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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Getting recharged with ‘The Normal Heart’ in the fight against HIV

After watching the Philippine production of ‘The Normal Heart’, John Silva recalls having lived in New York City with his lover in the beginning of the epidemic; and how he ended up looking after friends infected by HIV even when their families refused to do so. “In a way, the play, its rant, its polemics, is dated today. And it has to do with the likes of Larry Kramer, ACT-UP, and the sprouting of numerous AIDS organizations… which did turn the crisis of several years into some glimmer of hope,” Silva says.

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By John Silva

The Normal Heart, which had a weekend run at the Romulo Auditorium in the RCBC building, was a non-stop intense play chronicling the beginning of the 1981 AIDS epidemic in New York and in the rest of the country (USA).

The main character is Ned Weeks (Bart Guingona), pretty much a biographical rendering of the acerbic and confrontational Larry Kramer who wrote this play and who around that period begins to form the AIDS organization (ACT UP) and the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) to help people being struck by the virus, to demand the Reagan Administration fund the identification of the virus, and find a cure.

In the ’80’s, a gay lifestyle was very evident in the city. Lower Manhattan is a gay ghetto, there’s Fire Island for summer weekends, and the whole flourishing culture is about uninhibited, open and lots of sex, closely identified to gay identity.

The virus, yet unnamed is unknown as to how it infects and spreads, and Ned’s friend Doctor Emma Brookner (Roselyn Perez) who’s been diagnosing hundreds of AIDS patients can only advice unequivocally that gays abstain from sex for a while. She prods Ned to get that almost laughable message out.

Ned’s organization is stocked with a variety of gay activists. There’s Tommy (Red Concepcion), the Southern queen who constantly tries to patch the yelling matches between the haranguing Ned and the diplomatic Bruce Niles (TJ Trinidad) who is the group’s president. There’s Mickey Marcus (Nor Domingo), a city employee who writes brochures on explaining various community ills but is anguished for not knowing what’s killing gays.

Ned’s personal life includes a strained relationship with his straight brother Ben Weeks (Richard Cunanan) who is as affable and understanding of gay people as best he can. But the overly militant Ned demands much too much and things sour.

In the midst of all the rancor at the office, Ned is smitten with Felix Turner (Topper Fabregas) the adroit New York Times fashion reporter. We assume they have great bonding together until Topper must reveal that purple spot on his foot, the AIDS giveaway then.

The reigning Mayor of that period was Ed Koch, a bachelor and reputed to be gay, which as we all know about closeted gays, are the worse to get sympathy from. His gay assistant/spokesperson Hiram Keebler (Jef Flores) has to face and get a lot of shit from Ned and the group for the mayor’s intransigence.

As the group’s membership grows, getting the publicity and a little more money, there’s a growing antipathy to Ned’s in-your-face approach which leads to his being expelled from the organization. His doctor friend gets rejected yet again from the National Institute of Health to study the virus; and the once lively Felix is morose, gives up and dies.

Death has, in the end, that redemptive quality. Tragedy brings hope and as the cast readies for its exit bow, statistic flash on the screen behind them showing the exponential growth of the AIDS infection here. It’s now 22 infections a day, a 500% growth from just five years ago, and its happening to our young.

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Normal HeartOne marvels at the ability of seven men and one woman to recreate those hellish days with the same intensity and pathos that I recall very well having lived in New York City with my lover Jonathan in the beginning of the epidemic. There were the sketchy reports only in the gay papers, to watch out for purple lesions and night sweats. We hadn’t a fig of a clue how to protect ourselves then, though Larry Kramer’s shrill voice and Village Voice writings along with a few others pointed to the gay bathhouses as the culprits. We were wholly ignorant in reaching out to AIDS victims that when my best friend Juan Carlos got sick and we visited him at Bellevue Hospital, we entered his room with face masks and his bed area was under a plastic tent which only nurses and doctors could enter. When Juan Carlos was later brought back to their apartment by his lover Antonino to die, I thought him very brave to cuddle Juan Carlos in his arms that last night, singing tearfully to him over and over again the song Hindi Kita Malimot (“I Will Not Forget You”). All I could muster then was to stroke Juan Carlos’ cadaverous arm with my little finger being frightened, useless and heartbroken.

In a way, the play, its rant, its polemics, is dated today. And it has to do with the likes of Larry Kramer, ACT-UP, and the sprouting of numerous AIDS organizations throughout the country which did turn the crisis of several years into some glimmer of hope. Compassion and support for people with AIDS grew, the virus’ sexual transmission would be confirmed, and massive sex education and behavior modification occurred. A “cocktail” to stave the virus was found and has helped many people to live with HIV.

Despite the powerful dialogue and the forceful performance of each actor, the despairing angry tone of this piece which first showed in 1985, has been significantly muted by the advances of gay rights in the past three decades. In fact, I was watching this play which, a week before, had the United States pass gay marriage laws throughout all 50 states. In the olden days, when a person was sick with AIDS, his family would often find out too late that he was gay and had a lover . Depending on parental compassion, the lover would have little to no access to his sick friend. The Normal Heart is, therefore, a historical tribute to those who went out on a limb.

Maybe it was the large gay audience and maybe it is, happily, the times that when affectionate embraces and kisses occurred, there was not a peep, a nervous cough, or even squirming in the chairs. I’ve seen and heard the squeals and guffaws of movie audiences during a gay kiss. It most probably was the compelling performance played by the actors that immersed us in Ned’s and Felix’s lengthy and intense kisses. It felt so real.

When it opened off-Broadway, some of the critics thought the content too “pamphleteering” with cut-out characters and little depth. This Manila rendering triumphed over that stridency and managed to give each actor a depth and nuance that made contretemps and shouting matches their very own. Bart Guingona (Ned) was a consistent ranter with a belligerence so true to Kramer’s form. The characters of the rest of the cast, based somewhat on real-life characters but not as publicly known, had to be “created” and each one shone in very gripping moments. Take Nor Domingo’s (Mickey) befuddled character figuring out what AIDS is about. In a very profound moment, he lays the contradiction of being gay centered on a sexual identity and celebrating it while a disease was directly attacking that identity fought for so long.

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TJ Trinidad playing Bruce Niles, the prudent activist, was not just a flat one-dimensional foil to Ken’s unbridled manners; he gave the audience an important lesson in moderation and skill, and in every battle one gauges the next steps and move onward. We may owe Ned/Larry big time, but the Bruce Niles in every organization ensures its steady and continued existence.

Normal Heart in ManilaI was enchanted with Topper Fabregas’ character Felix. I probably think and live my life like him. A realist who can inject gay sensibilities and culture on the stodgy pages of New York Times at a time when that paper only printed the word “homosexual” – not “gay” – until 1985. Felix believably seduces Ned the whiner without being coquettish. When he is dying on the floor and eating junk food, he bitterly convinces me why he is getting off the merry-go-round of life. It must be terribly excruciating being a reporter for all that life-affirming culture and fashion facing a seemingly abrupt ending. But Felix’s efforts at having his paper tackle AIDS would pay off and today, this venerable paper that I subscribe to online still influences the world with a strong gay bent too.

Red Concepcion’s Tommy provides bemused relief to the otherwise serious tone of the play. He’s no gay jester, but with that Southern nasal accent reminiscent of Truman Capote, he plays peacemaker, mending fences between Ned and Bruce, and at one point warns (a warning to all social change organizations) that we won’t advance further if we keep fighting each other.

Roselyn Perez as Dr. Brookner is the anchor in those tempestuous times. She has to see the sick. She has to be thorough in her diagnosis and when she does, she has to tell it like it is. And she is shaken up every time, especially in those days when she could just confirm but not know how the virus got there. When asked by Ned, “…even kissing?” She answers in the affirmative because there’s suspicion in the sexual terrain and that’s all she could go by. There’s a riveting soliloquy at some point, exhausted by government’s rejection yet again for her proposal looking into AIDS. She would have enough of the indifference and let them have it. The audience was stunned at her righteous vehemence.

I reserve my final plaudits for the secondary character Ben Weeks played by Richard Cunanan. Much as the appearances of Bart (Ned) and Richard as stage brothers invite doubt, a minute into their dialogue and we are suspended in judgment as Richard plays, so very hard, to prove his love for Bart who officiously rejects it. Richard uses his girth to acting advantage pulling off the nice bearish straight brother who’s got his limits. But, and this is his acting prowess playing, he manages to insinuate a deep love for his brother without saying it. It’s in the gestures, shoulders raised, hands gesticulating, and that sonorous calming voice way before and way after the requisite brotherly hugs.

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When Ken painfully recounts the number of friends that have passed away in the midst of mass indifference, from the government to gays in denial, echoed by the others characters, that brings it back for me to an abnormal period in my life. I had headed the first Asian AIDS organization in San Francisco (GCHP) in 1987 at a time when the infection rates were increasing. And Asian Americans (including Filipinos) in their last stages were in hospitals and hospices. These were very painful times, with parents and loved ones coming to the bedside and learning only there and then that aside from the illness their sons were gay too. They would alternate between regretful, unending sobbing, to being stoic and spent. Sadder were those, and they were many, whose families abandoned them upon hearing their plight. Some of them who did not want a scandal, threw money at me, told me to make sure he was taken care of and disappeared.

It was the frequency of seeing clients we delivered food to, fed, cheered up, cleaned their apartments, and handle their affairs and then see them take their final breaths. First there were just a few, then a bit more and I remember saying to myself that at just age 35, I was cradling and saying many goodbyes and crying over too many bodies. It was a very hopeless period and, burnt out, I lasted not too long. I had witnessed not just heartless parents and siblings but churches who bluntly pointed at their sinful promiscuity rather than giving succour. I had to flee north and sought solace in the country. I hadn’t the rage of a Kramer.

At the end of the play, when the screen flashed the infection rates in the Philippines with a trend to an epidemic, I looked at the audience and the inspiring actors and was somewhat relieved that there will be a cadre of enlightened and compassionate people who will plan the next round of stopping this epidemic. In our days, there were fewer than the numbers in the theater and very much frightened over this unknown plague. We can do it and we have this stage production to thank and be recharged for the enormous task ahead.

The Philippine production of ‘The Normal Heart’ was staged from July 3 to 5 by the Necessary Theatre and Taal Vista Hotel, with special arrangement from Samuel French Inc., New York, New York. The artistic team was led by Bart Guingona (director), Baby Imperial and Coco Anne (set design), Mark Philipp Espina (projections), and Don Taduran (graphic design). The production team was composed of Dodo Lim, (producer), Mariko Yasuda (production manager), and Ronah Rostata (stage manager).

Travel

Cry freedom

#Buffalo may (just) be a sleepy city in Upstate #NewYork in the US. But it does have surprises – e.g. The Freedom Wall, which celebrates the nation’s historic and ongoing struggles for political and social equality.

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Chicken lovers may know the story – i.e. that the Buffalo wing was allegedly invented by Teressa Bellissimo in 1964 at Anchor Bar in the sleepy city of Buffalo in the state of New York.

The thing though, is, sans the spiced fried chicken, Buffalo has other surprises – e.g. The Freedom Wall.

Located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and East Ferry Street, The Freedom Wall was built in 2017 by John Baker, Julia Bottoms, Chuck Tingley and Edreys Wajed.

It was commissioned by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery Public Art Initiative, in partnership with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA).

It was developed in collaboration with the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor and neighborhood stakeholders.

From the get-go, the intention was always clear: The Freedom Wall eyes to celebrate the nation’s historic and ongoing struggles for political and social equality.

The large concrete wall surrounding NFTA’s Cold Spring Bus Maintenance Depot now has portraits of 28 civil rights leaders.

Some of the subjects depicted include:
Rosa Parks
Mama Charlene Caver Miller
William Wells Brown
King Peterson
Angela Davis
Bill Gaiter
Malcolm X
W. E. B. Du Bois
Frank Merriweather
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Mary B. Talbert
Thurgood Marshall
Minnie Gillette
Harriet Tubman

Now, The Freedom Wall continues to encourage conversations about the scope of the long journey toward equality and freedom.

And that a lot of effort still needs to be done to bring about a just and equitable world.

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Travel

Best LGBT nightspots in Vegas

If you’ve been to Vegas before, don’t be fooled into thinking you know all the best places. Bars, hotels and clubs are opening, closing and changing their names all the time.

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Photo by James Walsh from Unsplash.com

Las Vegas – it’s America’s biggest playground and it’s a place where everyone is welcome. Age, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, wealth, social background – none of them matter in Sin City. Vegas has a large and vibrant gay scene, and one that extends far beyond what is affectionately know as the fruit loop around East Naples Drive, near the University of Nevada. 

If you’ve been to Vegas before, don’t be fooled into thinking you know all the best places. Bars, hotels and clubs are opening, closing and changing their names all the time. If you leave it for more than a couple of years between visits, it can feel like you’re entering a completely different city and you have to learn it all again from scratch. 

Five years ago, for example, the Blue Moon resort was the first place on everyone’s list. But Vegas’s first and only specifically gay hotel and resort suddenly closed its doors in October 2014. There have been rumors of it reopening, but none of these have come to fruition as yet. 

Here, we’ve taken a look not just around the fruit loop area but also up and down the strip to find some of the top LGBT nightspots in Glitter Gulch. 

Piranha Nightclub

The exception that proves the rule in the constant swirl of Vegas change, the Piranha nightclub is one constant that has been around for years. The two-floor nightclub is chic, sophisticated and high-energy. The dance floor is always packed, but if you want something a little calmer, it is well worth splashing out on a VIP package. 

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That provides an opportunity to rub shoulders with the rich and famous, as the VIP area and skyboxes are a popular celebrity haunt. As well as offering an amazing view of the dance floor, you can enjoy a luxury patio, accessed through a walk-through aquarium full of – you guessed it – piranhas. Check out the weekend party package for four, which includes two bottles of New Amsterdam along with mixers in the $350 price. 

Piranha is on Paradise Road just to the north of Tropicana Avenue and close to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. 

Sahara Hotel and Casino

Let’s face it, there’s never been a particularly strong correlation between casino gambling and gay culture. As a result you’re not going to find a “gay casino” as such in Las Vegas, but whether you go to Paris, Wynns or the MGM Grand, you’re guaranteed a warm welcome and a great night’s entertainment. 

Having said that, no city on earth has as much choice as Vegas when it comes to gambling halls, so you can afford to be fussy. The Sahara on Las Vegas Boulevard gets singled out here for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a place with its own unique style. Across the board, casino fashion is changing from the archetypal formal wear of Monte Carlo, but the vibe at Sahara is one that really encourages you to express yourself, so make an effort and get dressed up for the night. 

Secondly, though, once you’ve had enough of the blackjack, roulette and slots, there are few places better to catch a show. The Sahara has hosted some of the absolutely classic gay icons across the years. These include Liberace, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Liza Minelli, Barbara Streisand and Kenny Kerr. 

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Quadz

Fancy something a little more casual? Quadz could be just the thing, with its retro, dive bar feel. The drinks are cheap, the chatter is friendly and it is one of those places that is as popular with locals as it is with visitors. In Vegas, that’s one of the highest accolades, so definitely pay the place a visit. 

The focus here is on traditional bar games like pool, darts and good old fashioned arcade games. There’s a juke box with an eclectic mix so that you can choose your own soundtrack for the night. Quadz also has regular game nights, including Cowboy Bingo once a month and poker every Thursday evening. 

Quadz is on Paradise Road, right opposite Piranha Nightclub, and is open 24/7. 

The Luxor (Temptation Sunday)

If you’re visiting Las Vegas in the height of summer, a pool party makes all sorts of sense. The Luxor Hotel and Casino on The Strip hosts regular gay pool parties of a Sunday. The Luxor pyramid serves as the perfect backdrop for sun-kissed fun around the pool, and the party vibe is enhanced by Go-Go boys and the cheesiest of party music. 

Temptation Sunday also hosts a range of top-notch DJs, so if you are in Vegas for a while, it is worth checking who is on when and planning your visit to The Luxor accordingly. If you want to really make it a party to remember, you could consider renting out a cabana for the occasion. These come equipped for four, and comfy chairs, soft drinks, towels and even a flat screen TV with sports package are all provided for you and your party. 

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The Temptation Sundays Seasons runs throughout the summer months from about May to September.

The Phoenix

Situated on West Sahara Avenue, a short drive to the north west of The Strip, The Phoenix is a friendly cocktail bar that offers cheap drinks, good conversation and a great variety of special event nights.

On a run of the mill evening, there will be no-nonsense bar food, dancing and a choice of video games and traditional bar games to keep you amused. Time your visit right, though, and you could join the fun for an underwear party. Dare to bare and it’s all you can drink for a one-off $5 charge. 

Phoenix is a bar that allows smoking even if you’re not playing casino games, so keep that in mind. For smokers, it’s like a step back in time to the good old days, but for others, it can come a bit of a culture shock. However, there’s a fabulous outdoor patio where you can take in the fresh desert air.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

LGBT athletes who have been an inspiration on and off the field

There are some sports stars across the US and the world who are out and proud. They are paving a path for new generations, so let’s celebrate them.

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Photo by tommy boudreau from Unsplash.com

The sports world is one that loves tradition. In most respects, that’s a good thing, and some of the rituals attached to our favorite sports have become woven into national folklore. There are times, however, when those deeply ingrained practices make it difficult for sport to move with the times. 

It means that traditions dating back to the mid 20th century or earlier can sometimes be accompanied by attitudes from the same period. For example, there is an immense gender gap in professional sports of practically every type when it comes to both the profile of the sport and the money earned by the athletes. Certain sports also show an alarming disparity when it comes to ethnicity. The achievements of stars like Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters illuminate just how few black golfers and tennis pros there are, for example. 

But even more glaringly obvious than this is the underrepresentation of LGBT sports pros. Could it be that even in 2019, outdated “locker room” mentalities mean that there is still a fear of coming out? The good news is that there are some sports stars across the US and the world who are out and proud. They are paving a path for new generations, so let’s celebrate them.

Tom Waddell

The former Olympic decathlete was a man of many talents and of strong convictions. Prior to his professional sporting career, he qualified as a doctor and then served in the US Army as a paratrooper and preventative medical officer. Waddell competed in the 1968 Mexico Olympics, where he placed sixth in the decathlon out of 33 entrants. 

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With his military, sporting and medical background, it was an immensely brave act for Waddell to come out given the attitudes of the early 1970s. In 1972, he joined a gay bowling league, and it was this that brought home to him how few openly gay athletes there are. It inspired him to organize the inaugural Gay Olympics in 1982, although an injunction by the IOC forced an eleventh hour name change to the Gay Games. 

Waddell passed away in 1987 aged just 49. Despite declining health, he witnessed and even participated in Gay Games II, winning Gold in the javelin. To this day, he is remembered with numerous tributes and his legacy is one that will live forever. 

Jason Collins

The center, who played 13 seasons in the NBA, came out in 2013. The news created a media storm, as he was the first active male athlete from any of the four major sporting leagues to come out as gay. The Guardian newspaper said at the time that this was a defining moment for LGBT rights, describing professional sport at the “final frontier.”

Collins himself has always remained level headed, and very much takes the attitude that he is doing no more than less than playing the cards he is dealt. He famously said: “I’m black. And I’m gay. I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”

That conversation is still ongoing and today, Collins is a passionate advocate for LGBT rights. 

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Michael Sam

Despite these inspiring stories, it would be disingenuous to pretend that coming out as a sports pro is easy, or that once done, the world will welcome you, congratulate you and let you get on with your life. Michael Sam knows that better than most. 

The defensive end spent one season in the NFL, playing for the St Louis Rams. Having come out the previous year, he was the first openly gay player in the NFL. His pro career never really got off the ground, and after a season with the Montreal Alouettes he retired from football. Throughout his pro career, there was constant distraction due to debate over his sexuality. An anonymous source in the NFL said that Sam’s decision to come out immediately after college would probably affect his chances of being drafted, while campaigners with placards either berating or supporting Sam were a common site at and around games. 

All this meant that Sam struggled to focus 100 percent on football, and he even remarked that his career might have gone differently had he stayed in the closet. Today, he works as a writer and motivational speaker. 

Caitlyn Jenner

Born William Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn Jenner is without doubt the most famous and talked-about transgender woman on the planet. Back in the 1970s and prior to her gender reassignment surgery, she led the world in decathlon. After winning the gold medal at the 1975 Olympics, it was the then Bruce Jenner who started the tradition of taking a national flag from a spectator and carrying it on the victory lap, something that is still imitated to this day. 

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In 1982, Bruce Jenner featured on the cover of Playgirl. Who could have imagined that the next magazine cover, some 33 years later would be so different? Caitlyn Jenner has shared the highs and lows of gender reassignment with the world through interviews, social media and even her own TV series. She’s a lady that polarizes opinion, but that’s fine – after all, black or white, straight, gay or trans, none of us have an automatic right to be liked by everyone. What is beyond doubt is that she’s done more than anyone to get people talking about gender reassignment and to bring into everyday conversation. And that can never be a bad thing.

Blazing a trail

There are literally dozens of other names we could mention, including swimmer Ian Thorp, boxer Orlando Cruz, diver Tom Daley and England cricketers Katherine Brunt and Natalie Sciver, who recently announced their engagement

The good news is that with every passing year, we can add more names to this list, and the day will come when we will no longer have to. Saying a sports star is gay or trans will be as irrelevant as saying he or she is left handed or wears a size 10 shoe. The important thing to remember is that this change does not happen overnight, and it has only been made possible by those who had the courage to take those first steps. 

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Technology

Tinder is a waste of time for most people

Female Tinder users are, on average, more interested in finding long-term relationships than men are. This also applies to encounters without using dating apps.

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Photo by Marjan Grabowski from Unsplash.com

“For people who don’t pull off one-night stands without using Tinder, Tinder doesn’t offer much in the way of new opportunities,” says postdoc Trond Viggo Grøntvedt, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Psychology.

He is the first author of a new article – titled “Hook, Line and Sinker: Do Tinder Matches and Meet Ups Lead to One-Night Stands?” – that appeared in Evolutionary Psychological Science to deal with the use of Tinder. If you’re failing outside Tinder, then you don’t have much to gain from using Tinder, either.

Other authors include: Mons Bendixen, Ernst O. Botnen and Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair

“For people who actually have sexual relations outside Tinder, Tinder use only provides a limited increase in the number of one-night stands,” Grøntvedt says.

“Most of the people who succeed on Tinder have casual sex and hook-ups otherwise, too,” says Kennair at the Department of Psychology at NTNU.

The researchers have previously found that Tinder use did not lead to an increase in one-night stands.

“We have found little reason to claim that dating apps lead to more short-term sexual relationships than before,” says Bendixen, also in NTNU’s Department of Psychology.

There is thus no reason for any moral outrage from anyone.

Swiping

Tinder is one of several match-making apps. It uses location services to find other users nearby and then tries to match users with each other.

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Selecting someone is simple and effective: candidates pop up with a picture and some information on the screen. Swiping to the left means you’re not interested in a meet-up. Swiping to the right means you would like to meet the person. If two people swipe right on each other, the app can help them meet.

But sweeping and searching on Tinder has very limited effectiveness for the vast majority of users, who will probably succeed just as well by meeting live people instead.

Lots of hits needed

A lot of hits are needed on Tinder before any lead to a meeting. And even more hits are required before any kind of relationship can happen, whether we’re talking about a one-night stand or a meeting a partner with the aim of having a long-term committed relationship.

Men and women tend to use Tinder and other dating apps differently. Most women take more time to evaluate potential matches and are more often looking for a relationship, whereas most men are quicker in their assessments and swipe to the right far more often in the hope that a high enough number will result in at least one hit.

About 20 per cent of users had one-night stands after using Tinder. The vast majority of them had only experienced this once. Thus, eight of ten users never have sex after using the app.

“Tinder may offer new sexual opportunities, but these appear to be very limited,” says Kennair.

Only a tiny group of seven people, between two and three per cent of the study participants, had one-night stands exclusively after meeting someone through Tinder. The rest achieved this by traditional dating methods as well.

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Participants were asked to evaluate how physically attractive they found themselves to be. How physically attractive users are can predict the extent to which they succeed in having short-term sex when using Tinder.

“But this also applies when you’re not using dating apps. Some people get a lot, and a lot get none,” says Kennair.

“Both age and attitudes towards casual sex affect how often you actually achieve a one-night stand after using Tinder. But these are the same factors that play in elsewhere as well,” Grøntvedt says.

If you are more comfortable with casual sex, you’ll also have it more often.

“But there’s also a connection between a high interest in short-term sex encounters and less chance of meeting someone interested in a long-term relationship through the use of the dating app,” says Bendixen.

Female Tinder users are, on average, more interested in finding long-term relationships than men are. This also applies to encounters without using dating apps.

But according to this and previous studies, Tinder is not a very effective way to meet a long-term partner, either.

Ernst Olav Botnen had the idea for this study. He is currently a clinical psychologist at Lovisenberg Diakonale Hospital in Oslo.

“It’s interesting to see how the behaviour we see in other arenas, like bars and nightclubs, is reflected in dating apps,” says Botnen.

Of the 269 study participants who were active or former Tinder users, 62 per cent were women.

“Since the participants in our selection are university students in their early 20s, it will be interesting to see if our findings apply to other groups and age ranges in future research,” Botnen says.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

International Money Transfer will cost few cents

We now run business from our flats and hire employees all over the world. And most importantly, we constantly exchange and send money online.

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International Money Transfer will cost few cents? Soon it may be possible…

We live in the age of globalisation and widely-available connection to the Internet. It’s nothing too unusual to purchase good and services from foreign companies. We run business from our flats and hire employees all over the world. And most importantly, we constantly exchange and send money online. If you have ever wanted to make a larger international transfer you noticed how high the fees could be.

Fortunately, with new technological solutions we may soon be able to send money for a few cents. Moreover, our recipient will receive it after just a few seconds.

Current remittance prices

While banks charge sometimes from $10-$30 for an international wire, online remittance companies have a more appealing rates. You can easily send and exchange a thousand dollars for under $5. It’s very easy to do and convenient. All you have to do is send a regular domestic free bank or card transfer to one of the remittance companies and then they will take care of moving your money between borders.

Blockchain impact on remittance

In last few months there have been a lot of news about cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin or Ethereum. These topics were hot mostly because of the incredible and sudden value gains of these virtual digital coins. If you don’t know too much about them – they work just like any other currency. However, they are purely digital. Moreover, there are no “central banks” or other “admins” of the system. So only you have access to your e-wallet.

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There are still lots of obstacles, which prevent any potential wider adaptation of these coins. However, some online stores already accept them among other payment methods. The biggest advantages of cryptocurrencies are cheap fees and quick transfer delivery times. Let’s take a look at the 2nd most popular crypto – Ethereum. It costs $0.2 to send any amount to anywhere in the world. Moreover, your recipient gets the money to his personal wallet just after 15 seconds.

Now, some remittance companies try to utilize blockchain technology to lower their transfer prices.

Better money transfer services

Some of the companies claim that after connecting blockchain solutions to their platforms, they were able to offer their money transfer services in more remote countries. For example, TransferGo started their cooperation with blockchain and cryptocurrency-related project – Ripple.

The CEO of TransferGo said that: “After launching our Ripple corridor to India, we were able to pay out remittances in minutes, Ripple gives us a competitive edge in India, which is the largest global cross-border remittance market, and today we’re moving more than a couple of million pounds per year.”

Ripple tries to help financial institutions benefit from this new technology. Currently most of the banks communicate via SWIFT network (that’s why the international wire is so expensive). As more and more companies decide to try blockchain and for example Ripple’s network, they will be able to lower the prices and increase the speed. In the same interview TransferGo’s CEO talked about how transfer which takes a few minutes is already becoming too outdated for the modern money transfer market.

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Which remit platform is the best?

As even big mainstream financial institutions such as Santander Bank decided to try utilizing blockchain technology, maybe it is the future of remittance and inter-bank communication? We can already see the difference in fees and charges offered by classic remittance companies versus the ones which are not afraid of trying new solutions. Even Facebook is soon introducing their own blockchain-based digital coin. You can read about how Libra can empower financially less-developed regions and bring cheap and almost instant money transfers. All you will need to send thousands of dollars to anyone in the world for few cents is a smartphone with Internet connection…

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Do’s & dont’s for better sex using toys

If it works for you, that’s great, but talking things through before springing anything on (or into) your partner is more than just manners, it’s consent, and you’ll need it before you try anything new, no matter how much you just know they’re “…going to love it.”

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New to the world of sex toys? Perhaps you’ve played solo for years and have finally found or have decided to share the joy with your partner. Either way, there’s some crucial data to take on board when sharing the buzz or maybe the harness with your bedfellows. 

Always ask

Seems straightforward, even mandatory for most of us, but even in the heat of the moment (which might just be your own), consider your partner’s feelings and wishes above all else. If it works for you, that’s great, but talking things through before springing anything on (or into) your partner is more than just manners, it’s consent, and you’ll need it before you try anything new, no matter how much you just know they’re “…going to love it.”

Use lubricant

At the risk of sounding naive, it’s astonishing how many toy owners complain, and then wonder why/how their partner can’t be into it, when they thrust the dry probe or over-sized phallus into what’s usually their partner’s hottest pleasure center. Whatever the toy, if it has any part that sits close to, or penetrates, even a fraction of an inch, use a high quality water-based lubricant, and check before using other kinds, they might just damage/degrade materials like silicone and some newer polymers. It’s easy enough to forget, so make sure you have a steady and ready supply, which leads us to the next point:

Be prepared

If you have a first time toy experience or even a regular date night buzz planned with your partner, plan for it. Make it special, romantic or as fun and crazy as you guys enjoy whatever it is you do, but be prepared. Have plenty of lube, towels and wipes, toy cleaner and condoms; everything that you wouldn’t want to have missing in the heat of the moment. Many a romantic interlude or passionate embrace has been interrupted or ruined with the fateful words like, “You did bring a rubber, right?” or “Hand me some lube, honey.”

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Being prepared incorporates personal and physical hygiene, so…

Be sure and get clean before you get down and dirty

This is especially the case for anyone using anal toys, plugs, vibrators, or pumps. Anything that’s going anywhere near your tushie needs to be clean itself, and you want your rear end to be so clean you could… well, clean enough to do whatever you’re going to do ‘back there.’

Anal douching, even enemas are the unadvertised necessity when it comes to anal play, and it isn’t always spelled out for you on the box. If you or your partner are new to or want to explore anal play, start by exploring the fascinating (and sexy for some) world of cleaning yourself before anal sex.

It’s the same for any kind of sex; for any gender. If you’re sharing yourself (and your toys), you need to make sure both they and their intended users are clean. Guys, it’s your responsibility to clean your manhood as much as it is for any partner to make themselves fresh and appealing for you too.

It’s the same as body parts, never share toys between partners without sterilizing, and be mindful too, because some materials are porous and need a condom fitted to avoid risk of infection/cross-contamination.

Keep it fun and light-hearted

If either partner is new to toys, keep it fun and don’t bring out the biggest, most intimidating toy in the box. Start slow and explore boundaries. They’re there for a reason, and not all partner’s boundaries or preferences/choices need to be overcome. Always only do what feels right for both of you.

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Time and place

If you’re staying over or having a partner stay, consider the toy/s you have in mind. Some people lose control when they have a buzz-induced orgasm, real screamers. Also, consider the type/style and volume/requirements of your toys. Do they make a lot of noise? And if they do, is it appropriate to use them on the day/night. Do they need batteries or power? Refer back to being prepared, but consider how practical and fun what you want to use really is, and you may do this by considering all factors of the intended experience.

Despite what some people think, or the online descriptions suggest, it is not always fine to take your dildo or vibrator to work. It can be fun, but it could also be super awkward for your coworkers or boss if you’re found doing something you shouldn’t be at work. Keep work and play separate. Use your own discernment and common sense as a necessity.

Pleasure your partner first

Unless you have a standing order, if you’re the more experienced toy user, or if the toy is specific to your partner’s needs, focus attention on them first. Making it all about your partner is a secret to most problems that arise from the bedroom in relationships. If you make it about them, your own sense of fulfillment is greatly enhanced, and for guys, it’s a sure way to last longer overall, as well as being what he/she really wants… someone who thinks about them instead of themselves all of the time.

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Make it personal

Familiar users of toys can personalize their experience. Gifting your partner a toy which suits their personality, preferred position or style of pleasure, even if it’s just their favorite color, is a truly great way to customize the toy-based experience.

Don’t depend on toys every time you have sex/climax

It maybe blasphemy for some, but use toys as they are intended, and add accessories to heighten and enhance the natural and intimate sensuality of partnered/solo sexual encounters. Sometimes training your body to climax to artificial stimulation might make the natural response more difficult over time. 

Enjoy toys, by all means, and delight in the intensity of their power, feel and sensations that you can share and enjoy with or without your partner, but keep it real. Like anything fun, if it becomes an obsession, or is keeping you from performing in your non-toy life, it could become a problem rather than a pleasure. Use your own discernment here.

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