with him physically so badly. The only thing worse than us not being together right now would never being together again, the reason why I don't end things.

I'm just wondering if it ever gets any better? How can I figure out a way to stop being jealous of all the couples together around me? How can I find my happy place within this relationship so that I can stop crying to him? I'm not sure if I'll ever be happy doing the long distance thing. I'm scared of what it will do to our relationship! Thanks!

Answer: I’m sorry that the distance between you and your boyfriend has been so difficult for you to deal with. Long-distance relationships aren’t for everyone, but it sounds as though you and your boyfriend are doing your best to make things work.

A few questions or approaches that you might wish to consider are:

1. Face your fears. What are you scared of? The physical distance leading to emotional distance? The possibility that he might cheat on you? The chance that your emotions might scare him off?

Has he given you any indication that this arrangement isn’t working for him? Has someone cheated on you in a similar situation in the past? Have your emotions gotten the best of you (we’ve all been there in one form or another) in a past relationship with negative repercussions? Is this your first serious relationship? Or, is this all new for you and that’s what’s scary? It can be easier to deal with your anxieties when you can figure out what exactly they are.

2. Communicate. Talk openly with your boyfriend about your wants and needs and his wants and needs. How can both of your needs be met despite the distance? Are there small gestures or affirmations from him that would make a significant difference for you? If so, let him know!

3. Call for reinforcements. Distance is often tougher on the person who isn’t leaving. Make an effort to reach out to loved ones you have at home. Set up as many plans as you can so you're not just home alone.

If your anxiety is making it difficult to get through the day, I strongly urge you to talk to your doctor or therapist. Chronic anxiety affects approximately 20% of Americans and is nothing to be ashamed of.

4. Try something new. Take a class, volunteer, or join a yoga studio or sports team.

5. Wait and see. How soon is your trip with your boyfriend? If you can find a way to channel your emotions into the joy of seeing him, it might be worth reevaluating your relationship and the distance once you’re together. How frequently can you visit each other or travel together? Is his move permanent? Will you living in the same city in the future? If you get get to the point where you can focus on the big picture, it might make the day-to-day easier to deal with.

Please take care and let me know how it goes.

What advice would you give to this reader?
 

Online Cheating

There was once a simpler time for intimate relationships. When your communication is based entirely on face-to-face conversations, dates, and truly getting to know and trust one another, two people have the ability to really connect.

This concept is now long gone. With multiple new platforms of communication, including cell phones, email, and, of course, Facebook, people in young relationships have a dozen new things to worry about. At what point do I add him as a friend? Are personal wall-posts appropriate? Should I list him as my boyfriend? How many old pictures of him can I look at before it’s creepy? Are high school prom photo shoots too far back?

Clearly social media has changed relationships. In some cases, it brings them closer. It’s easier than ever to learn more about the person’s likes and personality. Partners in long distance relationships have opportunities to stay close. Yet I’m curious: how has social media affected the level of trust in a relationship? Are chances of cheating higher? What about jealousy? I want to learn more about intimate relationships and social media’s affect on trust, jealousy, and infidelity. I believe this information will give insight into online communication and how it affects one person’s ability to become intimately close to another.

In the above project proposal for our Sexuality and Social Media class, Kyle Dunphy selected a key topic in the intersection of digital technology and sex. Her blog explores relevant issues such as the definition of cheating, whether sexting constitutes cheating, and if cheaters can change their behavior.

Kyle writes:

There are two very important traits that the cheater must possess in order to defeat the “always a cheater” stereotype. First, the cheater must have a strong desire to change their behavior. Although people can often be against the idea, sometimes counseling is a necessity. Mr. Goodbar, an alias for the self-proclaimed cheater and author of the book “The Married Man’s Guide to Cheating,” explains that not enough couples go to counseling, “which can be the key to saving a marriage when the infatuation wears off” (Weigel). As an online cheater, “you don’t actually realize that you’re growing close to someone on the internet because it just looks like you’re having conversation” (English). In this case, you have very little desire to separate yourself from the online world. “Someone who cheats can choose to blame others or they can pause and go deeper and sort of wake up to their life” (Weigel).

Second, the cheater must understand the reasons why he or she strayed from the relationship. When Dr. Kent-Ferraro had an affair that resulted in divorce, he took time to himself and analyzed his behavior, determined his reasons for cheating, and then proved his trustworthiness and affection for his wife again (Kent-Ferraro). Once he was able to pinpoint the reasoning behind his behavior, he was able to change his beliefs and his actions.

So, readers, do you think that a cheater will always cheat?

Want to learn more? Check out Kyle’s blog and Tweets.

Sex Ed

The vows of abstinence break far more than latex — Dr. Joycelyn Elders.

These powerful words from the closing keynote at last week’s Momentum Conference on Sexuality, Feminism and Relationships are still resonating with me. Dr. Elders joined fellow panelists and sexual educators Lara Riscol and Esther Perel to speak about Sex in America: Changing the Conversation between Smut and Sanctimony. The highlights on Storify are available here.

A fair amount of the session addressed the need for comprehensive sex education throughout the lifespan. Dr. Elders also commented that:

The best contraception is a good education.

The panel’s focus on sex education reminded me of one of my Sexuality and Social Media students’ projects. Demi is writing about whether sex should be discussed in the classroom. Specifically, she's exploring the conversation of sex education in schools and examining age appropriate health class discussions, contraception accessibility, and the teacher-student relationship in the classroom. She also is summarizing the sex education debate and concluding to what extent sexuality should be incorporated into the academic curriculum.

Demi has looked at reports about sex education in schools in the US, and the statistics are interesting to say the least. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures:

• 37 states require school districts to allow parental involvement in sexual education programs;
• Three states require parental consent before a child can receive instruction;
• 35 states and the District of Columbia allow parents to opt-out on behalf of their children;
• 21 states and the District of Columbia require public schools to teach sex education (including HIV education);
• 35 states and the District of Columbia require students receive instruction about STIs and HIV/AIDS; and
• 17 states require sex education curricula to be medically accurate and/or age appropriate. State policies vary in their determination of “medically accurate;” some require that state health departments review curricula, while others require that the facts taught come from “published authorities upon which medical professionals rely.”

I find it fascinating that so many legislatures and parents in this day and age still question the necessity of sex education. As Dr. Elders and so many other sex educators opine, sex education should occur from kindergarten through 12th grade. I look forward to reading more about Demi's findings.

What type of sex education, if any, did you receive? Did any of the above statistics surprise you?

The Science of Love

I rarely write about my dating life anymore, but suffice it to say that I'm happy. Really happy.

I'm with a man who is kind, communicative and loyal. I haven't always (often?) been able to say that I'm dating a good man, but I can now. And, that's perfect for this stage in my life.

My heart races a bit when I see him, and I feel this rush when he hugs me. When we're not together, I find myself daydreaming a lot and having trouble concentrating.

One of my Sexuality and Social Media students, Gabrielle, might tell me that it's the dopamine talking. For her class research project, Gabrielle is:

Comparing and contrasting the chemical processes that occur within the human body during online dating and face-to-face relationships.  There is a rise in the chemical Oxytocin when social media users meet a love interest online as well as during a physical relationship.  However, Pheromones are chemicals physically given off by the body and spark attraction within a romantic partner.  Does dating through social media hinder the chemical processes of love or have our brains adapted to this modern way of life?

This post that Gabrielle wrote about the chemistry of love had me thinking about my own life:

Dopamine is first released (Newman 9).  It is what makes a person want to spend more time with his or her love interest and gives them the initial “butterflies” (9).  This neurotransmitter is also released when someone drinks or does drugs like caffeine, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine (Tomlinson).  The chemical process of love actually induces addictive like behavior, “which explains the feeling of being addicted to your partner” (Newman, 9).  A dopamine release also increases a person’s heart rate and energy, as well as restlessness (Tomlinson).

Dopamine is also the high a person feels when she or he takes a risk like skydiving or snowboarding down a half-pipe (Park).  The unknown of a new relationship also has the same effect within the brain and this is why he or she often feels so exciting.  The high in a relationship caused by dopamine may diminish over time (2).  This can be caused by parenting and couples often find it difficult to hold on to romance (Blum, 3).  All is not lost however.  Dopamine has been shown to return and add a new spark to a long term relationship (3).  Dopamine also comes back to influence attraction for people who have lost a partner, “Among the couples that Fisher is studying are newly met partners in nursing homes, people in their 70s and 80s, whose infatuation is just as intense as that shared by 20-year-old lovers” (3).

Years ago, one of my friends claimed that the best feeling in the world is falling in love.

Maybe she's right. Or, is it just the dopamine talking again? Read more about the chemical processes of love here.

What do you think about the science behind attraction and love?