How genes and evolution shape gender – and transgender – identity

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There are many genes involved in shaping not just our biological sex, but also our gender identity.

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Mismatch between biological sex and gender identity, culminating in its severest form as gender dysphoria, has been ascribed to mental disease, family dysfunction and childhood trauma.

But accumulating evidence now implies biological factors in establishing gender identity, and a role for particular genes.

Variants – subtly different versions – of genes linked with gender identity might simply be part of a spectrum of gender and sexuality maintained throughout human history.

Transgender and gender dysphoria

Some young boys show an early preference for dressing and behaving as girls; some young girls are convinced they should be boys.

This apparent mismatch of biological sex and gender identity can lead to severe gender dysphoria. Coupled with school bullying and family rejection, it can make lives a torment for young people, and the rate of suicide is frighteningly high.

As they move into adulthood, nearly half of these children (or even more when the studies are closely interrogated), continue to feel strongly that they were born in the wrong body. Many seek treatment – hormones and surgery – to transition into the sex with which they identify.

Although male to female (MtF) and female to male (FtM) transitions are now much more available and accepted, the road to transition is still fraught with uncertainty and opprobrium.

Transwomen (born male) and transmen (born female) have been a part of society in every culture at every time. Their frequency and visibility is a function of societal mores, and in most societies they have suffered discrimination or worse.

This discrimination stems from a persistent attitude that transgender identification is an aberration of normal sexual development, perhaps exacerbated by events such as trauma or illness.

However, over the last decades, growing recognition emerged that transgender feelings start very early and are very consistent – pointing to a biological basis.

This led to many searches for biological signatures of transsexualism, including reports of differences in sex hormones and claims of brain differences.

Sex genes and transgender

In the 1980s I was swayed by the passionate advocacy of Herbert Bower, a psychiatrist who worked with transsexuals in Melbourne. He was revered in the transgender community for his willingness to authorise sex change operations, which were highly controversial at the time. Aged in his 90s, he came to my laboratory in 1988 to explore the possibility that variation in the genes that determine sex could underlie transgender.

Dr Bower wondered if the gene that controls male development might work differently in transgender boys. This gene (called SRY, and which is found on the Y chromosome) triggers the formation of a testis in the embryo; the testis makes hormones and the hormones make the baby male.

There are, indeed, variants of the SRY gene. Some don’t work at all, and babies who have a Y chromosome but a mutant SRY are born female. However, they are not disproportionately transgender. Nor are the many people born with variants of other genes in the sex determining pathway.

After many discussions, Dr Bower agreed that the sex determining gene was probably not directly involved – but the idea of genes affecting sexual identity took root. So are there separate genes that affect gender identity?

Evidence for gene variants in transgender

The search for gene variants that underlie any trait usually starts with twin studies.

There are reports that identical twins are much more likely to be concordant (that is both transgender, or both cisgender) than fraternal twins or siblings. This is probably an underestimation given that one twin may not wish to come out as trans, thus underestimating the concordance. This suggests a substantial genetic component.

More recently, particular genes have been studied in detail in transwomen and transmen. One study looked at associations between being trans and particular variants of some genes in the hormone pathway.

Studies of twins help us learn about the genes involved in determining identity.

A recent and much larger study assembled samples from 380 transwomen who had, or planned, sex change operations. They looked in fine detail at 12 of the “usual suspects” – genes involved in hormone pathways. They found that transwomen had a high frequency of particular DNA variants of four genes that would alter sex hormone signalling while they had been developing in utero.

There may be many other genes that contribute to a feminine or a masculine sexual identity. They are not necessarily all concerned with sex hormone signalling – some may affect brain function and behaviour.

The next step in exploring this further would be to compare whole genome sequences of cis- and transsexual people. Whole genome epigenetic analyses, looking at the molecules that affect how genes function in the body, might also pick up differences in the action of genes.

It’s probable that many – maybe hundreds – of genes work together to produce a great range of sexual identities.

How would “sexual identity genes” work in transgender?

Sexual identity genes don’t have to be on sex chromosomes. So they will not necessarily be “in sync” with having a Y chromosome and an SRY gene. This is in line with observations that gender identity is separable from biological sex.

This means that among both sexes we would expect a spread of more feminine and more masculine identity. That is to say, in the general population of males you would expect to see a range of identities from strongly masculine to more feminine. And among females in the population you would see a range from strongly feminine to more masculine identities. This would be expected to produce transwomen at one end of the distribution, and transmen at the other.

There is a natural range in masculine and feminine identity.

This occurrence of a range of differing identities would be comparable with a trait such as height. Although men are about 14 cm taller than women on average, it’s perfectly normal to see short men and tall women. It’s just part of the normal distribution of a certain human characteristic expressed differently in men and women.

This argument is similar to that which I previously described for so-called “gay genes”. I suggested same–sex attraction can readily be explained by many “male-loving” and “female-loving” variants of mate choice genes that are inherited independently of sex.

Why is transgender so frequent then?

Transgender is not rare (MtF of 1/200, FtM of 1/400). If gender identity is strongly influenced by genes, this leads to questions about why it is maintained in the population if transmen and transwomen have fewer children.

I suggest genes that influence sexual identity are positively selected in the other sex. Feminine women and masculine men may partner earlier and have more kids, to whom they pass on their gender identity gene variants. Looking at whether the female relatives of transwomen, and the male relatives of transmen, have more children than average, would test this hypothesis.

I made much the same argument to explain why homosexuality is so common, although gay men have fewer children than average. I suggested gay men share their “male loving” gene variants with their female relatives, who mate earlier and pass this gene variant on to more children. And it turns out that the female relatives of gay men do have more children.

These variants of sexual identity and behaviour may therefore be considered examples of what we call “sexual antagonism”, in which a gene variant has different selective values in men and women. It makes for the amazing variety of human sexual behaviours that we are beginning to recognise.

Complete Article HERE!

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If You’re Sexually Woke, Then Let Straight Men Experiment Freely

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“Through [gay] experiences, I found out that I am completely straight. I won’t go back.”

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When a woman mentions she’s had an “experimental phase,” it’s often shrugged off as a shared experience. But when men share this same information, the results are often more extreme: They’re teased, labeled gay, or their masculinity is questioned; a Glamour survey even found that 63% of women wouldn’t date a man who had sex with another man. This is an extension of the idea that female homosexuality and sexual fluidity are more socially accepted.

All of this information is nothing new. What’s less known, however, is exactly how interested men are in sex with other men: Are straight men just as curious as women, but shame is suppressing their desire, or are women indeed the more sexually fluid gender?

 

“I know of no evidence that shows that men are less likely than women to have an ‘experimental phase,’” Ritch C. Savin-Williams, Ph.D., and author of Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity Among Men tells NewNowNext. “I do believe men are less likely to report it to researchers, on surveys, or to their friends and families due, in part, to the ‘homohysteria’ that pervades our culture.”

As result of his research, Savin-Williams believes men are just as curious in same-sex dalliances as women, and argues if men were “allowed” to engage in such behavior, more would. “I do believe there is a subset of straight men who are fascinated by penises and they might well have sex with a man for that reason.”

 

When a woman mentions she’s had an “experimental phase,” it’s often shrugged off as a shared experience. But when men share this same information, the results are often more extreme: They’re teased, labeled gay, or their masculinity is questioned; a Glamour survey even found that 63% of women wouldn’t date a man who had sex with another man. This is an extension of the idea that female homosexuality and sexual fluidity are more socially accepted.

All of this information is nothing new. What’s less known, however, is exactly how interested men are in sex with other men: Are straight men just as curious as women, but shame is suppressing their desire, or are women indeed the more sexually fluid gender?

 

“I know of no evidence that shows that men are less likely than women to have an ‘experimental phase,’” Ritch C. Savin-Williams, Ph.D., and author of Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity Among Men tells NewNowNext. “I do believe men are less likely to report it to researchers, on surveys, or to their friends and families due, in part, to the ‘homohysteria’ that pervades our culture.”

As result of his research, Savin-Williams believes men are just as curious in same-sex dalliances as women, and argues if men were “allowed” to engage in such behavior, more would. “I do believe there is a subset of straight men who are fascinated by penises and they might well have sex with a man for that reason.”

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This last point is one of many uncovered in a 2017 study. Researchers from Northwestern University conducted 100 interviews with men who identified as straight, but sought casual sex with men online. After analyzing the results, the study concluded that these men are indeed primarily attracted to women, with no sexual attraction to men—despite the desire to have sex with men.

Confused? The result relies on semantics. To researchers, “sexual attraction” must include both “physical” and “emotional” attraction. So while these men have a sexual attraction (a combination of both emotional and physical attraction) toward women, it is often only a physical attraction when it comes to men. Some said they aren’t drawn toward male bodies as much as they are female, and others observe they’re only interested in penises. Some will even limit what they’re willing to do with men to convince themselves that their sexual interest in women is stronger than their attraction toward men.

“I know what I like. I like pussy,” Reggie, 28, shares in the survey. “I like women. The more the merrier. I would kiss a woman. I can barely hug a man. I do have a healthy sexual imagination and wonder about other things in the sexual realm I’ve never done. Sometimes I get naughty and explore. That’s how I see it.”

John, 43, is less lewd in his perspective. He tells NewNowNext that masturbating didn’t come naturally to him, so he had a friend show him how. After that inaugural moment, the rest was history. “I have had anal sex and oral sex with a few other guys as a young man, mostly out of sexual frustration but also experimenting. Ultimately, through these experiences, I found out that I am completely straight. I won’t go back.”

Based on the men he’s spoken with in his career, Eric Marlowe Garrison, certified sexuality expert and bestselling author, laments most straight men experiment as a top, mimicking cisgender, heterosexual intercourse. Some do bottom, of course. But that’s considered feminine and submissive.

Author Dan Savage wrote in The Stranger, “If a straight guy sucks one cock and gets caught—just that one cock, just that one time—no one will take him seriously when he says he’s straight.”

But what if it’s more than one cock? What if these straight-identifying men are having regular sex with men? Are they still considered straight or would their sexual preference veer into bisexual territory? What’s the barometer here? Better yet, does one even exist?

“I believe one can be male, straight, and have gay sex without changing either of the first two,” Savin-Williams says. “Of course, they might well be ‘mostly straight,’ a spot on the sexual continuum next to totally straight. Thus, gay sex might not be experimental but an expression of their slight degree of same-sex sexuality.”

Garrison agrees, suggesting that straight men who experiment shouldn’t be scrutinized any more than “a vegan whom you catch eating chicken.”

Same-sex experimentation, though often discouraged, is well documented throughout male history. Think fraternity and military hazing rituals, online personal ads, and straight men frequenting public restrooms for gay sexual encounters pre-Grindr. With such a complicated and discreet history, can straight guys ever experiment without reprimand? Sexuality isn’t black and white‚ it exists on a spectrum. Sexologist Alfred Kinsey published this discovery back in 1948. A lesbian can mess around with a guy every now and then and still identify as gay, just like a heterosexual man can hook up with a man and still identify as straight.

Fortunately, it appears that with each passing generation people’s understanding of sexuality is expanding inch by inch. Savin-Williams and Garrison believe today’s youth are more likely to report that they have engaged in same-sex dalliances, given the more positive attitudes toward same-sex behavior.

In addition to these expert perspectives, a study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior previously analyzed same-sex experiences between 1990 and 2014 and found not one but two encouraging results. First, it revealed that people’s acceptance of same-sex relationships had quadrupled in the timespan; and second, that same-sex activity had nearly doubled for men and women. The final survey in the study documented that 7.5% of men aged between 18 to 29 reported a gay sexual experience and 12.2% of women in the same age bracket reported a lesbian experience.

Sexual experimentation is exploration at its core. And as progressive attitudes toward sexual fluidity emerge, men may become more comfortable openly exploring rather than remaining curious and, perhaps, adopting homophobic attitudes as a result of suppression. Whether they learn they like men or find out they’re more definitively attracted to women, with less social-cultural stigma, that information will be theirs to discover—not for others to judge.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexual desire can spark a real connection

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Sex helps initiate romantic relationships between potential partners, a new study finds.

“Sex may set the stage for deepening the emotional connection between strangers,” says lead author Gurit Birnbaum, a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel. “This holds true for both men and women. Sex motivates human beings to connect, regardless of gender.”

The study, which appears in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, was limited to heterosexual relationships. According to Birnbaum, some believe that men are more likely than women to initiate relationships when sexually aroused, but when one focuses on more subtle relationship-initiating strategies, such as providing help, this pattern does not hold true: in fact, both men and women try to connect with potential partners when sexually aroused.

In four interrelated studies, participants met a new acquaintance of the opposite sex in a face-to-face encounter. The researchers demonstrate that sexual desire triggers behaviors that can promote emotional bonding during these encounters.

“Although sexual urges and emotional attachments are distinct feelings, evolutionary and social processes likely have rendered humans particularly prone to becoming romantically attached to partners to whom they are sexually attracted,” says coauthor Harry Reis, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

An attractive stranger

In the first study, the researchers looked at whether sexual desire for a new acquaintance would be associated with non-verbal cues signaling relationship interest. These so-called immediacy behaviors are displayed in the synchronization of movements, close physical proximity, and frequent eye contact with a study insider who worked with the scientists. The study participants, all of whom identified as single in addition to heterosexual, were recruited at a university in central Israel.

Study 1 included 36 women and 22 men who lip-synched to pre-recorded music with an attractive, opposite-sex study insider. Afterwards, participants rated their desire for the insider, whom they believed to be another participant. The scientists found that the greater the participant’s desire for the insider, the greater their immediacy behaviors towards, and synchronization with, the insider.

Study 2 replicated the finding with 38 women and 42 men who were asked to slow dance with an attractive, opposite-sex insider, whom they believed to be a study participant. Again, the researchers found a direct association between synchronization of body movement and desire for the insider.

Study 3 included 42 women and 42 men and established a causal connection between activating the sexual behavior system and behaviors that help initiate relationships. In order to activate the sexual system, the researchers used a subliminal priming technique in which they flashed an erotic, non-pornographic image for 30 milliseconds on a screen, which participants were not aware of seeing.

Next, participants interacted with a second study participant—essentially a potential partner—discussing interpersonal dilemmas while on camera. Afterwards judges rated the participants’ behaviors that conveyed responsiveness and caring. The scientists found the activation of the sexual system also resulted in behaviors that suggested caring about a potential partner’s well-being—an established signal for interest in a relationship.

Study 4 included 50 women and 50 men. Half the group watched an erotic, non-pornographic video scene from the movie The Boy Next Door. The other half watched a neutral video of rainforests in South America.

Next, study participants were assigned an attractive opposite-sex insider and told to complete a verbal reasoning task. The insider pretended to get stuck on the third question and asked the participant for help. The researchers found that those participants who had watched the erotic movie scene were quicker to help, invested more time, and were perceived as more helpful, than the neutral video control group.

Bonding for baby’s sake?

What then could explain the role of sex in fostering partnerships? Human sexual behavior evolved to ensure reproduction. As such, sex and producing offspring don’t depend on forming an attachment between partners. However, the prolonged helplessness of human children promoted the development of mechanisms that keep sexual partners bonded to each other so that they can jointly care for their offspring, says Birnbaum. “Throughout human history, parents’ bonding greatly increased the children’s survival chances,” she says.

Prior neuroimaging research has shown that similar brain regions (the caudate, insula, and putamen) are activated when a person experiences either sexual desire or romantic love. The researchers surmise that this pattern hints at a neurological pathway that causes sexual activation—the neural processes that underlie a sexual response—to affect emotional bonding.

They conclude that experiencing sexual desire between previously unacquainted strangers may help facilitate behaviors that cultivate personal closeness and bonding.

“Sexual desire may play a causally important role in the development of relationships,” says Birnbaum. “It’s the magnetism that holds partners together long enough for an attachment bond to form.”

Support for the research came from the Binational Science Foundation (BSF).

Complete Article HERE!

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Having a gay friend makes you a better person according to science

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It seems like a no-brainer: having LGBTQ friends leads to more accepting attitudes towards the rights of queer people, but until now, little has shown this all goes together when someone comes out to their straight friends.

Now, a recent study has shed light into the connections, showing that people who have LGBTQ friends are more likely to change their attitudes towards LGBTQ people and issues over time.

Using data from the 2006, 2008, and United States General Social Survey (GSS), Daniel DellaPosta, a sociology professor at Pennsylvania State University, was able to show evidence of change in the culture attitudes towards LGBTQ people.

What he found was clear: those who responded to the GSS that they had one or more LGBTQ friend in 2006, “exhibited greater shifts toward increased acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage in 2008 and 2010.”

Of those in the 2006 sample, 54% had at least one gay acquaintance, with 47% of those reporting a gay coworker and 31% a gay family member.

The change in attitudes towards LGBTQ people may even be more pronounced when people face an acquaintance like a family member coming out to them after knowing them for some time, implying that great weight is attached to those with whom one has already formed a bond.

“This theory is perhaps most eloquently expressed in Harvey Milk’s famous exhortation for gays and lesbians in all walks of life to ‘come out’ to their friends, relatives, and coworkers in order to ‘end prejudice overnight,’” said DellaPosta in the study.

Perhaps most notably, the effect of such contact is strongest among “older, politically conservative” straight people. While they were most likely to be against same-sex marriage in 2006, for example, they are also the ones more likely to change their viewed based on having a close friend of acquaintance come out to them in the ensuing years.

Of course, the study is reluctant to say that such a change in attitudes will happen in every case, particularly in casual contact. It also questioned those who remain negative in the face of an LGBTQ friend or acquaintance.

“There are clear limitations to the analysis undertaken here that should make these findings necessarily provisional,” reads the study. “Most critically, we might wonder whether there is some underlying and unobserved selection in the type of person who reports relatively negative views toward homosexuality at baseline but nevertheless reports a gay acquaintance.”

Nevertheless, they do recommend more study in the field, looking at how the change in attitudes can be affected by population shifts and other factors.

Complete Article HERE!

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Homosexuality in nature: Bisexual and gay animals

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So many people question if animals can be gay, and the answer is, of course.

Every LGBT+ person will cringe upon hearing that their lifestyle is a “choice.” Unfortunately, people around the world still firmly believe that.

For those who believe that homosexuality is a result of being “brainwashed” by society, they should turn their attention to homosexuality in nature.

Indeed, there are bisexual and homosexual members of the animal kingdom beyond mere humans. (And we’re pretty sure that the sheep weren’t ‘turned gay’ from watching ‘gay agenda’ on television.)

Homosexuality in nature

From birds to mammals and reptiles, homosexuality is present in all kinds of animals who are able to have sexual intercourse.

These bisexual and gay animals include penguins, lions, bats, birds, dolphins, elephants and much more.

Join us as we go through some animals that are out and proud.

Bisexual and gay animals

1) Penguins

Penguins are known to mate for life, and they certainly are romantic specifies as they are often in monogamous pairings. Indeed, a penguin is probably more faithful than your ex.

And among these monogamous couples, there are many same-sex couples among penguins.

These gay animal couples will often even adopt their own baby chick, either by caring for an abandoned penguin or by kidnapping one from another couple.

 

Homosexuality among penguins has actually been known for some time. It was discovered and hidden from the public in 1911 as it was deemed ‘too shocking’. The information was then released over 100 years later in 2012.

George Murray Levick had the privilege of observing a wild colony of Adélies penguins at Cape Adare during 1911-1912. There, he described the “astonishing depravity” of “hooligan males” as they had homosexual intercourse, which was highly controversial during the time (apparently even among penguins), as well as conducting in necrophilia and forcefully entering female penguins.

2) Primates

From bonobo apes to snow monkeys and orangutans, there are countless reports of homosexual activities within the primate kingdom.

All bonobos are bisexual species, and other kinds of primates show various homosexual behaviour, found in both zoos and the wild.

3) Black swans

An estimated one-quarter of all black swans are in gay couples.

The same-sex pair of black swans often steals nests from the female so they can raise the chick. Equally, they often form threesomes (or thruples) with the female in order to do this.

Not only that, but black swans may also have relationships with other kinds of birds as seen with the infamous New Zealand love story between Thomas the goose and Henry the swan.

Thomas the goose (left) and Henry the swan.

The bird couple spent “18 happy gay years together” before Henry left Thomas for a female swan.

Then, after Thomas got over his heartbreak, he joined them to make the threesome a thruple.

4) Lizards

Homosexuality is also present in lizards in a rather unique way.

Certain species of whiptail lizards are exclusively female, and the females are able to reproduce from the ovum without the fertilization of a male.

In order to stimulate ovulation, female lizards engage in homosexual behaviour.

Geckos are also known to shown homosexual behaviour in a non-reproductive manner.

5) Dolphins

You’ve probably heard that dolphins are among the few animals that have sex for pleasure.

It’s therefore not that surprising that the adorable sea creatures get involved in some saucy acts of love.

There have been reports of dolphins having same-sex group sex, with spottings of the Amazon river dolphin forming bands with up to five bisexual dolphins.

Dolphins are known to have group sex.

Without regard to gender, dolphins are observed having non-reproductive sex, rubbing each other’s genitals and using their blowhole, anus, penis, snouts, vagina and flippers.

6) Vultures

At Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, two male griffon vultures named Dashik and Yehuda were somewhat of a couple.

The bisexual vultures hit headlines in 1998 when they were often seen having “open and energetic sex.”

Not only that, the couple even raised a chick together. Zookeepers had provided the couple with an artificial egg which the birds had looked after through incubation. Once it was time to hatch, zookeepers put in a baby vulture.

Of course, not all love stories last forever and after some rocky years together, Dashik and Yehuda split up.

They each moved on to have female partners, leaving their wonderful, gay animal romance behind.

7) Elephants

African and Asian elephants will engage in homosexual animal relationships, and males will engage in homosexual intercourse.

Elephants often engage in homosexual intimate relationships

There are reports of affectionate same-sex interactions beyond mere sex. Elephants virtually hold hands by intertwining their trunks, groom and kiss.

The same-sex companionships may last for several years and are apparent in both sexes.

8) Bats

From oral sex to homosexual masturbation and intercourse, various bat species often engage in homosexual behaviour, even cross-species with different kinds of bats forming homosexual animal relationships.

Such behaviour has been observed in both wildlife and in captivity.

9) Lions

There are many reports of gay lion pairings within the wild. Males are observed engaging in homosexual intimate behaviour.

There are countless reports of homosexual activity between lions

However, exclusively female relationships are rare with most reports of lesbian activity within captivity rather than the wild.

10) Insects

Gay sex is very common among various kinds of insects. Scientists found that 85 percent of male insects engage in homosexuality in nature.

This means that billions of bugs around the world are having gay sex each year.

Despite the high number, many scientists claim that it’s a case of mistaken identity, with insects doing it by accident, actually intending to impregnate a female mate.

The infamous gay sheep studies

You’ve probably heard of this highly publicised study by Oregon Health and Science University in 2003.

While most members of the animal kingdom swap between male and female partners, domestic rams are unique in that they can be completely gay, with 8-to-10 per cent of sheep exclusively homosexual.

A similar percentage of sheep also appear to be asexual, however, many believe that a large part of them could be lesbian sheep who do not have the physical capacity to show their lust given their structure as female sheep simply stand still regardless of whether they want intimacy or not.

However, instead of just letting these sheep be, heterosexual reproductive sex is considered so important in agriculture that experiments were conducted on the gay sheep to attempt to “cure” their homosexuality by altering their hormone levels in the brain.

The reality is that the discoveries from these sheep, along with other members of the animal kingdom, suggests that homosexuality in nature is indeed biological, despite what many homophobic people may argue.

Not to mention, of course, what we see and know from human beings. Surely, what we observe in society and throughout history should be enough? But that combined with the amazing facts about the animal kingdom tips the scales.

There is homosexuality in nature all around the world, whether people like it or not. These are just a few animals that we listed. No doubt, there are hundreds upon hundreds more.

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s Everything Science Discovered About Sex & Relationships In 2018

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I’ll admit it: I was known to doodle in the back of chem class, and I dipped out of physics whenever I could. Simply put, science has never been my thing — except, however, when it involves the dating realm. With each study that’s released, I eagerly read the findings, hoping that I may glean some wisdom from other couples’ lives that may impact mine. And what science discovered about sex & relationships in 2018 is nothing short of groundbreaking. The insightful research conducted this year can not only help us understand what behaviors, traits and qualities make for more successful relationships and healthier sex lives, but also which ones could be detrimental.

Indeed, science has revealed so much about relationships and sex over the decades. It has taught us, for example, that single people spend more on dating than those in relationships do. It has also uncovered which occupations are most popular on dating apps (spoiler alert: nurse, dentist, and photographer get the most right swipes for women, while interior designer, pilot, and physician’s assistant are the most attractive when it comes to men). We’ve also learned that porn viewing can have a negative effect on relationship satisfaction for men.

As they say, knowledge is power. Here are some of the most profound findings science offered up in the realm of dating, relationships, and sex over 2018.

The more you think your partner depends on your relationship, the less likely you are to break up with them.

There are many reasons why someone might put off a breakup, despite feeling unhappy in a relationship. According to a pair of studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2018, people often avoid breakups when they feel like it may take a toll on their SO because the relationship is very important to them. In fact, the more dependent on the relationship people perceived their partner to be, the less likely they were to initiate a breakup.

It makes total sense when you think about it: No one wants to hurt someone who has played an important role in their lives, and obviously, breaking off a bond that matters to them will likely be hurtful.

Problematic Facebook use is linked to relationship anxiety.

Ever noticed how some people have a tendency to share a lot of intimate details of their lives, or to make themselves look better? Well, using Facebook in problematic ways is associated with insecurities about one’s close relationships, according to recent research published in BMC Psychology.

It all comes down to your attachment style. People with high attachment anxiety agree with statements such as “I am afraid that I will lose my partner’s love.” And the study revealed that attachment anxiety was associated with comparing oneself to others, oversharing personal information about oneself, and creating a false impression of oneself while using Facebook. Moreover, these people were more likely to use the social network at the expense of other activities. Meanwhile, people with high attachment avoidance agree with statements such as “I get uncomfortable when my partner wants to be very close.” And those people were more likely to use Facebook to create a false impression of oneself as well. Not only that, but researchers discovered that the link between attachment insecurity and these Facebook behaviors was even stronger among people with low self-esteem.

Sharing the dishwashing duties can improve relationship satisfaction.

No one loves vacuuming or taking out the trash. But as it turns out, of every possible chore, washing the dishes causes the most conflict in relationships — only, of course, when the responsibility is mainly left to one partner. A report from the Council of Contemporary Families revealed that when women are often left to clean all the dishes, they tended to argue more with their partner and reported lower sexual satisfaction compared to those who had a partner who helped out.

Ultimately, the study showed that sharing all household chores can improve a relationship. Fortunately, the study also revealed that men have taken on more household chores over the past several decades: in fact, they perform twice as much housework on a weekly basis than they did in 1965.

Relationship gains is a real thing.

It’s long been speculated that there’s a link between one’s relationship status and their weight — and this was confirmed by a recent study conducted at the University of Queensland in Australia. Researchers found that couples in happy relationships weighed an average of 13 pounds more than single people, and that they experienced an average weight gain of four pounds per year. Could it possibly be because once you’re comfortable in a relationship, your self-confidence soars, so you’re less concerned with obsessing over the scale (hooray!)? It’s unclear why this happens, but it’s worth noting that there’s really nothing wrong with it, as long as you’re physically healthy — in fact, note that the study specified it’s happy couples who experience this weight gain.

And here’s another tidbit of good news: The study also found that people in relationships tend to have healthier habits overall than single people, including eating less fast food, and consuming more fruits and veggies.

Feeling obligated to work after office hours can hurt your relationship.

“Let me just make sure that client hasn’t responded,” you think to yourself while anxiously checking your email before you and bae have dinner. Apparently, while this kind of behavior may make you look good to your boss, it can be detrimental to your relationship. New research published in Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings found that being expected to monitor work emails around the clock can take a toll on your mental health and overall well-being. People who felt obligated to check emails outside of traditional office hours reported higher levels of anxiety. Remarkably, that seemed to have a spillover effect, as those people’s partners reported not only decreased well-being but also lower relationship satisfaction.

“Phubbing” is associated with relationship dissatisfaction.

It’s no secret that nowadays, people may ignore their SO while they’re in their presence to use their smartphone instead. Just take a look around next time you’re out to eat, and notice how many people on dates are checking their email or scoping their Instagram feeds. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, this phone snubbing behavior — deemed “phubbing” — actually increases the likelihood of relationship dissatisfaction. How? Phubbing seems to create emotional distance between partners, which then obviously takes a toll on their bond.

The study’s authors concluded that phubbing “violates fundamental human needs” and ultimately results in “negative communication outcomes.”

Talking about sex with friends can boost your sexual well-being.

If watching Sex and the City feels downright autobiographical, you and your besties may be doing something right: A new study published in the International Journal of Sexual Health revealed that discussing sex with friends is associated with greater overall sexual well-being for women.

According to the study, when women had supportive female pals who offered up encouraging or positive advice or feedback, they were more likely to confront a partner to ask for a change in their sex life. They were also more likely to ask their SO if they’d been tested for STDs.

On-again, off-again relationships can negatively impact mental health.

From fictional couples like Rachel and Ross to real-life ones like Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick, we’re all familiar with the on-again, off-again relationship. And as you may have suspected, science has shown that these relationships aren’t exactly healthy. A study published in Family Relations in August 2018 found that the uncertainty that results from breaking up and reuniting over and over again is linked to a higher risk of mental health issues. Both straight and gay couples who engage in these kinds of relationships were more likely to experience depression and anxiety.

Most women would take “amazing food” over sex.

If you’d take a mind-blowing brownie over some below-the-waist action any day, you’re not alone. Everyday Health’s recent Women’s Wellness Survey of revealed that 73 percent of the over 3,000 women surveyed would take an amazing meal over sex when given the option between the two.

It’s not the first time science has shown that some surprising things take priority over getting some, either. One previous survey by Max Borges Agency showed that shopping on Amazon is more important to many millennials than sex.

The more you know, eh? Next time you’re looking to boost your dating or sex IQ, look to science for some seriously thought-provoking knowledge. We may not have all the answers yet, but at the very least, we’re getting a little wiser to what works — and what doesn’t.

Complete Article HERE!

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University of Minnesota study finds frequent distress over sexual impulses

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Researchers said they were surprised to find only a modest gender split: 7 percent of women reported distress over sexual urges, compared to 10.3 percent of men.

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Distress over controlling sexual urges and impulses is a more common problem than previously thought — for both men and women — and could be interfering with the jobs, relationships and happiness of millions of Americans.

That’s the takeaway from a new University of Minnesota study, which examined responses to a national survey on sexual behavior and found that 8.6 percent of people reported “clinically relevant levels of distress and/or impairment associated with difficulty controlling sexual feelings, urges, and behaviors.”

Previous research estimated that 2 percent to 6 percent of people struggled with control of their sexual impulses, said Janna Dickenson, the lead author and a human sexuality researcher in the U’s School of Medicine. “This is a much higher prevalence than we thought,” she said.

The types of behavior causing distress could vary, Dickenson said, from having more sex than desired, to masturbating during work hours, to habitual sexting or viewing pornography. People who commit sexual assault could be included in this group, but Dickenson said the survey reflects a much broader array of people struggling with everyday problems rather than illegal actions.

Media coverage of sex scandals involving celebrities such as Tiger Woods has raised the possibility that sexually compulsive behavior is becoming more common, the authors noted, but few studies have checked to see whether that’s true.

Distress over sexual urges is a key symptom of compulsive sexual behavior (CSB) disorder, which is newly recognized in the World Health Organization’s latest compendium of medical diagnoses, the ICD-11. Not all people who expressed such feelings in the survey have the disorder, though.

University of Minnesota researchers analyzed responses by 2,325 adults to the 2016 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. Considered one of the richest data sets regarding sexual attitudes, the survey is conducted by Indiana University and funded by the parent company of Trojan Condoms.

Within the survey, respondents answered 13 questions on a five-point scale ranging from 1 (never) to 5 (very frequently). Questions included whether respondents’ sexual activities ever caused financial problems, or whether they had created excuses to justify their sexual behaviors. Scores of 35 or higher suggested compulsive problems.

Researchers said they were surprised to find only a modest gender split: 7 percent of women exceeded that score, compared with 10.3 percent of men. This in some ways defies old cultural expectations that men are “irrepressible” and women are “sexual gatekeepers” who keep their impulses in check, the authors wrote.

The study found that distress was most common among people with low incomes and without high school diplomas, but also was more common among the highest-income earners. It also was more common among people who are members of racial minorities or who are gay, but the authors urged caution in interpreting those results. Their scores may reflect the higher level of stress that comes from being marginalized individuals in the first place.

Based on survey responses in a single year, the study couldn’t answer whether sexual distress is a rising problem, or why it is common. It’s possible that compulsive behaviors are exacerbated by the contrast between hypersexualized media messages and the social norms of sexual restraint.

Dickenson said she hopes the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s online open network, will raise the profile of compulsive sexual behavior as a problem requiring doctors’ attention.

“CSB is clearly an important sexual health concern,” she said, “that needs greater attention.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Size Really DOES Matter When It Comes to Male Fertility

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Here’s the question of the century: Does size really matter?

Well, when it comes to sexual pleasure, many women say no, because it’s more about the way you work it and how attractive you are than how big your penis is.

But according to new research presented this week at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in Colorado, the answer is yes; size does matter…when it comes to fertility.

Apparently, men who aren’t too well-hung also tend to have more problems with fertility compared to men who are well endowed.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, recruited over 800 participants from a sexual health clinic and tracked them for three years.

The results revealed that men who struggle with infertility have, on average, a penis that is one centimeter shorter than those who don’t have reproductive issues. To be more specific, the average penis length was found to be 12.5cm (4.9 inches) for infertile men, and 13.4cm (5.3 inches) for fertile men.

“It may not be a striking difference but there was a clear statistical significance,” says head researcher Dr. Austen Slade.

Slade believes the reason for the relationship between a shorter penis size and infertility is likely due to underlying problems, such as hormonal disturbances or imbalances, or problems in the testes, which can lead to smaller penile length.

However, he also assures everyone that if you have a smaller peen but are otherwise completely healthy, there’s nothing to worry about.

“This is the first study to identify an association between shorter penile length and male infertility,” Slade says. “It’s possibly a manifestation of congenital or genetic factors that predispose one to infertility. For now, men with shorter penises don’t need to worry about their fertility.

“It remains to be determined if there are different penile length cut-offs that would predict more severe infertility,” he concluded.

Complete Article HERE!

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Men And Women (But Especially Men) Are Confused About How Much Sex Everyone Is Having

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By Aliyah Kovner

Psychologists and social theorists are well aware of the fact that popular culture has been perpetuating myths about human sexuality since, well, forever. But given that we are living in an era of increasing sexual liberation, at least in Western nations, and social media oversharing, this has gotten better in recent years – right? Maybe not.

According to a survey by polling firm Ipsos, both men and women in the UK and US are wildly out of touch with reality in regards to the intimate activities of the opposite sex. But (some) men are particularly clueless.

The research data – collected from online queries given to between 1,000 and 1,500 people, aged 16-64 or 18-64, in each country – reveals that the average guess among men for how often a typical young woman (18 to 29 years old) has sex is 23 times per month in the US and 22 times a month in the UK. However, the women of this age group who were polled reported having sex an average of five times per month – a more than four-fold difference in expectation vs reality.

“It’s interesting that this misperception is so profound. It really illustrates the extent to which men really don’t understand female sexuality,” Chris Jackson, a spokesperson for Ipsos, told BuzzFeed News. “Men just don’t seem to have a good understanding of the reality for women. I guess that’s not actually news.”

Guesses about young men’s sexual frequency were also far off the mark, but not as dramatically. The overall average estimate (from both men and women) was that 18 to 29-year-old males are doing it about 14 times per month, whereas the average self-reported number was four.

And demonstrating that women are not free from misunderstanding, the Ipsos survey showed that the average guess among females of all ages for the frequency of young women’s sexual encounters was 12 times a month.

Of course, because the survey assessed a broad group of people, likely with large differences in lifestyle, and didn’t account for differences in sexual activity between those in relationships or single, the “real” figures listed must be taken with a massive grain of salt. In addition, relying on people’s self-reported numbers leads to dubious accuracy, and it is important to note that this survey is not peer-reviewed research and focused only on heterosexual encounters.

Keeping these limitations in mind, it is still amusing to look at the outcomes of the next section of the study, which asked participants to guess how many sexual partners the average man and woman in their country have had by age 45 to 54. Men and women in the US, UK, and Australia (where another ~1,500 people were polled) were pretty good at guessing the average man’s number (between 17 and 19), as you can see in the chart below. But American men did an appalling job at guessing for women – estimating an average of 27 compared to the reported 12 – and both men and women in the UK and Australia were also far off.

When guessing why men’s numbers are so much higher than women’s considering that heterosexual sex involves one of each, the Ipsos pollsters report that such findings are common in sex polls.

“There are a number of suggested explanations for this – everything from men’s use of prostitutes to how the different genders interpret the question (for example, if women discount some sexual practices that men count),” they wrote.

But it seems most likely to be a mix of men’s rougher and readier adding up, combined with men’s conscious or unconscious bumping up of their figure, and women’s tendency to deflate theirs. It seems that the most reasonable conclusion is that men up their number a bit, women downplay theirs a bit more, and we actually reveal something close to the truth when guessing for ‘other people’”

Complete Article HERE!

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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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