Category Archives: Sex In The News

Federal courts ask: What is the meaning of ‘sex’?

Share

Existing prohibitions against discrimination ‘because of sex,’ already provide a civil rights umbrella wide enough to cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender identity, some judges are beginning to say.

By

A number of federal courts have begun to ask a question that has become more and more subtle over the past few years: What is the meaning of ‘sex’?

It’s a question that has in many ways evolved out of the storms of cultural change that have surrounded the country’s shifting ideas about human sexuality and gender over the past few decades. Many of these culminated in the US Supreme Court’s landmark 5-to-4 decision in 2015, in which a bare majority declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right.

On the one hand, the high court’s epoch-changing decision that legalized same-sex marriage created the kind of situation that inevitably arises out of rapid cultural change. Today, neither the federal government nor some 28 states offer any explicit civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (LGBTQ), either in the workplace or any other arena of daily life.

“It is constitutionally jarring to know that, in most states, a lesbian couple can get married on Saturday and be fired from their jobs on Monday, without legal redress,” notes the legal scholar William Eskridge, professor at Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn.

And many throughout the country, even those with liberal-leaning views, continue to be uneasy about the presence of transgender people in certain sensitive places, including school bathrooms and locker rooms.

On Friday, President Trump issued a policy memo that would disqualify most transgender people from serving in the military, after tweeting about his plans to issue such a ban last July. As Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reported to the president in February, the administration is concerned that the presence of transgender soldiers could “undermine readiness,” “disrupt unit cohesion,” and create unreasonable health care costs for the military, echoing arguments used in the past for other groups.

At least four federal courts have found this reasoning constitutionally jarring as well, potentially violating the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

Yet beyond sweeping constitutional questions which regulate what the government can do to its citizens, the nation’s evolving definitions of sex, marriage, and gender have also been quietly transforming the nation’s civil rights laws, which regulate how citizens live their common lives together.

Title VII and Title IX

Indeed, a number of federal courts have recently begun to weigh in on a vigorous and relatively new legal idea, simmering for the past few years in federal civil rights cases but only now beginning to take a more defined legal shape.

There may be no need to press Congress and the majority of state legislatures to change their statutes and explicitly add LGBTQ people to their lists of protected classes. (Traditionally, these include race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.) Existing prohibitions against discrimination “because of sex,” already provide a civil rights umbrella wide enough to cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender identity, some judges are beginning to say.

The Obama administration took this position in 2016, telling the nation’s public schools that transgender students should be able to use the bathroom of their choice, a directive that interpreted Title IX’s prohibitions against sex discrimination as covering transgender identity.

Last April, the US Court of Appeals of the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, which includes nine justices nominated by Republican presidents and five by President Ronald Reagan, also embraced this idea. In an 8-to-3 decision that spanned the panel’s ideological spectrum, the full court ruled that the Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination in the workplace also included any based on sexual orientation.

Last month, the Second Circuit in New York issued a similar ruling. “Sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination because sexual orientation is defined by one’s sex in relation to the sex of those to whom one is attracted,” wrote Chief Judge Robert Katzmann for the 10-3 majority. It would be impossible “for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without taking sex into account,” he continued.

Such an evolving legal definition of sex could again reshape the nation’s legal landscape. “Potentially a lot is at stake,” says Professor Eskridge. “Depending how broadly you go, this idea could affect dozens of state statutes and dozens of federal statutes, the chief of which are Title VII and Title IX,” sections in the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act that forbids discrimination both in the workplace and in public schools.

Original intent

On the surface, the debate over the meaning of “sex” in these cases divides legal thinkers into classic liberal and conservative approaches to the law. Those who focus on the “original intent” of laws and the precise words of the legal text have generally rejected the expansive lines of thinking about the definition of sex.

“I think the better answer, the cleaner answer is just, let Congress go ahead and change the laws,” says Mark Goldfeder, senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory Law School in Atlanta. And there’s virtue in hashing out such questions through a political process rather than letting a panel of judges make such society-shaping decisions.

Indeed, this was part of the reasoning behind a three-judge panel in the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, which came to the opposite conclusion. In a 2-to-1 decision, the majority said that discrimination “because of sex” and discrimination based on sexual orientation were two different things. The disagreement among appeals courts could invite a potential Supreme Court review, scholars say.

But the history of the legal concept of “sex discrimination” unfolded in a much more complex way, many observers note, and conservative jurisprudence, too, has played a key role in the evolving definitions of “sex” that almost immediately began to widen over time.

“There’s been this natural progression of the law,” says Susan Eisenberg, managing partner at the Miami office of Cozen O’Connor. As a trial attorney who has been defending companies from civil rights complaints for more than two decades, she’s has watched as the concept of “sex” in discrimination cases has evolved over time, changing the ways she defends her clients.

The evolution of civil rights law

In the first decade after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, she and others point out, the “original intent” of the prohibition against sex discrimination was clear. The nation’s elite law schools and medical schools were often reserved for male applicants only, single women could be denied leases and bank accounts, and the nation understood its merit-based workplace as the natural domain of men alone.

But by the 1970s, people began to claim that sexual harassment in the workplace also violated Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination, and the Supreme Court agreed, declaring “a hostile work environment” as a violation of Title VII.

By the end of the 1980s, the Supreme Court found that discrimination based on “gender stereotypes” was also a violation of civil rights laws – in this case a woman who was passed up for promotion because she did not act feminine enough.

“She argued: that’s discrimination against me on the basis of my sex,” says Steve Sanders, a professor at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law in Bloomington. “They’re not discriminating against me as a woman per se, but they’re discriminating against me because I failed to demonstrate certain stereotypes of what it means to be a woman, and the Supreme Court accepted that.”

And the nation’s high court broadened the definition even further in 1998, ruling unanimously that Title VII’s workplace protections covered sexual harassment between members of the same sex – a key decision, says Ms. Eisenberg, citing a passage that in many ways redefined her job.

“Statutory prohibitions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils, and it is ultimately the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority in the case Oncale v. Sundowner, explaining the expanding definition of sex in this area of civil rights law.

“The sexual orientation cases that we’re now seeing basically takes the logic of these cases one step further,” says Professor Sanders. “If you’re a man, the social stereotype and the social expectation is that you will want to have sex with a woman, that you will want to have a relationship and a marriage with a woman. But, no, you defy that gender stereotype about what it means to be a man, because you’re attracted to other men.”

“Well, if the idea that men should only be attracted to women and women should only be attracted to men is a form of gender stereotyping, ergo, the logic goes, it’s covered by Title VII,” he says.

The Trump administration, however, maintains that while the Justice Department “is committed to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all individuals,” in these case it remains “committed to the fundamental principle that the courts cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided,” said Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley in February.

‘Lack of clarity can prove expensive’

Corporate attorneys say most businesses have already instituted their own antidiscrimination policies. “But though many have adopted these, only voluntarily, the unevenness, the irregularity of anti-discrimination laws, I think is very challenging for the business community to grapple with,” says Darren Rosenblum, professor at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in New York. “So I think there is an imperative to clarify the law on this point. That’s what they need first and foremost, because the lack of clarity can prove expensive, figuring out which norms to follow.”

Even so, Eisenberg points out that given the ways in which the high court has redefined the meaning of sex in past precedents, today simple claims of “gender stereotyping” already covers most claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“And if you’ve got people who are being discriminated against just because they’re not part of a protected characteristic, that’s just not good management,” Eisenberg says. “It’s not good for recruiting, it’s not good for maintaining employees, it’s not good all the way around.”

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Sexual Attraction

Share

Sexual Attraction

By Driftwood Staff

Have you ever wondered why you are attracted to the people you are attracted to? Despite surface guesses, there are common generalizations of sexual preferences that seem to make sense, or are at least exhibited by the average human male or female.

Have you ever noticed that your preferences have changed or change constantly? Well, there’s an answer to that too. “Female preferences are especially interesting because they are dynamic and influenced by the individual menstrual cycle,” said Dr. Simon Lailxaux, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and the Virginia Kock/Audubon Nature Institute Chair in Species Preservation. “Women prefer different things when they are ovulating to when they are not, and women using hormonal contraceptives also show different preferences to those who are not. Additionally, both men and women appear to look for different things in a short-term vs a long term partner.”

Despite the social connotations of sexual preferences in the modern world (e.g., the growing acceptance and understanding that gender, sex and sexuality are all different aspects of the human self), many preferences men and women have for each other come from biological occurrences.

“Evolutionary explanations for human sexual attractiveness have long fallen under the purview of ‘evolutionary psychology,’” said Lailvaux. Though it gained a controversial reputation, “The rigor of evolutionary psychology has improved over the last 20 years, but there is still a lot of misinformation surrounding questions of the evolution of human sexual attraction largely as a result of this period where evolutionary psychologists weren’t really evolutionary biologists and were still figuring out how to approach this topic.”

“Our genetic legacy predisposes us to certain behaviors and preferences but it does not condemn us to them. Culture can play a large role in sexual attractiveness as well, and it’s important to bear that in mind,” mentioned Lailvaux.

That being said, below are some common aspects of sexual selection.

HIP-TO-WAIST RATIO (HTWR)

“The ‘traditional’ explanation for this has to do with childbirth; the reasoning goes that childbirth is traditionally dangerous for both the mother and baby. Women with large hips relative to their waists have a wider pelvic girdle, which means they will have an easier time when giving birth relative to someone with smaller hips,” said Lailvaux.

“It is an innate, honest signal to men about a woman’s age and reproductive status across all human cultures and ethnicities,” said Dr. Jerome Howard, UNO Associate Professor of Biological Sciences. “The male brain has receptors that evaluate HTWR in females, and MRI studies have measured maximum responses to female silhouettes that display a HTWR of about 0.7 compared to lower values or higher values.”

Thinner waists could signify poor nutrition, which lowers fertility, and the HTWR of a woman generally increases as a woman ages and become less fertile.

“Large breasts tend to elevate attractiveness only in combination with narrower waists, and eye-tracking studies have found that men tend to look at either the bust or the waist region first, as opposed to the facial or pubic region,” said Lailvaux.

Nutrition varies due to cultural differences, and larger bodies that indicate more fat storage are sometimes more attractive in non-Western cultures where food availability is a problem.

HEIGHT AND STATURE

Height and shoulder width are signals to women about male health and nutritional status. “Women do prefer men with the traditional ‘triangle’ shape: broad shoulders, narrow waists. Women also tend to prefer men with broad faces; this is interesting because facial broadness in men is linked to high levels of testosterone,” added Lailvaux.

Women also tend to prefer men who are taller than they are, but the reason for this has not been thoroughly researched.

SYMMETRY

Both sexes generally find symmetrical facial features more attractive. There are plenty of studies to show this, but the significance of that attraction has yet to be established.

“The best supported and most widely accepted explanation is that symmetry is a measure of developmental stability, which is related to how well suited an individual’s genes are for the environment in which it lives,” said Howard. “An individual that is well-suited to his or her environment is likely to produce children that are also well-suited, and able to respond robustly to any environmental challenges they might experience in that environment.”

SMELL

Body odor is produced by Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) genes, which mainly work in the immune system. “We strongly prefer mates with different MHC alleles, because the more similar they are, the more likely that you are genetically related, and we avoid mating with relatives to avoid inbreeding,” said Howard.

HEAD AND FACIAL HAIR

Hair length preference is more culturally influenced than other signals, but in Western cultures, young women have a tendency to wear their hair longer on average than older women. This is less labile than HTWR for mate preference among men; it is not an honest signal of age or quality as a mate.

However, a recent study examined why beards became so popular among men in recent years. “They linked beards to male facial attractiveness and to negative frequency-dependent selection, where things that are uncommon are considered attractive, until they become too common and are no longer considered so.” said Lailvaux.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Consensual sex is key to happiness and good health, science says

Share

 

By

It’s not just that sex is fun – it’s also good for your physical and mental health.

Some of my research is focused on how men and women differ in the links between sexuality, mental and physical health, and relationship quality. In this article, I write from my findings and that of others on how sex is important to our love, mental health, relations and survival. At the end, I suggest a solution for individuals who are avoiding sex for a common reason – chronic disease.

Good sex makes us happy

Good sex is an inseparable part of our well-being and happiness. Those of us who engage in more sex report better quality of life. Sexual intercourse is linked to high satisfaction across life domains. In one of my studies on 551 married patients with heart disease, individuals who had a higher frequency of sexual intercourse reported higher marital quality, marital consensus, marital coherence, marital affection expression and overall marital satisfaction. These results are replicated in multiple studies.

In a study by another team, partners who both experienced orgasm during sex were considerably happier. These findings are shown inside and outside of the United States.

Sex keeps us alive

Although early initiation of sex such as during adolescence is a risk factor for mortality, having a sound sexual life in adulthood is linked to low mortality. In a seven-year follow-up study of men 17 years old or older, erectile dysfunction and having no sexual activity at baseline predicted increased mortality over time. Similar findings were shown in younger men. This is probably because more physically healthy individuals are sexually active.

No sex and forced sex makes us depressed

There is a two-way road between bad sex and depression. Depression is also a reason for bad sex, particularly for women. And, men who are depressed are more likely to sexually abuse their partners.

And it’s important to note, in the wake of continuing news of sexual assault and abuse, that forced sex in intimate relations make people depressed, paranoid, jealous, and ruins relationships. Couples who experience unwanted sex have a higher risk for experiencing other types of abuse, as bad habits tend to cluster.

Sex different for men and women?

Men and women differ in the degree to which their sexual act is attached to their physical, emotional, and relational well-being. Various reasons play a role among both genders, but for women, sexual function is heavily influenced by mental health and relationship quality.

By contrast, for men sexual health reflects physical health. This is also intuitive as the most common sexual disorders are due to problems with desire and erection for women and men, respectively.

Reasons for avoiding sex

As I explained in another article in The Conversation, sexual avoidance for those who have a partner or are in a relationship happens for a long list of reasons, including pain, medications, depression and chronic disease. Common diseases such as heart disease interfere with sex by causing fear and anxiety of sexual intercourse.

Aging should not be considered as a sexless age. Studies have shown that older adults acquire skills and strategies that can buffer age-related declines in their sexual life, particularly when they are in a positive relationship. This is called seniors’ sexual wisdom.

Back on track

Because people avoid sex for a variety of reasons, there is no single answer for those who want to become sexually active again. For many men, physical health problems are barriers. If they suffer from erectile dysfunction, they can seek medical help for that.

If fear of sex in the presence of chronic disease is a problem, there can be medical help for that as well. For many women, common barriers are relational dissatisfaction and mental health. For both men and women, the first step is to talk about their sexual life with their physician, counselor or therapist.

At least half of all medical visits do not cover any discussion about sexual life of patients. Embarrassment and lack of time are among the most common barrier. So make sure you make time to talk to your doctor or health care provider.

Neither the doctor nor the patient should wait for the other person to start a dialogue about their sexual concerns. The “don’t tell, don’t ask” does not take us anywhere. The solution is “do tell, do ask.”

Complete Article HERE!

Share

9 reasons having sex is good for you, according to science

Share

By Alexandra Thompson

Science reveals nine ways having sex benefits your health.

According to California-based obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Sherry Ross, few things in life are better for people’s hearts, bodies and souls than getting intimate between the sheets.

From burning calories to boosting the immune system and even fighting the signs of ageing, numerous studies reveal regular love making seriously boosts people’s wellbeing.

Sex is even a natural painkiller and could help combat insomnia, Dr Ross adds.

Below, Dr Ross outlines the nine ways, proven by science, being active between the sheets boosts people’s health and wellbeing.

Burns calories

Researchers from the University of Quebec at Montreal analysed 21 heterosexual couples with an average age of 22.

Results revealed women burn, on average, 69.1 calories when they have sex for just under 25 minutes.

This calorie-burning number climbs higher still if you are on top, in a squat position or having an orgasm.

Dr Ross told NetDoctor: ‘The act of sexual intimacy can be a great workout and counts as such for many as their daily exercise regimen.’

Boosts the immune system

A study by Indiana University found women with healthy sex lives produce higher levels of antibodies, which fight off infections.

Dr Ross said: ‘Regular sex makes for a stronger immune system, fighting off common illnesses such as colds and having less sick days from work.

‘Sex also helps lower your blood pressure and lowers your risk of heart attacks.’

Prevents incontinence

For women suffering from urinary incontinence, which is common after childbirth, incorporating Kegel exercises into your sex life can strengthen your pelvic floor and improve bladder control, according to Dr Ross.

If this isn’t enough, such exercises also heighten orgasms for both you and your partner, she adds.

Is a natural painkiller

Contracting genital muscles generate a pleasurable feeling that can reduce the discomfort of menstrual cramps, headaches and joint pain, according to Dr Ross.

She adds tracking your menstrual cycle and scheduling in an orgasm before your first period could prevent crippling discomfort.

Aids insomnia

After an orgasm, endorphins and the hormone prolactin are released, which relax the body and mind to promote sleep, Dr Ross claims.

Boosts pregnancy chances – even if you’re not ovulating!

Researchers from the Kinsey Institute and Indiana University found women who have sex when not ovulating create an environment in their wombs that make it more hospitable for growing embryos.

This is due to orgasms activating the immune system, which then seems to prepare women for even the possibility of pregnancy.

Improves mental health

According to the sex therapist Vanessa Marin, skin-to-skin contact releases oxytocin, which is also known as the ‘cuddle hormone’.

This can reduce anxiety and stress, while promoting feelings of closeness.

Prevents wrinkles

In 2013, UK-based neuropsychologist Dr David Weeks questioned more than 3,500 people about their sex lives over 10 years.

Results revealed those who have regular, healthy sex lives look up to seven years younger than people who do not get intimate two-to-three times a week.

Dr Weeks believes this is due to the release of endorphins that boost circulation and reduce stress, as well as the production of human growth hormones, which promote skin elasticity.

Makes you brainier

According to a study published in the Journals of Gerontology, sexually-active older adults perform better in verbal and visual tests.

This may be due to the release of oxytocin and ‘the happy hormone’ dopamine, which have both been linked to improved cognitive function.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

What a leather convention can teach everyone about sex and consent

Share

I don’t think I’d ever realized just how “vanilla” I was, and how little I understood about all of the ways you can engage in fun, healthy, consensual, adventurous sex.

“Hotel is closed for private event” read the signs affixed to the front of the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill last weekend. A steady stream of people, mostly men, many in leather harnesses, some in collars and on leashes, and some simply in jeans and sweaters, walked in and out in an almost continuous stream.

Mid-Atlantic Leather (MAL), now in its 48th year, is a three-day long celebration of the leather community, a subculture that celebrates various sexual kinks, many centered around leather and toys. Bears, daddies, pups and others identifying with various subsets roam the Hyatt Regency, participating in conference-like demonstrations about suspension (BDSM where you’re bound and hung) and electro (BDSM involving electric shocks), buying handcrafted leather goods and sex toys, and, of course, partying. (Actual sex was not part of the convention but no doubt took place in private.) It’s a predominantly LGBTQ centric space, although look closely enough and you’re sure to find people on every part of the gender and sexuality spectrum.

My first MAL was in the winter of 2016. I’d just gone through a breakup and my friend had suggested that perhaps it would be good for me to explore life beyond my comfort zone. “Just get ready,” he’d said, “it may be more than your little vanilla heart can handle.” And he wasn’t entirely wrong. It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle it, but I don’t think I’d ever realized just how “vanilla” I was, and how little I understood about all of the ways you can engage in fun, healthy, consensual, adventurous sex.

That first year I met Adam, a dentist in town from Texas just for MAL. “You look like you could use a drink,” he said back in a hotel room he was sharing with a friend of mine.

“Do I look that out of place?” I asked. I’d put on a leather jacket to try to blend in.

“Not out of place,” he said, “just kind of shocked.”

And shocked I was. Not necessarily at anything that was going on at the hotel that night, but more so at the fact that for the better part of my life I’d allowed myself to believe that this kind of sexual openness was only available to a certain kind of person.

“Where I grew up, there wasn’t really anything like this,” said Anthony, a 30-year-old living in Arlington, Va., who grew up in Portsmouth. (The sources for this story preferred that only first names be used, for privacy reasons). “There was no kink culture, and I really wanted to explore it. Everyone here was super welcoming, and that’s why I keep coming back.”

This was a common sentiment. “It’s a different part of the gay family,” said Garret, 28, who lives in Washington. “We all have different interests … and if nobody else respects that, come to MAL because they do here.”

Respect, as it turns out, is a dominating theme throughout the course of the weekend. You might expect that when many attendees are walking around in only a jockstrap and a harness, but it is pleasantly surprising to see how strictly they adhere to that principle. In the era of #MeToo, when more and more queer folks are being vocal about the role consent plays in queer spaces, perhaps the leather and kink communities have something to teach the general public about active and enthusiastic consent.

Ask for permission before petting. Hold out your hand and let the pup come to you first. If the pup doesn’t, or turns or growls, let them be as they may not want to or have permission. This is rule No. 5 as listed on the board outside the 10th anniversary mosh at the MAL Puppy Park, a yearly tradition in which individuals who participate in pup play — a BDSM role-play wherein one participant acts as the “pup” and one as the handler — have an opportunity to interact with other pups. Other rules include: Nudity is not permitted in public spaces, genitals cannot be exposed and DO NOT pull on a pup’s tail or collar. It can cause injury and is disrespectful. Change some of the verbiage and perhaps these would be appropriate guidelines to post at the Academy Awards.

“It’s where I met my current roommate,” said Allyn, a 31-year-old originally from Wisconsin who now lives in Washington, of his first MAL experience. “It was exhilarating. I’d never seen anything like it. It make me feel brave and nervous at the same time.” He didn’t speak to his would-be roommate the first night they met, however. “I mean, I had a ball gag in at the time,” he recounted.

Zack, 23, from Baltimore, also used the world “exhilarating” when describing his first MAL experience. “I got chills coming down the escalator into the lobby of the hotel,” he said. “It’s the closest thing to Folsom I’ve ever been too,” a reference to the San Francisco street fair that’s the world’s largest leather celebration.

Everyone I spoke to talked about descending that escalator on the evening of the opening party. It is truly a complete sensory experience. The sight, sound and smell of wall-to-wall leather and latex on every kind of body, not just seen but celebrated and appreciated.

While I was talking to Garret about the weekend, someone he appeared to know approached him, whispered something in his ear and, after he nodded yes, lifted Garret’s arm and began to sniff his armpit. Garret continued to answer my questions without pause. “There may be something over here that’s not your thing, but then you’ll look over there and see something going on that you’re totally into,” he explained “Don’t be shy, don’t judge other people for something you don’t understand. And above all, come and have a good time. No one is here to be spectacled. It can be a learning and cultural experience.” The sniffer had moved on to his other armpit by the time he finished talking.

Although I have yet to be brave enough to buy and wear a harness to MAL myself, each year I attend I move closer toward that goal. At the very least, the event has highlighted for me the fact that there is an exciting world beyond the “vanilla” one I’d relegated myself to — and has given me a better understanding of the queer community as a whole. At one point, in the leather market, a man who had recently undergone top surgery was trying on a new harness next to a group of folks signing to one another, while feet away a $1,400 bejeweled pup hood was on sale. Only at MAL.

Complete Article HERE!

Share