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I Got Botox in My Scrotum and My Sex Life Has Never Been Better

I wrote this for Cosmo! Originally published here. The lovely artwork is by Katie Buckleitner.

Wanting to smooth forehead wrinkles is one thing, but men, whose use of cosmetic fillers has risen 355 percent from 2000 to 2015, have begun to inject Botox into an unlikely place: Their scrotum. The procedure is called “Scrotox,” a term made famous by a 2010 Saturday Night Live sketch. While injecting Botox into the scrotum has gone viral for cosmetic reasons, actual medical research is slim. “There’s literally only one peer-reviewed manuscript on Scrotox, and it wasn’t for cosmetic; it was for scrotal pain,” says Dr. Mary K. Samplaski, resident scrotum expert at the University of Southern California, Institute of Urology.

Men looking to smooth their sack often seek out plastic surgeons like Dr. John Mesa, who has performed Scrotox (solely using Botox for its reliability) on 10 men in the past year. Botox relaxes muscles, allowing the testicles to drop lower, which can make your balls look bigger. According to Mesa, Scrotox mimics the effect of a warm day: the balls appear lower and look smoother with fewer wrinkles. The cost of Scrotox is the roughly same as regular Botox, or $520-$800 per session.

While the procedure is believed to be as safe as Botox anywhere else on the body, injecting neurotoxins into your scrotum can seem daunting. If testicles become too hot, a man can risk becoming sterile. As Dr. Mesa explains, however, since Scrotox causes the balls to drop lower rather than closer to the body, “…I would say Botox in the scrotum would be more beneficial because it keeps the temperature of the testicles lower.”

Cosmopolitan.com spoke to one man who received Scrotox for cosmetic reasons. Here’s what he had to say about the procedure.

“I’m a 29-year-old man, I live in Manhattan, and yes, I got Scrotox. I’m a physician myself, an internist. Botox, especially on your scrotum, can still have some stigma depending on who you are talking to, so because I’m a physician, I wanted to be confidential. I do have a bunch of friends who have been getting Botox or plastic surgeries, and some of them are actually guys. I can sense that it’s an increasing trend for guys to be more open to plastic surgery and procedures such as Scrotox.

Dr. Mesa has done Botox for me before, about a year and a half ago. I had some done on my forehead because I have wrinkles and I wanted to avoid them getting worse as a preventative measure.

I learned about Scrotox through my girlfriend, who is also a physician. She said that she heard a friend talking about it. She had never mentioned or complained about how my scrotum looked before, but after hearing about the procedure from friends she became curious, and started joking around about me getting it done. She’d say, ‘You know what, what do you think about this?’ At first, I was like, ‘That sounds pretty crazy.’ But she just kept joking around that it could be good for sex, so I began to become curious myself. We began doing research together about the procedure, and read user reviews that said since Scrotox makes the balls hang lower and looser, my [scrotum] would make contact better with her skin during sex. In particular, [it would] stimulate the clitoris more. We also were curious about it making sex better for me, as looser balls could feel more comfortable for me as well.

We’re a couple who enjoys trying new things together, and since we’re also both physicians, we’re comfortable with medical procedures. After reading comments on plastic surgery online forums, and noticing a consistency (no one wrote that they had regretted it) and then discussing with friends in the medical field, I decided to go for it. Honestly, it was curiosity, and a desire to try something new with my girlfriend, that lead me from originally thinking the idea was crazy to wanting to give it a shot. Why not?

So in July, I had the procedure done. The day I went into Dr. Mesa’s office, my girlfriend told me she was excited, and my thoughts were mostly nervous excitement. It’s an invasive procedure, and obviously the genitals are a sensitive region, but then again so is the face, and I’d already had Botox done there with no problem.

Compared to Botox on my forehead, the procedure was similar; but yes, as it turns out this is definitely a more sensitive area. Honestly, though, I was expecting it to be a little bit more painful. At the beginning when they apply the anesthetic you can feel that, and that’s uncomfortable for a few seconds, and then you don’t really feel any pain during the actual injections. While the procedure feels like 10 hours due to nerves, it actually only takes about 10-15 minutes. My doctor engaged me in small talk the entire time to help distract me.

It’s a little bit sore and sensitive for a few hours after, but by the next day I felt fine. The results don’t happen right away, but within that week or so I did feel like my scrotum was more relaxed than before. They are not loose all the time, which is one of the things I was not expecting. It was after the results had set in, about five days afterward, when I showed my girlfriend and we had sex. She was pleased with both the results and that I was open-minded enough to try the Scrotox. The sex was great! It did make the sex more enjoyable. While it doesn’t make sex last longer, along with the aesthetics, my lower-hanging, relaxed and looser balls were more stimulating for my girlfriend. For her, she says it does stimulate the vulva region more and perhaps even the clitoris [when we have sex in certain positions]. As they are lower, they can reach places on her body better.

I think overall, the biggest effect the procedure had on our relationship is that I showed I was willing to be being open minded and giving it a shot for her; that was a very positive outcome of the procedure. Trying new things together sexually is something that both of us enjoy a lot, and that has positively affected our relationship and my self-confidence.

If you are considering this procedure, do your research. I have friends who are plastic surgeons, and I asked them: ‘What do you think about this procedure?’ They said, ‘We think it’s safe, we think it can help, but it’s relatively new, so we are still learning the long-term side effects. But it appears to be safe, so if you want to give it a try find a good plastic surgeon.’

I was happy with his procedure, and I’m happy with the results, and so is my girlfriend. I’m scheduled to go back in two weeks for another injection.”

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HOW VANITY CURED MY DEPRESSION

I wrote this for Harper’s Bazaar

Down the street from my cluttered Brooklyn apartment sits a high-end nail salon that helped to save my life. Filled with aspirational pink cushions and soft notes of jasmine, the salon’s manicurists would paint my short, round nails an O.P.I black onyx—or, if it were a cheerier day, a dark purple.

For two years, during 2013 and most of 2014, I was deeply depressed. After experiencing a sexual assault, a breakup, and my parents’ divorce, the structure of my world slowly began to give way. I was held captive by a distinct powerlessness that sucked me into a vortex of dark disappointment; and eventually, the cruelest depression I had ever experienced.

I sought out a psychiatrist and as expected, my blood was soon filled with sex drive-killing antidepressants. Though they helped, I quickly learned that what I really needed at the time, what I actually wanted, was slightly simpler—I wanted someone to take care of me.

It started with the manicurists at my nail salon. I learned that having appointments to show up to (especially those that included a massage while my nails dried) helped to get me out of bed. I dyed my hair an oxblood red that, coincidentally, needed several visits to the hair salon. Gradually, I began to put more effort into my appearance at home: I tried winged eyeliner and I discovered eye cream. Before I knew it I had found a bonafide beauty routine, which, rather than cover up what I was going through (although a YSL red lipstick is a terrific tool for camouflage), became a daily reminder that I was a living, breathing person who was worthy of being considered—worthy of being paid attention to. And apparently, I was onto something.

“Self-care is enormously helpful during depression,” explained Dr. Marlynn Wei, a New York-based psychiatrist and psychotherapist. “Depression often causes isolation and withdrawal from all the things that you normally do to take care of yourself and feelings of low self-worth, so making sure to focus on being kind to yourself to allow yourself to heal is so important during this time,” she continued. “Beauty routines, if done mindfully from a place of self-compassion, can also enhance your mind-body connection.”

In my experience with depression, the enemy is not unwanted thoughts dancing for attention (as with anxiety), or even daggers of self-hatred. What you’re fighting is a nothingness set on sucking your ambition, and in later stages, a will to live. It’s a faceless enemy that fights dirty. For me, the act of self-care was retaliation. It helped me to feel alive. It wasn’t so much about the discovery of night cream—or the lasting power of Kat Von D’s liquid lip liner—it was the “Hey, you! I know you want to die right now, but still you’re beautiful, and worthy of being taken care of.”

Today, in an age where women are shamed for their makeup routines and their want to look beautiful as much as they are for daring to appear disheveled, engaging in vanity was an act of triumph I didn’t know I was capable of. The maintenance required to obtain my red hair and perfectly-manicured hands might not be for everyone (for you it might be long hot showers, a new hairstyle, or wearing high heels again), but somewhere along the way, I began to see glimmers of my old, buried self. What’s more, I wasn’t choosing a beauty routine to please a perspective romantic partner, I was doing it for me.

During this period I moved out of my ex-partner’s apartment and into my own. I dove into writing. And, over manicures, I turned Twitter friendships to new, real-life friendships with fellow writers. Slowly, I got better. Through therapy I dealt with the sexual assault and the pains of the breakup, which faded and eventually morphed into a friendship. Now I live with a new partner who is not scared of my occasional depressive proclivities. And at one point, with the support of my doctor, I simply stopped taking my anti-depressants—and nothing happened. I didn’t need them anymore.

When I look back at the person sitting in that Brooklyn nail salon, I hardly recognize her. But I do thank her for teaching me how to properly apply a red lipstick and the value of a night cream. And while I still haven’t learned to do my own nails (I lack the dexterity), I finally found the important person I needed to take care of me: myself.

 

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How to Stay Kinky After You Have Kids

New for VICE! Illustration by Heather Benjamin.

Having children changes your life, plain and simple. The newfound responsibility of caring for an infant will bleed into all aspects of your existence, from your career and social life, to your home and personal life. It probably goes without saying that your sex life will be as affected as your sleep schedule during the first few years of being a parent.

As they grow older, you’ll hopefully regain some semblance of your former lifestyle, but what if aspects of your identity are at odds with what people tend to consider a “child-friendly environment”? For parents who embrace kink and consider BDSM a core aspect of their identity and sexuality, how far should you go, if at all, to hide your adult interests from your mini-yous?

“Sex is for consenting adults, sex toys are for consenting adults—that doesn’t need to be around kids. Kinky stuff or non-kinky stuff, it doesn’t matter,” says New York City-based kink-friendly therapist Dulcinea Pitagora.

VICE spoke to several parents who embrace kink and BDSM. Though they had various takes on the limits of privacy, the most consistent attitude was that maintaining happy, true-to-themselves sex lives keeps them happy parents, which makes for happier families.

James from Wisconsin
31-Years-Old
Two Kids, Ages 2 and 7 Months Old

VICE: Will you introduce yourself and tell me a bit about your sexuality and kinks?
James: I identify as straight, but truthfully I’m heteroflexible. I like people who are feminine with little regard to what genitals they have. I’m a dominant male, with some sadistic undertones, but I spend 99 percent of my time as just a vanilla dad and husband.

Do you have any stories about the two worlds intersecting?
The older boy is in his explorative stage. Once he found my spouse’s steel butt plug, and couldn’t wait to show it off to our vanilla guest. My spouse didn’t skip a beat, and with a gleam in her eye explained that was mommy’s toy and to give it back. Our guest got red in the cheeks and was obviously interested in the idea of the plug, but was quick to state she had never tried one.

We spend a lot of time in front of our kids nude. Our son has seen marks on his momma, and points to them and says, “Owie!” We nod and say, “Yeah kiddo; that’s momma’s owie.” That’s the end of it. I’m sure once he reaches school age, we would be more discreet with our bodies, but honestly, that’d be more to let him know he can’t just run around naked in front of guests. We want our children to be comfortable in their skin and to know they are beautiful and not to be hidden in some weird standard placed by Puritans hundreds of years ago who would stone us for enjoying sex if they had their way.

How do you explain things to the kids when they find toys?
Our son is of an age where he finds things even if we try desperately to hide them. As such, he often finds things that aren’t his, but he knows when we tell him something is Dad’s or Mom’s to leave it alone. My spouse and I have always said we will be in a sex-positive home. Even as our kids learn what a vibrator is and that those Velcro straps on our bed are for momma. We never had the intention of hiding them, but rather wanted to keep them out of sight at a responsible level without inconveniencing or acting like such toys are shameful.

What advice would you give to other kinky parents?
Be true to yourself. Your (legal) kink isn’t something to be ashamed of, and your kids will respect honesty more than a person who is afraid of themselves and their needs.

J. from Texas
45-Years-Old
Four Kids: Ages 13, 16, 19, and 21

VICE: Tell me a little bit about your kinks. You’re a dominant-switch, correct?
Jay: I didn’t start out as a switch, but that happens a lot to people in the kink world: you start out as one thing and then keep evolving. [My husband and I] evolved together; we are partners in pretty much everything. We live in a small town where my husband has a very prominent position, so [our sex life] is not an open thing. He’s the financial earner in our household. Eight years into our marriage, I went from being a sub or bottom [to a dominant switch]. As far as fetishes, we play with temperature, texture, and do food play. When I had kids, we started incorporating adult nursing in the bedroom. I’m up for trying anything. It’s worked for the 23 years we’ve been together.

Do you have to worry about keeping sex toys hidden from your kids?
We are into spanking, but with belts and stuff that is part of our household. I don’t wear a collar, never have. I have hair that’s down to my waist. My husband doesn’t need a leash; my hair is my leash. I have a toy chest that’s filled with silk restraints, blindfolds, candles, and other BDSM toys. Our kids have been aware for a long time that mom and dad have a sex life. I always wanted my kids to see a good physical relationship. That’s something we don’t hide from our children. You get the sense they are slightly embarrassed but like it too. You have families who are in crisis, and, to my kids, I’m like: “This is for you too so you can see that everything is OK.” I think our openness with our children really developed from that. I’m the crazy mom that goes out and buys my 16-year-old condoms, cock rings, and lube. If they’re going to explore this, I want them to do it safely, with some forethought to what they’re doing.

Have you talked to them about kink?
My oldest one, who’s 21, is definitely into kink. But she didn’t express so until she went to college and got into a situation where somebody took her boundaries past the level of consent, so we started having those conversations then. I think if we had talked [earlier on] maybe she wouldn’t have been in that relationship, but when my daughter needed support she felt like she could talk to us because she knew that we were into kink. She didn’t know specifically what we did, but there was enough evidence that she knew.

What happened after you spoke? Do you talk to your other children about kink?
I learned she was very much into choking, which for me, is not a hard limit because we do it some, but it is a soft limit. My therapist was into kink, and she died in a scene because her trachea was crushed. The more you do it frequently, the softer the trachea becomes. Hers collapsed, and her partner couldn’t bring her back. So we talked about that and choking and the different kinds of holds.

My 16-year-old and I are very close, and he is a submissive male and into bigger girls. I’m like, “Do your friends make fun of you?” And he’s like, “No mom, I make fun of them for the skinny girls they date!” We’ve also talked about male submission and doing it in a healthy way.

Our 19-year-old daughter is more conservative in her views of sex. We are perfectly fine with that. In my household, your kinks are your kinks and your non-kinks and your non-kinks. As long as you’re not hiding from yourself who you are.

Chris from New Jersey
35 Years Old
Two Kids: Ages 3 and 19 Months

VICE: You and your wife were high school sweethearts. Did you discover your kinks together?
Chris: I am kinky by nature. I had these urges before I knew what they were. The process of me coming to grips with them took a very long time because I grew up in a rather conservative household. By my 20s, I had accepted who I was, but only now recently have I truly become proud of it. My wife, ironically, is from a household that has the motto of letting your freak flag fly, but she didn’t know much of anything about kink until she met me.

What are some of your kinks?
I’m bisexual, but I haven’t actually had sex with another man. I’d love to do it. I am a sexual bottom and the best term I use to describe my sexuality is “sensation slut.” I like being on the receiving end of things and not able to control it. I like pushing myself to the limits of the sensations I receive, good or bad.

What’s your at-home kink setup like?
We live in a three-floor Victorian house. At the moment, all of our kink activities occur in our bedroom. We have a large plastic foot locker in our bedroom closet that we keep all of our toys in. I recently got over $200 in electrical eStem equipment, which has been a joy. I finally got an actual gag after all this time because I’m very noisy. I picked up a new hood, a pair of latex briefs with a built-in anal plug, a spreader bar, and a couple different whips.

Have your kids ever seen your toys?
My son had a dentist appointment on Wednesday and the dentist gave him a toy, one of the infamous latex gloves blown up into a balloon. He thought it was the greatest thing in the whole wide world. Unfortunately, he ripped it open after coming home and was crushed. I went upstairs, and he followed me to said footlocker of things that shall not be mentioned. I grabbed another latex glove, since we have those. I came back down, and he happily had another glove to play with. My wife looked at me and was like, “You did not show him what was in there… Our Rain Man son is going to remember that that item came from that location, and in three months we’re going to be in that room, and he’ll be asking for a glove balloon.”

Would you be open with them about your kinks if they asked?
Jesus, they’re three and one and a half. In another ten years, I’m going to have to have a conversation with them that’s a little more serious. I hope to be as honest as I can without providing specific details.

Any words of advice for someone kinky considering having kids?
Just because you have kids doesn’t mean kink is over. You may have to slow down for a minute; you may have to put in on the side, but you’re not going to forget it. Sometimes innocuous black luggage is the best place to hide things with a little lock because no one ever thinks to look there.

Follow Sophie Saint Thomas on Twitter

Visit Heather’s website for more of her illustration work.

Parents who embrace sex-positive, kinky relationships may create a more open and healthy environment for children to grow up in. BDSM requires a certain level of openness and honesty, and practicing that behavior could even help parents teach their children about the importance of topics such as consent or keeping an open mind to non-normative taste and not being ashamed of what you’re into. “Not that [kids] need to be privy to the specifics of what you are negotiating or consenting to, but the kind of relationship that kinky parents might have could be a great model for communication and setting boundaries,” says Pitagora.

 

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Angel Olsen On Being Her Own ‘Woman’ On Her New Album

I profiled Angel Olsen for Nylon’s September issue. Photographed by MichaelBeckert. Styled by Liz Rundbaken.

Angel Olsen has the power. Of course, she’s always had it, but with the release of My Woman, she doesn’t really care about how you perceive that power. “People think they know you entirely based on the work that you project, famous or not famous,” says Olsen over lemonades in a Brooklyn tea shop. “But you still have to be a person, and wake up and go through human struggles while everybody is thinking of you as not a human who goes through those things. You’re living the life of the self that you project, in the life of your actual self.”

Olsen is disarming in person—a celebrity with the air of a perceptive, considerate, and passionate friend, discussing the difficulties of being a working woman in her late twenties, and defying the limiting expectations of the public. My Woman, her third studio album and the follow-up to 2014’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness, is demonstrative of her ability to disregard these constraints and portrays the broad spectrum of Olsen’s musical talent, which ranges from her signature folk, steeped in her superior songwriting chops, to synthy glam rock.

After the success of her last record brought Olsen to the stages of late-night television and into the hearts of an ever-growing fan base, the repetitiveness of fame and the unavoidable typecasting as a female folk singer led her to question where her hard work had landed her. “It went from the positive inertia of creating something alone in a room that no one cared about to a commercial image that you’re just living over and over again,” she says. “Despite the fact that I was doing well, and the album was doing well, I wasn’t doing well.” Naturally, her admirers viewed her through the self-absorbed lens of fandom, oblivious to the fact that even celebrities need repose. “People come up to me and they’re like, ‘You saved my life.’ Even though it’s amazing to hear that, when people compliment you in that heavy way, there is some sort of expectation. They want something back,” says Olsen. “I feel very fortunate to have fans that would say that to me, but when was somebody gonna pull me aside and be like, ‘Are you okay?’ No one was doing that.” She sips her lemonade and continues: “So I went to therapy, took a break. I just didn’t want to tour as much. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this. Maybe I should reconsider my plan.’”

Ironically, it was on the road where Olsen felt reinvigorated, thanks to the camaraderie of fellow musicians on the festival circuit, such as St. Vincent, Courtney Barnett, and Mac DeMarco. “You think all these bands are getting together and getting shit-faced and there’s probably drama, and there is,” she says, “but behind the scenes and on the sidelines, there’s also a lot of community that’s being built. It was really refreshing to talk to people—even in a drunken way—about our careers, and to know that I wasn’t totally isolated in the experience. Hearing that other people were bummed, and making fun of ourselves, like, ‘I’m so famous, my life is so hard,’ really saved my career. I was like, ‘I’m not going to quit. I’m going to keep doing this.’ And after that I wrote a bunch of material.” Thus, My Woman was born.

The world was introduced to the new music via the morbidly beautiful lead single “Intern,” the video for which was directed by Olsen herself and filmed with a micro-crew of friends in Asheville, North Carolina, where the singer has resided for three years. The visuals for “Intern” and its commanding follow-up, “Shut Up Kiss Me,” star a silver-tinsel-wig-adorned Olsen, invoking comparisons to “Life on Mars?”-era David Bowie. “I wanted to create my own character and be more in control of the image I project through my own music,” she explains.

Olsen’s also determined to expose the hypocritical manner in which men and women in the industry are received by critics. Although male rock stars can howl misogynistic lyrics without being quizzed on feminism, when a female artist writes her own music and names an album something even moderately gutsy, she’ll likely be interrogated about it. With that in mind, the singer is already swatting away the line of stereotypical questioning that the title of her record will inevitably conjure up. “The album is called My Woman, and people are like, ‘Are you afraid that your male fans might be turned off by this title?’ I can’t wait for the questions like, ‘So, as a feminist, your album is a feminism album?’” says Olsen with a scoff. “I can’t deny that I’m a feminist. I don’t like that it’s hip right now, because I don’t want it to be a trend. Just because it’s being talked about doesn’t mean that people are getting the picture.”

She finishes her lemonade—a fitting drink for a discussion about the limitations put on artists who happen to be women (see Beyoncé’s latest album). In spite of it all—the cages of fame, the insistence of critics on typecasting her, the archaic categorization of female artists by their gender, and her occasional bout of exhaustion—Olsen has no plans to slow down. “I did name my album My Woman, so it’s very easy for people to think all these things,” she says. “It is a really bold move, but that’s what you gotta do. I’m going to be audacious enough to say that I’m important.”

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Kitchen Witches Are Brewing Lube for the Bedroom

This article originally appeared in VICE Broadly.

In the intersection of kitchen witchery and kink, magical women are brewing balms, ointments, potions, and lotions, which they bring into the bedroom for BDSM purposes and in lieu of mainstream oils and lubes. While Judeo-Christian traditions carry shame around sex, pagan traditions celebrate it, as many view sexuality and spirituality as one of the same.

“Sexual intimacy can be used as a ritual representation of the fertility of Earth and Goddess when celebrating the cycles of seasons; as a spontaneous reaction to psychic energy either during ritual, meditation, or spell work; or a consenting form of kink as energy play between two or more people,” says Arwen, a 23-year-old Neo-Druid from Orange, California.

Considering the overlap between sexuality and spirituality, it makes sense that self-identified witches are combining nature with their sex lives. “My work with salves is a big part of my life,” says Gg Irkalla, a 29-year-old artist from Olympia, Washington. “A few years ago, I was part of a sacred whore temple wherein there were bowls of coconut oil. It’s terrible for toys and condoms, but amazing for everything else—especially massages, healing work, and skin health.” She defines witchcraft as “not tidy maypole ceremonies in someone’s backyard in the suburbs, while Enya plays timidly in the background. It’s hashish, opium, Adderall, cocaine, anal sex, BDSM, sex work, sorcery, ordeal, and holy rage.”

Stepping outside of the magical lens, kinky people use plants through figging, the act of placing of piece of ginger in an orifice. “[Figging is] often used in D/S [dominance and submission] dynamics and as part of other aspects of intense sensation play, as it creates burning sensation,” explains Dr. Michael Aaron, a NYC-based sex therapist and author of the upcoming book Modern Sexuality. “Some folks’ fetish involves molding it into butt plug shape; it’s important to have some form of handle to retrieve it.” (He advises keeping figging confined to ass play due to the vagina’s particular pH balance.)

When using any essential oil that can cause burning sensations, it’s important to dilute the oil to prevent skin damage. “You definitely need some sort of carrier oil. It could be a sweet almond oil, or a fractionated coconut oil, whatever kind of scent draws you in. There are good things like sesame oil, grape seed oil, wheat germ oil—the list goes on,” says Sheeba, a 31-year-old energy healer from Portland, Oregon.

While drugstore brands such as KY sell warming oils, many women are more interested in a natural and homemade concoction. Sheeba recommends cinnamon oil, which creates a burning sensation and holds an association with the goddessesVenus and Aphrodite. In her own BDSM scenes, Sheeba often uses thieves oil, a blend of clove, lemon, rosemary, cinnamon, and eucalyptus, as part of CBT, a.k.a. cock and ball torture.

“We used thieves oil on the top of [one of my sex partners’] penis and around the head. I have this really mean clip that fit all the way around the tip of his penis,” Sheeba says. “Some of where his extreme pleasure comes from was from that extra sensitivity from the oils and that constriction.”

For cooling oils to soothe oneself after BDSM play, Arwen enjoys a concoction of Calendula, a healing oil associated with love, blended with olive oil for both aftercare and massage. “Steeping Calendula in olive oil in the light of the sun imbues the chemical compounds and energy of the plant to create a healing oil to anoint during ritual or to soothe the body after impact play,” Arwen explains to Broadly.

Other magical women, such as crystal healer Katie Manzella, turn to aloe, coconut, and CBD oil for sex. “When I make love, I find the aloe vera plant to serve as a wonderful way to enhance the experience. Usually I don’t need its assistance, but it’s always fun to work with plants to make life more magical and healthy,” Manzella says. “Coconut and CBD oil is wonderful too!”

Lube has other important mystical uses as well: It’s important to remember it when integrating stone magic into your sex life. Vanessa Cuccia, the creator of Chakrubs, a line of sexual wellness products made from 100 percent mother crystal, recommends using coconut oil when using a rose quartz dildo. “Especially when somebody is making it themselves, I think that makes it more special,” Cuccia says. “When you’re making it yourself—that work that’s going into it, that you’re going to appreciate so much more.”

Coconut oil comes with one downside, however. As Irkalla mentioned, the oil is not latex friendly. If you’re looking for an organic lube to use with condoms, stick with something like Good Clean Love.

Simply creating your own massage oil or BDSM tool from plant ingredients found in your home can make you feel like a crafty kitchen witch, but the true magic is the power and healing that takes place when sex and spirituality meet. “Whatever you are doing can be seen as spiritual no matter how kinky it is, as long as you’re understanding that what you are doing is sacred,” Cuccia says.

When consulting with clients interested in Chakrubs, she will work individually to find the right crystal catered to individual healing. “Bodies carry a lot of hurt, trauma, and loneliness,” Irkalla says. “Sacred sex is a vital tool for addressing these issues.”

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ROLLACOASTER: DEV HYNES’ UTOPIA

I profiled Dev Hynes of Blood Orange for the cover of the 20th edition of Rollacoaster Magazine. Photo by Michael Bailey-Gates.

Devonté “Dev” Hynes is one of pop music’s most important figures. The songwriting mus- cle behind Sky Ferreira’s breakthrough banger “Everything Is Embarrassing” and Solange’s equally mesmerising “Losing You” (as well as songs by everyone from Skepta to FKA twigs), he’s spent the last decade moulding his very own perfect-pop utopia, and surrounding him- self in New York’s scintillating, underground creative forces. This summer, as Blood Orange, Dev returns with his most honest, bravest long-player to date, Freetown Sound. Rollacoaster was invited into Dev’s brave new world for an exclusive, up-close-and-personal preview of it.

From the US to the UK, political upheaval is Trumping creativity. At least the artists have their messiah in the enigmatic form of Dev Hynes, who this summer returns with his solo project, Blood Orange.

The London-born musician, who has resided in New York City since 2007, along with releasing an upcoming beautiful and bold album, Freetown Sound, maintains a community of artists, musicians, models, and performers in New York like (previous Rollacoaster star) Whitney Vangrin. In his support of others, Hynes manages to come across completely unpretentious, a difficult feat for a celebrity of his status. “Everything I do is really how I want to be treated,” he tells me. “That’s the only way I base anything. I’m also still just a big fan-boy of things, so if I’m a fan of something, and it’s something I know or am in a proximity with, then if there’s anything I could possibly do to help them in some way, then I will do it. I just want them to create as much as they can.”

Hynes sits in his Manhattan studio bathed in je-ne-sais-quoi spirit, his red bucket hat tilted skywards to reveal passionate eyes. In July, Freetown Sound, his third album, the follow-up to 2013’s acclaimed Cupid Deluxe, comes out. Like a beautiful natural disaster, a thunderstorm collecting weight before pouring down on parched land, his creative process involves the collection of ideas and sudden appearance of arrival. “With each album, I’ll be working — just always making music, and it’s scattered and everywhere. It’s what happened with this one, it’s what happened with Cupid Deluxe. One day someone could talk to me and say: ‘What’s up with the album?’ and I’ll be like: ‘God knows, it’s like a million songs. I can’t imagine.’ And then the next day it can just click.”

What came together with Freetown Sound is an expansive, immersive, and glorious album. 17 tracks long, it’s being praised as Blood Orange’s most personal album to date, although Hynes says that maybe we just know him better now. Or perhaps we’re just paying more attention. “The last record was completely my viewpoint, too. Maybe it’s that people know me more. So they can really see that’s it’s personal. It’s personal in a different way, because it’s more explorative of myself. This one is kind of going back in even deeper than myself and looking at my parents and before that. It’s trying to understand roots of things, musically and lyrically.”

The title derives its name from his father’s birthplace, the capital of Sierra Leone. His family is also referenced in the record’s lyrics.“My father was a young man, my mother off the boat, my eyes were fresh at 21, bruised but still afloat,” he sings sleekly in a track titled “Augustine”. It’s an earth-shattering song, laced with sorrow that calls to Saint Augustine over the death of Trayvon Martin. Along with religion, race, sexism, Hynes’ heritage is a recurrent theme of the expansive album. He tells me that his family’s role as muse on the record is the simply the result of passing time. “I’m just getting older, and I have more questions and thoughts,” says the songwriter. “I’ve been very aware lately of age. It’s always hard to discuss it without sounding incredibly morbid.”

Despite how Planet Pop, where remaining fuckable is part of the deal, wants its stars to remain growing older, Hynes has his own agenda. “I love age. I always have. I think it’s because I grew up with classical and jazz [music], where age is very different than in popular music. If I was to look at the career of a composer that I love and if I saw things he wrote in his 30s, I would view that as before he found his voice,” he explains. “As I’ve got older, I’ve realised that people that have been huge influences on me were really young when they died. I’m not talking 27, of like drug overdoses and shit like that. John Lennon, John Coltrane, Arthur Russell, all died at 40. Bob Marley died at 36. Shit is so crazy to me. So it’s been very heavy on my mind lately, and I’m trying to understand a lot of things to do with myself and my family, because I feel it’s important to know this stuff and try to work through it for my own benefit.”

Christianity and an “album of the year” may seem unrelated, but it’s an unlikely union made flesh by Hynes, who scrapes away at his own history with the observational curiosity of a scientist.“There’s a lot of looking at Christian upbringing and then rebelling against it. There’s different moments on the album that are looking at those periods, Roman-era Christianity and then even colonial Christianity in West Africa. It’s not in a sense of condemning or preaching, it’s just in the case of questioning. It’s very interesting to me.” What he’s getting at is bigger than religion: it’s the promise of hope. “Christianity was so strong in black households because of slave times, and it was always seen as this beacon of hope. Even if it was this Christianity that was handed down, the ideology was still seen as a beacon of hope. Like: ‘We’ll get through this shit, there’s a bigger plan, you know?’”

Later this summer, he’ll take on Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee, too.“I like to let the album breathe and [go] from there, because I don’t do many shows. I like the shows to be really fun and entertaining for people that know the music. I love the idea of playing music no one’s heard; I would do it in situations where I just use my name. I love the idea of making music for a live situation, [but] I’ll never do that with Blood Orange because I think it’s a bad vibe when artists just play a bunch of new songs for people. When it comes to Blood Orange, I want to play it for people who have listened and want to hear it.” As summer rolls into fall, Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound will be our anthem album. For now, Dev will be enjoying the splendour of his self-made utopia.

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Heroin Addicts Are Turning to Tumblr to Tell Their Stories — And Save Lives

Originally published in Mic.

“One and done is the rule for using needles,” Nicole*, an 18-year-old from Long Island, New York, writes on her Tumblr, nicolethedopefiendqueen. “After you use it once, dispose of it (capped, in a sharps or other container); you really shouldn’t be reusing needles if you can help it. A fresh, new needle is always better than a used one, even if it’s been sterilized.”

Nicole is an active heroin user. In an email interview, she said she began using at 14 after coming across her terminally ill father’s OxyContin prescription, which eventually evolved into heroin use. On her Tumblr, she posts selfies and re-blogs moody screengrabs from drug movies like Trainspotting, as well as close-up shots of spoons, lighters and syringes.

But to hear Nicole tell it, she doesn’t just use Tumblr as a platform for blogging about her heroin use. She also teaches other users how to do heroin safely. Her blog contains information about what to do if an overdose occurs, as well as how to administer Narcan (naloxone), an emergency antidote to treat opiate overdose.

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“I decided that if I’m going to have a drug addiction blog with lots of followers, I must spread harm reduction information, because addicts deserve to be healthy and to live,” Nicole said in an email interview. “I advocate for safe intravenous drug use, especially to help prevent infection and overdoses.”

Heroin addiction is a rapidly growing epidemic in the United States. The Harm Reduction Coalition reports that overdose is the leading cause of preventable accidental death in the United States, second only to car accidents. Since 2000, opiate overdoses have increased by 200%, in large part as a result of an increase of pain medication prescription, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Because pills and heroin are sold on the black market, opiate use can be difficult to track, but a 2014 report estimates there are 1.5 million “chronic” heroin users in the United States.

Nicole’s blog is one of many on Tumblr that track the lives of regular opiate users. Many of such blogs’ posts feature the hashtag #nodsquad, a community that curates images of drug paraphernalia as well as information and resources promoting safe drug use.

Such blogs are based on the principles of harm reduction, which aims to reduce harm associated with drug use, such as overdose and spread of diseases like hepatitis C or HIV, through counseling, opiate substitution programs like methadone and safer injection facilities, or legal, supervised injection facilities where people can use heroin under medical supervision. (There are currently no supervised injection sites in the United States, but some cities and states like New York have toyed with the idea of introducing them.)

As Nicole explains it, “harm reduction is about reducing the damage and harm done from using. It’s not about stopping use, it’s about safety, which is the realistic approach to saving addicts in this epidemic.”

It’s a strategy distinct from abstinence-only programs such as traditional 12-step recovery methods, as harm reduction psychotherapist Eddie Einbinder said in a phone interview. “Harm reduction is not anti-abstinence,” Einbinder stressed. “Harm reduction is pro-choice.”

Susan E. Collins, co-director of the Harm Reduction Research and Treatment Center, thinks Tumblr blogs like Nicole’s can help to reduce harm caused by heroin use.

“[Nicole] is a person who appears to really care about her community, and is trying to help people use safer,” Collins said in a phone interview. “She is trying to reduce harm, and is being honest about where she’s at and her recovery. Personally, I think all of that is really admirable.”

Social media has created a space that didn’t previously exist for active users to connect with others and share information about how to use drugs safely, such as how to sterilize a needleafter use.

“A core concept of harm reduction is meeting people where they are, and I feel like most people don’t spend their spare time reading up on harm reduction techniques. But people spend time on social media like Tumblr,” Caroline, who keeps her own harm reduction blog, fuckyeah-harmreduction, told Mic in an email.

“Having a resource for harm reduction information on a platform that people are already using is a great idea.”

Caroline is not a user, but she became involved in the movement through a harm reduction organization she volunteers at in Washington, D.C., most often doing needle exchange or distributing safer sex supplies.

That said, some of the information being shared on Tumblr, such as user videos on how to shoot up safely, can be shocking to watch for those unfamiliar with intravenous drug use. Such videos, as well as artily lit images of spoons and stashes, has prompted debate as to whether such blogs glamorize drug use. It’s also worth noting that some users visit the blogs as a way to find drugs, if asks from users looking to score in a new town or city are any indication.

“Could it glamorize the use? I think yes,” Einbinder said in a phone interview. “It is hard to create a completely objective vision when you’re creating different forms of reality.”

Other professionals agree that the Tumblr community has potential for both help and harm.

“On the one hand, users are often the experts of their experiences and their own needs. If a user is generating content which is informed, safe, promotes hygiene, and teaches people how to reduce risks, then it can be powerful and helpful in a way that resonates with other users,” Sheila Vakharia, a coordinator of a substance abuse counseling concentration for students at Long Island University, Brooklyn, said via email interview.

“However, if user-generated content is full of people doing things in risky, unhygienic ways or if they are sharing false, mixed, or un-researched information, it can be just as harmful as any other problematic content on the web.”

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The blogs also raise the question as to whether Tumblr has any obligation to monitor content that promotes drug use on the platform.  (Mic has reached out to Tumblr for comment, and have not received a response at the time of publication.)

“I don’t necessarily think that platforms have a responsibility to monitor drug use content because it seems like a slippery slope,” Vakharia said. “I also understand that sales or advertisements of illicit drugs are in violation of laws. However, instructional videos from the health professions show doctors/nurses injecting patients all the time. Should a video of a person doing it to themselves be censored because the vial is filled with a substance that we think is illegal?”