Monthly Archives: February 2019

Sex without Intercourse precludes consideration of abortion


Vaginal intercourse is not necessary for peak erotic pleasure or orgasm.
Posted in Psychology Today Sep 15, 2014 by Michael Castelman

We live in a sexual culture overwhelmingly focused on intercourse. Sex in books, movies, and on TV is dominated by the old in-and-out. To many Americans “sex,” means intercourse.

But for many lovers, sex that revolves around intercourse is problematic:

• Only about 25 percent of women are consistently orgasmic from it. If you doubt this statistic, see the exhaustive discussion in The Case of the Female Orgasm by Elizabeth Lloyd (Harvard University Press, 2005). Intercourse simply does not provide enough direct clitoral stimulation to allow most women to come.

• In addition, some women never produce much vaginal lubrication, which can make intercourse uncomfortable even with a lubricant. Then, starting soon after 40, as women begin the long transition to menopause, many more develop vaginal dryness that lube may not resolve, and eventually, the vaginal wall thins (vaginal atrophy), which can mean pain on intercourse.

• Meanwhile, after 40, many men’s erections become iffy, which can interfere with intercourse. As men age, an increasing proportion suffer balky erections. And then there’s erectile dysfunction. Viagra and the other erection drugs usually help, but not always. For around 30 percent of men, they don’t work very well if at all.

• Finally, many medical conditions can make intercourse difficult or impossible: diabetes, heart disease, sciatica, back pain, cancer treatment, etc.

As a result, the notion that sex equals intercourse leaves many couples frustrated. Fortunately, there’s an erotically fulfilling alternative—lovemaking without intercourse.

Welcome to Great Sex Without Intercourse

Sex without intercourse may sound disconcerting. It requires some effort, adjustments on the part of both lovers—and change is never easy, especially in erotic repertoire. But if you find intercourse problematic, sex without it allows hot, fulfilling lovemaking for life.

Once you get on board with sex sans intercourse, it’s pretty easy. It involves the same leisurely, playful, whole-body touching, caressing, and massage that sex therapists recommend to all lovers. But it eliminates vaginal intercourse, focusing instead on all the other ways couples can enjoy marvelous genital pleasure: hand massage (your own and/or your lover’s), oral sex, and sex toys, particularly vibrators and dildos for women, and penis sleeves for men.

For many couples, great sex without intercourse means experimenting, which can feel strange. But novelty is key to sexual zing. Doing things differently stimulates the brain to release dopamine, and dopamine heightens erotic intensity. In other words, if you adopt some new non-intercourse moves, lovemaking without intercourse can feel more pleasurable than ever.

Great Sex Without Intercourse—For Men

Hand-massage of the penis is a major part of sex without intercourse. But is your honey providing the caresses that really excite you? Many men find that being stroked by a lover isn’t as much of turn-on as their own masturbation routine.

In that case, the man can show the woman exactly how he likes to be stroked by demonstrating it for her. If you’ve never masturbated in the presence of a lover, this can feel awkward and embarrassing. But it serves three important functions. It clearly shows her which strokes turn you on the most. It helps her provide the most stimulating caresses. And it increases her confidence in her own erotic prowess and attractiveness.

Masturbating for a lover also deepens the couple’s intimacy. Intimacy is all about self-revelation, disclosing who you really are. What’s more self-revealing than displaying how you enjoy sex with yourself?

Fellatio is also a major component of great sex without intercourse. And guess what—men don’t need erections to enjoy it. They can derive great pleasure from oral sex even if only partially erect or even flaccid.

In addition, a firm erection is not necessary for ejaculation and orgasm. It’s quite possible for men to enjoy earth-moving orgasms with only partial erections or none at all—if they receive sufficient stimulation by hand, mouth, or sex toy.

Couples experimenting with sex without intercourse might also try penis sleeves, artificial vaginas or mouths that, when lubricated, feel remarkably close to the real thing. A man who can’t manage vaginal intercourse may be able to slide (or stuff) his penis into a sleeve. Penis sleeves, available from sex toy marketers, can be easily incorporated into partner lovemaking.

Great Sex Without Intercourse—For Women

This bears repeating: Only 25 percent of women are reliably orgasmic during intercourse. In other words, three-quarters of women need direct clitoral stimulation to experience orgasm.

Now it’s possible to provide direct clitoral stimulation during intercourse. In doggy style, the man can reach around. Or in the woman-on-top position, she can masturbate or he can place a fist on his abdomen and she can lean into it. But the way most couples make love, intercourse does not provide sufficient stimulation for women to enjoy orgasms, a big reason why sex without intercourse can feel so satisfying.

Meanwhile, for women who enjoy feeling filled up, dildos and phallic vibrators can be godsends. The woman can use them on herself with the man watching, or holding and gently caressing her. Or the woman can coach the man about how she likes things inserted. Most women prefer toys and their vaginas to be well lubricated before slow, gentle introduction. Or the man might use a strap-on dildo for more of an intercourse feel (see my recent post about playing with strap-ons). Sex toy marketers offer dildos, vibrators, and strap-ons.

Great Sex for Life

For those who think “sex” is the old in-and-out, it can be a challenge to discover the joys of great sex without intercourse. But lovemaking without intercourse can be a marvelous alternative for lovers of any age who have trouble doing it like they do in movies.

For individualized help coping with problematic intercourse or age-related sexual changes, consult a sex therapist. To find one near you, visit the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, the Society for Sex Therapy and Research, or the American Board of Sexology.

The Priestly Gift of Kindness

Sunrise over Lemon Bay

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

~Albert Schweitzer~

I wrote this a number of years ago. It is an excerpt from my book, Navigating Life: Commonsense Reflections for the Voyage. Lately it almost seems there is an implication that all priests can be abusive. I don’t think this is the case and has not been my experience with the great majority of priests I have known. My uncle is typical of most of the priests I have known.

Catholic priests have made headlines over the past few years in none too flattering a manner. It seems the only priests who appear in the news are those caught in shameful acts. We don’t hear much about the high percentage of priests who do not fall into this category. For the most part, their lives are not dramatic and do not command headlines. We know little about them.

I recently attended the fiftieth anniversary jubilee celebration of my uncle’s priesthood. Although I had an idea what kind of person he is, many of the details of his life remained quietly unnoticed, at least to me.

I always knew him as a man of peace. Yet he fought for our country in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. He seldom discussed his war experiences and, when he did, never talked about the terror and desperation of war.

When he returned from military service, he brought with him a toy Scottie dog which remained my constant companion for years and always reminded me of him. His disposition was very much like my grandfather’s. Father Richard has been compassionate, generous and humble, qualities noted by those who came to know him during the course of his priesthood. He never sought or found fame, wealth or power. One speaker said he gave much to others and took little. Unless you know him personally, it would be easy to pass him by without notice.

Priests view their vocations as a call to service from God rather than a choice they make. In his case, it was not as dramatic as being knocked off a horse as the bible story describes happening to St. Paul. Richard described his call as a whisper from God, an almost imperceptible voice which he was not even sure was meant for him.

As he told his story, I thought of Francis Thompson’s poem, The Hound of Heaven, where he describes God as pursuing him. He also wrote of his fear that in following God, he would be left with nothing else in his life.

Accepting a call to the priesthood might seem like being wrenched from your family and from the community. Yet many of Richard’s family members and those whom he had come to know over the years celebrated with him, shared how he had touched their lives and told of how he had become a treasure to them.

Of all the things said of Richard at his Jubilee, I remember most the quote from Mark Twain, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” His kindness has been evident in his dealings with everyone he has met throughout his life. Surely this trait is why God called Richard to His service and has given him as a special gift to all who have come to know him. Congratulations, Uncle Dick.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Think of the kindest person you know.
  • Thank God for his or her presence in your life.
  • Encourage those who are kind to you by thanking them.
  • Think how you could be a little kinder to those who annoy you.
  • When someone is kind to you, find a way to pass it on to someone else who needs a touch of kindness.

Beliefs and Reality


The Psychology of Belief

How your brain distorts the world to support your emotional attachments to certain ideas

Go to the profile of Kate Morgan

Article by Kate Morgan in The Medium

Belief is a powerful and necessary thing, governing our societies, our day-to-day and inner lives, our thoughts, hopes, plans, and relationships. You believe that the plane will leave the runway, that working hard will lead to a promotion, that the candidate you support is the best one for the job. Some things you believe because a pattern of experience suggests you should: The sun has come up every morning so far, so why should tomorrow be any different?

But other things you believe even despite logic and evidence to the contrary: The next lottery ticket you buy will be the big one, you can feel it.

Belief is like that; some things you believe because you just do. No one, no matter how brilliant or how educated, is immune to irrational convictions, says Paul Zak, a neuroscientist at Claremont Graduate University. For example, “Linus Pauling was a two-time Nobel Prize winner, one of the most respected scientists ever, and he believed vitamin C was a cure-all for things and spent a lot of years pushing it despite being totally unsupported by medical evidence,” Zak says. “He was as smart as they come, but he deluded himself that this thing was true when it wasn’t.”

That’s because the relationship between belief and fact often goes one way: “Our brains take the facts and fit them to reinforce our beliefs,” Zak says, and those beliefs don’t need to make sense to be deeply held. It’s a relationship that has both benefits and drawbacks — but knowing when it’s helping and when it’s doing us a disservice requires an understanding of how we form emotional attachments to those beliefs.

“To become aware of our biases, we need to understand how our emotions play a role in our decision-making and belief processes,” says Jonas Kaplan, a professor of psychology at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute. “Most of the time, it’s a good thing. It’s an old, wise, biological system that’s there to help us, but it’s not always relevant to modern life.”

Our earliest beliefs begin to form long before we’re even really cognizant of them. Our brains, Zak explains, are designed to look for patterns, which “allow us to navigate through the world, survive, and reproduce.” Eventually, our dependence on a pattern becomes a belief in its power.

Some of those early beliefs form through observation. For instance, “by about three months old, children understand gravity,” Zak says. “They believe that if you drop a ball, it will hit the ground. So, if you let go and the ball hovers in the air, those infants will look at it like, ‘What the hell?’ The hovering ball violates this tenet they’ve already come to believe.”

Other beliefs are passed along to us from our families and communities, who transmit many of the foundational ideas that shape how we see the world. Evolutionarily speaking, we are herd animals, and there’s an advantage to going along with the crowd. Those group beliefs, in turn, work their way into our most basic concept of who we are. “The systems in the brain that light up when we access our beliefs are the same systems that help us understand stories,” Kaplan says. “We see a lot of the same brain systems involved when people think about who they are and about the beliefs that are most important to them.”

Kaplan describes a neural system known as the default mode network, a set of interconnected areas of the brain associated with identity and self-representation. “It’s the area that lights up in brain imaging when you ask people to lie there and do nothing,” he says. “Of course, they’re not doing nothing. They’re thinking — about themselves and their future and their plans. It also lights up when people read stories with values they consider deeply important to them and when people think about their political beliefs.”

When your most deeply held beliefs are challenged, “many of the most biologically basic brain systems, those responsible for protecting us, kick into high gear.”

In a study published in 2016 in Scientific Reports, Kaplan and his colleagues conducted brain imaging on participants as they read arguments that contradicted their views on issues, both political and nonpolitical, and documented their neurological response to the opposing information. The results of the team’s persuasive efforts were mixed. “We were able to change minds about things like whether Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb and if multivitamins are important,” he says, but other beliefs — those Kaplan calls the “sacred values” — were all but immovable.

The reason those so-called sacred values are so difficult to change, Kaplan says, is that they’re surrounded by a complex network of mental safeguards. When your most deeply held beliefs are challenged, “many of the most biologically basic brain systems, those responsible for protecting us, kick into high gear,” Kaplan says. “These are things like the amygdala, which tells you when to be afraid, and the insula, the part of your brain that processes visceral feelings from the gut and tells you things like if you’re encountering food that’s bad for you. We have a strong motivation to defend those sacred values.”

Of course, not every belief is sacred. So, what determines the strength of our convictions and sets the ones worth protecting apart from the rest? Most of the time, it’s tied to our emotions.

“When you establish your beliefs, if they include emotional tags, the brain saves that information differently so it’s more accessible and impactful,” Zak says. “The strongest beliefs are tied to things like 9/11 or the birth of a child; highly emotional events create beliefs that are almost impossible to change.”

So much of our identity is social, and so many of our social connections are founded on shared beliefs. Ultimately, Kaplan says, most people find it simpler to maintain both their established beliefs and their social circle than to consider a drastic value shift, for reasons that are as practical as they are mental.

“People say, ‘I can’t change my mind. What would my friends think of me?’ People who radically change their political beliefs, for instance, lose a lot: social relationships, jobs, romantic partners,” he says. “There’s a lot at stake when you’re considering changing a belief.”

Our tendency to cling to our beliefs may feel better than the alternative, but that doesn’t mean it’s in our best interest. Our primary self-defense tactic is to remove the threat and avoid anything that might challenge our worldview, which is how so many of us end up living in a feedback loop, surrounded by people who share the same opinions. The effect is only exacerbated by our reliance on social media.

“The world is an information minefield right now,” Kaplan says. We also need to think carefully about which beliefs we allow into that protected inner circle, he adds. “It makes sense to share beliefs and values with people, and it makes sense to defend those beliefs. But to have beliefs that are epistemological — that things are true or false about the world — and be unwilling to hear otherwise could be very dangerous.”

As for all the other little beliefs tucked away in your head, Zak says, you don’t necessarily need to interrogate everything. “Praying the plane lands safely probably doesn’t change anything, but what’s the harm?” he says. “If holding on to the hope that winning the lottery is the solution brings you comfort, why not?”

“If you don’t have some beliefs, you just can’t get through the world,” Zak says. “These rituals and beliefs are really reinforcing, they’re really nice, and there’s something beautiful and distinctly human about them.”

Excerpt from my novel: The Pastor’s Inferno

He had no idea what this was all about. Well, maybe he had some suspicion, although he didn’t think he really wanted to know. The tension in his muscles dissipated by the firelight just a few moments ago returned, accompanied by a gnawing feeling in his stomach. He could only wait for the deputy’s next move.

Deputy Jerome cleared his throat once again and finally started. “This afternoon I had a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Anton who brought their fourteen year old son Seth to see me. Is it true he acts as an altar server in your church?”

The gnawing gave way to bile working its way up toward John’s throat. It was all he could do to choke it back and keep his dinner from reappearing. He could only manage a thin-voiced reply. “Yes. It’s true. He is one of many boys and girls who help out with services in the parish.”

“I will get right to it. Mr. and Mrs. Anton related an account of some disturbing events involving Seth which took place during times he was alone with you. Seth confirmed their statements. We want to hear what you have to say about his allegations.”

John was not used to being confronted in this manner. If he were not so busy being frightened, he would have been annoyed. He was unprepared for it and had no easy comeback. He tried to keep his voice steady. “What kind of allegations if I may ask and why is Mrs. Lempel with you?”

The deputy, unfazed by the priest’s reply, continued in what seemed to John as his best professional manner. “It is the practice in this county that concerns about inappropriate behavior with minors be investigated by a team consisting of representatives from the sheriff’s department and Social Services.”

“Are you accusing me of a crime involving Seth?” John’s muscles tightened even further. His face burned despite his struggle to stay calm. His voice was almost a squeak and he found it difficult to appear indignant.

“So far we are not accusing you of anything. We are just here to discuss the allegations with you to help us decide how to proceed. What can you tell us about this matter?”

  “I don’t know what matter you are talking about. There must be some mistake. I don’t understand what your concern is or what he might have told you. Seth has been an alter server in my parish for about three years. He is one of my most reliable boys. I can count on him whenever I need him, even for funerals which are obviously hard to anticipate. What did he say happened? What am I supposed to have done?”

From The Pastor’s Inferno by Joseph Langen, a novel about a priest facing allegations of sexual abuse of a teen. Available on Amazon in paperback and eBook formats.

Faith: The elusive search of peace

Sunrise over Lemon Bay
Sunrise over Lemon Bay
By Paulyne Pogorelske in the Sydney Daily Herald 2/9/19

While socially most people appreciate a person who’s passed away can ‘‘rest in peace’’, being alive is often bedevilled by angst, anger and apathy, a bellicose inner life that stops a peaceful existence.

These negative psychologies can rage within, our superficial demeanour a masquerade for more profound problems.

With suicide, family violence and mental health issues disturbingly increasing, living in peace does not appear on our agenda. Instead we broadcast every depressing and destructive discontent on Twitter, believing that just spelling it out will erase it from our psyche, indulging in flagellation of others (and ourselves) to enhance our pleasure; however sadly sadistic and transient. Finding peace. Is it possible in this life?

We aspire to perfection but abuse our imperfections, failing to acknowledge that being less than perfect is more human and real.

Living contrary to a pacifist philosophy permeated many of my younger years, unable to clarify why my behaviour and feelings contradicted my more noble aspirations. An internal civil war underpinned many of my relationships with family, friends and lovers as I attempted perfection in all aspects of life.

Suppressing reality, albeit unconsciously, in pursuit of living perfectly only manifested as disappointment and distress.

But thinking about my contradictions, conflicts and confusions, recording them in a diary and reading books by a variety of psychological pundits, I realised I was fighting a war within as a result of social conditioning, familial demands and unrealistic ideals about being perfect; never making a mistake, never having a hair out of place and never uttering an angry word.

I was a liar, deluded that I was a peaceful human being when a war was raging inside, out of sight, intangible and disguised by material success, unable to genuinely live in peace because wanting perfection interfered.

In Notes on Pacifism, Albert Einstein wisely wrote that “Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.’’

One might believe wars only involve guns, mortars and missiles, but many of us fight a war with ourselves, oft projected on the ‘‘isms’’, however imperceptible.

Having faith to live in peace should be paramount, attending to the thought of US president Harry S. Truman who advocated: “Our goal must be not peace in our time, but peace for all time”, in life as much as death.

Pauline Pogorelske is a Melbourne writer.

When Life Blindsides Us


There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.

~Washington Irving~

Yesterday we were enjoying the Florida sunshine and planning a cruise. We felt good about the day and about our lives. Then we received a phone call telling us of the sudden death of one of Carol’s cousins in her early forties. It was difficult for anyone to formulate a response. How do you react to the death of a beloved mother, wife, relative and friend? There are no words for it, just shared grief and attempts to comfort each other.

Even at seventy-six, I don’t think of my own death very often although it is much closer now than it has ever been in the past. I am not surprised when friends and relatives older than me die. After I get over my grief, I think back to the wonderful parts of their lives which I have shared with them. I am glad to have had them as a part of my life for as long as they lived. Memories of my favorite people linger and return to my awareness from time to time.

Now a wonderful woman half my age has died suddenly. This has again forced me to confront the mortality attached to each of our lives. I have admired her accomplishments as a mother, friend and school counselor. She helped me with my book for teens and showed great insight into the challenges facing children and adolescents. She was a good friend to many people who are struggling to find a way to accept her loss from their lives.

It is difficult to let go of people we love no matter how old they are. It is even harder to release from our lives vibrant, productive people we see as full of life. We think of what remained undone in their lives and what they could have accomplished if they lived longer. We take for granted that those we love will be with us at least for the foreseeable future. Yet there is no guarantee. Any one of us can die at any moment. Most of the time there remains unmet potential which could add to a person’s life accomplishment.

We have only so much opportunity to accomplish what we can, bring joy to those around us and contribute what we can to human history and to the memories we leave behind. We often ask why someone dies before we are ready to let them go. There is no good answer to this question. But there is a lesson for us. The only thing we can be sure of is what we are doing at the moment. It is up to each of us to use the opportunity to live life in the best way we can. Memories of how we lived our lives are the legacy we leave behind to inspire those who go on to live after us. Thank you Liz for sharing your life with us.