Category Archives: Sex Science

Who’s avoiding sex, and why

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By Shervin Assari

Sex 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

Our 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

No, 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.

Ever 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

Hirschfeld’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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