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Study finds unequal distribution of power in young adult relationships more harmful to women

“Inequality within a relationship doesn’t cost men as much,” researcher says

 

By Bert Gambini

Power imbalances in heterosexual relationships are common, but having less power takes a greater toll on young women than young men, according to a recently published University at Buffalo study.

The results, appearing in The Journal of Sex Research, suggest “a healthy skepticism when it comes to what looks like gender equality,” says Laina Bay-Cheng, an associate professor in the UB School of Social Work and an expert in young women’s sexuality. “This research refutes the claim that gender equality has been reached and we don’t have to worry about misogyny anymore.”

Bay-Cheng says the dynamics underneath relationships require scrutiny and the often-heard claim that girls and women have reached and in some ways surpassed equality with men unravels quickly when examined in detail.

“We have to look closely at relationships and experiences and stop taking surface indicators as proof of gender equality,” says Bay-Cheng. “When men are subordinate in a relationship, it doesn’t bother them very much. They don’t see those relationships as less intimate or stable than relationships in which they are dominant. But for young women, having less power in a relationship is associated with diminished intimacy and stability and comes with greater risk of abuse.

“Inequality within a relationship doesn’t cost men as much because they are still cushioned by a broader system of male privilege.”

Relationships that develop during emerging adulthood are foundational events. It’s from these early experiences that people learn how to be in a relationship and depending on the nature and quality of the experiences, the effects – both positive and negative – can echo throughout life.

“It’s so important that we understand that it’s not that sex and relationships are at the root of risk or vulnerability. Instead, some young women, because of intersecting forms of oppression – especially misogyny, racism and economic injustice – enter relationships and are already at a disadvantage,” says Bay-Cheng. “For young women, relationships are where all different forms of vulnerability and injustice converge.”

Bay-Cheng developed a novel research method for this study that considered both the objectives of researchers and participants’ experience, which, she says, is as important as the findings.

For this study, Bay-Cheng used a digital, online calendar that participants fill out using all of their sexual experiences from their adolescence and early adulthood. The open-ended digital calendar can be filled out over a month and participants can enter anything they want, not just text, but audio files, images or even emoji.

The result is a more meaningful measure for researchers and participants.

“On the research side we get varied and diverse data,” says Bay-Cheng. “For participants, rather than circling a number on a scale on some survey, they get to express themselves how they want, at their own pace, and then look at their calendars and get different perspective on their sexual histories and how these relate to other parts of their lives. Participants have told us how meaningful that chance to reflect can be. It’s important for researchers to care as much about the quality of participants’ experiences in our studies as the quality of our data.”

Complete Article HERE!

Sexual statistics

Studying the intimate relationship between narcissism and satisfaction

by Elaine Smith

If you learned that your next-door neighbours were having sexual relations more frequently than you and your partner, would it bother you?

Three U of T Mississauga researchers set out to understand how people view their sex lives in comparison to those of others and discovered that sexual narcissism colours the way people make and view those comparisons.

“For some people, those comparisons are pretty influential,” said Lisa Day, a PhD candidate at UTM.

In new research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Day, Emily Impett, a UTM psychology professor, and Amy Muise (now a York University professor) looked at how these comparisons affect both relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction for people with varying degrees of sexual narcissism.

Sexual narcissism should not be confused with general narcissistic personality traits. It is defined as “the tendency to exploit others, a lack of empathy, feelings of grandiosity and an excessive need for validation in the sexual domain.” They’re the people, for example, who buy you dinner and expect sexual favours in return.

The trio of researchers discovered that many people seemed to be curious about the sex lives of others. Individuals who had a high degree of sexual narcissism were very susceptible to comparisons with others, regardless of whether the source was friends, colleagues, survey data or magazine articles. They tended to make comparisons favourable to themselves (downward comparisons). Comparisons that showed them in a lesser light (upward comparisons) appeared to decrease their satisfaction, both with their sexual relationship and their overall relationship.

“Individuals with a high degree of sexual narcissism tend to make comparisons with those who are less sexually skilled, for example,” Day said. “When they do make comparisons with someone doing better than they were, it gets under their skin.”

By contrast, individuals with a low degree of sexual narcissism weren’t much affected by favourable comparisons; they didn’t have much of an impact on how sexually satisfied they were or how much satisfaction they derived from their relationships.

The researchers reached these conclusions through three studies that used participants from the Amazon survey roster. In the each study, the participants were measured for sexual narcissism and for personality narcissism. In the first study, participants were then asked to recall the most recent comparison they had made between their sex lives and that of others – data show that people make such comparisons on five per cent of the days in the year.

The researchers assessed the direction of these comparisons. “People who were higher in sexual narcissism were more likely to recall a [favourable] social comparison, which in turn predicted greater sexual and relationship satisfaction immediately after recalling that comparison,” they wrote.

In the second study, the researchers asked the participants how much they would be bothered by sexual comparisons with those who had more prowess or more regular if those people were: (a) their best friend, (b) their partner’s best friend, and (c) the average couple. The results, wrote the researchers, “showed that who were higher in sexual narcissism reported that they would be more bothered by upward social comparisons, and, in turn, reported lower sexual and .”

In the third study, subjects were given a doctored magazine article relating to sexuality and randomly asked to compare its findings to their own sex lives in an upward fashion, a downward fashion or not to make any comparison. They were then asked about their satisfaction with their personal relationships and their sexual relationships. As anticipated, those with a high degree of sexual narcissism were very sensitive to such comparisons and were dissatisfied with their sexual and personal relationships when forced to compare themselves in a non-favourable way.

“People are curious about the sexuality of others and make comparisons that impact how they feel about their own relationships,” Day said. “This curiosity has opened a completely new line of research for us.”

Complete Article HERE!

Contraception influences sexual desire in committed relationships

The role of human sex outside of reproduction remains something of an evolutionary mystery. But scientists believe that it is partly about tying the parties in the relationship together.

By Liv Ragnhild Sjursen

How often women in heterosexual couples desire sex depends on how committed the relationship is and what type of birth control the woman uses.

Sex is quite wonderful when the goal is to have children. But sex can also serve as a “glue” in a committed relationship.

Most animals have periods when they come into heat, and outside of these periods they don’t find sex interesting at all.

Humans, however, are constantly interested in sex. This interest can seem like a waste of energy, but an evolutionary perspective may explain why we function this way.

More sex with progesterone and commitment

A new study from NTNU and the University of New Mexico confirm that sex is important for pair–bonding between men and women in relationships.

The researchers also found a correlation between the type of oral contraceptive women use and how often couples have sex.

The findings were recently published in the scientific journal Evolution & Human Behavior.

“The function of sex in humans outside ovulation is an evolutionary mystery. But we believe that it has to do with binding the parties in the relationship together,” says Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, a professor of psychology at NTNU.

Kennair worked with Trond Viggo Grøntvedt, Nick Grebe and University of New Mexico Professor Steve Gangestad to ask hundreds of Norwegian heterosexual women about contraception, sex and relationships.

Their results show that of women in long-term relationships and who are using hormonal contraception, those who are more committed to their relationships have more sex with partners, as one might expect.

“But this association was especially true when the contraceptive that women used had potent levels of synthetic hormones that mimic the effects of the natural hormone progesterone, and lower levels of the hormone oestrogen,” Gangestad said.

“We’re talking about intercourse here, not other types of sex like oral sex, masturbation and such. This strengthens the idea that sex outside the ovulation phase has a function besides just pleasure,” says Grøntvedt.

Big differences between types of contraceptives

Hormonal contraceptives, like birth control pills, implantable rods and patches, contain two types of hormones:

Oestrogen, which naturally peaks just before ovulation when naturally cycling women can conceive offspring, and hormones that have the same effect as progesterone, which naturally peaks during the extended sexual phase, a time when offspring cannot be conceived.

The levels of each hormone type vary in different contraceptives. Hence, some contraceptives mimic hormones that are more characteristic of ovulation, whereas others mimic hormones when women can’t conceive.

The women who used contraception with more oestrogen were most sexually active when they were in a less committed relationship.

On the other hand, women who used contraception with more progesterone were the most sexually active when they were faithful and loyal to their partners.

“Before we did this study, we didn’t know how much difference there was between the two types of hormonal contraceptives,” says Grøntvedt.

A credible holistic picture

The researchers surveyed two groups of women. All the women were using hormonal contraception and were in committed, heterosexual relationships.

One group consisted of 112 women that researchers followed over a 12-week period. The women were asked how often and when in their cycle they had sex.

The second sample group consisted of 275 women in long–term relationships who used hormonal contraception.

This group was not followed over time, but the researchers asked them how many times they had had sex in the past week. This type of study – using data collected at a specific point in time – is called a cross-sectional study.

Both groups were asked to indicate the type of contraception they were using, and if a pill, which brand it was.

“Since we examined these two groups using different methods – a snapshot for the one group and a longitudinal study for the other – we can be confident that the results provide a reliable overall picture,” Grøntvedt said.

Natural or synthetic hormones had similar effects

The basis for the NTNU study was a 2013 American study, where 50 women and their partners answered a series of questions about their relationships, menstrual cycles and frequency of sex.

None of these women were using any kind of hormonal contraception, so only their natural hormones were involved.

The study showed that women initiated sex more in the extended sexual phase – when they were not ovulating and progesterone was the dominant hormone – if they were invested in the relationship.

NTNU researchers wanted to verify the American results in their study, but with participants who were using a hormonal contraceptive that simulates a natural cycle.

Their results were the same as in the US study, in which women were not using any hormonal birth control.

The researchers were thus able to show that how often women have sex is linked to how committed they feel towards their partner and the type of hormone they are governed by, whether natural or synthetic.

“A lot of social psychology studies that have led to cool discoveries through the ages have lost status, because it hasn’t been possible to copy them and verify the results.”

“We are extremely pleased to have been able to verify the results of the study by Grebe and his colleagues, and we are equally pleased that we have also made new discoveries,” Kennair says.

Complete Article HERE!

Lacking the desire to have sex with your partner?

Scientists think they know how to cure your problem – and it’s all down to chocolate

Scientists found kisspeptin, which is found in chocolate, helps to make men much more interested in sex and relationships

By Victoria Allen

A ‘chocolate hormone’ could help to get couples in the mood for sex and fall more deeply in love.

Kisspeptin, which is named after a chocolate snack, is the hormone in the brain which kickstarts puberty.

And it may explain something about the behaviour of teenage boys, after scientists found it makes men much more interested in sex and relationships.

Young men injected with the hormone and then given brain scans showed a flurry of activity in the parts of the brain activated by sexual arousal and romance. It means similar injections could be used to help men to start a family.

Professor Waljit Dhillo, the lead author of the research from Imperial College London, said: ‘Our initial findings are novel and exciting as they indicate that kisspeptin plays a role in stimulating some of the emotions and responses that lead to sex and reproduction.

‘Ultimately, we are keen to look into whether kisspeptin could be an effective treatment for psychosexual disorders, and potentially help countless couples who struggle to conceive.’

One in 10 men in the UK are believed to have sexual problems, many suffering a lack of libido caused by relationship issues, stress and anxiety.

This can cause problems for couples trying for a child and advised to have regular sex throughout the month.

But kisspeptin is hoped to hold the answer, following a trial involving 29 healthy young men.

Those injected with kisspeptin, discovered in the mid-1990s in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and named after sweets from the city called Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses, reacted differently to sexual and non-sexual romantic pictures of couples.

In an MRI scanner, where their brains were monitored, there was greater activity in the parts of the brain typically activated by sexual arousal and romance than the men given a placebo.

Professor Dhillo said: ‘Most of the research and treatment methods for infertility to date have focused on the biological factors that may make it difficult for a couple to conceive naturally.

‘These of course play a huge part in reproduction, but the role that the brain and emotional processing play in this process is also very important, and only partially understood.’

The effect is likely to come from kisspeptin’s role in starting puberty, by stimulating the release of reproductive hormones.

A study from Edinburgh University previously found it fuels the production of testosterone, which is key to male libido and fertility

The researchers now want to study how the hormone affects women as well as men, while kisspeptin might also work as an antidepressant.

Volunteers shown negative and fearful emotional faces in pictures said they felt less bad in follow-up questionnaires after receiving the hormone, with less activity in brain structures important in regulating a bad mood.

Dr Alexander Comninos, first author of the study at Imperial, said: ‘Our study shows that kisspeptin boosts sexual and romantic brain activity as well as decreasing negative mood.

‘This raises the interesting possibility that kisspeptin may have uses in treating psychosexual disorders and depression which are major health problems which often occur together, but further studies would be needed to investigate this.’

Complete Article HERE!