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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!

What’s Your True Sexual Orientation? The Purple-Red Scale Is Here to Help You Find Out

The Purple-Red Scale

By Nicolas DiDomizio

When reality TV dumpling Honey Boo Boo Child declared that “everybody’s a little bit gay” three years ago, she was unknowingly taking a page out of sexologist Alfred Kinsey’s book. His famous Kinsey scale, which identifies people’s levels of same- or opposite-sex attraction with a number from zero to six (zero being exclusively straight, six being exclusively gay), has been a favorite cultural metric for measuring sexual orientation since it was created in 1948.

But even though asking someone where they fall on the Kinsey scale is now a common dating website opener, the Kinsey scale is far from an all-inclusive system. As Southern California man Langdon Parks recently realized, the scale fails to address other aspects of human sexuality, such as whether or not we even care about getting laid in the first place.

So Parks decided to develop a more comprehensive alternative: the Purple-Red Scale of Attraction, which he recently posted on /r/Asexuality. Like the Kinsey scale, the Purple-Red scale allows you to assign a number from zero to six to your level of same-sex or heterosexual attraction, but it also lets you label how you experience that attraction on a scale of A to F. A represents asexuality, or a total lack of interest in sex “besides friendship and/or aesthetic attraction,” while F represents hypersexuality.

Pick your letter-number combo below:

What's Your True Sexual Orientation? The Purple-Red Scale Is Here to Help You Find Out

Parks told Mic that he came up with the idea for the Purple-Red scale after learning about asexuality and realizing that he was a “heteroromantic asexual, or a B0 on the scale” — someone who is interested exclusively in romantic, nonsexual relationships with the opposite sex.

“I then thought, not only are there sexual and asexual people, [but] there are different kinds of sexual people as well,” he said. “I thought of adding a second dimension to Kinsey’s scale to represent different levels of attraction.” (As for the color scheme, Parks opted for purple because of its designation as the official color of asexuality, while “‘red-blooded’ is a term often used to describe someone who is hypersexual.)

The scale represents all possible degrees of sexual attraction, from those who only want to have sex when they’re in a relationship to those who are ready and rarin’ to go pretty much whenever. For instance, if we use Sex and the City as an example, Carrie would likely be an E1, while the more prudish Charlotte is probably more of a D0 and uptight Miranda an E0. Our beloved bisexual, sex-crazed Samantha? Totally an F2.

What's Your True Sexual Orientation? The Purple-Red Scale Is Here to Help You Find Out

Busting myths about sexual attraction: Back in 1978, Dr. Fritz Klein tried to update the scale to make it more inclusive of a wider range of sexual experiences, as well as sexual fantasies. His final product, the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, came out a bit clunky, however, and was still based on the assumption that everyone using it was capable of experiencing sexual attraction in the first place.

Parks’ Purple-Red Scale accounts for those who experience sexual attraction at different times in different contexts, as well as those who don’t experience it at all. That’s notable in part because although asexuality is not exactly rare — according to one estimate, approximately 1 in 100 people are asexual, though they might not self-identify as such — it’s one of the most widely misunderstood sexual orientations, with many people assuming that asexuals are just closeted gay people or too socially awkward to have sex.

But asexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation with many unique shades of its own. As the Huffington Post reported back in 2013, many asexual people don’t just identify as asexual. For instance, they can also self-identify as “heteroromantic” (meaning they’re interested in having exclusively romantic, nonsexual relationships with members of the opposite sex) or “demisexual” (meaning they’re open to experiencing sexual attraction within the context of a strong emotional connection or committed relationship).

“Some people don’t want to have sex in a relationship at all, and others view it as the whole point of the relationship,” Parks told Mic. “Yet others typically start off having no feelings but build them up over time. Still others don’t want sex for themselves, but are still willing to have it for other reasons,” such as to procreate or make their partner happy.

That’s why Parks’ Purple-Red scale is so important: It acknowledges the shades of grey in sexual orientation and sexual interest. Both, he explained, are fluid and largely dependent on context.

Why do we need scales in the first place? While the Purple-Red scale is helpful in classifying sexual attraction, some people might argue that we don’t need a cut-and-dry system for classifying our sexuality in the first place. If the burgeoning “label-free” movement of sexual fluidity is any indication, coming up with clinical labels like “E2” or “B0” might be purposeless or even counterproductive to achieving true sexual freedom.

But Parks believes that having a simple tool like the Purple-Red Attraction Scale can be useful, particularly as a way to improve communication in the dating world. “The scale was designed to provide a quick and easy way of scoring a person’s view of relationships on forums and dating sites,” he said. Imagine, for instance, if you logged onto OkCupid and entered your sexual orientation as D5, instead of simply self-identifying as “gay,” “straight” or “bisexual.”

Parks also noted that the Purple-Red scale is a great way to match partners who have similar or compatible sex drives. “Attraction type is every bit as important as orientation,” he told Mic. “We see it all the time: John wants sex, sex, sex, while Jane doesn’t have the feeling right away.”

Because discrepancies in sex drive can cause problems in same-sex and opposite-sex relationships, Parks wants people to use the scale as a way to establish sexual compatibility right off the bat.

“Instead of relying on assumptions like ‘Oh, he’s a guy, go for it!’ or ‘She’s a woman, wait for it,’ people can now use their letters to describe their basic outlook on relationships,” he said.

“Attraction type is every bit as important as orientation.”

Perhaps one day, we’ll live in a world where we don’t need something like the Purple-Red scale to tell us about our own sexuality; a world where we don’t need to fit who we want to have sex with into boxes or spectrums or scales. But for the time being, whether you’re a B2 or an F5 or a D6, it’s cool that we have something like Parks’ scale to help us answer the nagging questions about sexual orientation that our culture keeps asking us to answer — and maybe it can help us find out a little bit more about ourselves.

Complete Article HERE!

Plays Well With Others

Name: Jim & Elaine
Gender: Couple
Age: 42 & 38
Location: Denver
We have been happily married for 15 years. We have a good, but pretty vanilla sex life together. We want to spice things up and are talking about maybe looking for other couples online. We’re both in good shape and have very outgoing personalities. Both of us have had one short affair in the past, now we think we want to play together. Thoughts?

You guys want to look for other couples online…for ummm sex? I mean you imply that but you don’t really come right out and say it, do you? I know you are new to this and you are just feeling your way through this unfamiliar territory, but unless you want to look like rank amateurs by other consensual non-monogamous couples, like swingers and polyamorous folks…and that’s what we’re talking about, right? You’d better get comfortable articulating precisely what it is you want, how you want it, and with whom.white on black

If you’ve already begun your online search, you’ve probably already discovered that there are several different avenues for you to pursue. There are, of course, dating and profile sites. There are also sites that feature ads from other non-monogamous couples. If swinging is what you are after, there are exclusive swing parties and more inclusive swinger clubs. And each of these outlets may offer special groupings for the fetish-oriented swinger.

Since you don’t actually say what kind of consensual non-monogamy you’re looking for, let’s talk swinging for now. Like I said, this isn’t the only kind of consensual non-monogamy, but it’s probably the oldest most established variety.

Before you swing, you guys need to decide what type of swing-set you want. If the vocabulary that follows is unfamiliar to you, you have some remedial homework to do before you launch your swing-capade. There is “soft” swinging and “hard” swinging. And bisexually may or may not be an option for you.

polyamory1If you assume that all swingers are open-minded about sex, consider this; lots of swing outlets prohibit male-on-male sex. Personally, I find this extremely bizarre and off-putting, but I suppose it only reflects the prejudices of the popular culture. There are some swing-sets that allow novice swingers to simply to be voyeurs. I can’t fuckin’ figure this out either. Maybe it’s a heterosexual thing.

If you gravitate toward the club-set there are 3 types to consider:

  1. SEX clubs — these clubs allow full-on sex, but only in designated areas.
  2. NO-SEX clubs — allow for lots of exhibitionism and voyeurism, including nudity, but no full-on sex. These clubs are great for meeting other swingers and to set up your own sex dates.
  3. Swinger parties are NO-SEX events, and are usually held in a nightclub or restaurant. Again, you can meet like-minded folks there and set up your own sex dates.

Whichever outlet you choose; make sure you understand the rules and regulations of the get together before you attend.

Like I said, it’s of the utmost importance that you guys decide, in advance, what your limits are. A good number of otherwise healthy marriages flounder at this point. Have a clear and frank exchange with each other on the ground rules of your swinging and then stick to them. Trying to negotiate a change to the rules of engagement during a swing is a very bad idea. That’s not to say that your ground rules won’t change and evolve over time; just don’t attempt to adjust them while they are in play.

Never push your partner into doing something he/she is not ready to do. Be open with each other before, during and especially after a swing. Effective communication is essential. This goes for communicating with your fellow swingers. Be sure to let everyone know that you are newbees to the scene. (Don’t worry, everyone will have figured that out already.) Novices stick out like a sore…hard-on.

Sexy people

Sexy people

Most clubs and groupings don’t allow single men. Most swing-sets are women oriented, to the degree that women set the tone for the swing. That being said, it’s still a man’s world. Men generally dictate the type of sexual expression that will be tolerated — thus the prohibition, stated or unstated, against male on male sex. Female on female sex is, of course, encouraged for obvious reasons. How’s that for a screwed-up double standard?

Most clubs expect full or partial nudity. My swinger friends advise that if you just want to attend so you can ogle others, stay the fuck home! Novice swingers, like you guys, ought to stay together until you feel comfortable being apart. But for Christ sake, don’t glom on to one another like the other swingers have the cooties.

Most of all, take responsibility for your eroticism and your sexuality. Be friendly and good-natured. And don’t try to pretend you’re a more accomplished sexual athlete than you are.

Be advised, you are about to embark on a sexual journey that will take you to the edges of what society regards as appropriate sexual behavior. Don’t be surprised if some of your more traditional friends discriminate against you when they find out about your new activities. Finally, swinging is far less about what you do (sex) and way more about who you are (a lifestyle). To that end, I’d like to turn you on to a fantastic resource. Check out my friends, John and Allie, at SwingerCast.  And be sure to listen to my two-part interview with them right here on my site. You’ll find Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE!

Good luck

Sexual Frustration Reigns

Hello Dr. Dick

First time question to you. I’m sure you’ve probably heard this one a million times, but I could use some advice :-)

I married my best friend. Sex has never been frequent or great. Most of the time he finishes in less than five minutes of penetration and I rarely if ever get to orgasm. The first and last time I think I did have an orgasm I think was the day we conceived our little girl.

He’s a great guy in all other aspects, but when it comes to the bedroom, it doesn’t happen. I’ve tried seducing him (which he responds to eagerly, finishes and then rolls over and goes to sleep), tried asking if we could try different things (different has ended up being one of two positions – missionary and woman on top – he does not like and will not do anything else). He also does not want to and won’t do stimulation with his hands or anything else for that matter. He also does not like or want toys in the bedroom, for him or me.

Any ideas on how I can convert him into a wife pleaser? I’m at my wits end. Last time I seduced him to get some “cock” in me was two months ago and needless to say I didn’t get any satisfaction. For the first time though I took care of things myself and at least I slept without really resenting him :)

I’ve been trying to not care, but I’ve found out I’m a very passionate woman who only gets more passionate with time… and with those needs not being met, I’m wondering if it’s the end? Can people be happy without sex? I haven’t found a way to yet but if you know of something, please let me know.

Anyway, if you have a chance to respond to my ramblings it would be appreciated… even if you have some insight into his actions/non-actions it would be greatly appreciated.

Coral

You’re right; I have heard this a million times.

sexual frustrationI’m gonna spare you the niceties and get right t the point, Coral. Your husband is clearly not up to the task of being your lover. His behaviors and his disinterest in finding a solution to the problem you have together tells me that he is a selfish lout. And how in the world can he be your best friend. Best friends don’t behave like this.

Let me put it to you another way. If you were writing to me to tell me that your husband hordes all the food in the house to himself. That he has you feed him till he is satisfied, but offers you only crumbs to sustain you. And that he won’t even negotiate you getting the food you need to survive and sustain yourself. What do you think I would say about that?

I suppose you see where I’m going with that, right? Listen, you oughtn’t be beggin’ for shit that is rightfully yours.

I have one real simple premise that I live by. And that is, each of us has a right to a happy, healthy, integrated sex life. If there is something that is getting in the way of achieving that, whatever it might be, it is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately.

As far as relationships go, I am of the mind that we ought, first and foremost, work to honor our commitments of fidelity and mutual support. Are there ways that these two moral principles — a right to a healthy sex life and one’s relationship commitments — can coexist when one’s relationship excludes the possibility of happy sexual expression? Yes, I believe there are. And many couples achieve this balance, because they have an overriding love and concern for one another.

Now the facts — not all loving relationship have a sexual component. Many, for one reason or another, simply don’t. But if a partner is unwilling to provide sexual satisfaction to his/her partner and he won’t even begin negotiate an amicable solution or other accommodations then, I believe, this a form of sexual abuse.factors-of-sexual-dissatisfaction

If what you report about your husband’s distaste for anything sexually adventurous is accurate, then you have a very hard row to hoe. (BTW,are mutually enjoyed sex toys in the bedroom all that adventurous these days?) Trying to negotiate a satisfactory solution to a problem is all the more difficult when your partner is opposed to even discussing the issue. Here’s what I suggest. Have a frank talk with the bonehead. Tell him, in no uncertain terms, that he has first right of refusal to you and your long-suffering naughty bits. If he isn’t interested in keeping you sexually satisfied, that means the door is open for you to get your groove on elsewhere. If he balks at that, stand your ground. Insist that he has just the two options of taking it or leaving it.

If this means the end of this relationship, as I suspect it might. Then have the spine to make a clean break of it. Because, if you don’t, then you are complicit in the abuse you are suffering.

Good luck

Sexuality and Illness – Breaking the Silence

(This is a Companion piece to yesterday’s posting. You’ll find yesterday’s posting HERE!)

By: Anne Katz PhD

Sexuality is much more than having sex even though many people think only about sexual intercourse when they hear the word. Sexuality is sometimes equated with intimacy, but in reality, sexuality is just one way that we connect with a spouse or partner we love (the true meaning of intimacy). Our sexuality encompasses how we see ourselves as men and women, who we are attracted to emotionally and physically, what turns us on (eroticism), our thoughts and fantasies, and yes, also what we do when we are sexually active, either alone or with a partner. Our sexuality is connected to our image of ourselves and it changes over the years as we age and face threats from illness and disability and, eventually, the end of life.seniors_men

Am I still a sexual being?

Illness can affect our sexuality in many different ways. The side effects of treatments for many diseases, including cancer, can cause fatigue. This is often identified as the number one obstacle to sexual activity. Other symptoms of illness such as pain can also affect our interest in being sexually active. But there are other perhaps more subtle issues that impact how we feel about ourselves and, in turn, our desire to be sexual with a partner or alone, or if we even see ourselves as sexual beings. Think about surgery that removes a part of the body that identifies us as female or male. Many women state that after breast cancer and removal of a breast (mastectomy), they no longer feel like a woman; this affects their willingness to appear naked in front of a partner. Medications taken to control advanced prostate cancer can decrease a man’s sexual desire. Men in this situation often forget to express their love for their partner in a physical way, no longer touching them, kissing them, or even holding hands. This loss of physical contact often results in two lonely people.  Humans have a basic need for touch; without that connection, we can end up feeling very lonely.

Just talk about it!

seniors_in_bedCommunication lies at the heart of sexuality. Talk to your partner about what you are feeling, how you feel about your body, and what you want in terms of touch. Ask how you can meet your partner’s needs for touch and affection. The most important thing you can do is to express yourself in words. Non-verbal communication and not talking are open to misinterpretation and can lead to hurt feelings. Our sexuality changes with age and time and illness; we may not feel the same way about our bodies or our partner’s body that we did 20, 30 or more years ago. That does not mean we feel worse – with age comes acceptance for many of us – but we do need to let go of what was, and look at what is and what is possible.

The role of health care providers

Health care providers should be asking about changes to sexuality because of illness or treatment, but they often don’t. They may be reluctant to bring up what they see as a sensitive topic and think that if it’s important to the patient, then he or she will ask about it. This is not good. Patients often wait to see if their health care provider asks about something and if they don’t, they think that it’s not important. This results in a silence and leaves the impression that sexuality is a taboo topic.senior intimacy02

Some health care providers are afraid that they won’t know the answer to a question about sexuality because nursing and medical schools don’t provide much in the way of education on this topic. And some health care providers appear to be too busy to talk about the more emotional aspects of living with illness. This is a great pity as sexuality is important to all of us – patients, partners, health care providers. It’s an important aspect of quality of life from adolescence to old age, in health and at the end of life when touch and love are so important.

Ask for a referral

If you want to talk about this, just do it! Tell your health care provider that you want to talk about changes in your body or your relationship or your sex life! Ask for a referral to a counselor or sexuality counselor or therapist or social worker. It may take a bit of work to get the help you need, but there is help.

Complete Article HERE!

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