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No, Scientists Have Not Found the ‘Gay Gene’

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By Ed Yong

The media is hyping a study that doesn’t do what it says it does.

A woman works with human genetic material at a laboratory in Munich May 23, 2011. On May 25, 2011 the ethic commission of the German lower house of parliament (Bundestag) will discuss about alternative proposals for a new law on the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (Praeimplantationsdiagnostik) is a technique used to identify genetic defects in embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) before pregnancy, which is banned by German legislation.

This week, a team from the University of California, Los Angeles claimed to have found several epigenetic marks—chemical modifications of DNA that don’t change the underlying sequence—that are associated with homosexuality in men. Postdoc Tuck Ngun presented the results yesterday at the American Society of Human Genetics 2015 conference. Nature News were among the first to break the story based on a press release issued by the conference organisersOthers quickly followed suit. “Have They Found The Gay Gene?” said the front page of Metro, a London paper, on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, the mood at the conference has been decidedly less complimentary, with several geneticists criticizing the methods presented in the talk, the validity of the results, and the coverage in the press.

Ngun’s study was based on 37 pairs of identical male twins who were discordant—that is, one twin in each pair was gay, while the other was straight—and 10 pairs who were both gay. He analysed 140,000 regions in the genomes of the twins and looked for methylation marks—chemical Post-It notes that dictate when and where genes are activated. He whittled these down to around 6,000 regions of interest, and then built a computer model that would use data from these regions to classify people based on their sexual orientation.

The best model used just five of the methylation marks, and correctly classified the twins 67 percent of the time. “To our knowledge, this is the first example of a biomarker-based predictive model for sexual orientation,” Ngun wrote in his abstract.

The problems begin with the size of the study, which is tiny. The field of epigenetics is littered with the corpses of statistically underpowered studies like these, which simply lack the numbers to produce reliable, reproducible results.

Unfortunately, the problems don’t end there. The team split their group into two: a “training set” whose data they used to build their algorithm, and a “testing set”, whose data they used to verify it. That’s standard and good practice—exactly what they should have done. But splitting the sample means that the study goes from underpowered to really underpowered.

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There’s also another, larger issue. As far as could be judged from the unpublished results presented in the talk, the team used their training set to build several models for classifying their twins, and eventually chose the one with the greatest accuracy when applied to the testing set. That’s a problem because in research like this, there has to be a strict firewall between the training and testing sets; the team broke that firewall by essentially using the testing set to optimise their algorithms.

If you use this strategy, chances are you will find a positive result through random chance alone. Chances are some combination of methylation marks out of the original 6,000 will be significantly linked to sexual orientation, whether they genuinely affect sexual orientation or not. This is a well-known statistical problem that can be at least partly countered by running what’s called a correction for multiple testing. The team didn’t do that. (In an email to The Atlantic, Ngun denies that such a correction was necessary.)And, “like everyone else in the history of epigenetics studies they could not resist trying to interpret the findings mechanistically,” wrote John Greally from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in a blog post. By which he means: they gave the results an imprimatur of plausibility by noting the roles of the genes affected by the five epi-marks. One is involved in controlling immune genes that have been linked to sexual attraction. Another is involved in moving molecules along neurons. Could epi-marks on these genes influence someone’s sexual attraction? Maybe. It’s also plausible that someone’s sexual orientation influences epi-marks on these genes. Correlation, after all, does not imply causation.

So, ultimately, what we have is an underpowered fishing expedition that used inappropriate statistics and that snagged results which may be false positives. Epigenetics marks may well be involved in sexual orientation. But this study, despite its claims, does not prove that and, as designed, could not have.

In a response to Greally’s post, Ngun admitted that the study was underpowered. “The reality is that we had basically no funding,” he said. “The sample size was not what we wanted. But do I hold out for some impossible ideal or do I work with what I have? I chose the latter.” He also told Nature News that he plans to “replicate the study in a different group of twins and also determine whether the same marks are more common in gay men than in straight men in a large and diverse population.”Great. Replication and verification are the cornerstones of science. But to replicate and verify, you need a sturdy preliminary finding upon which to build and expand—and that’s not the case here. It may seem like the noble choice to work with what you’ve got. But when what you’ve got are the makings of a fatally weak study, of the kind well known to cause problems in a field, it really is an option—perhaps the best option—to not do it at all. (The same could be said for journalists outside the conference choosing to cover the study based on a press release.)As Greally wrote in his post: “It’s not personal about [Ngun] or his colleagues, but we can no longer allow poor epigenetics studies to be given credibility if this field is to survive. By ‘poor,’ I mean uninterpretable.”

“This is only representative of the broader literature,” he told me. “The problems in the field are systematic. We need to change how epigenomics research is performed throughout the community.”

Complete Article HERE!

Chlamydia at 50… Could it be you?

by Jenny Pogson

senior intimacy

If you think only young people are at risk of sexually transmitted infections, think again – rates could be on the rise in older adults.

With more of us living longer and healthier lives, and divorce a reality of life, many of us are finding new sexual partners later in life.

While an active sex life comes with a myriad of health benefits, experts are warning those of us in mid-life and beyond not to forget the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection from a new partner.

Figures suggest rates of infections have been on the increase among older people in the US and UK in recent years and there is a suggestion the same could be happening in Australia.

Chlamydia, a common bacterial STI, is on the up among all age groups in Australia, and has more than doubled in those over 50 since 2005; going from 620 cases to 1446 in 2010.

Gonorrhoea, another bacterial infection, has seen a slight increase in the over 50s, rising from 383 infections in 2005 to 562 in 2010.

While these increases could partly be attributable to more people being tested, the trend has caused concern in some parts of the medical community here and overseas.

Cultural shift

Older people are increasingly likely to be single or experiencing relationship changes these days, according to the UK’s Family Planning Association, which last year ran its first sexual health campaign aimed at over 50s.

It’s much easier to meet new partners, with the advent of internet dating and the ease of international travel. Plus, thanks to advances in healthcare, symptoms of the menopause and erectile dysfunction no longer spell the end of an active sex life.

But despite this, education campaigns about safe sex are generally aimed at younger people; not a great help when it’s often suggested that older people are more likely to feel embarrassed about seeking information about STIs and may lack the knowledge to protect themselves.

And, as noted by Julie Bentley, CEO of the UK’s Family Planning Association, “STIs don’t care about greying hair and a few wrinkles”.

Risky sexual practices

Dr Deborah Bateson, medical director at Family Planning NSW, started researching older women’s views and experience of safe sex after noticing a rise in the number of older women asking for STI tests and being diagnosed with STIs, particularly chlamydia.

The organisation surveyed a sample of women who used internet dating sites and found, compared with younger women, those aged between 40 and 70 were more likely to say they would agree to sex without a condom with a new partner.

Similarly, a telephone survey commissioned by Andrology Australia found that around 40 per cent of men over 40 who have casual sex do not use condoms.

While the reasons behind this willingness to engage in unsafe sex are uncertain, Bateson says older people may have missed out on the safe sex message, which really started to be heavily promoted in the 1980s with the advent of HIV/AIDS.

In addition, older women may no longer be concerned about becoming pregnant and have less of an incentive to use a condom compared with younger women.

“There is a lot of the information around chlamydia that relates to infertility in the future, so again for older women there may be a sense that it’s not relevant for them,” she says.

However, the Family Planning survey did find that older women were just as comfortable as younger women with buying condoms and carry them around.

“There’s obviously something happening when it comes to negotiating their use. Most people know about condoms but it’s just having the skills around being able to raise the subject and being able to negotiate their use at the actual time,” Bateson says.

As with most things in life, prevention is better than cure – something to remember when broaching the topic of safe sex and STIs with a new partner.

“If you’re meeting a new partner, they are probably thinking the same thing as you [about safe sex],” says Bateson.

“So being able to break the ice [about safe sex] can often be a relief for both people.”

Stay safe

Anyone who has had unprotected sex, particularly with several people, is potentially at risk of STIs, says Professor Adrian Mindel, director of the Sexually Transmitted Infections Research Centre based at Westmead Hospital, Sydney.

“People who are changing partners or having new partners, they and their partner should think about being tested,” he says.

“Also think about condom use at least until [you] know [the] relationship is longer lasting and that neither of [you] are going having sex with anyone outside the relationship.”

The UK’s Family Planning Association also stresses that STIs can be passed on through oral sex and when using sex toys – not just through intercourse.

It also notes that the signs and symptoms of some STIs can be mistaken as a normal part of aging, such as vaginal soreness or irregular bleeding.

And remember that often infections don’t result in symptoms, so you may not be aware you have an STI. However, you can still pass an infection on to a sexual partner.

So if you are starting a new sexual relationship or changing partners, here is some expert advice to consider:

  • If you have had unprotected sex, visit your GP to get tested for STIs. This may involve giving a urine sample to test for chlamydia, examination of the genital area for signs of genital warts, or a swab of your genitals to test for STIs such as herpes or gonorrhoea. A blood test may also be required to test for syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B.
  • If you are starting a new relationship, suggest your partner also gets tested.
  • Use a condom with a new partner until you both have been tested for STIs and are certain neither of you is having unprotected sex outside the relationship.
  • If you have symptoms you are concerned about, such as a urethral discharge in men or vaginal discharge, sores or lumps on the genitals, pain when passing urine or abdominal pains in women, see your GP.

Complete Article HERE!

Beginning Sex Play — Tips and Techniques

I most frequent hear from your average Dick and Jane, (or Dick and Dick, or Jane and Jane) who want to spice up their sex life. When they write to me they inevitably describe the kind of sex they’re currently having. And almost universally that description makes this grown man cry. Jeez, the boredom. How can they stand it? It’s a wonder any of them are having sex at all.

big funWhat’s with all the humdrum, run of the mill, we’ve always done it that way mentality? Are ya’ll afraid that if you add a little something new to your sex chore from time to time that the sky will fall? Holy cow!

Today’s tutorial is yet another attempt to motivate you to get off your butts and make something interesting happen in the sex department. We’ll begin today with what was once called foreplay.

First off, I hate the word “foreplay” because it suggests that all the really great sex play activities out there are only a lead up to a single — more important activity — that is fucking. It also implies that ya’ll can dispense with the one in order to hurry up and get to the other. And that, sex fans, is always a huge mistake.

From now on I want you to banish “foreplay” from your vocabulary. Instead let’s start using “Beginning Sex Play.” It says it all. It says it’s at the beginning, but there’s no suggestion that anything in particular must follow.amazing sex secrets

I’m of the mind that we’d all be better served if we thought of sex play as a continuum of pleasure with a beginning, middle and an end. If you ask me, our sex play ought mirror our sexual response cycles — arousal, plateau, orgasm and resolution. That way we’re less likely to overburden one particular activity at the expense of all the others. Get it? Got it? Good!

Experienced sex fans agree; the best sexual encounters include an extended period of sensual play at the beginning of most all sex play. This brings increased pleasure to both partners, and will make whatever else that might follow more satisfying. Just remember, beginning sex play can be a meal in itself.

Beginning sex play brings spice to the encounter because it gets our motors started. Even all you major sex athletes out there, who are perpetually primed for sex, will benefit from more beginning sex play. It will help cool your jets and make the encounter last longer than a firecracker. And I know that you know what I mean!

erotic talkIn our hectic rush-around-world, beginning sex play is particularly important. It helps us transition from the daily cares and woes to the realm of sensual pleasures. The workaholics among us need more time to become fully aroused. Our minds are still filled with the junk of the day, and not yet ready to give or receive pleasure. And pleasuring and being pleasured, I might add, takes a big attitude shift from that of the rest of the day. In fact, if you’re gonna try and approach sex and pleasure with the same mindset as you have on the job or with the kids, give it up now and be done with it. You’ll only walk away from the encounter disappointed.

Beginning sex play primes us for maximum pleasure. Us men folk will have the time we need to come to full erection and the women folk will have the time they need to properly lubricate. (By the way, this is called the arousal stage in our sexual response cycle).

When we stop thinking of beginning sex play as “foreplay” we realize there is no such thing as spending too much time giving and getting pleasure. If beginning sex play evolves into full-on fucking — SWELL. Both partners will be fully aroused and fucking will flow naturally and effortlessly from the pleasure enjoyed at the beginning of sex play.

Beginning sex play can include everything from chocolate and whipped cream to whips and chains. But let’s not get too far ahead of our selves. Let’s start at the beginning of beginning sex play, shall we? beginner's guide

Most people miss out on the pleasure of undressing with and for their partners. Stripping out of, or being helped out of our daily wear and into something sexy or nothing at all can be very arousing. It’s also a visual signal that we’re shifting out of our work-a-day world and entering the realm of sensuality. Stripping is an art form, ya know. We could all learn a lesson or two from the folks who do this for a living, but more about this in THIS tutorial.

Creating the right sex environment is important too. Make sure the room is warm. Proper lighting and music will surely add to the mood. Scents are also important. More and more people are incorporating erotica into their sex play — reading a sexy story together or enjoying some hot porn will make the encounter memorable.

Most women complain that their partners don’t kiss long enough and rush the kissing to get at their pussy. Guys, what the fuck? You want pussy? Use your mouth to maximum advantage kiss and nibble all over everything. Literally devour your partner with your mouth. Believe me, if you do this right, by the time you get to her pussy she’s gonna want to give it up big time.

Hanky Spanky Gift SetBeginning sex play is the perfect time for setting the mood for all that might follow. It’s a time for sharing fantasies, role-playing, dirty talk or some full body massage. Always have some nice lotion available then use your hands, forearms, feet and elbows to knead your partner’s muscles and naughty bits.

Certain areas on the body are more hot-wired than others. It’s your job to find each and every one your partner has. As you massage vary your strokes and touch to stimulate your partner. Roll your fingertips across his or her nipples and behind his or her ears as you kiss him and tease her with your tongue.

If you’re doin things right, your partner will be moaning with pleasure. If she or he starts getting impatient it’s time to bring out the restraints. There’s nothing like some hot erotic bondage to punctuate the beginning sex play.

While your darling is subdued and possibly blindfolded, crank things up a notch. Add different sensations and stimuli, a warm chocolate sauce followed by ice cream. A fur mitt followed by a Loofah. Introduce some sex toys — a vibrator, tit clamps, or an anal simulator.

Don’t forget to check in with your partner from time to time. Ask for some feedback and direction. Do you like this? Or do you like this better? If you presume that you know what your partner likes simply because he or she liked it before, that, my friend, is a recipe for boredom and the dreaded bed death. If words fail you, SHOW your partner what you want. Then encourage your partner to do the same.002

Beginning sex play is not about pressing the right buttons in the right order. It is about understanding what makes your partner tick and supplying and applying those things to their greatest sensual advantage. There are many ways to give your partner extreme pleasure, and it all begins in your brain. Beginning sex play is as much of an art form as it is a necessity. Finally, the basic premise behind all of this is that the great lover is one that gives pleasure because it is its own reward, not a means to getting something else.

Good luck

I’m just along for the ride

Dear Dr Dick,
My husband (34) and I (31) are coming up of ten years of marriage, and for the most part our sex life has been what I would consider average. He’s pretty much been the aggressor in our relationship, which has worked out fine until now. I guess after ten years my husband would like it if I occasionally expressed interest and initiated and told him what I like/don’t like etc. I really have no idea how to do that! I told him that and his comment was that maybe I wasn’t even sure what I liked/don’t like and that I’ve pretty much just been going along for the ride all these years. He’s probably right.
We used to kiss and cuddle etc. to work up to sex and now it’s, “hey, you wanna have sex?” which completely turns me off (which he knows). I’m sure this is partly due to his work schedule and having a four year old so by the time we get to bed we’re wiped out most of the time, but I’m so not into the, “hey, you wanna…” approach.
Anyway, I guess my question is how do I get started in figuring out what I like and don’t like, how do I work up to feeling comfortable enough to verbalize it and especially verbalize or show him that I’m in the mood, and then how do I tell him I don’t like something without shutting him down. There are times, I know I don’t like something but I go along with it because I don’t want to shut him down.
I should preface by saying I’m not a very confident person and tend to be a people pleaser?
Thanks,
Brandi

You’re husband’s right. It is fuckin’ time you started lifting your share of the sexual initiation load. I mean come on! Most women would kill for a man in their life that would show an interest in what they like and don’t like. This going along for the ride stuff has got to end, darling.

female nude159How do you get started in figuring out what you like and don’t like? Masturbation! That’s the shortest and most to the point answer I can think of. Once you discover what turns your crank through masturbation you will have loads of very important information to share with you man. And hey, don’t forget toys, vibrators in particular.

How do you work up to feeling comfortable enough to verbalize what turns you on and verbalizing or showing him that you are in the mood? The answer to this question is as simple as the previous question. You masturbate for him.

Now I know that a lot of people, and that includes most women, have been socialized to think that masturbation is wrong, or at least it’s a private affair that one should keep to herself. But I’m her to tell you that’s just bull-hockey. And this is true for both women and men, gay and straight and everyone in between.

How do you tell him you don’t like something without shutting him down? Well, it’s probably much easier to tell him what you like and how you like it rather than approaching the tutorial from the negative. If he’s not completely brain dead, he WILL get the message. If, however, he starts to do something that is rubbing you the wrong way, so to speak, simply tell him as calmly as possible that he will get a much bigger and better rise out of you if he did it THIS way. And then show him…again.masturbation001

That fact that you sometimes don’t like something but that you often if not always go along with it tells me that you’ve socialized your man into thinking he’s an adequate lover when he perhaps isn’t. Its time for a confession, girlfriend! Be as gentle as you can, but for god sake, it’s time to come clean.

Take responsibility for keeping him in the dark about his lack of sexual prowess. Then tell him that there’s a very easy and fun fix for the problem and show him what you need and how you need it.

If you indeed lack the confidence you need to be honest with the one you love and who loves you back, then frankly Brandi, you deserve what little you get. But if you can muster up the gumption to throw off the tyranny of that whole people pleasing bullshit you’ve been laboring under all these years, then you have a real shot at some happiness and sexual fulfillment. It’s gonna be up to you to make this happen. If you need some support find a sex positive therapist who will help you grow some balls.

Good luck

Pride Goeth Before The Fall

Name: Jen
Gender: female
Age: 59
Location: North Dakota

I’m a widow and I am so sad. The fellow I’m going with, I really love him, but I can’t have an orgasm with him. I was able to have an orgasm with my husband who is passed away. And I can when I am playing with a toy by myself.

He has such pride and I don’t want to hurt his feelings, because it would take me about a half hour of foreplay to get there.

Thank you for your message, Jen. Your concern about your man and his inability to rock your world is, sadly, a very familiar complaint. I hear it from women all the time.pride

You say that your man is prideful and that you don’t want to hurt his feelings. But are you really willing to sacrifice your sexual wellbeing on that altar? I hope not. Even prideful men can learn something about pleasuring the woman they are with.

Let’s just say that this guy your dating knew how to pleasure all the women he has ever been with previous to you. That pedigree doesn’t make him an expert on pleasuring every other women he will meet, and that includes you.

Allow me to share with you the exchange I had with another woman in your situation. Perhaps my advice to her will be helpful to you. This is from…

Name: Zoe
Gender: female
Age: 25
Location: Boise
I learned how to masturbate when I was 12. From that first time I’ve loved how it makes me feel. No matter how good my lovers are; they never come close to the pleasure I feel when I’m touching myself. I like the intimacy I have with my boyfriend, but he’s not very good in the sack. I’ve been trying to get him to watch me masturbate, or we could masturbate together, so that he’d know how to touch me and make the bells ring. Unfortunately, he’s really straight-laced and he thinks my suggestion is perverted. He resists every time I bring it up. Sometimes after we have sex, I wait for him to fall asleep then get myself off. Is this selfish?

selfish-man

You betcha it’s selfish, selfish as all get-out. Not you, Zoe, but the bonehead you’re fuckin’. This is a classic, “you can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” sorta deal. Only here we have a “you can lead the horse’s ass to the mysteries of pussy, but you can’t make him appreciate them.”

I gotta ask, what makes a sexually enlightened chick like you hook up with and stay with bozo like him? Do you actually think that he’s gonna magically come around one fine day and let you lead him to nirvana? I think not. You know why I think this? It’s because you’ve created a monster — an “all I need to worry about is me gettin’ off in my girlfriend’s snatch” kinda monster. And that’s one scary kinda monster.

I am of the mind that it’s fruitless to try to get an obstinate partner, like your guy to do something he doesn’t want to do. The nagging alone will harden his resolve to resist. This does not mean you’ll never get your way. It just means that you have to go about this in a completely different way than, “oh honey, won’t you please cum and watch me jill-off? In the numbskull’s defense, he may be missing the point completely. He may not understand why you want him to watch you pleasure yourself. So if your agenda is to get him to be a better lover, that’s how you’re gonna have to approach the big lug.

First off, he needs to be told, in no uncertain terms, that he’s not the Hercules in the boudoir he thinks he is. This is gonna sting his ego like crazy and it might very well be the end of him and you altogether. But I assure you, risking this is much better than maintaining the status quo. Because, with each passing fuck, he will be more convinced then the fuck before that he’s da man.im_da_man

Once you burst his bubble, you’ll need to immediately inflate a new one for and with him. Us men folk can’t live very long with out our illusions. Begin this inflation process by taking some responsibility for this predicament. Own up to keeping him in the dark about his lack of sexual prowess. Then tell him that there’s a very easy and fun fix for the problem. Maybe if he understands that you want to jill-off for him as a tutorial, he’d be more compliant.

I’d be willing to guess that if you made this presentation more of a game or a role-play scenario then a seminar he’d be more receptive. Why not try something like this. Introduce a blindfold into your sex play. Have him strip down to his jock for you, then blindfold him. It’s gonna be his job to get you off without using the magic wand he has stuck in his jock. The blindfold will necessitate that he use his hands (and mouth) to find and pleasure you. While you tease his dick inside his jock guide his hands to your pussy. He’ll no doubt be fumbling around at first, so you’ll have to encourage him with some dirty talk, or actually use his hand to jill yourself off. Just remember keep it fun and playful and keep his dick safely tucked away.

You can see how this little exercise could be educational for him without being emasculating. Once he figures out that there’s more to sex than the old in and out, he might actually cum around, so to speak. Similarly, you might, on another occasion, submit to the blindfold yourself and have him use your hand to jack himself off. In time, you be able to do away with the blindfold altogether. But then, you might want to introduce restraints of some sort. While he’s buck naked and restrained put on a hot and horny show for him. Tease him with your self-pleasuring, but don’t let him touch you. Maybe rub yourself with his stiff cock. Since he’ll be unable to resist, it will be like masturbating with his pecker. Doesn’t that sound like a load of fun for all concerned?

Good luck