Turns out the best sex actually doesn’t come from hot-blooded passion

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By Leah Fessler

Spontaneous sex—clandestine encounters, afternoon delights, and one-night stands—is fantastic. But more often than not, the mind-boggling orgasms of this kind of sex are a myth you read about in magazines.

The alternative, planned sex, doesn’t sound particularly exciting. Sending a calendar invite for sex is about as sexy as sending a calendar invite for Excel training.

But for people in long-term relationships, it’s probably worth sending that invite anyhow. Conscientious, plan-ahead people actually have more satisfying sex lives, according to a new study published in The Journal of Sex Research.

Researchers from Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany surveyed nearly 1,000 couples (most heterosexual) about their sex lives, asking each person to rate things like how easily they got aroused, how inhibited they were around sex, and any issues they may have with sexual dysfunction. Each participant also described their own personality and their partner’s, using the Big Five personality framework—which includes extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience.

The most surprising finding? A statistically significant correlation between conscientious people of both sexes and higher sexual satisfaction. Conscientious people had fewer sexual problems–like inhibition or feeling unfulfilled. This positive correlation was particularly strong for heterosexual women whose partners were highly conscientious. “Men who are thorough and dutiful may feel the need to satisfy their partner sexually, which may in turn lead to better sexual function of their partners,” write the study authors.

“We wanted to know whether certain sexuality-related traits (i.e. traits that reflect how easily people become excited, or how sexually inhibited they are) are more or less relevant to sexual function than more broad, general personality traits (the big five),” writes author Julia Velten, a post-doctoral fellow in clinical psychology and psychotherapy, in an email to Quartz. “Studies have shown that most of these personality traits and sexuality-related traits are relevant, but it was unknown which factors are the most crucial when taken together.”

Velten defines conscientiousness as one’s tendency to be efficient and organized, as opposed to easy-going and disorderly. Conscientious people show strong self-discipline, achievement-orientation, and dependability. They display planned behavior more often than spontaneous behavior, says Velten. Which means people who are more sexually satisfied are also more likely to be having planned sex (calendar invite or not).

Most importantly, the data showed no significant correlation between relationship duration and sexual function, writes Velten. “Thus, sexual function (and sexual satisfaction) don’t necessarily decline with age or over the course of relationships. Many of our older couples were still sexually active and quite satisfied with their sexual lives.”

The upshot? If you’re more disposed toward planning sex, that’s not weird, or unsexy. It’s a major plus. It means you’re thoughtful—not only about the amount of sex you’re having, but also about the quality of sex you’re having, and your partner’s unique desires.

“High conscientiousness can be especially beneficial when it comes to putting effort into a satisfying sexual life,” write the study’s authors, “or to postpone one’s own needs and interests to focus on resolving a sexual problem within the context of committed, long-term relationships.”

Ultimately, this all boils down to communication, says Velten. Speaking honestly and non-judgmentally about your sexual preferences is sexy. If you do it, you’ll have better sex. Conscientiously planning intimate activities is just an extension of such communication—it amps tension and excitement, and can make sex feel surprising, even with the most familiar partners.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex and gender both shape your health, in different ways

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When you think about gender, what comes to mind? Is it anatomy or the way someone dresses or acts? Do you think of gender as binary — male or female? Do you think it predicts sexual orientation?

Gender is often equated with sex — by researchers as well as those they research, especially in the health arena. Recently I searched a database for health-related research articles with “gender” in the title. Of the 10 articles that came up first in the list, every single one used “gender” as a synonym for sex.

Although gender can be related to sex, it is a very different concept. Gender is generally understood to be socially constructed, and can differ depending on society and culture. Sex, on the other hand, is defined by chromosomes and anatomy — labelled male or female. It also includes intersex people whose bodies are not typically male or female, often with characteristics of both sexes.

Researchers often assume that all biologically female people will be more similar to each other than to those who are biologically male, and group them together in their studies. They do not consider the various sex- and gender-linked social roles and constraints that can also affect their health. This results in policies and treatment plans that are homogenous.

‘Masculine?’ ‘Cisgender?’ ‘Gender fluid?’

The term “gender” was originally developed to describe people who did not identify with their biological sex. John Money, a pioneering gender researcher, explained: “Gender identity is your own sense or conviction of maleness or femaleness; and gender role is the cultural stereotype of what is masculine and feminine.”

There are now many terms used to describe gender — some of the earliest ones in use are “feminine,” “masculine” and “androgynous” (a combination of masculine and feminine characteristics).

Research shows that gender, as well as sex, can influence vulnerability to disease.

More recent gender definitions include: “Bigender” (expressing two distinct gender identities), “gender fluid” (moving between gendered behaviour that is feminine and masculine depending on the situation) and “agender” or “undifferentiated” (someone who does not identify with a particular gender or is genderless).

If a person’s gender is consistent with their sex (e.g. a biologically female person is feminine) they are referred to as “cisgender.”

Gender does not tell us about sexual orientation. For example, a feminine (her gender) woman (her sex) may define herself as straight or anywhere in the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex and asexual or allied) spectrum. The same goes for a feminine man.

Femininity can affect your heart

When gender has actually been measured in health-related research, the labels “masculine,” “feminine” and “androgynous” have traditionally been used.

Research shows that health outcomes are not homogeneous for the sexes, meaning all biological females do not have the same vulnerabilities to illnesses and diseases and nor do all biological males.

Gender is one of the things that can influence these differences. For example, when the gender of participants is considered, “higher femininity scores among men, for example, are associated with lower incidence of coronary artery disease…(and) female well-being may suffer when women adopt workplace behaviours traditionally seen as masculine.”

In another study, quality of life was better for androgynous men and women with Parkinson’s disease. In cardiovascular research, more masculine people have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease than those who are more feminine. And research with cancer patients found that both patients and their caregivers who were feminine or androgynous were at lower risk of depression-related symptoms as compared to those who were masculine and undifferentiated.

However, as mentioned earlier, many health researchers do not measure gender, despite the existence of tools and strategies for doing so. They may try to guess gender based on sex and/or what someone looks like. But it is rare that they ask people.

A tool for researchers

The self-report gender measure (SR-Gender) I developed, and first used in a study of aging, is one simple tool that was developed specifically for health research.

The SR-Gender asks a simple question: “Most of the time would you say you are…?” and offers the following answer choices: “Very feminine,” “mostly feminine,” “a mix of masculine and feminine,” “neither masculine or feminine,” “mostly masculine,” “very masculine” or “other.”

The option to answer “other” is important and reflects the constant evolution of gender. As “other” genders are shared, the self-report gender measure can be adapted to reflect these different categorizations.

It’s also important to note that the SR-Gender is not meant for in-depth gender research, but for health and/or medical studies, where it can be used in addition to, or instead of, sex.

Using gender when describing sex just muddies the waters. Including the actual gender of research participants, as well as their sex, in health-related studies will enrich our understanding of illness.

By asking people to tell us their sex and gender, health researchers may be able to understand why people experience illness and disease differently.

Complete Article HERE!

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More young Americans now identify as bisexual

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One-quarter (25%) of people identified as something other than completely heterosexual, compared to 20% of people in 2015.

By Jamie Ballard

[F]ewer Americans today identify as completely heterosexual, according to new data from YouGov Omnibus. People were asked to place themselves on the Kinsey scale, where 0 is completely heterosexual and 6 is completely homosexual. The scale was invented by Alfred Kinsey in 1948 as a tool to study human sexuality. The original study used several methods to determine where someone would fall on the spectrum, but YouGov simply asked people to place themselves on the scale.

The same series of questions was asked of YouGov panelists in August 2015 and June 2018, and the results show that in 2018, more people say they’re not completely heterosexual. One-quarter (25%) of people identified as something other than completely heterosexual, compared to 20% of people in 2015.

Just over two-thirds (69%) of Americans identified as “completely heterosexual” in the 2018 survey, a drop from 78% of people who identified as completely heterosexual in the 2015 survey. About half of people in the 18-to-34 age range (55%) said they were completely heterosexual, compared to 67% of 35-54 year olds, and 84% of people aged 55 and up.

But despite what seems like an increase in sexual fluidity, less than half (40%) of people said that the statement “Sexuality is a scale – it is possible to be somewhere near the middle” came closest to their view. A nearly-equal amount (42%) said that the statement “There is no middle ground – you are either heterosexual or you are not” came closer to their view.

Women and men were equally likely (18%) to report that they’d had a sexual experience with someone of the same sex. In 2015, one out of every five women (20%) reported having a same-sex experience, compared to 15% of men at the time.

When asked about the possibility of being in a same-sex relationship, women (15%) were almost twice as likely as men (8%) to respond “definitely” or “maybe, if I really liked them.” Women also tended to be more open to the idea of a same-sex sexual experience, with 17% saying they thought it could happen, compared to 7% of men.

Complete Article HERE!

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Want better sex? Try getting better sleep

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[O]ne in 3 American adults do not get enough sleep. Sexual issues are also common, with as many as 45 percent of women and 31 percent of men having a concern about their sex life. While these might seem like distinct concerns, they are actually highly related.

How are sleep and sex related? I’ll state the obvious: We most commonly sleep and have sex in the same location – the bedroom. Less obvious but more important is that lack of sleep and lack of sex share some common underlying causes, including stress. Especially important, lack of sleep can lead to sexual problems and a lack of sex can lead to sleep problems. Conversely, a good night’s sleep can lead to a greater interest in sex, and orgasmic sex can result in a better night’s sleep.

I am a sex educator and researcher who has published several studies on the effectiveness of self-help books in enhancing sexual functioning. I have also written two sexual self-help books, both based in research findings. My latest book, “Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters – and How to Get It,” is aimed at empowering women to reach orgasm. More pertinent to the connection between sleep and sex, my first book, “A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex,” was written to help the countless women who say they are too exhausted to be interested in sex.

The effect of sleep on sex among women

The reason I wrote a book for women who are too tired for sex is because women are disproportionately affected by both sleep problems and by low sexual desire, and the relationship between the two is indisputable. Women are more likely than men to have sleep problems, and the most common sexual complaint that women bring to sex therapists and physicians is low desire. Strikingly, being too tired for sex is the top reason that women give for their loss of desire.

Conversely, getting a good night’s sleep can increase desire. A recent study found that the longer women slept, the more interested in sex they were the next day. Just one extra hour of sleep led to a 14 percent increase in the chances of having a sexual encounter the following day. Also, in this same study, more sleep was related to better genital arousal.

While this study was conducted with college women, those in other life stages have even more interrelated sleep and sex problems. Menopause involves a complicated interaction of biological and psychological issues that are associated with both sleep and sex problems. Importantly, a recent study found that among menopausal women, sleep problems were directly linked to sexual problems. In fact, sleep issues were the only menopausal symptom for which such a direct link was found.

nterrelated sleep and sexual issues are also prevalent among mothers. Mothers of new babies are the least likely to get a good night’s sleep, mostly because they are caring for their baby during the night. However, ongoing sleep and sexual issues for mothers are often caused by having too much to do and the associated stress. Women, who are married with school-age children and working full time, are the most likely to report insomnia. Still, part-time working moms and moms who don’t work outside the home report problems with sleep as well.

While fathers also struggle with stress, there is evidence that stress and the resulting sleepless nights dampen women’s sexual desire more than they do men’s. Some of this is due to hormones. Both insufficient sleep and stress result in the release of cortisol, and cortisol decreases testosterone. Testosterone plays a major role in the sex drive of women and men. Men have significantly more testosterone than women. So, thinking of testosterone as a tank of gas, the cortisol released by stress and lack of sleep might take a woman’s tank to empty, yet only decrease a man’s tank to half full.

The effect of sleep on sex among men

Although lack of sleep and stress seems to affect women’s sexual functioning more than men’s, men still suffer from interrelated problems in these areas. One study found that, among young healthy men, a lack of sleep resulted in decreased levels of testosterone, the hormone responsible for much of our sex drive. Another study found that among men, sleep apnea contributed to erectile dysfunction and an overall decrease in sexual functioning. Clearly, among men, lack of sleep results in diminished sexual functioning.

I could not locate a study to prove this, as it stands to reason that the reverse is also true. That is, it seems logical that, as was found in the previously mentioned study among women, for men a better night’s sleep would also result in better sexual functioning.

The effect of sex on sleep

While sleep (and stress) have an effect on sex, the reverse is also true. That is, sex affects sleep (and stress). According to sex expert Ian Kerner, too little sex can cause sleeplessness and irritability. Conversely, there is some evidence that the stress hormone cortisol decreases after orgasm. There’s also evidence that oxytocin, the “love hormone” that is released after orgasm, results not only in increased feelings of connection with a partner, but in better sleep.

Additionally, experts claim that sex might have gender-specific effects on sleep. Among women, orgasm increases estrogen, which leads to deeper sleep. Among men, the hormone prolactin that is secreted after orgasm results in sleepiness.

Translating science into more sleep and more sex

It is now clear that a hidden cause of sex problems is sleeplessness and that a hidden cause of sleeplessness is sex problems. This knowledge can lead to obvious, yet often overlooked, cures for both problems. Indeed, experts have suggested that sleep hygiene can help alleviate sexual problems and that sex can help those suffering from sleep problems.

Perhaps, then, it is no surprise that both sleep hygiene suggestions and suggestions for enhanced sexual functioning have some overlap. For example, experts suggest sticking to a schedule, both for sleep and for sexual encounters. They also recommend decreasing smartphone usage, both before bed and when spending time with a partner. The bottom line of these suggestions is to make one’s bedroom an exclusive haven for the joys of both sleep and sex.

Complete Article HERE!

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Many parents unsure of talking about sex with LGBT kids

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[M]any parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens feel uneasy and uninformed when it comes to talking to them about sex and dating, a new study shows.

The study included 44 parents of LGBT teens between the ages of 13 and 17. The parents cited many challenges in trying to educate their teens about sex, including general discomfort in talking about it, and feeling unable to offer accurate advice about safe LGBT sex.

“Parents play an important role in helping their children learn how to have healthy sexual relationships, but they really struggle when discussing this with their LGBTQ teens,” study author Michael Newcomb said. He is associate director for scientific development at Northwestern University’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing.

The study was published recently in the journal Sexuality Research and Social Policy.

“We need resources to help all parents — regardless of their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity — overcome the awkwardness and discomfort that can result from conversations about sexual health,” Newcomb said in a university news release.

He noted that a healthy and supportive relationship with parents is a key predictor of positive health outcomes in teens of all sexual orientations.

“Many parents and their LGBTQ teens want to have supportive relationships with one another, so if we can design programs to strengthen these relationships, it could have a tremendous impact on LGBTQ teens’ health and wellbeing,” he said.

In a separate study, institute researchers examined how gay and bisexual boys between 14 and 17 felt about talking to their parents about sex.

“We found that many of the gay and bisexual male youth in our study wanted to be closer to their parents and to be able to talk about sex and dating,” study lead author Brian Feinstein said in the news release.

“However, most of them said that they rarely, if ever, talked to their parents about sex and dating, especially after coming out. And, even if they did talk about sex and dating with their parents, the conversations were brief and focused exclusively on HIV and condom use,” Feinstein said. He is a research assistant professor.

That study was published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Does Sex Feel So Good, Anyway?

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By Kassie Brabaw

[T]here’s a reason that sex toy shops choose names like Pleasure Chest, Good Vibrations, and Sugar. All of these words invoke the tingling, heart-pumping, all-over ‘yum’ feelings many people associate with having sex.

There’s no question that great, consensual sex feels amazing. But why does it feel so good? What’s actually happening inside someone’s brain and body to create that euphoria?

According to sexologist Laura McGuire, PhD, there are three main physiological reasons someone feels sexual pleasure: the pudendal nerve, dopamine, and oxytocin.

The pudendal nerve is a large, sensitive nerve that allows someone’s genitals to send signals to their brain. In people who have vulvas, it has branches in the clitoris, the anus, and the perineum (the area between the anus and the vulva or the anus and the penis). In people who have penises, the pudendal nerve branches out to the anus, the perineum, and the penis. “It’s important for women to realize that the nerve doesn’t have much concentration inside the vaginal canal,” Dr. McGuire says. “Most of the pudendal nerve endings are focused on the clitoris.” That’s why it’s common for people who have vulvas to struggle reaching orgasm from penetrative sex alone, and why the clitoris is often considered the powerhouse of women’s sexual pleasure.

The pudendal nerve explains how signals get from someone’s genitals to their brain during sex, and then the brain releases dopamine and oxytocin, which causes a flood of happy, pleasurable feelings. “Oxytocin is often called ‘the love hormone,'” Dr. McGuire says. “It’s what makes us feel attached to people or things.” Oxytocin is released during sex and orgasm, but it’s also released when someone gives birth to help them feel attached to their baby, she says. “That’s the big one that makes you feel like your partner is special and you can’t get enough of them.”

Like oxytocin, dopamine helps your brain make connections. It connects emotional pleasure to physical pleasure during sex, Dr. McGuire says. “So, that’s the hormone that makes you think, that felt good, let’s do it again and again and again,” she says.

Oxytocin and dopamine are both in a class of hormones considered part of the brain’s reward system, says Lawrence Siegel, a clinical sexologist and certified sexuality educator. As someone’s body reaches orgasm, they flood their system because the brain is essentially trying to medicate them, Siegel says. “The brain seems to misunderstand sexual arousal as trauma,” he says. As someone gets aroused, their heart rate increases, their body temperature goes up, and their muscles tense, all of which happen when someone’s body is in trouble, too.

“As that continues to build and increase, it reaches a point when the brain looks down and says ‘Uh,oh you’re in trouble,'” Siegel says. “An orgasm is a massive release of feel-good chemicals that leaves you in a meditative state of consciousness.”

Yet, not everyone desires sex. So how do we explain asexuality? Science doesn’t have any solid answers, Dr. McGuire says, although it’s important to know that asexual people don’t choose to be asexual any more than gay people choose to be gay. While we don’t know what makes someone asexual, it’s pretty certain that there’s no physical difference between asexual people and everyone else, Siegel says.

“It’s not correct to say that people who identify as asexual don’t experience pleasure,” he says. “They just don’t have the desire to have sex.” Desire is ruled by different hormones, most notably testosterone. But even that might not fully explain why someone isn’t interested in having sex. “It feels like a different appraisal or reaction to the experience in their body,” Siegel says.

While everybody has a pudendal nerve and can experience the release of dopamine and oxytocin that happens with sex, not everyone will experience that release as pleasurable or experience the same level of pleasure. “People are very complicated,” Dr. McGuire says.

Complete Article HERE!

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Japanese macaques grinding on deer can teach us to be more open-minded about sex

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So if macaques do it, dolphins do it, birds and probably even bees do it, why do humans still have so much difficulty talking about sexual pleasure?
by Lux Alptraum

[I]f you grew up in America, there’s a good chance that you learned that sex is, first and foremost, a reproductive act. Sure, it feels good, but that’s just a way for our bodies to trick us into breeding. Many church doctrines will inform you that any sexual experience that doesn’t stand a chance of resulting in pregnancy is sinful, perverse, and unnatural.

But someone might want to tell that to nature.

A recently released study documented multiple instances of adolescent female macaques in Japan having “sexual interactions” with sika deer – or, not to put too fine a point on it, macaques humping the backs of deer like a pre-teen girl with a pillow. Researchers are still trying to figure out why the monkeys are doing this, as NPR explains: “It might be a way for a less-mature monkey to practice for future sex with other monkeys,” or an option for a monkey that doesn’t have any other sexual partners at the moment. It’s also possible that the monkeys, which hitch rides on deer for non-sexual reasons, too, simply discovered by accident that grinding on the deers’ backs felt good.

The discovery has prompted a lot of marveling from the media. But if you’re surprised to learn that animals like to pleasure themselves, you’re not paying attention. There are numerous documented instances of animal masturbation, a habit enjoyed by primates as well as creatures including dolphins, elephants, penguins, and bats. (Although the role of the sika deer adds a layer of complexity: Can a deer consent to interspecies frottage? “Most deer were nonchalant, continuing to eat or stand passively during the thrusting,” Quartz observes.)

It’s impossible for us to know exactly what the deer think about all this. That matter aside, there are a lot of animals out there who are, if you will, spanking the monkey. So if macaques do it, dolphins do it, birds and probably even bees do it, why do humans still have so much difficulty talking about sexual pleasure?

Even those of us who’ve gotten past the idea that sex outside the bonds of heterosexual marriage is a one-way ticket to hell still have difficulty talking about pleasure. Sex education curricula rarely venture beyond discussions of condoms, birth control, and puberty (if they even cover condoms and birth control); for many of us, the idea of discussing masturbation seems particularly prurient and unseemly. It’s been twenty-three years since Jocelyn Elders was forced to resign from the post of surgeon general in the US after daring to suggest that young people be taught to think of masturbation as a form of safer sex. And in spite of all the progress we’ve made since the early 1990s, it’s still hard to imagine a government official coming out in favor of masturbation. (Not that I necessarily want to hear a member of the Trump Administration talking about double-clicking the mouse.)

Our reticence on the subject of masturbation is particularly damaging for women. Copious amounts of ink have been spilled about the gender orgasm gap, with lots of hand-wringing about how straight men are letting their female partners down in bed. But it’s not just straight male selfishness that fuels the orgasm gap. One of the main reasons why women are less likely to find pleasure in bed is that we rarely discuss the tools to access our own pleasure, or even an understanding that pleasure can, and should, be a primary goal in our sex lives.

When sexual pleasure is discussed, it’s almost always from a straight male perspective, rationalized as an added bit of biological incentive intended to encourage men to spread their seed. As Peggy Orenstein writes in her recent book Girls & Sex, American culture teaches girls that men pursue sex and pleasure, while women passively provide it. “When girls go into puberty education classes, they learn that boys have erections and ejaculations and girls have periods and unwanted pregnancies,” Orenstein told Quartz in 2016. And when women do experience orgasms, it’s frequently positioned as the result of a partner’s skill, rather than something we’re naturally wired to actively pursue, all by ourselves, for our own selfish reasons.

These macaques throw all of these assumptions into disarray. Not only are they animals getting off just for fun, they’re female animals going to unusual lengths in pursuit of their own sexual pleasure. What we should take away from this is that sexual pleasure isn’t an also-ran to reproduction; it’s an essential part of many animals’ life experiences—regardless of our species, sex, or gender.

So instead of getting Puritanical on the macaques, let’s use them as a jumping-off point for discussions about just how natural it is to pursue sexual pleasure. Whether we’re monkeys or men—or women!—we’re all wired to seek out sensations that feel good.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Weird Link Between Your Parents & Your Partner

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There’s A Weird Connection Between Your Parents & Your Sex Life, According To Science

By Kasandra Brabaw

[E]very once in a while research pops up that claims people often end up with sexual and/or romantic partners who look like one of their parents. Usually this research is pretty heteronormative and focuses on the idea that straight women end up with husbands who look kind of like their fathers or straight men bring home women who look just like mom.

Whatever these studies are trying to say about our lives and their oedipus-like qualities, they’re generally pretty easy to brush off and move on — after all, it’s doubtful that many of us are consciously looking for someone who reminds us of our parents.

But the latest study in this iteration is slightly more nuanced. Researchers at Glasgow University aren’t saying that we want partners who look exactly like our parents, just that it’s likely we’ll end up with someone who has the same eye color as one of our parents. And this time, the study isn’t restricted to straight people, Yahoo reports.

The researchers asked 300 people about the eye color of their parents and the eye color of their partners. They determined through this (relatively small) sample size, that straight women and gay men are more likely attracted to people who have their father’s eye color, and that straight men and gay women are more likely attracted to people with their mothers’.

Now, let’s just take a second to think about this. Obviously, their findings aren’t going to be true for everyone. I, for example, am a gay woman who has mostly dated people who have brown eyes, just like my dad. So even though I have been attracted to people who have the same eye color as one of my parents, it’s not the parent this study says should be my inspiration.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that they only asked 300 people (75 of each gender/sexuality), which is hardly a strong sample size of the whole world. And even if those 300 people were perfect representations of how everyone chooses sexual and romantic partners, let’s remember that there are only so many eye colors to choose from anyway.

If you think about it, most people have either brown eyes, green/hazel eyes, or blue eyes — though some people’s eyes can also look more grey. So, if your parents have two different eye colors like mine do (my dad has brown, my mom has hazel), then you’ve already knocked off two of three possible eye colors. The odds are good that you’ll end up with someone who has the same eye color as your parents, just because that’s how probability works.

Still, there might be some truth to the researchers’ claims that this is another example of “sexual imprinting,” a theory that claims we learn what characteristics to find sexually attractive from our parents. After all, these studies do keep popping up.

Our advice: Just don’t think about it too much. You’re attracted to whoever you’re attracted to, and if that person happens to look a little like your dad around the eyes, then so be it.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Science Behind Sexual Fetishes

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BY: Anthony Bouchard

[W]hen it comes to sexual fetishes, many different processes take place inside the brain that triggers the attraction. Most people are obsessed with individual parts of the body, while non-living objects sexually arouse others.

It can be difficult to study sexual fetishes because people are naturally shy about discussing them, but by studying search queries crowd-sourced by online search engines, researchers can learn quite a lot about what people won’t share in person.

The search query data hinted that it wasn’t just body parts that triggered sexual desires in people, but even objects associated with said body parts seemed to fit the bill. Worthy of note, the infamous foot fetish was one of the most popular searches from the crowd-sourced data.

Studies also illustrate how a phenomenon known as sexual imprinting impacts a person’s sexual desires throughout life. In this process, a person “learns” what they would prefer in a desirable mate through their life experiences, so the way a person grew up can influence their sexual desires.

While sexual fetishes are often thought as taboo and were once considered mental illnesses, modern science argues that it’s healthy to have one if it doesn’t harm the person or their partner in the process.

Complete Article HERE!

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Who’s avoiding sex, and why

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By Shervin Assari

[S]ex has a strong influence on many aspects of well-being: it is one of our most basic physiological needs. Sex feeds our identity and is a core element of our social life.

But millions of people spend at least some of their adulthood not having sex. This sexual avoidance can result in emotional distress, shame and low self-esteem – both for the individual who avoids sex and for the partner who is rejected.

Yet while our society focuses a lot on having sex, we do not know as much about not having it.

As a researcher of human behavior who is fascinated by how sex and gender interact, I have found that sexual avoidance influences multiple aspects of our well-being. I also have found that people avoid sex for many different reasons, some of which can be easily addressed.

People who have more sex report higher self-esteem, life satisfaction and quality of life. In contrast, lower frequency of sex and avoiding sex are linked to psychological distress, anxiety, depression and relationship problems.

In his landmark work, Alfred Kinsey found that up to 19 percent of adults do not engage in sex. This varies by gender and marriage status, with nearly no married males going without sex for a long duration.

Other research also confirms that women more commonly avoid sex than men. In fact, up to 40 percent of women avoid sex some time in their lives. Pain during sex and low libido are big issues.

The gender differences start early. More teenage females than teenage males abstain from sex.

Women also are more likely to avoid sex because of childhood sexual abuse. Pregnant women fear miscarriage or harming the fetus – and can also refuse sex because of lack of interest and fatigue.

The most common reasons for men avoiding sex are erectile dysfunction, chronic medical conditions and lack of opportunity.

For both men and women, however, our research and the work of others have shown that medical problems are the main reasons for sex avoidance.

For example, heart disease patients often avoid sex because they are afraid of a heart attack. Other research has shown the same for individuals with cerebrovascular conditions, such as a stroke.

Chronic pain diminishes the pleasure of the sexual act and directly interferes by limiting positions. The depression and stress it causes can get in the way, as can certain medications for chronic pain.

Metabolic conditions such as diabetes and obesity reduce sexual activity. In fact, diabetes hastens sexual decline in men by as much as 15 years. Large body mass and poor body image ruin intimacy, which is core to the opportunity for having sex.

Personality disorders, addiction and substance abuse and poor sleep quality all play major roles in sexual interest and abilities.

Many medications, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, reduce libido and sexual activity, and, as a result, increase the risk of sexual avoidance.

Finally, low levels of testosterone for men and low levels of dopamine and serotonin in men and women can play a role.

For both genders, loneliness reduces the amount of time spent with other people and the opportunity for interactions with others and intimacy. Individuals who are lonely sometimes replace actual sexual relations with the use of pornography. This becomes important as pornography may negatively affect sexual performance over time.

Many older adults do not engage in sex because of shame and feelings of guilt or simply because they think they are “too old for sex.” However, it would be wrong to assume that older adults are not interested in engaging in sex.

Few people talk with their doctors about their sexual problems. Indeed, at least half of all medical visits do not address sexual issues.

Embarrassment, cultural and religious factors, and lack of time may hold some doctors back from asking about the sex lives of their patients. Some doctors feel that addressing sexual issues creates too much closeness to the patient. Others think talking about sexuality will take too much time.

Yet while some doctors may be afraid to ask about sex with patients, research has shown that patients appear to be willing to provide a response if asked. This means that their sexual problems are not being addressed unless the doctor brings it up.

Patients could benefit from a little help. To take just one example, patients with arthritis and low back pain need information and advice from their health care provider about recommended intercourse positions so as to avoid pain.

The “Don’t ask, don’t tell” culture should become “Do ask, do tell.”

Complete Article HERE!

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The Science of Passionate Sex

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How to have hot sex, according to science

By Scott Barry Kaufman

[O]ur culture is obsessed with sex. Everywhere you look is another article on how to have hot sex, harder erections, mind-bending orgasms, and ejaculations that go on for days. What people seldom realize, though– and which the latest science backs up– is that this is exactly the problem.

There’s nothing wrong with desiring sex. I’m extremely sex positive. Rather, I believe it’s the obsessive focus on the pragmatics and mechanization of sex– in isolation from the rest of the person— that is making us actually less satisfied with sex. We aren’t integrating our sexual desires into the totality of our being, and our whole selves are suffering as a result.

In a series of clever studies, Frédérick PhilippeRobert Vallerand, and colleagues studied a concept they refer to as harmonious sexual passionpassion for sex that is well integrated and in harmony with other aspects of the self, creating minimal conflict with other areas of life. Harmonious integration of ones sexual desires frees one up to fully engage and enjoy sexual activity in an open, spontaneous, and nondefensive manner. Items measuring harmonious sexual passion include: “Sex is in harmony with the other things that are part of me,” “Sex is well integrated in my life,” and “Sex is in harmony with the other activities in my life.”

In contrast, those who have obsessive sexual passion have not well integrated their sexuality into the totality of their being. Their sexual desires remain detached from other areas of their self as well as other domains in life. This leads to more narrow goals, such as immediate sexual gratification (e.g., orgasm), and leads to more of an urgent feeling of sex as a goal, compelling us to perform, instead of us being in control of our sexuality. This can significantly limit the full enjoyment of sex as well as life. Items measuring obsessive sexual passion include: “I have almost an obsessive feeling for sex,” “Sex is the only thing that really turns me on,” and “I have the impression that sex controls me.”

Across a number of studies, the researchers found that these two forms of sexual passion– obsessive and harmonious– differ remarkably in the way sexual information is processed, and how sexual activities are experienced. During sexual activities, obsessive sexual passion was related to negative emotions. Outside of sexual intercourse, obsessive sexual passion was related to intrusive thoughts about sex, conflict with other goals, attention to alternative partners, and difficulty concentrating on a current goal when unconsciously viewing pictures of sexually attractive people.

Obsessive sexual passion was also related to the biased processing of information. Those scoring higher in obsessive sexual passion were more likely to perceive sexual intent in ambiguous social interactions as well as to perceive sexuality in words that don’t explicitly have a sexual connotation (e.g., “nurse”, “heels,” “uniform”). Obsessive sexual passion was also related to violent actions under threat of romantic rejection, as well as greater dissolution of romantic relationships over time.

In contrast, harmonious sexual passion showed much greater integration with more loving aspects of the self, as well as other life domains. For instance, participants were asked to list as many words as they could in 1 minute related to the word “sex”. Those scoring higher in harmonious sexual passion were still sexually passionate beings: they listed quite a number of sexually-related words. However, they had a more balanced profile of purely sexual representations (e.g., “penis”, “breasts”, “vibrator”) and sexual-relational representations (e.g., “intimate,” “caress,” “intercourse”). In fact, the magic number seemed to be a ratio of 2: once the number sexual words outweighed the number of sexual-relational words by a factor of 2, there was a substantial increase in obsessive sexual passion and a marked decrease in harmonious sexual passion.

Those scoring high in harmonious sexual passion also showed greater control over their sexual drive. Whenever a sexual stimulus was subconsciously encountered (e.g., a beautiful person), they were able remain on task (which was to identify natural vs. artificial objects). Harmonious sexual passion was also related to less sexually intrusive thoughts and was unrelated to attentiveness to alternative partners. This greater integration and absence of conflict led to higher relationship quality over time.

It’s important to note that obsessive sexual passion is not the same thing as sexual compulsivity, or even sex addiction (although it is still hotly debated whether sexual addiction really exists). Even though obsessive sexual passion was correlated with negative emotions during sexual activity, it did not lead to greater feelings of distress. Also, both harmonious and obsessive sexual passion were related to loving and enjoying sex-related activities.

In fact, both harmonious and obsessive sexual passion were equally correlated with sexual desire. This is a really important finding, because we have a tendency to stigmatize those with greater sociosexuality in our society. Those with a more unrestricted sociosexual orientation are more willing to engage in casual sex, and report greater sexual desire and frequency of fantasizing about sex. These results suggest that sociosexuality itself is not the problem; rather, it’s how your sociosexuality is integrated into your identity and other areas of your life that really matters.

Perhaps instead of our cultural obsession with sexual performance, we should shift more towards helping people accept and feel comfortable with their sexuality, embrace sexual passion, and help them harness that passion in ways that bring joy, vitality, and openness to all areas of their life.

Complete Article HERE!

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Straight Men and Women Both Secretly Want to Be Dominated

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By Emily Gaudette

[N]o, you get on top.

On Tuesday, Aella, a popular redditor and social media exhibitionist, conducted an anonymous survey hoping to discover how “fucked up” her own sexual interests were when compared to the average. According to her Reddit post, she asked 479 cis women, 1432 cis men, and 61 people who identified as “other” what they were most interested in trying sexually. She then asked respondents to rate how “taboo” they believed their curiosities were. Her findings are pretty illuminating, and it’s clear why you don’t ever hear about professional submissives; only dominatrixes make money because the demand is high.

Everybody surveyed, regardless of gender identity, were interested in trying new sexual positions, and the whole group agreed that non-missionary positions aren’t really “taboo” anymore. Non-missionary and light bondage, meaning slightly controlling your partner’s mobility during sex, were the only acts that men and women agreed on wanting to try. However, when asked whether they’d like to get gently tied up or tie their partner up, most men and women answered, “Tie me up, please.” That means we have a surplus of submissives walking around, and perhaps not enough dominants in the world to satisfy them.

Everyone is secretly hoping they’ll hear this in the bedroom soon.

The second tier of popularity included women using sex toys (men were super into that idea) and “females submitting” (women wanted to try this out a little more than men). Generally, male survey respondents liked the idea of watching (or simply knowing about?) their female partner using a vibrator, but they recognize that vibrator use among women isn’t really that rare. Similarly, women were pretty sure that submissive play wasn’t that taboo, but they were still interested in trying it out.

As for the most taboo stuff we all want to try but are too embarrassed to bring up, men thought their interest in “incest roleplay” was a risky move, and women expressed interest in “heavy bondage” and “rape-play,” though they admitted that both kinks were controversial. That means a lot of women in the world are trying to figure out how to say, “pretend I don’t want it,” and a lot of men are simultaneously thinking, “But what if you were my cousin?”

George Michael is apparently not alone in his interests.

There’s a hilarious part of Aella’s graph in which the men taking her survey seem to just name a bunch of taboo stuff they don’t actually want to do. Vore (cannibalism), scat (playing with feces), bestiality (sex with non-human animals), pedophilia (assaulting children), necrophilia (having sex with a human dead body), sounding (inserting a vibrating rod into one’s urethra), and “creepy crawlies” (pouring insects on someone) were simply called “taboo” by men, though their interest in all of those activities were low.

In 2014, a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine asked similar questions of respondents, though rather than have its users suggest their own kinks, it simply had them describe their interest level in a pre-determined list of activities. Their data showed the highest interest across gender identities for “having sex in an unusual place,” though being dominated by a partner was popular among everybody back then, too.

It’s also notable that a majority of those surveyed wanted to be dominated.

By synthesizing some of the comparative data, a curious look at sexuality emerges: As it turns out, there are way more hopeful “subs” among us hoping to be lightly tied up by a “dom.” Straight men and women know that this desire isn’t all that unusual, but they’re still very interested in trying it out and rank it high on their sexual “to-do lists.”

You can check out Aella’s full color-coded graph below. Her second survey, focusing on romantic relationships and monogamy, is available for users to take now.

Men tended to call things “taboo” more often, and they knew about a lot of sexual activities they didn’t necessarily want to try.

Complete Article HERE!

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8 Things That Happen to Your Body During Sex

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Your heart quickens. Your hormones flow. See what else is happening, head to toe, in the heat of the moment.

[E]ver wondered what happens to your body during a steamy session between the sheets? From the good (happy hormones! increased sensitivity!) to the not-so-good (increased risk of urinary tract infections, for example), here are eight things that happen when you’re having sex.

1. Happy hormones are released. Sex stimulates the secretion of hormones such as oxytocin, which makes you feel connected to others, and dopamine, which activates the brain’s reward center. The result: You feel satisfied and close to your partner.

2. Blood vessels widen. What do dilated blood vessels do for you? “Your clitoris and vulva become engorged, as do the vessels in the vaginal wall,” says urologist and sexual-health expert Jennifer Berman, MD. “This leads to more secretions and lubrication.” Your face and chest can also get flushed.

3. Sensitivity skyrockets. Your erogenous zones, including the nipples, ears, neck, and genital area, become extra sensitive because of increased blood flow and the release of sensation-enhancing neurotransmitters.

4. Bacteria may build up. During sex, bacteria from the vagina and anus can get into the urethra and multiply, leading to a urinary tract infection. Tip: Pee immediately after the act to flush out bacteria.

5. You burn (some) calories. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that a 154-pound person would burn 21 calories during six minutes of sexual activity. So a roll in the sack isn’t as effective as spin class, but a sexy half hour could torch around 100 calories.

6. Your heart races. Like any aerobic activity, sex raises your heart rate. It peaks when you orgasm and settles back to its baseline within 10 to 20 minutes, research shows.

7. Your muscles tense. “During orgasm, the pelvic floor muscles involuntarily contract,” says Dr. Berman. Actively tensing and releasing those muscles during sex can help boost engorgement, arousal, and pleasure. Kegels, anyone?

8. You feel relaxed. Your big O may be the ultimate chill pill: Orgasms trigger an increase in prolactin, a calming hormone that reaches its highest levels when we’re asleep.

Complete Article HERE!

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The story of Magnus Hirschfeld, the ‘Einstein of sex’

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Decades before Alfred Kinsey developed his scale for human sexuality, there was Magnus Hirschfeld — a doctor who dedicated his career to proving that homosexuality was natural.


A party at the Institute for Sexual Science is shown here. Magnus Hirschfeld (second from right) is the one with the moustache and glasses. His partner Karl Giese is holding his hand.

By Julia Franz

[H]irschfeld’s reasoning was simple: In turn of the 20th century Germany, where he lived, a law called Paragraph 175 made so-called “unnatural fornication” between men punishable by prison time.

“Magnus was gay himself,” says Undiscovered podcast co-host Elah Feder. “He was both a scientist and an activist, and he was really hoping that his science would lead to greater acceptance of gay and lesbian people.”

Hirschfeld founded what’s considered to be the first gay rights organization and established the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. He also gained international renown for his radical research on the biology of sexual orientation. “He was, in the 1930s, touring the world lecturing about sexuality in China and India,” says co-host Annie Minoff. “The American press actually called him the ‘Einstein of sex.’”

But as Minoff and Feder explore in a recent episode of Undiscovered, Hirschfeld’s legacy didn’t turn out quite as he’d hoped.

“Magnus was using the science at his disposal, right?” Minoff says. “So now, we might talk about genetics or even epigenetics, but back in his day, scientists could see chromosomes under the microscope, but they still weren’t sure if they had anything to do with heredity.”

“So, Magnus was really all about documenting and recording things like physical traits or behavioral traits, trying to see what gays and lesbians might have in common or might be different than the rest of the population.”

Today, some of Hirschfeld’s research comes across as antiquated, even a bit zany. In one excerpt from his book, “The Homosexuality of Men and Women,” Hirschfeld debunks an apparently long-held stereotype that gay men can’t whistle.

“This does not agree with the results of our statistics,” he wrote, explaining that in a sample of 500 gay men, 77 percent could whistle, although “only a few could truly whistle well.”

“But he found that among lesbians, the whistling arts were very strong, which was nice to hear,” Feder adds.

Other aspects of Hirschfeld’s science have better weathered the tests of time. “So, for example, he was interested in whether homosexuality ran in families,” Feder says. “You know — was it a heritable trait?”

“Or, you might remember a few years ago, there were a bunch of studies looking at the correlation between finger length ratios and sexual orientation. They seemed to find a connection in women. And he did stuff like that. He was looking at hip-to-shoulder ratios — pretty pioneering sex research.”

In 1919, Hirschfeld opened his Institute for Sexual Science, a big villa in Berlin’s Tiergarten. “They had medical examination rooms, they had a library, they had a sex museum that was apparently a big tourist attraction,” Feder says.

And, as Yonsei University history professor Robert Beachy explains, the institute also offered sex education to Germans who were queasy about publicly seeking advice.

“They had a little box at the edge of the property, and people could anonymously insert slips of paper with questions about sex or any sort of sexual issue that they had,” he says. “And then people were invited in, and these different slips of paper would be read out loud and then responded to.”

“There were questions about things like, I don’t know, [about] premature ejaculation and how effective it was to use condoms for preventing pregnancy. You know, just lots of relatively mundane questions. But it was supposed to be a public service.”

But if Hirschfeld hoped that greater scientific understanding could change Germany’s discriminatory law, Feder says things didn’t quite turn out that way in his lifetime. (Paragraph 175 wasn’t struck down until 1994.)

“It’s a nice idea,” she says, “but as we end up seeing in Magnus’ story, you can do science, you can hope that it’s going to be used in one way, and it can work out very differently.”

“And his story ultimately is a pretty tragic one.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Casual Sex: Everyone Is Doing It

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Part research project, part society devoted to titillation, the Casual Sex Project reminds us that hookups aren’t just for college students.

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[Z]hana Vrangalova had hit a problem. On a blustery day in early spring, sitting in a small coffee shop near the campus of New York University, where she is an adjunct professor of psychology, she was unable to load onto her laptop the Web site that we had met to discuss. This was not a technical malfunction on her end; rather, the site had been blocked. Vrangalova, who is thirty-four, with a dynamic face framed by thick-rimmed glasses, has spent the past decade researching human sexuality, and, in particular, the kinds of sexual encounters that occur outside the norms of committed relationships. The Web site she started in 2014, casualsexproject.com, began as a small endeavor fuelled by personal referrals, but has since grown to approximately five thousand visitors a day, most of whom arrive at the site through organic Internet searches or referrals through articles and social media. To date, there have been some twenty-two hundred submissions, about evenly split between genders, each detailing the kinds of habits that, when spelled out, can occasionally alert Internet security filters. The Web site was designed to open up the discussion of one-night stands and other less-than-traditional sexual behaviors. What makes us engage in casual sex? Do we enjoy it? Does it benefit us in any way—or, perhaps, might it harm us? And who, exactly, is “us,” anyway?

Up to eighty per cent of college students report engaging in sexual acts outside committed relationships—a figure that is usually cast as the result of increasingly lax social mores, a proliferation of alcohol-fuelled parties, and a potentially violent frat culture. Critics see the high rates of casual sex as an “epidemic” of sorts that is taking over society as a whole. Hookup culture, we hear, is demeaning women and wreaking havoc on our ability to establish stable, fulfilling relationships.

These alarms have sounded before. Writing in 1957, the author Nora Johnson raised an eyebrow at promiscuity on college campuses, noting that “sleeping around is a risky business, emotionally, physically, and morally.” Since then, the critiques of casual sexual behavior have only proliferated, even as society has ostensibly become more socially liberal. Last year, the anthropologist Peter Wood went so far as to call the rise of casual sex “an assault on human nature,” arguing in an article in the conservative Weekly Standard that even the most meaningless-seeming sex comes with a problematic power imbalance.

Others have embraced the commonness of casual sex as a sign of social progress. In a widely read Atlantic article from 2012, “Boys on the Side,” Hanna Rosin urged women to avoid serious suitors so that they could focus on their own needs and careers. And yet, despite her apparent belief in the value of casual sex as a tool of exploration and feminist thinking, Rosin, too, seemed to conclude that casual sex cannot be a meaningful end goal. “Ultimately, the desire for a deeper human connection always wins out, for both men and women,” she wrote.

The Casual Sex Project was born of Vrangalova’s frustration with this and other prevalent narratives about casual sex. “One thing that was bothering me is the lack of diversity in discussions of casual sex,” Vrangalova told me in the café. “It’s always portrayed as something college students do. And it’s almost always seen in a negative light, as something that harms women.”

It was not the first time Vrangalova had wanted to broaden a limited conversation. As an undergraduate, in Macedonia, where she studied the psychology of sexuality, she was drawn to challenge cultural taboos, writing a senior thesis on the development of lesbian and gay sexual attitudes. In the late aughts, Vrangalova started her research on casual sex in Cornell’s developmental-psychology program. One study followed a group of six hundred and sixty-six freshmen over the course of a year, to see how engaging in various casual sexual activities affected markers of mental health: namely, depression, anxiety, life satisfaction, and self-esteem. Another looked at more than eight hundred undergraduates to see whether individuals who engaged in casual sex felt more victimized by others, or were more socially isolated. (The results: yes to the first, no to the second.) The studies were intriguing enough that Vrangalova was offered an appointment at N.Y.U., where she remains, to further explore some of the issues surrounding the effects of nontraditional sexual behaviors on the individuals who engage in them.

Over time, Vrangalova came to realize that there was a gap in her knowledge, and, indeed, in the field as a whole. Casual sex has been much explored in psychological literature, but most of the data captured by her research team—and most of the other experimental research she had encountered—had been taken from college students. (This is a common problem in psychological research: students are a convenient population for researchers.) There has been the occasional nationally representative survey, but rigorous data on other subsets of the population is sparse. Even the largest national study of sexual attitudes in the United States, which surveyed a nationally representative sample of close to six thousand men and women between the ages of fourteen and ninety-four, neglected to ask respondents how many of the encounters they engaged in could be deemed “casual.”

From its beginnings, sex research has been limited by a social stigma. The field’s pioneer, Alfred Kinsey, spent decades interviewing people about their sexual behaviors. His books sold, but he was widely criticized for not having an objective perspective: like Freud before him, he believed that repressed sexuality was at the root of much of social behavior, and he often came to judgments that supported that view—even when his conclusions were based on less-than-representative surveys. He, too, used convenient sample groups, such as prisoners, as well as volunteers, who were necessarily comfortable talking about their sexual practices.

In the fifties, William Masters and Virginia Johnson went further, inquiring openly into sexual habits and even observing people in the midst of sexual acts. Their data, too, was questioned: Could the sort of person who volunteers to have sex in a lab tell us anything about the average American? More troubling still, Masters and Johnson sought to “cure” homosexuality, revealing a bias that could easily have colored their findings.

Indeed, one of the things you quickly notice when looking for data on casual sex is that, for numbers on anyone who is not a college student, you must, for the most part, look at studies conducted outside academia. When OkCupid surveyed its user base, it found that between 10.3 and 15.5 per cent of users were looking for casual sex rather than a committed relationship. In the 2014 British Sex Survey, conducted by the Guardian, approximately half of all respondents reported that they had engaged in a one-night stand (fifty-five per cent of men, and forty-three per cent of women), with homosexuals (sixty-six per cent) more likely to do so than heterosexuals (forty-eight per cent). A fifth of people said they’d slept with someone whose name they didn’t know.

With the Casual Sex Project, Vrangalova is trying to build a user base of stories that she hopes will, one day, provide the raw data for academic study. For now, she is listening: letting people come to the site, answer questions, leave replies. Ritch Savin-Williams, who taught Vrangalova at Cornell, told me that he was especially impressed by Vrangalova’s willingness “to challenge traditional concepts and research designs with objective approaches that allow individuals to give honest, thoughtful responses.”

The result is what is perhaps the largest-ever repository of information about casual-sex habits in the world—not that it has many competitors. The people who share stories range from teens to retirees (Vrangalova’s oldest participants are in their seventies), and include city dwellers and suburbanites, graduate-level-educated professionals (about a quarter of the sample) and people who never finished high school (another quarter). The majority of participants aren’t particularly religious, although a little under a third do identify as at least “somewhat” religious. Most are white, though there are also blacks, Latinos, and other racial and ethnic groups. Initially, contributions were about sixty-per-cent female, but now they’re seventy-per-cent male. (This is in line with norms; men are “supposed” to brag more about sexual exploits than women.) Anyone can submit a story, along with personal details that reflect his or her demographics, emotions, personality traits, social attitudes, and behavioral patterns, such as alcohol intake. The setup for data collection is standardized, with drop-down menus and rating scales.

Still, the site is far from clinical. The home page is a colorful mosaic of squares, color-coded according to the category of sexual experience (blue: “one-night stand”; purple: “group sex”; gray: the mysterious-sounding “first of many”; and so on). Pull quotes are highlighted for each category (“Ladies if you haven’t had a hot, young Latino stud you should go get one!”). Many responses seem to boast, provoke, or exaggerate for rhetorical purposes. Reading it, I felt less a part of a research project than a member of a society devoted to titillation.

Vrangalova is the first to admit that the Casual Sex Project is not what you would call an objective, scientific approach to data collection. There is no random assignment, no controls, no experimental conditions; the data is not representative of the general population. The participants are self-selecting, which inevitably colors the results: if you’re taking the time to write, you are more likely to write about positive experiences. You are also more likely to have the sort of personality that comes with wanting to share details of your flings with the public. There is another problem with the Casual Sex Project that is endemic in much social-science research: absent external behavioral validation, how do we know that respondents are reporting the truth, rather than what they want us to hear or think we want them to say?

And yet, for all these flaws, the Casual Sex Project provides a fascinating window into the sexual habits of a particular swath of the population. It may not be enough to draw new conclusions, but it can lend nuance to assumptions, expanding, for instance, ideas about who engages in casual sex or how it makes them feel. As I browsed through the entries after my meeting with Vrangalova, I came upon the words of a man who learned something new about his own sexuality during a casual encounter in his seventies: “before this I always said no one can get me of on a bj alone, I was taught better,” he writes. As a reflection of the age and demographic groups represented, the Casual Sex Project undermines the popular narrative that casual sex is the product of changing mores among the young alone. If that were the case, we would expect there to be a reluctance to engage in casual sex among the older generations, which grew up in the pre-“hookup culture” era. Such reluctance is not evident.

The reminder that people of all ages engage in casual sex might lead us to imagine three possible narratives. First, that perhaps what we see as the rise of a culture of hooking up isn’t actually new. When norms related to dating and free love shifted, in the sixties, they never fully shifted back. Seventy-year-olds are engaging in casual encounters because that attitude is part of their culture, too.

There’s another, nearly opposite explanation: casual sex isn’t the norm now, and wasn’t before. There are simply always individuals, in any generation, who seek sexual satisfaction in nontraditional confines.

And then there’s the third option, the one that is most consistent with the narrative that our culture of casual sex begins with college hookups: that people are casually hooking up for different reasons. Some young people have casual sex because they feel they can’t afford not to, or because they are surrounded by a culture that says they should want to. (Vrangalova’s preliminary analysis of the data on her site suggests that alcohol is much more likely to be involved in the casual-sex experiences of the young than the old.)  And the old—well, the old no longer care what society thinks. For some, this sense of ease might come in their thirties; for others, their forties or fifties; for others, never, or not entirely.

This last theory relates to another of Vrangalova’s findings—one that, she confesses, came as a surprise when she first encountered it. Not all of the casual-sex experiences recorded on the site were positive, even among what is surely a heavily biased sample. Women and younger participants are especially likely to report feelings of shame. (“I was on top of him at one point and he can’t have forced me to so I must have consented . . . I’m not sure,” an eighteen-year-old writes, reporting that the hookup was unsatisfying, and describing feeling “stressed, anxious, guilt and disgust” the day after.) There is an entire thread tagged “no orgasm,” which includes other occasionally disturbing and emotional tales. “My view has gotten a lot more balanced over time,” Vrangalova said. “I come from a very sex-positive perspective, surrounded by people who really benefitted from sexual exploration and experiences, for the most part. By studying it, I’ve learned to see both sides of the coin.

Part of the negativity, to be sure, does originate in legitimate causes: casual sex increases the risk of pregnancy, disease, and, more often than in a committed relationship, physical coercion. But many negative casual-sex experiences come instead from a sense of social convention. “We’ve seen that both genders felt they were discriminated against because of sex,” Vrangalova told me. Men often feel judged by other men if they don’t have casual sex, and social expectations can detract from the experiences they do have, while women feel judged for engaging in casual experiences, rendering those they pursue less pleasurable.

Perhaps this should come as no surprise: the very fact that Vrangalova and others are seeking explanations for casual-sex behaviors suggests that our society views it as worthy of note—something aberrant, rather than ordinary. No one writes about why people feel the need to drink water or go to the bathroom, why eating dinner with friends is “a thing” or study groups are “on the rise.”

It is that sense of shame, ultimately, that Vrangalova hopes her project may help to address. As one respondent to a survey Vrangalova sent to users put it, “This has helped me feel okay about myself for wanting casual sex, and not feel ashamed or that what I do is wrong.” The psychologist James Pennebaker has found over several decades of work that writing about emotional experiences can act as an effective form of therapy, in a way that talking about those experiences may not. (I’m less convinced that there are benefits for those who use the site as a way to boast about their own experiences.) “Often there’s no outlet for that unless you’re starting your own blog,” Vrangalova points out. “I wanted to offer a space for people to share.”

That may well end up the Casual Sex Project’s real contribution: not to tell us something we didn’t already know, or at least suspect, but to make such nonjudgmental, intimate conversations possible. The dirty little secret of casual sex today is not that we’re having it but that we’re not sharing our experiences of it in the best way.

Complete Article HERE!

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