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Science can’t explain sexual orientation. Here’s why

By Rafi Letzter

first_kiss_still

Why are you so straight? Why are you so gay? Why are you so bi? Science doesn’t have any definite answers.

I reached out to Ritch Savin-Williams, a developmental psychologist at Cornell University and author of several books focused on sexuality. I asked him what we know about why and how people develop their sexual preferences. He explained that the answer is not all that much, and that the problem is that there’s no good way to do the necessary research.

“We have some sense that some major part of [sexuality] is biological. But what part of biology? Is it a gene? Genes? Hormones? Prenatal hormones?” he said.

This issue is prevalent across the field, he explained. The roots of attraction are a mystery.

“Why are we attracted to what we’re attracted to?” Savin-Williams asked. “For example: pedophiles. How does someone get to be a pedophile? We have no idea. We don’t even really know why someone is straight versus gay versus bi versus all the other pan-sexuals, asexuals, all of the different sexuals. We don’t know why.”

(To be clear, Savin-Williams was not morally conflating pedophilia with being straight, gay or bi — just explaining how little we understand about how attraction forms.)

The problem, he said, is that researchers in his field aren’t able to do good research on children.

“We can’t ask children about their sexuality. Take a 5-year-old and say ‘What are you sexually attracted to?’ and you’ll get put in jail. So we can’t ask children about their sexuality at all.”

There’s are obviously good reasons society frowns on asking detailed sexual questions of children. But the reality is that so much of sexual development happens at that phase of life that it’s impossible to form a complete picture without it.

“We don’t know anything about it. And yet we all know that children masturbate … We know that their sexual attractions are there before puberty. And that they’re sexually interested in themselves and other people. And yet we can’t do research on that,” he said.

What’s more, there’s reason to doubt people’s memories of their childhood sexualities once they grow up, even though that’s usually what the research is relying on.

“All of my data that I’ve collected is on adolescents and young adults, and I struggle even to ask high school kids,” Savin-Williams said. “It’s all retrospective.”

There are a few studies on children from Scandinavian countries with looser cultural norms around sexuality and childhood, Savin-Williams said. But the data is still a trickle. And without it, so much of why we develop the sexual feelings we do remains a mystery.

 Complete Article HERE!

Sex education is not relevant to pupils’ lives, says report

International study finds schools’ teaching about sexuality out of touch, moralistic and unwilling to accept some students are already in relationships

By

A sex education lesson at Chelmsford grammar school.

A sex education lesson at Chelmsford grammar school.

Sex education in schools worldwide is so “out of touch” with pupils’ experiences that they find it irrelevant and switch off, research of young people in 10 countries including the UK shows.

Many students find lessons about sex and relationships negative, moralistic and too scientific to help them deal with the feelings and situations they are encountering, according to an analysis of young people’s views published in the journal BMJ Open.

The study, led by Dr Pandora Pound of the school of social and community medicine at Bristol University, found a surprising consistency in young people’s views on sex education regardless of whether they were in Britain, the US, Iran, Japan, Australia or elsewhere.

“It is clear from our findings that SRE [sex and relationship education] provision in schools frequently fails to meet the needs of young people,” Pound said. “Schools seem to have difficulty accepting [that] some people are sexually active, which leads to SRE that is out of touch with many young people’s lives.”

Pound and her colleagues reached their conclusions after examining 55 previously published studies that set out young people’s views of sex education between 1990 and 2015. It also included pupils and ex-pupils in the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, Brazil and Sweden.

SRE lessons too often left female pupils at risk of harassment if they participated and male students anxious to hide their ignorance about sex, they found. Some young men were disruptive in class in order to disguise their inexperience.

Many pupils believed that schools saw sex as a problem to be managed, that there was too much focus on heterosexual relationships and that females were often portrayed as passive and males as predatory, the researchers found.

Many pupils also found it uncomfortable and unhelpful that teachers they had for other subjects also taught them SRE. “They expressed dislike of their own teachers delivering SRE due to blurred boundaries, lack of anonymity, embarrassment and poor training,” according to the study.

A 2013 report into sex education by Ofsted, the schools inspectorate for England, found that just 19% of 18-year-olds believe that SRE should be taught by a teacher from their own schools.

For their part, teachers themselves often admit to “discomfort” at teaching SRE. Ofsted’s review also found that one in three English schools delivered poor quality SRE.

Schools could tackle these problems by instead holding some single sex SRE lessons and using sex educators from outside to deliver lessons, the authors suggest.

They also suggest that schools should be much more “sex-positive” – open, frank and positive about sex in a way that challenges negative attitudes in society to sex.

“It is disappointing that the pattern of inadequate sex and relationships education is repeated from country to country, with young people in England and elsewhere saying that SRE starts too little and too late and is often too biological with little attention to relationships, and lessons fail to reflect the reality of young people’s lives,” said Lucy Emmerson, co-ordinator of the UK’s Sex Education Forum.

“Teachers have repeatedly said that they need subject-specific training so that they can teach good quality sex and relationships education, but in England there has been a failing on the part of government to require that SRE must be taught in every school, so there are huge gaps in provision with some schools not teaching the subject at all,” she added.

The study, which was funded by the NHS’s National Institute for Health Research, also found that SRE often does not give pupils practical information such as what to do if they become pregnant and the pros and cons of different methods of contraception. In addition it found that sex education is often delivered too late for some pupils.

Without an overhaul of SRE, “young people will continue to disengage from SRE and opportunities for safeguarding and improving their sexual health will be reduced”, the paper warns.

“The international evidence is clear, comprehensive SRE taught early by trained educators results in improvements for young people’s sexual health and reductions in sexual violence,” added Emmerson. “But too many countries are failing to respond and take action and provide children and young people with the education they need and deserve.”

Complete Article HERE!

This Long-Lost Study On Victorian Sex Teaches A Very Modern Lesson

By Sara Coughlin

female-sexuality

What comes to mind when you picture Victorian-era sex? Corsets? Marriages of convenience and social bartering? Repression? Maybe, like, a lot of repression?

Turns out, how we view that time in sexual history might be more than a little warped. We can start to get a better idea of what women of the time really thought about sex by looking at the work of Clelia Duel Mosher, MD. Years before Alfred Kinsey was even born, Dr. Mosher was already researching and discussing the sexual tendencies of Victorian-era women. (This, it should be noted, is in addition to her research that proved women breathe from the diaphragm, just like men, and that it was the corset and a lack of exercise that was to blame for many women’s health issues.)

Her sexual survey work started in the 1890s and spanned 20 years, during which time she talked to 45 women at length about their sexual habits and preferences, from how often they had an orgasm to whether they experienced lust independent of their male partners (Spoiler alert: They totally did).

Unfortunately, the report was never published in Dr. Mosher’s lifetime. It’s only thanks to Carl Degler, an author, professor, and historian, that we know of it at all. He stumbled upon Dr. Mosher’s papers in Stanford University’s archives in 1973 and published an analysis of her findings the following year.

As others have noted, Dr. Mosher’s research has played a major role in changing how historians think of Victorian attitudes around sex. Then, like today, a variety of perspectives on the subject existed. While this one report doesn’t sum up everything there is to know about how people had sex at this time, it certainly deepens our understanding of Victorian women, who are all too often painted in broad strokes at best.

Below, we’ve listed some of the most interesting findings from Dr. Mosher’s groundbreaking survey.

Not having an orgasm sucked back then, too.
One of the survey’s respondents said, “when no orgasm, [she] took days to recover.” In what might be an early description of blue balls for the vagina, another woman described a lack of climax as feeling “bad, even disastrous,” and added that she underwent “nerve-wracking-unbalancing if such conditions continue for any length of time.”

Yet another woman had something to say about the 19th-century orgasm gap, claiming that “men have not been properly trained” in this area. It seems that women have been taking their own sexual pleasure seriously for hundreds of years — even if the culture at large hasn’t.

Sex wasn’t just for procreation.
In keeping with Victorian stereotypes, one woman said “I cannot recognize as true marriage that relation unaccompanied by a strong desire for children,” and compared a marriage where the couple only has sex for pleasure to “legalized prostitution.” But several others disagreed completely.

One woman said that “pleasure is sufficient warrant” for sex, while another added that babies had nothing to do with it: “Even a slight risk of pregnancy, and then we deny ourselves the intercourse, feeling all the time that we are losing that which keeps us closest to each other.”

One woman even explained that sex helped keep her marriage strong: “In my experience the habitual bodily expression of love has a deep psychological effect in making possible complete mental sympathy, and perfecting the spiritual union that must be the lasting ‘marriage’ after the passion of love has passed away with years.”

Period sex was pretty cool.
Over a century before we threw around the term “bloodhound” like it was nothing, at least one trailblazing woman believed that sex was always on the table — whether or not it was your Time of the Month. She added that she was fine with getting down at all hours, too: “during the menstrual period…and in the daylight.” If anyone reading this just happens to be this woman’s lucky descendent, we’d like to send her a posthumous high-five through you.

Why This Is More Than A History Lesson
In his analysis, Degler writes that of course “there was an effort to deny women’s sexual feelings and to deny them legitimate expression” back then, but the women who participated in the survey “were, as a group, neither sexless nor hostile to sexual feelings.” They didn’t let any societal expectations or restraints stop them from having those feelings — and acting on them.

Though we may not live with the same barriers (or dress code) that women did back then, it’s reassuring to know that these women defied their time’s moral code to speak frankly about their sexuality. As frustrating as it is, women still deal with stigmas surrounding sex today, whether they’re at risk of being called prudes or sluts, or being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. This is what we’ll remember most about Dr. Mosher’s work — that, in the face of whatever shame you may be harboring about your own sexuality, or whatever pressures you may be feeling, you are most likely totally normal and definitely not alone. So why hide it? After all, you never know whom you might end up proving wrong a couple hundred years down the line.

The gap between what we learned in sex ed and what we’re learning through sexual experience is big — way too big. So we’re helping to connect those dots by talking about the realities of sex, from how it’s done to how to make sure it’s consensual, safe, healthy, and pleasurable all at once.

Complete Article HERE!

Is sex in later years good for your health?

Close Up Of Senior Couple Holding Hands On Beach

By Hui LiuAndy Henion

Having sex frequently – and enjoying it – puts older men at higher risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems. For older women, however, good sex may actually lower the risk of hypertension.

That’s according to the first large-scale study of how sex affects heart health in later life. The federally funded research, led by a Michigan State University scholar, is published online in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

“These findings challenge the widely held assumption that sex brings uniform health benefits to everyone,” said Hui Liu, an MSU associate professor of sociology whose vast research on the link between health and relationships has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, NPR, Time and many other national and international news outlets.

For the current study, Liu and colleagues analyzed survey data from 2,204 people in the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project. Participants were aged 57-85 when the first wave of data was collected in 2005-06; another round of data was collected five years later. Cardiovascular risk was measured as hypertension, rapid heart rate, elevated C-reactive protein and general cardiovascular events: heart attack, heart failure and stroke.

Older men who had sex once a week or more were much more likely to experience cardiovascular events five years later than men who were sexually inactive, the study found. This risk was not found among older women.

“Strikingly, we find that having sex once a week or more puts older men at a risk for experiencing cardiovascular events that is almost two times greater than older men who are sexually inactive,” said Liu. “Moreover, older men who found sex with their partner extremely pleasurable or satisfying had higher risk of cardiovascular events than men who did not feel so.”

She said the findings suggest the strain and demands from a sexual relationship may be more relevant for men as they get older, become increasingly frail and suffer more sexual problems.

“Because older men have more difficulties reaching orgasm for medical or emotional reasons than do their younger counterparts, they may exert themselves to a greater degree of exhaustion and create more stress on their cardiovascular system in order to achieve climax.”

Testosterone levels and the use of medication to improve sexual function may also play a role. “Although scientific evidence is still rare,” Liu said, “it is likely that such sexual medication or supplements have negative effects on older men’s cardiovascular health.”

Ultimately, while moderate amounts of sex may promote health among older men, having sex too frequently or too enjoyably may be a risk factor for cardiovascular problems, Liu said. “Physicians should talk to older male patients about potential risks of high levels of sexual activity and perhaps screen those who frequently have sex for cardiovascular issues.”

For women, it was a different story. Female participants who found sex to be extremely pleasurable or satisfying had lower risk of hypertension five years later than female participants who did not feel so.

“For women, we have good news: Good sexual quality may protect older women from cardiovascular risk in later life,” Liu said.

Previous studies suggest that strong, deep and close relationship is an important source of social and emotional support, which may reduce stress and promote psychological well-being and, in turn, cardiovascular health.

“This may be more relevant to women than to men,” Liu said, “because men in all relationships, regardless of quality, are more likely to receive support from their partner than are women. However, only women in good quality relationships may acquire such benefits from their partner.”

Moreover, the female sexual hormone released during orgasm may also promote women’s health, she said.

Liu’s co-authors are Linda Waite, professor at the University of Chicago, Shannon Shen, an MSU graduate student, and Donna Wang, professor of medicine at MSU.

The research was partially funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which are all part of the National Institutes of Health.

Complete Article HERE!

The Sex Talk You Can’t Skip

These conversations with children are far more critical than parents think

by Deirdre Reilly

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Moms and dads typically grit their teeth, square their shoulders, and take a deep breath when it’s time for “the birds and the bees” talk with their kids. For many parents, by the time they gather the courage to have “the talk” — it’s way too late.

One father of two from Charlottesville, Virginia, joked to LifeZette, “I had the sex talk with my kids, and it was not bad at all. Sure, they were asleep — but I have to say it really went pretty well!”

There is no reason to avoid or fear the talk with the kids.

“Talking to kids about sexuality does not encourage them to be sexual,” Dr. Rita Eichenstein, a pediatric neuropsychologist in Los Angeles, told LifeZette. “We give our kids all types of information to protect them — why wouldn’t we talk to them about sex? There are a lot of bad things in this world, but sex isn’t one of them. The facts of life aren’t scary — they’re beautiful.”

The best way to discuss a healthy sexual identity with children is to make the topic as normal as possible for both parent and child.

Bobbi Wegman, a Brookline, Massachusetts, clinical psychologist, advocates using the world around you to begin teaching age-appropriate sexual information.

“I’m a mother of three kids, and it is absolutely vital to talk about sex with your children in a direct and 002honest manner that is appropriate for their age,” she told LifeZette. “Personally, the first time this came up in our home, my son was four — he asked where babies came from. We had just finished the summer and he had planted and raised the vegetables in our garden, and I used that as a metaphor for where children come from. ‘Dad planted a seed in Mommy and it grew into a baby, just like the tomato plant you planted,’ I told him. It is best to model that sex and our bodies aren’t shameful, and that sex is completely natural,” she added.

One Boston-area mom recounts how her third pregnancy opened the door for discussion with her first child, a fifth grader.

“He asked me how I first knew I was pregnant, and I said I had missed my period,” this mom of three told LifeZette. “He said, quite casually, ‘Yeah, so what is that?’ We were able to move on from there to a great discussion, which I had been longing to have with him.”

Waiting until your child is a teenager is to late to begin, the experts say.

“Teens, by virtue of their developmental stage, believe they are invincible and thus may not consider the risks associated with their actions,” Laguna Beach, California, psychiatrist Gayani DeSilva told LifeZette. “However, health risks can have lasting implications. For example, teens should be aware that contracting herpes is a lifelong condition that will impact sexual activity for life — and will need to be disclosed to all future sexual partners.”

Other health risks include mental health problems. “Sex in the context of a respectful, loving relationship will not be mentally damaging,” said DeSilva. “But sex in the context of a power struggle, assault, incest, rape, or molestation can have devastating effects on a person’s self-esteem and mental well-being. It may even be the trigger for suicide.”

Adults can hold the view that sexual activity is to be enjoyed only through marriage and still talk to their kids about sex — and the risks associated with it.

“Be consistent in your beliefs — if you are conservative, act conservative,” said Eichenstein. “Be modest, attend church and give them exposure to this topic in a way that is consistent with your morals and values. No closet Puritans allowed — you have to talk the talk and walk the walk of your own family’s moral code.”

Eichenstein understands a parent’s discomfort over “the talk.”

“The media and the culture have made sex really sleazy, and that’s what parents are embarrassed about,” she said. “All the ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ stuff mangles the reality of normal, healthy sex, and that’s why it is critical that lines of communication are open from very early on. Body parts should be correctly named with young children, and parents should work hard to stay natural about sex.”

Chunking sexual information is good, said Eichenstein, beginning with a series of little talks starting very young. “Remember, the older children get, the less likely they are to listen to the information you have to share. Use books or other helpful materials — don’t fly on your own if it’s not working. Leave a book on your child’s night table and they will read it, guaranteed.”

003“Before sexual activity is the time for the talk — after is too late,” Eichenstein emphasized, adding that 4th, 5th and 6th grade is the window in which to share more in-depth information about sex. “It is good to say, ‘I don’t endorse that you become sexually active. But I hope that if and when you are ready down the road, I hope you’ll be open to talking to me — I’m here to help you.’”

Pornography now seems normative, said Eichenstein, which makes “the talk” an uphill battle for parents.

“Pornography desensitizes kids to sexuality, and cheapens it, too,” she said. “They no longer know how to have a healthy relationship, or how to trust their instincts. My guess is that girls actually want the type of relationships people had in the 1950s — a very romantic relationship.”

It is important to help girls have a sense of self when it comes to sexuality, and to always refuse to do what they don’t want to do — and how to say no to overtures from boys that are not welcome. “That’s the most important part of sex education for girls, in my view — knowing how to get out of a bad situation.”

Eichenstein said parents talk to boys a lot less about sex than they talk to girls, and this is dangerous. “Boys can turn into aggressors and they need to be taught by responsible parents,” she noted.

“Simple empathy between the sexes is a huge part of good sexual education for children,” noted Eichenstein. “For boys, it’s the ability to put themselves in a girl’s shoes — and act accordingly.”

Complete Article HERE!