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Does penis size actually matter?

2023-03-19 06:14:35

Does penis size actually matter?

When it comes to penis size, is it really a case of it’s not the size of the boat, it’s the motion in the ocean?

Does penis size actually matter?(图1)

Culturally, the widely accepted view on penis size is that bigger is better. But cultural perceptions aside, this doesn't exactly match up to reality. According to a study by Clue(Opens in a new tab) in 2019, heterosexual and bisexual women found a penis of five and a half inches most desirable. Gay and bisexual men also generally prefer an average size, although it varies greatly depending on the type of sex(Opens in a new tab) that’s taking place. 

It raises the question, if average-sized isn’t only good enough, but quite literally ideal for most people, why are we all so obsessed with the notion that big penises are "manly" and small penises are not(Opens in a new tab)

Why are we so obsessed with dicks?

To get to the bottom of why we’re so hung up on large penises, let's look at how their representations are perceived in cultures across the world. Large phallic objects have long been the focal point of fertility, sex, and pleasure across continents and cultures: From ancient Egypt's Cult of Osiris(Opens in a new tab) and the missing phallus, and Ancient Greece's love affair with phallus iconography,(Opens in a new tab) to modern-day Japan, where the Shinto Kanamara Matsuri festival takes place every year in February. The festival includes penis-themed parades, phallic-shaped cakes and sweets, and high-energy celebrations. In the UK, we have the Cerne Abbas Giant (a humongous 180ft chalk hill figure which stands tall with an erect penis.

SEE ALSO: How to perform cunnilingus like a pro

Fast forward to the present day, this kind of worship has bled into contemporary culture in more ways than one. One study(Opens in a new tab), conducted by Oxford University in 2019, found that the depictions of penises in the media could affect perceptions of penis size. It states that television and men’s magazines often "reinforce the cultural message that a larger penis makes a man more 'manly.'" 

The study goes on to suggest that it is pornography that holds the majority of the power when it comes to dissatisfaction with penis size. In part, because of the size of penises portrayed in porn, which are considerably above average size most of the time. But also because of the over-exaggeration of partners when having sexual intercourse. And, because porn is the most available source for penile imagery, it builds a misleading picture regarding what is actually sexually satisfying.

SEE ALSO: Top 5 NSFW sites to learn what porn didn't teach you

It’s easy to see how this can happen. Especially as Pornhub’s 2016 data(Opens in a new tab) showed that search terms like "big Black dick" and "big dick" were the two most popular searches across multiple countries. Porn sites bolster racist tropes, including the idea that Black people have bigger penises — a stereotype that was spread during the Elizabethan period(Opens in a new tab) when white European colonisers voyaged to Africa and wrote exaggerated accounts of their travels. African men were "furnisht with such members as are after a sort burthensome unto them," wrote one writer(Opens in a new tab).

Comparison truly is the thief of joy, even among peers. A study conducted by the Aesthetic Surgery Journal in 2018(Opens in a new tab) found that participants that engaged in "upwards" comparison (comparing penis size with peers with a perceived larger penis) felt a direct impact on their self-esteem. Whereas those who engaged in "downwards" comparison (comparing with smaller penises) actually experienced an increase in self-esteem. This combination of factors has resulted in 45 percent of men feeling dissatisfied with their penis size(Opens in a new tab)

Now, there’s a rise in the desire for penis augmentation(Opens in a new tab) in men with completely normal penises, despite there being multiple risk factors and frequent complications with these kinds of surgeries. And yet, where counselling has intervened, men have found confidence in their penis size and no longer wish to continue with augmentation. 

Penetrative sex is not the holy grail for pleasure

Sex is not one singular act and there is no hierarchy to any of it. It all comes down to how you like to get your rocks off. Statistically speaking, penetrative sex, or P-in-V intercourse, isn’t even the most pleasurable sexual act. In fact, of women and people with vaginas, only 18.4(Opens in a new tab) percent can orgasm from penetration alone. So, if you’re feeling insecure about your partner not reaching climax from penetrative sex, then don’t be disheartened. Penis size, big or small, doesn’t guarantee a fantastic shag. 

SEE ALSO: How to finger your partner

Pauline Ryeland(Opens in a new tab), a sex and intimacy coach, tells Mashable that when it comes down to sex, intimacy and feeling connected is paramount. "It's more about your connection with the person," Ryeland says. "If there was no heart connection, and you’re just having sex for the sake of having sex, well, then there's going to be a lot of other things that aren't going to be ticking boxes.

Studies show that when it comes to sexual satisfaction, couples who engage in other forms of sex like oral, hand, and mutual masturbation, have a more fulfilling experience. This is particularly prevalent in the LGBTQ community(Opens in a new tab), where penetration isn’t the central focal point of sex for many couples. Apps like Grindr, a dating platform for queer folk, have options for people to identify as "sides(Opens in a new tab)" (men who prefer not to engage in anal sex). 

Penis size, big or small, doesn’t guarantee a fantastic shag. 

Dissatisfaction with quality of sexual performance, low self-esteem, and body confidence can cause or add to other mental and physical health problems, like performance anxiety, erectile dysfunction (Opens in a new tab)and premature ejaculation. 

Ness Cooper, sex therapist from The Sex Consultant,(Opens in a new tab) tells Mashable that 34 percent of Brits believe that erectile dysfunction is a normal part of growing older and men have to learn to live with it. Which, as she points out, is entirely untrue and actually quite damaging.

"Almost 70 percent of men and those with penises will experience erectile dysfunction by the time they are 70. However, we shouldn’t classify it as normal, as there are many reasons it can affect an individual and these can vary from person to person," Cooper says. "Anyone experiencing erectile issues should see a medical professional to find out the cause. Once the cause of erectile dysfunction is found whether that is psychological, physical, or a mixture of both, there are many treatment methods to help manage symptoms."

So, what can penis owners do to feel less overwhelmed and more satisfied?

How to manage penis anxiety

"I think that all comes down to belief systems," Ryeland explains. "Quite often, we have a lot of beliefs that don't serve us to our highest good. Challenging beliefs takes a lot of work, but with the right guidance and with the right support system, creating new beliefs is entirely possible."

Ryeland tells Mashable that she asks her clients to examine where these feelings of dissatisfaction arise from. Often, these are opinions they have taken upon themselves, and very rarely are they opinions gifted to them, she adds. Ryeland advises that there are also things you can do yourself to begin to feel more connected and less ashamed of your penis size. "Sometimes we need to take the focus off the intercourse and just focus on connection," she says. 

If you are feeling at all affected by this article, know that your GP will also be able to support you to find appropriate counselling or anything else you may need. There are also organisations like CALM(Opens in a new tab) and Mojo(Opens in a new tab), who help you overcome the physical symptoms of erectile dysfunction while helping you to understand the psychological reasons as to why it might be happening. 

Know that penis size doesn’t matter. Neither is it a measuring stick for your masculinity, your sexuality, or your ability to please. 

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    Until this moment, things had been going so well. So well, in fact, that I was deeply suspicious.

    Sending nudes to a near-stranger in the early stages of dating is a boundary for me. That might not be the case for everyone, but in my case, it's not something I do unless I'm sleeping with the person. But at this point, I hadn't even gone on a first date with this guy yet. We'd simply kissed on a night out with friends and started texting each other.

    I sat back in the bath and deliberated how to respond. My heart raced as I asked myself if it was easier to just comply with this request. My thoughts urged me not to be awkward, not to be a prude. But something stronger was overriding these — a fierce feeling that I just didn't want to do what was being asked of me. The anxiety I could physically feel told me I'd be crossing my own boundaries if I yielded.

    I waited an hour, scrambling to find the right words to tell him 'no.' "Hey," I began. "So I have a rule that I don't send pics to someone unless I've slept with them." He replied almost instantly. "That is a very good rule," he said. The conversation went back to whatever we'd been talking about before. No awkwardness, no annoyance, nothing that I'd feared had happened.

    But I couldn't shake the feeling that at age 30, I shouldn't be struggling to tell a man I'd met twice that I didn't want to do something. But here we are. My friends also tell me they feel highly nervous, overcome with anxiety when setting boundaries in the early stages of dating.

    SEE ALSO: How to stop caring what people think about you

    So, why are boundaries so important? "Boundaries set the basic guidelines for how a person wants to be treated," according to Neil Wilkie, founder of online couples therapy platform The Relationship Paradigm(Opens in a new tab). "Clear boundaries are essential for our own mental health and self-esteem."

    While this post deals primarily with boundaries in dating and romantic and sexual relationships, I'd note that boundaries are vital in ALL relationships — be that with family, friends, colleagues, and even your internet followers. For marginalised communities, in particular, respecting boundaries is deeply important in preventing re-traumatisation, and examples of boundary violations can include white people asking their Black friends to explain racism(Opens in a new tab) and people tagging sexual violence survivors in social media posts about sexual trauma. Everyone has the right to set boundaries and to have them respected.

    Seeking approval while compromising boundaries

    Boundaries are key, but in terms of dating, establishing them with someone you like and don't know very well can seem a little daunting at first. "When we’re nervous about holding onto someone else’s approval we can compromise on boundaries," Rachael Lloyd, relationship expert at eharmony, told me. "But once you start doing that, your own sense of self can erode and you can soon lose yourself in the relationship." If you're not 100 percent sure of your own boundaries, Lloyd said you might be clued in by your instincts. "You’ll know when a boundary is overstepped because you’re likely to suddenly feel triggered emotionally, within your body."

    Getting in early with boundary setting also means heading off at the pass any potential future sources of resentment and friction that could arise. "In the early days of a relationship it is rare for a couple to discuss boundaries, which will mean that the ground rules are unclear and uncertain," explained Wilkie. Discussing your sexual boundaries with a new partner is particularly important in making sure you both feel comfortable and safe. "It is so much easier to talk about boundaries in the early days of a relationship as that will be coming from a place of growth and clarity rather than resentment and blame," Wilkie added.

    How to talk about boundaries

    What do you do if a discussion with someone you're newly dating veers into territory that you're not OK with? "If you enter into a topic of conversation that makes you feel uncomfortable or is delicate, such as political views, family life or salary, politely assert your boundary and explain that you’d rather not discuss that at this point, while changing the conversation to something that you have in common," explained Lloyd.  

    But you don't have to wait until a line has been crossed before having a chat about boundaries. Why not have a conversation about both your boundaries? "Introduce the topic gently, maybe by asking them, 'What is important for you in a relationship?'. If they open up, great. If not, then try again in a different way," Wilkie suggested. "Notice what is important for you and what boundaries you feel are being transgressed. Bring these up in a way like: ‘When you do x, I feel y’ rather than ‘It’s horrible when you do x’ do."

    If the person is reluctant to discuss boundaries, or if they react badly to you setting a boundary, this could be a red flag. "If they are breaking the boundaries and don’t want to engage in conversation about it, question if are they right for me?" said Wilkie.

    When it comes to intimacy, it's advisable to bring up sexual boundaries before you've entered a sexual encounter with that person. In the moment, if you are having sex with someone and a boundary is being crossed, remember that consent can be withdrawn at any point, and each new sexual act that's introduced in an encounter needs to be consented to. Our boundaries change and evolve over time, so if you're in a long-term relationship with someone, check in with each other and see where you're at.

    If you're in a long-term relationship with someone and you want to have a meaningful exchange about one another's boundaries, you could try drawing up a list. Wilkie suggested getting each partner to draw up a list of what their boundaries are, then sharing and discussing what those boundaries mean to them, before comparing any similarities and differences. Making sure you've been listened to and understood is really important. If you feel there's room for improvement in the way your partner interacts with and respects those boundaries, let them know. If you want to, schedule regular meetings to chat about these and whether sufficient progress has been made.

    Setting boundaries while social distancing

    Given that we're living in a global pandemic, we also need to think about a person's boundaries in relation to COVID-19. You might feel fine with hugging a close friend, but the person you're meeting up with might not be up for that, for example. Same when it comes to dating — many will feel uneasy about meeting up in person for a first date.

    Dating expert Melissa Hobley from OkCupid said it's important to remember that intimacy isn't just a physical thing, and you don't have to touch someone to create a meaningful connection.

    "The hallmark sign of any strong relationship is honesty," said Hobley. "If you’re concerned about meeting your date or partner in a public place, voice your concerns. Suggest an alternative suggestion. For instance, a dinner date over FaceTime or a virtual movie night with Netflix Party — these are both ways to keep the fun alive, but also assert those physical boundaries."

    It's important to remember that virtual dates aren't for everyone, and though sexting and sending nudes have been on the rise during lockdown and quarantine periods, you get to decide what you're comfortable with. If you do meet up in person, have a think about what you will and won't be OK with — even down to how soon you'd like to meet in person if you've been chatting on an app. "Be aware of your physical boundaries too, and plan the level of intimacy that you’d be comfortable with before meeting up with your new date," said Lloyd. "This will avoid any spontaneous decisions that may put you in situations that make you feel uncomfortable. It’s OK to say, 'I want to take things slowly, as I’m really enjoying getting to know you.'"

    At the end of the day, we're all entitled to boundaries and we deserve to have them respected. Just because you're in the early stages of dating someone doesn't mean you have to compromise on something that keeps you feeling protected and safe. The person's response to a boundary being set will usually give you a good idea about whether this relationship is worth pursuing.

  • The practical guide to mid-pandemic sex, because abstinence isnt cutting it

    The practical guide to mid-pandemic sex, because abstinence isnt cutting it

    I have a confession: I've had sex since social distancing began. With someone I met on Tinder, someone I don't live with. And I know friends doing the same.


    With the pandemic still a major concern across the United States, people having sex or even just wanting to have sex may feel shame — even more shame than usual in this Puritanical wasteland. We've been told to abstain from pleasure and release at a time where we need it most.

    We've also been given almost no guidance about how to safely have sex in the time of social distancing. As of publication, the CDC hasn't released safe sex practices specifically about having sex during the pandemic, apparently assuming those without a live-in partner will be celibate in the meantime.

    Well, telling people to be abstinent(Opens in a new tab) doesn't work. The failures of abstinence-only sex education have been proven time(Opens in a new tab) and time again(Opens in a new tab), and experts reiterate this point. "Abstinence-only education has never worked in any setting," Holly Bullion said in a phone call to Mashable. Bullion is a nurse practitioner and director of clinical quality at Texas Health Action(Opens in a new tab), a non-profit that operates a sexual wellness clinic called Kind Clinic(Opens in a new tab).

    "Now that we're half a year into a pandemic, it's definitely not going to work." So why do authorities like the New York City health department(Opens in a new tab) think that telling its residents that "they are their safest sex partner" is going to keep them satisfied?

    It is, of course, true that solo play or virtual sex are the safest routes right now, but for many that simply is not a realistic or sustainable solution. Telling sexual adults to not have sex at a time when we're not only socially isolated but also increasingly anxious and depressed(Opens in a new tab) is only going to result in shame — and perhaps even drive people to engage in riskier behavior if they feel the need to be dishonest for fear of "being found out."

    In addition to offering masturbation as a tactic, NYC Health also offered glory holes as an option. Glory holes themselves aren't a problem; they are actually a safe route and can get people off. The problem is that the concept of mid-pandemic safe sex practices has been largely turned into a joke, with suggestions being doled out that aren't helpful for the average horny person who can't drill a hole in their rented bedroom wall.

    The lack of actual best practices for safer sex is partially why Kenneth Play(Opens in a new tab), who was called "the world's greatest sex hacker" by GQ, partnered up with Dr. Zhana Vrangalova(Opens in a new tab), Chelsey Fasano(Opens in a new tab), and Karen Ambert MD, MPH to create a vital guide: Smarter Hookups in the Time of COVID-19(Opens in a new tab).

    "We wanted to write this guide because pleasure is a right, and a deep need"

    "We wanted to write this guide because pleasure is a right, and a deep need," the introduction states, "and because we believe that the best way to ensure safety is to offer realistic guidelines. Telling people not to have sex just doesn’t work."

    Smarter Hookups, which launched on Thursday, emphasizes the irony in the lack of guidance. We're more lonely and in need of pleasure and intimacy, yet no one has told us how to process it in a practical matter. We — those without live-in partners, those who may have multiple partners, those who just want to get off with someone else — deserve sex and intimacy, even in a pandemic. (Dare I say, especially in the pandemic.)

    Play said the difficulty they had handling the coronavirus lockdown within his sex-positive community Hacienda(Opens in a new tab) (14 people living in a three-family home) is what inspired the guide. "Even though we are all highly practiced negotiators of measures related to sexual health, we still struggled navigating our group living situation during the Coronavirus pandemic," he said in a press release. "This inspired me to create a framework for navigating this challenging time for everyone else debating similar considerations."

    Here are some sensible tips to help ensure that you can also have a responsible mid-pandemic sex life.

    Questions to ask yourself first

    The pandemic has ushered in an era of radical honesty — not just with potential partners, but also with ourselves. In some ways, navigating sex during the pandemic is similar to what we did before. Only now the focus is on contracting coronavirus as opposed to an STI. (Though, of course, it's still possible to transmit STIs and proper precautions(Opens in a new tab) should be taken on those fronts. Don't forget to continue using your normal method of birth control, as well.) The risk of exposure, however, is even more amorphous now. So if you're considering having a sexual partner (or multiple partners) that you don't live with right now, here are questions Vrangalova recommends you ask yourself:

    • What are the actual risks? This includes rates of infection in your community; your possible exposure, which depends on your behavior; and the likelihood of you developing serious symptoms.

    • How comfortable are you with these specific risks?

    • How much are you willing to uphold specific protocols and risk reduction strategies?

    Then when you factor other people into the mix, you need to consider how comfortable they are with both your behavior and attitude on the matter. Basically, what is your tolerance for risk? If you're going to be lax about COVID guidelines while a potential partner is more stringent, you may not be a good match.

    Levels of radical honesty

    Smarter Hookups broke down everyone you interact with into three different levels. Level 1 is your most intimate group: Roommates and lovers, those who have highest likelihood of transmission. Level 2 is friends you see and co-workers if you have to go into the office; this is a moderate level of transmission risk. Level 3 is the wider public, those you have the lowest amount of contact with (and, hopefully, are maintaining a distance of six-or-more feet from and wearing masks around).

    As you're sharing the most infectious behaviors (everything from sharing the same air for a prolonged period to kissing and exchanging bodily fluids) with Level 1, you need to have the most open and honest communication with those people. Not only that, but you should negotiate and reach a level of consent with each member of this group.

    "Regardless of what you all collectively decide to do, one thing that is clear is that there should be a form of contact tracing and transparency that occurs within this group, exactly like what would happen in regard to STIs," the guide reads. "Essentially, if one of you gets sick with or tests positive for an active Covid-19 infection, everyone within this level should be informed, and should take subsequent precautions."

    COVID safe sex best practices Credit: vicky leta / mashable

    This isn't unlike a polyamorous scenario. Bullion said that besides oneself, virtual play, and a live-in partner, a polyamorous-type pod is your next best bet: A mutually exclusive group where everyone knows each other and everyone is on the same page about sexual contact and following guidelines.

    Smarter Hookups also recommends a pod-like structure with six to 12 people — enough where everyone can communicate openly. Of course, you don't have to be sexually involved with everyone in the pod either.

    If you and a partner want to swing, the guide recommends choosing one other couple rather than changing it up each weekend.

    Everyone in Level 1 — roommates, your pod, swinging buddies, etc. — should know about each other in detail. How many people are in Level 1? How often are you seeing them? What behaviors are you, and they, engaging in? If members of Level 1 have different risk tolerances, the full guide(Opens in a new tab) has suggestions on how to proceed.

    For those in Level 2, you don't have to share everything that you do with Level 1 folks, but you should still be honest. If you are, for example, making out with a bunch of strangers, it's best to inform Level 2 that you're engaging in high-risk behavior. While you don't have to go into detail about said behavior, you have an ethical responsibility if you're potentially putting someone at risk.

    If possible, make guest lists for parties and other functions in order to establish a level of contact tracing. Again, take note of how many people you're coming into contact with and examine your behavior. How many people are in your Level 2? How often do you see them? Do you wear masks?

    For Level 3, the onus is on you to be responsible. Follow protocols and definitely stay home if you're experiencing coronavirus symptoms.

    Related Video: What will sex and dating look like after the pandemic?

    A note on COVID-19 testing and sex

    While one might consider getting tested for COVID-19 regularly the best route to take in order to keep their partner(s) safe, Bullion said otherwise. Rather, screening questions (and being honest about the answers!) similar to the Mayo Clinic's self-assessment tool(Opens in a new tab) can better gage safety. These questions include: Have you or any of your partners been recently diagnosed? Do you have any symptoms?

    "COVID testing...isn't as helpful as doing a screen that says, 'Have you had contact with anyone with confirmed COVID in the past 14 days? Have you had any of these 20 symptoms in the past 14 days?'" she said.

    Further, Bullion doesn't recommend getting tested unless you believe you've been exposed. The test should be for those who are high-risk — like essential workers and their families, those who've been exposed, and those who have symptoms.

    "Getting COVID testing done every month doesn't matter for any day after the time you were tested," she commented. "The test doesn't change any of those questions that we should be asking ourselves and trying to ask people that we might be potentially engaging in any kind of sexual activity with."

    "Getting COVID testing done every month doesn't matter for any day after the time you were tested"

    As COVID-19 has been traced in semen(Opens in a new tab) and feces(Opens in a new tab), there are still unanswered questions about how the virus is spread. Since it may not just be in the respiratory droplets, a negative test isn't the end-all.

    Sex parties and casual sex

    Just as the rich are paying $500 a pop for rapid COVID-19 tests(Opens in a new tab) to party in the Hamptons, some sex parties are cropping up doing the same thing. According to Bullion, the least safe sexual encounters right now are with one or more partners you don't know — and rapid tests aren't to be trusted.

    "You can test negative for COVID on a rapid test and still have COVID," she warned. "It might just be that you don't have enough of the virus in your nares [nostrils] yet for it to pick it up." Screening is better than no screening, but it can give a false sense of security.

    In terms of casual sex with someone you don't know, the ideal would be that they're as open and honest as you. As this may not be the case, Smarter Hookups says to assume you're at high risk for developing COVID-19 if you engage in this behavior. Thus, let Levels 1 and 2 know about this. Using physical barriers, like wearing a mask during sex (as Dutch sex workers are doing(Opens in a new tab)), could also help prevent the spread.

    What about if you're immunocompromised?

    "Just because we're immunocompromised does not mean that we don't deserve to have sex," said Bullion. "It's about setting tighter ground rules for yourself and your partners."

    In addition to being more stringent about their partner guidelines, Bullion also said the ideal scenario is a small group of known partners. She recommends "mask sex" or positions that limit face-to-face contact if you go maskless, like doggy style and reverse cowgirl.

    Immunocompromised or not, sex is an important outlet for many people. We've been isolated for months and at this point, perhaps quarantine fatigued. "For people who are out there thinking about having sex again, or who are already having sex, it's just about knowing where your resources are and making informed decisions," said Bullion.

    You don't have to feel shame for wanting or having sex amid the pandemic, but you should be armed with good information and do your best to follow best practices. As Bullion commented, "The joy of sex — and everything we do, right — is about making informed decisions."

  • The Notorious R.B.G. taught a new generation how to dissent with her internet stardom

    The Notorious R.B.G. taught a new generation how to dissent with her internet stardom

    When Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was 80 years old, she became an internet icon.


    A law student started a Tumblr(Opens in a new tab) in her honor in 2013, dubbing her "The Notorious R.B.G." and in the years that followed, she became a meme that lined Etsy sellers' pockets. As much as her photo was flung around social media, her crowned head was emblazoned on T-shirts, her signature lace collar was reimagined as baby bibs(Opens in a new tab), and she became "our lady of dissent" on votive candles(Opens in a new tab) you could buy for $15. Her internet domination both fueled and was fueled by her caricaturing on Saturday Night Live as a spunky old lady who could lift weights and kick ass. She particularly liked(Opens in a new tab) a popular T-shirt that read, "You can't spell truth without Ruth."(Opens in a new tab) She kept her own supply of R.B.G. T-shirts, handing them out to friends.(Opens in a new tab)

    Swathes of people under 30 only knew her as the meme queen people love on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok when she died Friday at 87. Her internet clout became the bridge that helped her cross generations.

    "Everyone wants to take a picture with me," she joked in RBG, the Oscar-nominated documentary about her life from 2018.

    To top it off, her meme has meaning beyond the lulz: She wasn't a punchline; she was a role model. She symbolized standing up for what's right when you're outnumbered. She wasn't just a justice, she was justice. She also made for a cute Halloween costume(Opens in a new tab) for kids and dogs, the ultimate shareable content.

    In the '50s, Ginsburg was one of nine women(Opens in a new tab) in her Harvard Law School class of over 500. In the '70s and '80s, she was a powerhouse lawyer fighting for constitutional protections against sex discrimination. In the '90s, she took on new prestige as the second woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court. For a few years in the 2000s, she was the only woman on the bench, feeling lonely(Opens in a new tab). Her dissent opinions took on a new edge, sharp and forceful(Opens in a new tab).

    By 2013, when that Tumblr graced the internet, she was known, but mostly in political and legal circles. In those circles, she was still described as collegial. She was after all "best buddies,"(Opens in a new tab) with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in 2016. By 2020, she was known as the last liberal fortress, a protector against President Donald Trump putting another one of his Supreme Court picks on the bench.

    Following the news of her death, TikTok flooded with videos of people shedding tears of grief and cursing 2020. On Twitter, too, the F-bombs abounded. They also ricocheted across liberal corners of social media(Opens in a new tab) every time she went to the hospital over the past few years. She died of complications from pancreatic cancer, but it wasn't her first stint with the Big C. She also at points battled colon, lung, and liver cancers.

    Ginsburg first heard about the Tumblr from a law clerk. "My grandchildren love it, and I try to keep abreast of the latest that's on the Tumblr," she said in 2014(Opens in a new tab).

    Its creator, Shana Knizhnik, now a public defender, told The New Republic(Opens in a new tab) that year, that the nickname was "obviously a reference to Notorious B.I.G., who is this large, imposing rapper, a really powerful figure; and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is this 90-pound Jewish grandmother. The juxtaposition of the two made it humorous, but is also a celebration of how powerful she really is.”

    It spiraled from there. Two other law students rapped about the Notorious R.B.G. to the tune of the Notorious B.I.G.'s (Opens in a new tab)Juicy(Opens in a new tab). In 2015, a book about Ginsburg's life was published with the same name(Opens in a new tab) as the Tumblr. Kate McKinnon started impersonating her on SNL during "Weekend Update."

    In one of her first impressions, McKinnon shot out the phrase, "Ya just got Gins-burned" and started dancing. When later asked about the portrayal, Ginsburg joked(Opens in a new tab), "I would like to say "Gins-burn" sometimes to my colleagues.”

    Like anything online, not everyone's a fan. Some pointed out that the memes put too much weight(Opens in a new tab) on Ginsburg's slight shoulders as her health deteriorated. By 2018, they took on a cruel edge: Fight RBG, you may be very sick, but you must save us! There was also the argument that the memes turned her into a superhero, buffing out all her blemishes.(Opens in a new tab) That often happens when one becomes flattened by the fast-churning gears of the social media machine.

    Marchers with signs that say "Notorious R.B.G." with a picture of Ruth Bader Ginsburg  at the  January 2019 Woman's March in Manhattan. Credit: Ira L. Black / Corbis via Getty Images

    Despite the criticism, much of it warranted, Ginsburg's internet alter ego taught a new generation about a trailblazing woman who stood for equality. Amid the #MeToo movement marked both by horrendous accusations of sexual harassment and hopeful women's marches, the Notorious R.B.G. evolved to represent something bigger than herself.

    For her admirers, she wasn't only the protector of the highest court in the land. She wasn't solely a historical figure. She was, right then, a talisman, a magnet, a buoy in tumultuous waters. At makeshift vigils set up in her honor Friday night, Notorious R.B.G. imagery(Opens in a new tab) could be spotted among the multitude of flowers and candles.

    "It was beyond my wildest imagination that I would one day become the Notorious R.B.G.," Ginsburg said last year during a speech at a university.

    But it was in our imaginations that the Notorious R.B.G. thrived. Even after her passing, the internet's version of Ginsburg will live on, adding yet another aspirational element to her legacy. When we imagine a more equitable world, she is right there along with us. When we finally build that world, we will have Ginsburg and the Notorious R.B.G. to thank.

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  • Quordle today: Here are the answers and hints for October 23

    Quordle today: Here are the answers and hints for October 23

    There's a new Taylor Swift album out this weekend, and all you can think about is the Quordle solution? You must be a huge puzzle fan.


    If Quordle is a little too challenging today, you've come to the right place for hints. There aren't just hints here, but the whole Quordle solution. Scroll to the bottom of this page, and there it is. But are you sure you need all four answers? Maybe you just need a strategy guide. Either way, scroll down, and you'll get what you need.

    What is Quordle?

    Quordle is a five-letter word guessing game similar to Wordle, except each guess applies letters to four words at the same time. You get nine guesses instead of six to correctly guess all four words. It looks like playing four Wordle games at the same time, and that is essentially what it is. But it's not nearly as intimidating as it sounds.

    Is Quordle harder than Wordle?

    Yes, though not diabolically so.

    Where did Quordle come from?

    Amid the Wordle boom of late 2021 and early 2022, when everyone was learning to love free, in-browser, once-a-day word guessing games, creator Freddie Meyer says he took inspiration from one of the first big Wordle variations, Dordle — the one where you essentially play two Wordles at once. He took things up a notch, and released Quordle on January 30(Opens in a new tab). Meyer's creation was covered in The Guardian(Opens in a new tab) six days later, and now, according to Meyer, it attracts millions of daily users. Today, Meyer earns modest revenue(Opens in a new tab) from Patreon, where dedicated Quordle fans can donate to keep their favorite puzzle game running. 

    How is Quordle pronounced?

    “Kwordle.” It should rhyme with “Wordle,” and definitely should not be pronounced exactly like "curdle.”

    Is Quordle strategy different from Wordle?

    Yes and no.

    Your starting strategy should be the same as with Wordle. In fact, if you have a favorite Wordle opening word, there’s no reason to change that here. We suggest something rich in vowels, featuring common letters like C, R, and N. But you do you.

    After your first guess, however, you’ll notice things getting out of control if you play Quordle exactly like Wordle.

    What should I do in Quordle that I don’t do in Wordle?

    Solving a Wordle puzzle can famously come down to a series of single letter-change variations. If you’ve narrowed it down to “-IGHT,” you could guess “MIGHT” “NIGHT” “LIGHT” and “SIGHT” and one of those will probably be the solution — though this is also a famous way to end up losing in Wordle, particularly if you play on “hard mode.” In Quordle, however, this sort of single-letter winnowing is a deadly trap, and it hints at the important strategic difference between Wordle and Quordle: In Quordle, you can't afford to waste guesses unless you're eliminating as many letters as possible at all times. 

    Guessing a completely random word that you already know isn't the solution, just to eliminate three or four possible letters you haven’t tried yet, is thought of as a desperate, latch-ditch move in Wordle. In Quordle, however, it's a normal part of the player's strategic toolset.

    Is there a way to get the answer faster?

    In my experience Quordle can be a slow game, sometimes dragging out longer than it would take to play Wordle four times. But a sort of blunt-force guessing approach can speed things up. The following strategy also works with Wordle if you only want the solution, and don’t care about having the fewest possible guesses:

    Try starting with a series of words that puts all the vowels (including Y) on the board, along with some other common letters. We've had good luck with the three words: “NOTES,” “ACRID,” and “LUMPY.” YouTuber DougMansLand(Opens in a new tab) suggests four words: “CANOE,” “SKIRT,” “PLUMB,” and “FUDGY.”

    Most of the alphabet is now eliminated, and you’ll only have the ability to make one or two wrong guesses if you use this strategy. But in most cases you’ll have all the information you need to guess the remaining words without any wrong guesses.

    If strategy isn't helping, and you're still stumped, here are some hints:

    Are there any double or triple letters in today’s Quordle words?


    Are any rare letters being used in today’s Quordle like Q or Z?


    What do today’s Quordle words start with?

    K, S, G, and F.

    What are the answers for today’s Quordle?

    Are you sure you want to know?

    There’s still time to turn back.

    OK, you asked for it. The answers are:

    1. KNOLL

    2. STEEL

    3. GLOOM

    4. FELON

  • Cloudflares new system aims to end CAPTCHAs, but it might be easier to just keep them

    Cloudflares new system aims to end CAPTCHAs, but it might be easier to just keep them

    CAPTCHAs are well-known and well-hated, and while I would do a lot of things to never have to identify a traffic signal again, Cloudflare's new security key system(Opens in a new tab) doesn't make the hassle any more bearable, or even as equally secure.


    Encountering a CAPTCHA while perusing the internet often goes like this: Is that a palm tree or a regular tree? Is that a minuscule corner of a crosswalk or a white blob? Am I a robot or a human?

    Instead of suffering through this pain, Cloudflare wants to eliminate CAPTCHAs with its new security system, called the "Cryptographic Attestation of Personhood." The software currently uses physical USB security keys, like Yubikey(Opens in a new tab), to register when you touch or look at the device.

    This action, paired with plugging the USB into your computer while running the (currently beta) software, would securely verify your human status.

    If you have such a USB key, you can test the software yourself at in a new tab). I took a gander without the key, and you still get the idea. The prominent "I am human" button is easy to find and click, which directs you to plug in your device and touch it.

    On the surface, it definitely feels easier and faster than squinting at grainy images. But it also turns surfing the interwebs into a two-factor authentication nightmare. Instead of clicking on buses, I would have to scramble for my USB, plug it in, and touch it, which presents its own set of challenges. For one, adding another device to the mix is most definitely nightmare fuel for the absent-minded, like myself. For two, relying on USB devices becomes an annoyance for people who have computers without USB ports, like the latest MacBook Pros.

    Cloudflare recognizes that USB security keys are not the most common gadgets, so it aims to integrate the software into smartphones in the future. And yes, while this would streamline the amount of devices needed to be a person on the internet, it's more than the single device of my computer. Like the current 2FA systems, it would still require me to groan as I get up from my laptop and reach for my phone to verify my personhood.

    While I appreciate the enhanced security and necessity of 2FA, I just kind of hate it. Current sites that require two-factor authentication through apps like OneLogin(Opens in a new tab) or Google One(Opens in a new tab) make me feel ultra-reliant on my smartphone. And they still induce a different yet insufferable type of panic while trying to log in.

    But sure, let's just say that I have an exceptional lazy bone, and this could actually be a great way to protect your identity and security while online. Alas, Cloudflare itself has admitted to its own security flaws.

    SEE ALSO: Google to turn on two-step verification by default

    The current version, using the USB keys, relies on touch sensors to tell human from robot via attestation. But as Ackermann Yuriy, CEO of consulting firm Webauthn Works, notes(Opens in a new tab), "attestation does not prove anything but the device model." The process of attestation basically verifies the manufacturer of your security key, which encodes a trusted secret that is sent to Cloudflare. But theoretically, once the device is purchased by a human, it can be operated by a robot.

    On its own blog(Opens in a new tab), Cloudflare says that a drinking bird (those cartoonish toys that repeatedly dip their beaks into water) could activate the touch sensor, thereby passing the authentication test. It defends this by saying this would be slower than other professional CAPTCHA solving bots, so at least they're trying?

    The biggest pro of Cloudflare's system is increased accessibility for those with cognitive or visual disabilities. While identifying random objects is an annoyance for most, CAPTCHAs are basically unsolvable for these users, and a physical security object could be a welcome assist.

    In an ideal world, perhaps Cloudflare's attestation method could be an optional security measure in addition to CAPTCHA on most sites, rather than entirely replace it. Yes, failing a CAPTCHA that asks me to click on fire hydrants may make me question my humanity, but I guess I'm choosing to defend it and continue to click away. At least it's a universal experience,

  • Apple Fitness Plus now includes post-childbirth exercise routines

    Apple Fitness Plus now includes post-childbirth exercise routines

    After giving birth, postpartum exercise is something that should be navigated consciously(Opens in a new tab) and safely. Apple Fitness Plus is stepping in with a new workout program tailored to this period, called 'Get Back to Fitness After Having a Baby'.


    Apple Fitness Plus is an service built around the Apple Watch, with an existing range of workout collections(Opens in a new tab). There is already a 'Stay active during pregnancy' collection(Opens in a new tab).

    Aimed at helping new parents reconnect with exercise and themselves, the new post-pregnancy collection offered by Apple is hosted by coaches who are mothers, some of whom gave birth just about a year ago.

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    SEE ALSO: Can an app help reduce your mental load as a new parent?

    The actual coaching takes into consideration their own experiences in tandem with advice from an OB-GYN physician. Some exercises include strength and core, including a few that focus on the pelvic floor. There are also mindful exercises based on stretching, with advice on patience and self-care for new parenthood.

    Apple Fitness Plus' new program is suitable for people who have had a C-section or vaginal delivery, offering modifications depending on active levels during pregnancy and how intensely one would like to start exercising again.

    The service is priced at $9.99 a month, and can be shared with up to five family members.

  • Online piano lessons bring high-tech feedback to learning an instrument

    Online piano lessons bring high-tech feedback to learning an instrument

    Nearly every activity has been pushed online because of the coronavirus pandemic and music lessons are no exception. In addition, many kids have been making the most of their remote schooling schedules by learning new instruments. According to a June 2020 survey from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra(Opens in a new tab), 38% of parents said their kids started learning a musical instrument during lockdown, and 66% of kids who were learning an instrument practiced more.


    Children frequently start off by learning piano. Comfort with the basics of music – note reading, rhythm, the discipline of regular practice – will also help those who have an interest in other instruments down the line. However, a piano or keyboard is a big upfront investment for parents, both in terms of finances, and how much space it will take up in the home. Then there’s the cost of lessons, typically starting at $30 an hour or more.

    Good news: There’s a spate of online piano apps promising to engage kids and teach them everything, no matter their level. These apps are introducing classical music to a whole new customer base, engaging families with their fun song libraries and interactive lessons.

    You don’t even need to own a piano or keyboard to get started with some of these, just a smartphone, tablet or PC. Most of these apps work with some type of AI, so you'll need to enable the microphone on your device in order for the apps to recognize the notes you’re playing.

    Yousician (Opens in a new tab)

    Yousician is a popular platform for those wanting to learn an instrument, and lessons extend beyond piano to include guitar, ukulele, singing and bass. You can use your tablet as a keyboard, and the app and basic lessons are free. Premium plans cost $19.99 a month ($119.99 a year) and offer unlimited lessons on one instrument; Premium + plans cost $29.99 a month ($179.99 a year) and give students unlimited access to lessons and the full library of 1,800 songs, across multiple instruments.

    The lessons aren't specifically geared to kids, but there’s no reason they won’t enjoy learning from the app. Yousician is tailored to pianists at any level and combines a gamified approach with interactive learning and real-time feedback.

    Lessons take you through the basics, such as learning where middle C is, using your left hand, and mastering sharps and flats. After each lesson, you have the opportunity to play songs related to what you just learned, which provides some instant gratification. Our eight-year-old went straight from a lesson and workout on the C position to playing a slow version of Beethoven’s Ode To Joy (with a backing track), using those same notes.

    Yousician has color-coded keys and a range of notation views you can change as your child starts learning the notes. There’s a leaderboard where you can see how you rank alongside friends and others at the same level, and you’ll also find weekly song challenges.

    Over the course of 2020, millions of new users have signed up for Yousician, pushing its base from 14.5 million to over 20 million. It’s available for Android, iOS and PC. Yousician for Teachers was launched during the pandemic, so it’s now being used in the classroom, too.

    Simply Piano by JoyTunes(Opens in a new tab)

    During the first London lockdown in spring 2020, one of our friends sent around a video of her seven-year-old son playing the piano. His rendition of Katy Perry’s Firework was amazing to watch, especially considering he’d been a beginner a couple of months prior. The secret? The Simply Piano app, which he’d become completely obsessed with and started playing for a couple of hours each day.

    He’s not alone: Simply Piano has been downloaded over 10.2 million times. It’s won multiple awards and is appealing to users of all ages and skill levels, with tutorials that break down technique, chords, moving from one hand to two, and more.

    While you ideally need a keyboard to get going, the Touch Courses option turns your device into a virtual piano. After signing in, you can choose from a selection of goals, such as learning chords or mastering songs you love. Multiple family members can have profiles on the same account so siblings can learn at their own paces.

    One of the best bits about Simply Piano is that the song library is refreshed regularly. Kids can try playing songs from trendy artists like Sia and Robbie Williams from the get-go. Though, as my 10-year-old learned when she tried to play Tom Petty’s Free Fallin,’ the app will discourage users from going above their level. Like their parents, Simply Piano will urge them to master the "Essentials" first. Since the app works via AI note-based recognition, users receive interactive, real time feedback.

    You can sign up to a free intro trial for a week and then things start to get pricier, from $59.99 for three months to $119.99 for the year. If Simply Piano is too staid for your young pianist, developer JoyTunes also makes Piano Dust Buster and Piano Maestro, which have kid-friendly graphics.

    Skoove(Opens in a new tab)

    Combining theory and teaching in a clear, straightforward way, German app Skoove uses AI pitch detection and teaches budding pianists in eight languages.

    Kids aren’t Skoove’s target market, but it appeals to both aural learners (who can use the app to play by ear), and those who prefer to copy hand movements. Skoove works with all pianos and keyboards, and can also turn your device into a touchscreen to get you started sans instrument.

    Skoove is incredibly user-friendly and features more than 400 lessons to choose from. Beginners can launch straight into songs like Lean on Me and American Pie, and learn note names and values as they go along. Videos break things down into easy steps, so you learn and relearn each bit of a song before moving ahead - and, ultimately progress to “playing with the band.” I can attest that reaching that level is an incredibly satisfying feeling for both little ones and older beginners.

    Costs start at $19.99 for a one-month subscription, through to $149.99 for a lifetime subscription.

    Flowkey(Opens in a new tab)

    Flowkey promises to teach learners of all ages the basics in under 20 minutes, and my 8-year-old launched right into playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy in minutes. Like Skoove, flowkey is a Berlin-based piano learning app, working in collaboration with Yamaha, so you’ll often see the brand’s instruments featured in the videos. Those lessons will teach learners everything from how to sit properly at the piano to reading musical notes and playing scales.

    The app is comprehensive, with a library of over 1,500 songs broken into categories, like jazz and gaming music. We’ve spotted everything from Baby Shark to Nirvana tunes on there, so it has the range.

    Purists will like that you learn with a standard keyboard. Notes you’re meant to play light up in orange on the top of the screen, played by a professional, while below it, you’ll see sheet music. Everything is helpfully broken into bite-sized sections, with a loop function that lets you keep replaying parts until you get it all right. Our kids also liked the slow-motion feature, which let them dive into complicated songs sooner than they’d normally be able to.

    You can start flowkey on your computer keyboard, plus it’s free in the beginning. That free period gives you access to eight songs and most of the first couple of exercises on the courses. Access to flowkey Premium for all 500+ song lessons and all of the courses starts at $19.99 a month.

    Playground Sessions(Opens in a new tab)

    Who doesn’t want to learn piano from a pro? Co-created with Grammy-winner Quincy Jones, Playground Sessions has the celebrity stamp of approval.

    It even gets you up close and personal with celebrity piano teachers, with lessons from the likes of Harry Connick, Jr., Mike Garson (David Bowie’s keyboardist), and YouTube-favorite David Sides. Playground Sessions is designed to appeal to parents as much as kids – see Harry Connick, Jr. as your piano tutor, above.

    The app makes you feel like you’re getting 1:1 training through its step-by-step, interactive video lesson approach, which uses popular songs to teach piano skills. The app layout is similar to flowkey’s, with light-up keys and a slow-down feature. Playground Sessions will also break songs up into small, easily digestible sections to ensure you’re learning everything before moving on.

    Recommended for kids aged seven and up, you can try Playground Sessions with a free seven-day trial. There’s currently a 15% off sale on all memberships. Family plans for two players start at $152.90 annually, which includes $240 of free songs. Unlike other piano teaching apps, which tend to give premium users access to a whole library, with Playground Sessions you buy individual songs you’d like to learn to play. Monthly memberships start at $17.99, which includes five songs a month.

    Ludwig(Opens in a new tab)

    Primephonic’s Ludwig is a musical history course rather than a piano-learning class, but we thought it merited inclusion because it makes music more accessible and interesting to youngsters. It’s included in the subscription to Primephonic, the classical music streaming app that’s been downloaded over 500,000 times and rated one of the top 100 apps in the world.

    We'd recommend this for older kids and teens. Ludwig turns musical history from boring to brilliant. Over 10 weeks, you get a crash course in top classical composers and their most notable works, must-know events in musical history, and an overview of musical genres and instruments across history. Lessons are conducted via podcasts and email.

    If you don’t have Primephonic already, you can subscribe to Ludwig for $18 for the whole course, which is designed to last three months, and includes access to the Primephonic app, too.

    LUMI Keys(Opens in a new tab)

    Guitar Hero, but make it piano. That’s the premise behind the LUMI Keys, an all-in-one piano learning platform with its own keyboard. You play the keyboard while using a tablet with the app installed for lessons.

    The keyboard is much smaller than a standard keyboard, with 24 keys (versus 88 on a standard piano), and each key is ⅞ the width of those you’ll find on a standard piano - it’s roughly the size of a MIDI keyboard. You can snap a couple of LUMI keyboards together if you’d like to play more advanced pieces. It requires a tablet to display the lessons while playing on the keyboard.

    The LUMI, made by Roli, is great for kids, who view it like a toy as much as a learning device. The keys light up in rainbow hues as you play, and you don’t need to know a single note to get started. The app includes 40 songs and a selection of in-app lessons, which took our eight-year-old tester from a fairly disinterested beginner to a rather solid, advanced beginner in a smattering of weeks. You can shell out an extra annual fee of $79 for access to LUMI Complete, which puts over 500 songs and classes at your child’s fingertips.

    One of the best bits about LUMI Keys is the option of four screen views. Cascade View deluges you Guitar Hero-style with rainbow rectangles floating up and down the screen. Rainbow View features rainbow shapes on horizontal lines, while Classic View displays basic sheet music. ColorNote View jazzes up a five-line staff with colorful notes.

    We tested the LUMI and all four of our children (ranging from age 3 to 10) were completely obsessed and wanted to play. However, that passion didn’t necessarily extend to using their newfound skills on the keyboard we have at home. However, the LUMI keys is a great option for its portability.

    Curious Campus(Opens in a new tab)

    Our kids have found remote learning via Zoom incredibly engaging, and Curious Campus is basically Masterclass for kiddos, with offerings including virtual book clubs, coding camps and mythology.

    If you want live instruction for your mini-pianist, you can book an hour lesson with a professional concert pianist, from $49 (£35) an hour, who can teach your child at any level, at any time that suits you.

    Live cello, guitar and singing classes are also available.

    Outschool(Opens in a new tab)

    Outschool is an online learning platform with a huge selection of virtual classes, from Harry Potter potions to U.S. history through the eyes of American Girl dolls. It became a bit of a lifeline for us in the early part of the pandemic, and is something we’ve been continuing to enjoy even as the kids have gone back to school in person.

    There are a range of Outschool Zoom classes for piano, from beginner options for five-year-olds, across multiple days(Opens in a new tab) ($10 per class) to a piano improv class using notes from the major blues scale(Opens in a new tab), suitable for kids eight and up ($10 per class).

    Not only will they get the benefit of learning with a teacher, but they might have a chance to make a friend in another country, too – the social aspect of Outschool is one of the best parts.

    UPDATE: March 19, 2021, 8:55 a.m. EDT This article has been updated to clarify that you can take piano lessons on Yousician without an instrument.

  • Unhinged Trump supporters harass the Biden campaign bus in viral clip

    Unhinged Trump supporters harass the Biden campaign bus in viral clip

    When people say Donald Trump is doing his level best to foment violence and unrest, this is what they're talking about.


    The costume-heavy revelry of Halloween Twitter was disrupted on Saturday when an alarming clip surfaced showing what appears to be a caravan of Trump supporters chasing the Biden campaign bus on a highway in Texas. It's a frightening scene.

    In a series of incidents that apparently unfolded on Friday throughout the day, Trump supporters made a dangerous public nuisance of themselves as the Biden campaign progressed through central Texas. At least one event was canceled as a result.

    But it was the below video, shared by Dr. Eric Cervini(Opens in a new tab) on Saturday, that made the rounds on social media. The footage shows a "Trump Train" of flag-bearing vehicles surrounding the Biden bus while it's in motion on the highway. At one point, one of the Trump trucks appears to sideswipe an SUV traveling closely behind the bus, shoving it into an adjacent lane.

    The details surrounding this specific incident, such as who was driving the SUV, are a little vague. But there's no mistaking the sight of a Trump flag-bearing pickup truck muscling a white SUV out from behind the Biden bus, with the pickup appearing to strike the SUV intentionally.

    So that was a fun way to end the week. Biden was notably never in any danger here. While the campaign was staging events in Texas, Biden himself was busy campaign in the northern midwest on Friday.

  • How virtual reality can be used to treat anxiety and PTSD

    How virtual reality can be used to treat anxiety and PTSD

    Virtual reality may become instrumental in the workplace, could potentially be vital for reimagining crime scenes, and has even salvaged strip clubs in the midst of a pandemic. Its possibilities and applications are vast, still being discovered and toyed with. Now, new research shows that VR may be an effective treatment for anxiety.


    Published by open access digital health research publisher JMIR Publications(Opens in a new tab), the study looked into virtual reality exposure therapy, or VRET. This particular form of therapy is a method in which patients are steadily exposed to a traumatic stimulus with the help of virtual environments. So not confronting the traumatic stimuli in its actual form, but gaining the benefits of overcoming or managing trauma through virtual exposure.

    The study in question was funded and conducted at Massey University Strategic Excellence Research Fund and Otago Polytechnic Auckland International Campus, New Zealand. The authors reviewed several past studies about VRET and anxiety, concluding that this type of immersive therapy is a viable and potentially revolutionising method to treat certain mental health conditions.

    A blend of VRET and well-established practices in mental health treatment can both augment and enhance other forms of therapy, the research suggests. For instance, VRET could be interlocked with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)(Opens in a new tab), which is commonly used to treat conditions such as anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. The combination can elevate effectiveness and reduce symptoms of mental health conditions.

    Patients can 'confront the situations that cause them fear and anxiety, but in a safe and controlled environment'

    Dr. Nilufar Baghaei, Vibhav Chitale (members of the Games and Extended Reality Lab at Massey University, New Zealand), and Professor Richard Porter (faculty at the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Otago, New Zealand) are amongst the authors of the study. In a joint statement to Mashable, the researchers say that VRET allows participants to "confront the situations that cause them fear and anxiety, but in a safe and controlled environment, working closely with their mental health professionals."

    Scenarios in which this can be implemented are varied. VRET can be used to treat a fear of flying through virtual flight simulators, or a fear of driving through driving simulators. An aversion to public speaking can be tackled with virtual interviews and presentations.

    "VRET allows for customisable virtual environments wherein a patient is exposed to a feared stimuli in a safe and controlled environment. Due to the nature of VR, the patients feel an engaging and immersive experience within the virtual world," say the authors. "The virtual world can be controlled by the mental health professional, enabling total control of the exposure, and allowing for the manipulation of scenarios specifically tailored towards the individual undergoing the sessions."

    In other words, VRET allows for both safety and innovation in mental health treatment. An Oxford University study back in 2016 tested this, having patients who suffered from extreme versions of paranoid thoughts to step into virtual environments. The VR design allowed researchers to show patients that the spaces that scare them can actually be safe.

    SEE ALSO: This is virtual therapy’s moment. Can it last?

    Conditions like PTSD and schizophrenia can also be addressed with VRET. For military veterans, for example, a virtual war zone can help to accelerate treatment. This is also effective when it comes to situations that are difficult to replicate due to cost, reality, and privacy concerns.

    For the latter, a 2019 clinical trial in the UK tested how VR therapy can be implemented to help patients with schizophrenia. The trial recreated potentially stressful situations, allowing participants to learn how to re-engage with the world in a controlled setting.

    Of course, VR therapy comes with its risks. According to a 2018 study by J Clin Med.(Opens in a new tab), VR may not be suitable for those with epilepsy, and for others can potentially cause motion sickness, dizziness, or disorientation. Another plausible risk is obsession, with patients becoming fixated and/or dependent on VR. These potential risks do exist. But the overarching conclusions of the studies show that the positives likely outweigh the negatives, especially when it comes to the potential VR therapy holds.

    "A lot of studies have reported positive findings post-VRET treatment such in that the participants experienced a decrease in PTSD, depression, social anxiety disorder, public speaking anxiety and/or anger symptoms, and were more relaxed with upbeat mood," say Dr. Baghaei, Chitale, and Porter.

    So far, certain studies (such as this one(Opens in a new tab) by the University of York, this(Opens in a new tab) by the Clinical Psychology Review, and this(Opens in a new tab) by Oxford Medicine Online) suggest that VR can be helpful for anxiety, PTSD, and anger symptoms. Many, such as the above Oxford study, suggest that the emerging field of VRET shows immense promise for a variety of disorders, while also allowing for lower costs and more accessibility. While it may appear that VR technology is expensive and out of reach, the researchers actually believe this technology is becoming more widespread, accessible, and affordable: "the assumption that the equipment needed to use VRET is too expensive will no longer hold."

    The future of therapy may very well be virtual, if research continues on this path. And it may be exactly what some need.

    Despite the emphasis on anxiety, researchers believe that there is room for the treatment of depression, too. The authors of the JMIR study point out that although there is less evidence surrounding VRET's applicability to depression, there is enough of a link between the two to argue it's a feasible treatment choice.

    "A number of studies have shown that as the number of VRET sessions increases, the effectiveness of symptom reduction also increases. The evidence for effectiveness in depression is limited so far – but there is a lot of research in this area and results are promising." Dr. Baghaei, Chitale, and Porter say.

    For instance, they cite a study published by the University of Cambridge press(Opens in a new tab), in which patients were exposed to compassion and self-compassion through virtual reality. The patients each experienced some sort of depression, but during the course of the open trial, saw their depression and self-criticism decreasing significantly.

    The future of therapy may very well be virtual, if research continues on this path. And it may be exactly what some need.

  • Your ultimate guide to breast play 

    Your ultimate guide to breast play 

    Perhaps one of the world's greatest bedroom tragedies is the sidelining of breast play. There are a lot of moving parts to sex (literally), from all the body parts to think about, plus your technique, whether your partner’s having a good time and all those erogenous zones to remember. It seems like, in all that, poor old breasts get forgotten about. Speak to anyone with breasts who’s had sex and they’ll tell you a lot of sexual partners forget all about the fun bags — especially if those partners happen to be cisgender men. 


    Breast play is overlooked in partnered sex, perhaps because of the pedestalling of penetration above all else. But those who aren’t utilising breast play regularly in their sex are seriously missing a trick, as research suggests breasts are the best way to unlock heightened pleasure and stimulate orgasms in women. 

    A 2011 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine(Opens in a new tab) says that nipple stimulation activates the same areas of the brain as clitoris and vagina. The study aimed to map out and compare sensory responses to clitoral, vaginal, cervical, and nipple self-stimulation, and results showed nipple stimulation offered high-quality stimulation and mentally erotic association. That’s the sciency way of saying that feeling up boobs is a massive turn-on, like having your genitals touched. Who knew?

    SEE ALSO: How to perform cunnilingus like a pro

    Why do people forget about the boobs in the bedroom?

    There’s a reason we forget about boobs. Tom Davies, sex expert and product lead at sexual wellness brand Bodyjoys(Opens in a new tab) tells Mashable, "Breast play is often forgotten about because we’re caught up in the moment and are too focused on ‘the Big Show’ i.e. our partner reaching orgasm. But breast play can be an exciting way to get there — and for some, it can even be achieved by only breast play." 

    He adds that sex positions can often be an underlying reason why breasts are forgotten about. "Whether you’re attempting reverse-cowgirl or going down on your partner, it can be tricky to keep your mind (and your grip) on the task at hand," he explains.

    SEE ALSO: How to finger your partner

    "A key way to incorporate breast play is to introduce it [before penetrative sex, if that’s where you’re headed]. Take time to explore your partner’s breasts (and not just the nipple). With hundreds of nerve endings available for stimulation, you’ll soon realise that it’s not so easy to forget after all," he explains.  

    And, as always with all sex, communication is key. As much as we’d love our sexual partners to read minds in the bedroom, you can’t expect them to know you want your breasts felt up if you haven’t told them. As Davies recommends, "Bring up the topic of breast play before you engage in sexual activity so you can find out what your partner enjoys and what they don’t."

    Why try breast play?

    Well, everything we just said about how horny it gets people. And, it can be a really exciting way to work towards orgasm (if that’s your goal) in the bedroom. 

    Though it ends up getting prioritised in every which way inside the bedroom, penetrative sex doesn’t always do it for women. In fact, only 18.4 percent of women can reach orgasm from penetrative intercourse(Opens in a new tab) alone. They are actually much more likely to achieve orgasm through hand and oral play — all the types of sex that get shoved to the side as "foreplay." Since this type of sex works best for most women, it’s time to make them the main event, and bring breast play along for the ride too. 

    Want more sex and dating stories in your inbox? Sign up for Mashable's new weekly After Dark newsletter.

    There’s a shockingly low amount of breast-related research into sexual desire out there (let’s do better, scientists!) but some research suggests that during sex, women want you to touch their boobs about as much as you want to touch them. A 2006 study(Opens in a new tab) (we know, it’s mad that this is the most recent breast play study) found that a whopping 81.5 percent of women surveyed received enhanced sexual arousal from breast play and nipple stimulation and wanted their partners to use it more. 

    Having said all of this, breast and nipple play is definitely not only for people with vulvas. Jess Wilde, sex expert at the online shop So Divine(Opens in a new tab), says it's common that penis owners overlook chest play, thinking it's not for them. "This is a myth, and many people with penises find chest and nipple play extremely enjoyable."

    She adds, "Most people have two nipples, which instantly doubles the potential for fun! And they're located right on the front of the body, making them easy to access during solo and couples playtime, and in the perfect position for watching what's going on."

    Basically, if you’re not prioritising breasts and chests in your sex, you’re limiting your own pleasure. 

    Can you orgasm from breast play?

    In short, yes. Some people are able to achieve orgasm through breast play alone. Just like the genital area, your chest area also has many nerve endings, which makes it possible for some individuals to orgasm by stimulating the breasts.

    "Stimulating the nipples triggers the same region of the brain as the genitals, so it’s clear why some individuals are able to achieve an orgasm this way," Davies explains. "Those who’ve experienced orgasms through breast play tend to indicate that the experience is far more intense."

    SEE ALSO: A guide to having nipple orgasms

    Of course, this is all subjective. Orgasms, depending on the type (clitoral, G-spot, nipple), differ from person to person. What might be intense for one person may be mild for another. Everyone is different so not all people with boobs will be able to have an orgasm through breast play. But it’s fun to give it a try! 

    How to play with breasts 

    As with all sex play, wetter is better, so it’s a good idea to involve lubes or oils in breast play. For a full breast massage, Wilde suggests using a good quality massage oil to enhance glide and sensation, and make the chest glisten with glory.

    "Be selective when it comes to aromas, and choose one you both like the smell of," Wilde advises. "The close proximity of the chest to the face makes it a perfect opportunity for adding a little aromatherapy to playtime. The sandalwood and fig massage oil by So Divine(Opens in a new tab) is perfect for this."

    SEE ALSO: Everything you need to know about the G-spot 

    The same goes for nipple play, where you can use oils, lubricants or your own saliva to keep things wet and create more sensations. "Adding this to nipple stimulation heightens sensation whilst preventing overstimulation or soreness. Water-based lube is great, but a silicone lube will feel even better as they help things stay slippy for longer," she adds. 

    Now for what you’re actually going to do with your hands... 

    There’s no wrong way to play with breasts. Like all play, it’s about trying different movements and sensations and keeping a dialogue going so you can adapt to what your partner likes, and doesn’t.

    There are a few techniques Wilde recommends as a place to start, though:

    • Add a drizzle of massage oil to the palm of your hand and vigorously rub your hands together (this warms the oil). Then proceed to coat the chest with oil, spreading it everywhere you'd like to caress. Follow up with a gentle massage, varying between using your fingertips to your whole palm to awaken the skin. Slowly move closer and closer to the nipples to increase the intensity. 

    • Using a slippery finger (lube up!) delicately circle around the nipples, focussing on the areola and the very edge of the nipples.  

    • Make a relaxed 'peace sign' or 'Vulcan salute' and place a nipple in the space between your fingers, allowing the inner surface of your fingers to rest against the sides of the nipple. Now stroke back and forth, and squeeze the nipple.

    • Holding a nipple between your finger and thumb experiment with stroking up and down, gently rolling the nipple side to side, and lightly pinching and tugging, to see what feels best.  

    • If you like the sensation of pinching, step it up a notch. Squeeze the nipple for as long as it’s comfortable and release. This imitates nipple clamp play in the way it temporarily limits blood flow to the nipple. Once released, blood flow returns to normal and provides a pleasurable throbbing sensation.  

    Remember to be mindful of nipple piercings during play and be careful not to catch or snag jewellery.  

    Davies adds that hands aren’t your only tools for exploring breasts. "Your mouth can also be a great way to stimulate your partner’s breasts and nipples, whether you choose to use your tongue, lips, or teeth," he explains.

    SEE ALSO: A beginner's guide to sensation play

    "If your partner feels comfortable, gently nibble the outer breast area, working your way towards the nipple. Again, if they consent, you can increase the pressure you’re applying. Having a safe word for instances like this is a great way to communicate if the pressure becomes too much," he added.

    Your tongue is another great technique for breast and nipple play. Davies suggests trying to kiss the breast as if it were your partner’s mouth, incorporating your tongue if you and your partner feel comfortable. "You can also change the shape of your tongue to apply different levels of pressure and sensation. Think pointy versus flat — and see which they prefer," he advises. 

    How to spice up breast play 

    If you’ve done breast play a few times and you fancy yourself an expert, you might be looking for ways to spice things up and experience new types of pleasure. 

    For this, Davies suggests trying a little wax play. With the sensitivity of breasts and there being a surface area to pour wax on, breast play makes for the perfect opportunity to try this activity. We have a guide on everything you need to know about wax play

    Or, food can be incorporated into breast play. Think sweet treats, like chocolate spread, honey, or cream. The person receiving breast play can smother their chest in something, while the other person licks it off. Then you get all those incredible sensations and a light snack! "A little can go a long way, so experiment with different flavours," Davies adds. 

    What types of toys can be used with breast play?

    "Once you and your partner have experimented with breast play using your hands and mouths, you could try toys," Davies suggests. "See which textures and sensations work well for you, from feather ticklers to nipple clamps, finger vibrators and even household items like ice cubes, there are plenty of options."

    Nipple suckers are fantastic little toys which apply gentle suction to each nipple to increase sensitivity and make them more erect. They are especially useful for people with inverted nipples as the suction can help to coax a shy nipple out for playtime.  

    SEE ALSO: The best sex toys under $50 (that are actually worth using)

    Then there are the more kinky options. "There are lots of sensual and arousing bondage accessories you may want to explore for breast play, Davies says. "Nipple clamps can add another layer of excitement to breast play. These work for both solo and partnered sex. Of course, this is dependent on your pain threshold — however, there are different types of nipple clamps, some of which clamp harder than others." 

    Wilde explains that nipple clamps come in a wide range of styles and intensities, but they certainly don't need to be painful. "For first timers, pick up a set of lightweight, adjustable nipple clamps with silicone-coated tips for a beginner-friendly introduction to nipple clamping. Adjustable clamps like this put you in complete control of the level of pinch, from a barely-there squeeze, to a thrilling tweak," she recommends. 

    Whether you use a vibe, a sucker or a clamp, there’s a few things to keep in mind to ensure your own safety, and that you’re comfortable. First, always use a drop of lube to enhance comfort and pleasure. 

    Don’t feel pressure to keep clamps on for a while and take note of your own comfort levels while using them. "How long you can wear nipple clamps depends how tight they are squeezing the nipples," Wilde says. "An intense squeeze should be removed after around 10 minutes, whilst a loose clamp can be worn for up to 30 minutes."

    Never wear nipple clamps for longer than 30 minutes, as this could result in injury. During wear make sure to check the tip of the nipple often, ensuring it hasn't lost sensitivity and is still a normal, healthy-looking colour.  

    How to use breast play in masturbation 

    Breast play doesn’t just have to be a partnered thing. In fact, some of the best breast play sessions come out of masturbation, or solo sex. 

    Wilde says finding out what you enjoy is often the best part of masturbation and makes for a great environment to discover what you like without any specific expectations. Don’t put pressure on yourself to have an orgasm; simply use this time exploring breast play as a period of self-care and self-exploration.

    "Using techniques such as nipple stimulation and chest massage (don’t forget the lube or massage oil), you can discover what you like and don’t like," Wilde explains. "If you feel comfortable, you can incorporate this into your regular masturbation routine and see what it adds to the experience."

    If you don’t know where to start, gently run your fingertips over your chest area. "You don’t have to concentrate on one particular area (nipples, areola, etc.), but explore it fully. Even this simple action can provide you with plenty of sexual stimulation," she says. 

    Davies notes that bringing toys into solo breast play can up the ante. "Vibrators can be used in both hands and you could use one for your genitals and the other for your breast area," he suggests. 

    "Although your mouth might not feel like an option during solo sex, there are ways to utilise it during solo breast play as well. Try applying lube to your breasts and blow on the lubed up area," he adds. This can create a really intense sensation, especially if you use lubes with tingly sensations.

    If you want to make breast play a regular course in your sex menu, talk to your partner about your desires and how you’d like to play with them together. Wilde points out that even if your partner isn’t playing with your breasts, you can also play with them yourself during partnered sex. In fact, this is one of her favourite ways to introduce breast play to a partner. 

    "While your partner pleasures you in other ways, increase your enjoyment by using your available hand(s) to play with your chest," she recommends. "This usually leads to one of two results. One is that your partner will see how much fun you're having (and how hot it looks) and will likely want to join in. Or they will ask you about it." After sex, she advises taking a moment to say how much fun you just had together, and make sure to compliment something they did. Then, ask them if they can try breast play the next time you have sex. Then, you’ve opened a dialogue about breast play and trying something new together. 

  • Viral Retro Pod removed from the App Store, so say bye to that old iPod feeling

    Viral Retro Pod removed from the App Store, so say bye to that old iPod feeling

    Retro Pod, the viral app that recreated the look and feel of listening to music on an iPod, is no longer on the App Store.

    The app was available for download starting in October 2022, but it really picked up steam in early January once it started making the rounds on TikTok. Users posted videos(Opens in a new tab) lauding Retro Pod for its "sweet nostalgia" and ability to bring back the tactile element of using the iPod's click wheel.

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    SEE ALSO: In Memoriam: The tech that died in 2022

    Retro Pod rose in popularity, garnering nearly half a million downloads, but by the second week of January, The Verge(Opens in a new tab) reported it had vanished. TikToks about the Retro Pod received comments as early as Jan. 7 that they could no longer find the app in the App Store.

    Retro Pod recreated the iPod experience. Credit: Retro Pod / Mashable Composite

    Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Mashable. However, the explanation for Retro Pod's removal from the App Store is likely right there in Apple's App Store review guidelines(Opens in a new tab). These guidelines have a strict rule against copying other apps and Apple products — in 2019, an app similar to Retro Pod called Rewound(Opens in a new tab) met the same fate for violating these guidelines.


    Retro Pod is the latest in a series of attempts to resurrect early 2000s tech like digital cameras and flip phones, proving that technological nostalgia continues to thrive in current digital spaces like TikTok. The app may be gone from the App Store, but the driving force behind it — the desire to make the old new again — is alive and well. Besides, if you're craving the experience of scrolling through an iPod, you can find it in browser alternatives like ipod.js,(Opens in a new tab) which syncs up to Spotify.

  • Despite censorship controversy, Tumblr creators remain loyal to their favorite hellsite

    Despite censorship controversy, Tumblr creators remain loyal to their favorite hellsite

    Tumblr users have always affectionately called the blogging platform their "favorite hellsite." Home to broken search features and stringent content bans, the latest of which features a whole new slate of prohibited tags, Tumblr is far from perfect. So what’s keeping creators from deleting their accounts?


    In late December 2021, Forbes reported(Opens in a new tab) that Tumblr had banned a large list of words, like "girl" and "sad," from being used as tags on its iOS app due to Apple's App Store restrictions for sensitive content. Around that time, the blogging site exploded with posts from its creators decrying the change.

    Credit: Screenshot: Tumblr
    Credit: Screenshot: Tumblr

    But a few weeks removed from the announcement, the dust has settled into a much quieter scene. While at first outraged at what felt like blatant content censorship, Tumblr creators have mostly accepted the latest update. It's only the latest in a long line of unwanted changes to the site, and frankly, a lot of Tumblr users are used to adaptation. 

    The latest ban is not something they want — but it still isn't enough to push both diehard Tumblr users and newbies off the platform for good. For all of its flaws, Tumblr is still a destination for niche communities and interests, and for these creators the site’s potential outweighs its limitations. It’s yet another chip in the fraught but somehow tenacious relationship between Tumblr and its community. 

    "Tumblr has had so many problems for so many years," said longtime Tumblr user Klaudia Amenabar. "And not that that makes it any better, but it always goes right back to business."

    It isn't the first time that Tumblr's done this

    The latest list of banned words didn't exactly come as a shock to Tumblr veterans, who have seen the company police central topics on the platform before. In 2013, Tumblr introduced a new policy banning blogs that actively promoted self-harm or eating disorders(Opens in a new tab), leaving users afraid that essential mental health discussions and resources would be affected. In 2018, Tumblr famously enacted its porn ban to appease Apple's regulations after being kicked off its App Store, drawing major criticism for its sudden lack of support for the sex creators that helped bring Tumblr to fame.

    SEE ALSO: The art of the porn GIF

    Similarly, this latest content restriction was done to satisfy Apple's safety guidelines — and to keep the platform on the App Store. While many of these outlawed words are sexual in nature, the list also includes both bizarre and banal terms, like "anti native racism" and "anime girl." Other terms, like "submission" and "reblog," are inescapable functions of Tumblr. For example, when someone submits a post to a blogger, the platform automatically tags it with #submission, and artists or other original creators often use #reblog to signal a post with work that isn't their own. 

    Even Tumblr itself isn't too pleased with the banned tags made necessary by Apple's strict standards. "We were scrambling to not be taken down from the App Store with a very short deadline days before Christmas," a Tumblr spokesperson told Mashable. "There are no similar restrictions on Android, mobile web, or desktop web, and we encourage anyone negatively impacted by this pointless, arbitrary, and hopefully temporary restriction to use one of those platforms in the meantime, or turn off the 'Hide Sensitive Content' toggle using a web browser."

    While it appears that Tumblr originally alerted users about these updates on its Changes blog,(Opens in a new tab) linking to an explanatory post on its Work In Progress blog(Opens in a new tab), the full list of banned words doesn't currently appear on any official Tumblr communication. The blog bannedtags(Opens in a new tab) has been compiling a list of the seemingly banned tags, which is accessible to anyone via a Google Doc(Opens in a new tab) link. A Tumblr spokesperson also told Mashable that they are working to remove this crowdsourced list.

    "Since artists count a lot on the discoverability features of the platforms they use to host and promote their work, when such tools [like tags] become 'unstable' and make it harder to discover and get discovered, it’s frustrating," said Tumblr user Kevin Briatico to Mashable in an email. 

    But even as Tumblr's atmosphere keeps changing, there's no other platform that lets you be a creator in the same way.

    Despite all the turmoil, Tumblr creators have what seems to be an unbreakable bond with the site. Many of them credit this to Tumblr's unique content types and ongoing niche communities — sometimes so niche that the very people that built them still don't consider themselves a stereotypical creator.  

    "If I was going to leave, I would have left a long time ago. Tumblr has become a place where I can skip between a lot of communities," said Amenabar. "And I never wrote fanfiction or made GIFs or made fan art or anything like that. I just made funny little jokes and little posts. So I don't consider myself a creator. But I engage in creator-like activity."

    But what even is a Tumblr creator these days? It's a difficult question to answer, as the term "creator" has evolved to often mean "monetizable influencer" on most other social media platforms. On Tumblr, it's always felt like anyone can be a creator. You can make text posts from your favorite books, create entirely original art pieces, or share funny shitposts that just make you giggle — all of it is content, and all of it has a home on Tumblr. 

    If I was going to leave, I would have left a long time ago.

    "Whether you like writing fanfiction with your favorite characters, making cosmic horror comics, keeping a dream journal, or posting beautiful GIF sets, anything that can decorate the time of others and your own is art. And making it makes you a creator," said Briatico.

    But Tumblr isn't completely void of monetization attempts — and the problems that come with it. The site has three main programs for its creators to make money: Post+, the Creatr network, and Tumblr Tips(Opens in a new tab), which just launched in February 2022 and will allow for users to send their favorite creators any tip amount up to $100.

    Post+ is a tiered subscription service mainly launched in the U.S. Any creator can activate Post+ on their blog, which allows them to charge a fee for any content they choose to make premium. This fee ranges from $3.99 to $9.99 per month, and Tumblr takes a 5 percent fee from each subscription. When Post+ first launched in July 2021, the site saw similar protests erupt, denouncing monetization as the antithesis of Tumblr's community. Many creators were also worried about the legality of charging a fee for fan edits or fanfiction(Opens in a new tab) that drew inspiration from copyrighted work, and were frustrated that Tumblr wouldn't address this. 

    SEE ALSO: Tumblr adds yet another way to pay creators

    Amenabar has Post+ activated on her blog, but hasn't found that it drastically changes her Tumblr experience. "When I first activated Post+, people were fired up about it. Some people would harass me for using it. But it's really just a feature I was testing out, and it's something you opt into. If you don't want to use it, then don't subscribe to my blog that way." 

    The Creatr network launched in 2015(Opens in a new tab), and it is a collective of artists handpicked by Tumblr for curated brand collaboration deals. The network currently lists 71 artists(Opens in a new tab) on its roster, and boasts of deals with companies like HBO, Kate Spade, Netflix, Samsung, Toyota, and more. 

    Briatico runs the blog Mark My Comics,(Opens in a new tab) and considers himself to be a relatively new member of the Creatr network. He credits the collective for pushing him to continue building his artistic portfolio, but so far he doesn't feel that his Creatr status necessarily changes how he interacts with Tumblr's platform. 

    "I hardly [think] Creatrs will have better luck at escaping the consequences of the ban, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing, to be honest," said Briatico in an email to Mashable. "Tumblr Creatrs artists are as valid as any other artist on the platform and knowing we are all on the same level is reassuring."

    On Tumblr, you don't have to be an influencer. You don't even have to have a good blog. 

    Currently, Tumblr hosts an estimated 542.7 million blogs(Opens in a new tab). While some of these blogs are the product of hours of work, custom-coded themes, and curated engagement, many of them are simply personal outlets, made to host any and every type of content. And that's what makes Tumblr's magic continue to endure through corporate regime changes and content bans that veer a little too close to censorship: The platform is still a home to anyone who wants to use it and make content. 

    "It’s always been about having a voice. And [my] hobby became so much more [than just making silly comics] when I discovered I was being heard," said Briatico. "It's in moments like when people told me they started using translators to understand my comics (back when they were written in Italian), or that my stuff had a positive impact on their days, that I realized I wanted to do this forever."

    This isn't to say that the great Tumblr overlords can do no wrong. As seen after the porn ban, the platform's decisions do have the potential to cause mass exodus. Tumblr's life source is its creators and the communities they have fostered on the platform, and these content restrictions only cause more friction. Still, for its users, there’s no place on the internet like Tumblr. 

  • What is post-SSRI Sexual Dysfunction (PSSD) and what do I need to know about it?

    What is post-SSRI Sexual Dysfunction (PSSD) and what do I need to know about it?

    As I try for the hundredth time to knock one out and inevitably fail miserably, I’m forced to remember that when taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), coming can feel like an Olympic sport. Feeling sticky and ashamed (and somewhat frustrated), I’m left with no other option than to pack away my toys and lubes, roll over and try to get some kip.

    According to NHS(Opens in a new tab) data, there are now nearly half a million more adults taking antidepressants than in 2021. So, know you're not alone. For many people prescribed antidepressants, they are a necessary and vital lifeline. They can be life-altering in the best way, but they can also produce side effects that are disheartening. 

    Sexual dysfunction and SSRIs can go hand in hand for folks like me. In fact, it's reported that nearly 100(Opens in a new tab) percent of people who take them experience some form of sexual side effects. When I stopped taking them, my enthusiasm and wanking vigour returned quickly, but for others, it can be a vastly different story. One shrouded in unshakeable shame.


    SEE ALSO: How do antidepressants affect your orgasms?

    What is post-SSRI sexual dysfunction, or PSSD?

    Post-SSRI sexual dysfunction, or PSSD, is something felt by people when they come off of antidepressants, (the exact number of those impacted is not known because so little research is done about it, partially due to "inconsistencies" from the medical community about how to diagnose it(Opens in a new tab), but the research that does exist tells us it's prevalent).

    While some people experience sexual side effects during taking SSRIs, PSSD is a condition which refers to a long-term condition impacting people who have stopped taking the medication.

    Experts like professor of psychology David Healy of Bangor University, and author of the journal Antidepressants and Sexual Dysfunction: A History,(Opens in a new tab) discuss the prevalence of the condition(Opens in a new tab), stating that: "10 percent of people of sexually active years in developed countries are on antidepressants chronically. Nearly 20 percent of the population, therefore, may not be able to make love the way they want." He goes on to explain that in some deprived areas, the figure may be much higher. He also identifies that those who seek to comfort themselves with the thought of post-treatment normality, those prescribed SSRIs might be sorely disappointed, saying that; "...they may be even less able to function."

    Per(Opens in a new tab) Healy's paper: "The core features of the condition are genital numbing, loss or muting of orgasm and loss of libido. But many are just as concerned by additional features like emotional numbing or derealisation." PSSD was first reported in medical literature in 2006, despite people with the syndrome reporting(Opens in a new tab) symptoms to regulators since 1999.

    In almost all cases, people who suffer from PSSD have experienced some form of sexual dysfunction while taking antidepressant medication in addition to after they stop. "It's very important that people understand what it is, recognise it as soon as possible and understand the complexity of it," Alessio Rizzo, certified psychotherapist, tells Mashable. "SSRI sexual dysfunction is one of the leading reasons people stop taking antidepressant medication which can lead to worsening symptoms alongside withdrawal."

    Who is most affected by PSSD?

    The truth is, anyone can be affected by PSSD because anyone can be affected by sexual dysfunction.

    "We know that it seems to affect every sex, and every age, every ethnicity, so it doesn't seem to be linked to any of the usual parameters that we consider," Rizzo says.

    Rizzo explains that people who are more at risk of depression and anxiety, like those in the LGBTQ community, are not destined for mental illness, but may find themselves more likely to develop illnesses like depression and anxiety(Opens in a new tab). "We must be careful not to pathologise dysfunction as an LGBTQ and sexual abuse survivor only problem," he adds, "because it can stop people who do not identify with these two experiences from seeking help."

    SEE ALSO: Being bisexual can impact your mental health. Here's what you can do about it.

    Around 30-50 percent of people experience mild forms of sexual dysfunction(Opens in a new tab) before taking antidepressants, which means that they could find pre-existing symptoms exacerbated by medication. It could also mean that something else is causing the dysregulation of the sexual response cycle (the connection between desire and arousal, excitement, orgasm and resolution), like pain, sensitivity and past trauma. Collectively, these are known as predispositions. 

    Sexual dysfunction of any kind can be a tremendously isolating experience.

    This is why approaching a healing process in a holistic nature is important. While medications can help with mood stabilisation, talk therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) can help to support healing by modifying thought pathways(Opens in a new tab) (this is called neuroplasticity, and it describes altering chemically embedded behaviours in our brain). Therefore, people with pre-existing symptoms, or who are predisposed to sexual dysfunction, can get to the bottom of what’s disrupting their pleasure response cycle and confront it in a safe environment.

    For many people, talking about sex is closely followed by feelings of shame. We also need to remember that there is a cultural stigma surrounding mental health and sex, making it even harder for some to talk about or admit to having a problem. A study conducted by the National Library of Medicine found that young people are especially likely to experience shame(Opens in a new tab) when discussing any form of sexual experience — let alone one that involves problems. 

    As such, sexual dysfunction of any kind can be a tremendously isolating experience, leaving people grasping at straws and feeling a lot of internal turmoil. All this is made worse by the cycle of depression and anxiety slowly eating away at any form of self-esteem. 

    SEE ALSO: Men need to talk about sex differently. Here's how.

    SSRIs increase serotonin levels in the brain, which has a knock-on effect on the anatomical structures of our reproductive system(Opens in a new tab). Effects of this include being unable to maintain or produce an erection to vaginal dryness, ejaculation, and anorgasmia (absence of orgasm). This is, impart, because SSRIs inhibit nitric oxide production(Opens in a new tab), which greatly affects the way the body relaxes, and actively prevents blood from reaching the genitals.

    PSSD is a serious condition and it causes distress. There is currently no treatment for PSSD. The syndrome is not widely understood or agreed upon by researchers as to how it comes about. It is suggested that only future research(Opens in a new tab) holds the answer and that it could lie in those who do not develop PSSD, but only time will tell if this is the case.

    UPDATE: Dec. 2, 2022, 9:48 a.m. CET This post has been updated.