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The 22 Diseases You Can Heal With Passionate Sex

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by Adina Rivers

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The infamous Woody Allen once said: “I don’t know the question, but sex is definitely the answer.” And oh boy was he right.

It might not be new to you that sex can heal physical and mental diseases, but did you really know that sex can play an important role in the healing of all the following diseases? Some were definitely new to me and I am in this game for quite a long time now.

It might not be new to you that sex can heal physical and mental diseases, but did you really know that sex can play an important role in the healing of all the following diseases? Some were definitely new to me and I am in this game for quite a long time now.

According to Wilkes University, making love twice a week releases an antibody called immunoglobulin A or IgA, which helps to protect the body against infections and diseases.

Check out the following list of 22 diseases you can fight with passionate love making:

#1 Sex protects against prostate cancer

Research suggests that frequent ejaculations (at least five times per week) in males reduces the risk of prostate cancer.

#2 Sex helps with keeping fit

There is nothing like having fun (and having pleasure) while playing sports! Making love is good for your heart activity. It also helps to naturally tone the muscles of the body. That seems hard to believe, but while making love you burn about 200 calories in half an hour. If you make love three times a week, you can burn up to 600 calories in total. And it’s much more engaging and fun than a diet!

#3 Sex relieves headaches

During sex, a hormone called oxytocin; it increases the level of endorphins, acting as a natural painkiller. The body then goes into a more relaxed state.

Many people notice that their aches and pains (headaches, cramps, etc.) disappear after sex.

#4 Sex helps fight depression

Women who have regular orgasms are generally more relaxed, less depressed, also physically and emotionally more satisfied.

Sex assists with creating better sleep patterns and relaxes nervous tension by producing, serotonin in the brain – which controls mood elevation.

#5 Sex keeps you young

Sex is one of the key components to looking at least 10 years younger than your age! In his book, “Secrets of the super young,” Dr. David Weeks, a psychologist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland, compiled the lifestyle of about 3,500 people, aged 18 to 102 years. Respondents were having sex at least three times a week and they all seemed to appear years younger than their actual ages. These beneficial effects have also been confirmed by numerous other studies.

#6 Sex protects against incontinence

In women, regular sex promotes exceptional health of the pelvic floor, thereby reducing the risk of age-related incontinence.

#7 Sex heals the mind

Making love is a welcomed pleasure of life, an offering where we share physical closeness and depth. Making love is a healthy desire of the body, heart and spirit that fills us with energy, tenderness and life. It’s a way of communicating with all your senses and feelings. A meeting place where creativity intersects, healing and peace.

#8 Sex makes you happy

People who are sexually active are generally happier (which is great for the immune system) and less prone to depression.

#9 Sex protects against insomnia

Lack of sleep has a negative impact on our daily lives. For insomnia, experts recommend, among other things, to quit alcohol and caffeine, watch TV less often and take a relaxing bath before going to bed. Making love can be added to this list of tips for sleeping well. Men fall asleep almost instantly after sex, and toxins released during the act have a tranquilizing effect on women.

#10 Sex protects against diseases of the skin

Making love regularly releases a flood of hormones in the body, called “hormones of happiness.” They contain testosterone. With age, testosterone levels decrease. So having sex provides a good level of testosterone in the body.

This hormone plays another important role: it keeps the bones and muscles healthy, not to mention the youthful appearance of the skin.

#11 Sex protects against breast cancer

Orgasm can help to prevent the onset of breast cancer. An Australian study suggests that breast stimulation in women releases a hormone called oxytocin. The precise study states due to oxytocin being released in large quantities during orgasm, frequent sexual activity could have a protective role against this type of cancer.

#12 Sex protects against cardiovascular disease

Sex is very beneficial for your heart. A study at Queen’s University Belfast shows that making love three times a week reduces by half the risk of heart attack or stroke. In women, sex increases the production of estrogen, known to fight against heart disease. And there’s good news for men too: another study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health says that sex twice or more a week reduced the risk of fatal heart attack; 50% more compared to men who have sex only once a month.

#13 Sex improves esteem

It is known that as appetite increases eating; the more you have sex, the more you’ll crave it. To enhance sexual arousal, the body gives off a very large amount of pheromones, which, like an aphrodisiac, make you even more attractive for your partner.

Feeling wanted makes women and guys feel attractive and proves that it’s an excellent tonic for our self-esteem!

#14 Sex increases self-control

Having sex regularly soothes and reduces stress. It provides mutual fulfillment and self-confidence among both partners. A recent study in Scotland showed that sexually active people are more likely to keep their cool and manage stressful situations.

#14 Sex protects against Influenza and asthma

According to researchers, making love at least once or twice a week increases the production of antibodies (immunoglobulin A) that protects us from viral infections such as Influenza. Sex is a natural antihistamine: it fights asthma as well as hay fever.

#16 Having sex increases your lifetime

Sex not only makes you feel younger but research shows it can actually slow the aging process. When you reach orgasm, the body secretes DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone or prasterone), a hormone known to improve the health of the immune system, while also repairing tissue that helps keep skin supple. DHEA also promotes the production of other hormones such as estrogen, which can prolong life by improving cardiovascular health. This indeed proves that sex truly rejuvenates!

A 1981 study showed that the mortality rate among those over seventy years was lower among men who were still sexually active …

#17 Sex invigorates your pelvis

Kegel exercises involve contracting and relaxing the pelvic muscles. Experts recommend that women practice kegels every day to prepare for the demands of pregnancy. However, in order for results to be effective, your pelvic muscles must be exercised daily. Fortunately, there is another way to strengthen these muscles. In fact, without realizing it, making love tones your pelvis. And the more the muscles are toned, the greater the pleasure during sex is.

#18 Sex helps to protects women against mental illness

According to a study, sperm, when absorbed by a woman, assists with regulating her hormones and thereby reducing the risk of mental illness.

#19 Sex heals back pain

It has been shown in studies that vaginal stimulation has the effect of increasing tolerance to pain. Self-stimulation of the clitoris also exerts an analgesic effect. According to researchers, this type of stimulation can relieve pain caused by menstrual cramps, arthritis, back pain and various other ailments.

#20 Sex and kissing protects against cavities

Kissing each day keeps the dentist away. Saliva cleanses and decreases the level of acid which causes cavities and prevents against dental plaque.

According to a French study, analgesic, in saliva, called Opiorphin relieves physical pain and inflammation-related pain.

#21 Sex assists with easing the symptoms of Sickle cell disease

During intercourse, the heart beats faster and thus increases the oxygen level in the blood and the rate of blood flow. These two natural responses help to prevent sickling of red blood cells and thrombosis.

#22 Sex contributes to overall happiness

The moments of pleasure and affection that we share with our partner remains invaluable. These moments of close intimacy strengthen your relationship with your partner and with yourself.

Economists from the University of Warwick had fun comparing how sex and money contributed to happiness. After interviewing 16,000 people, the main finding is that those who are happiest are also those who have sex the most. And the impact appears to be stronger among individuals with higher levels of education. In addition, a higher income…

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexual Health and Safety 101: Frosh Edition

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By Di Daniels

Sexual Health and Safety

Don’t get me wrong, the first week of university is an exciting time and you should be taking advantage of every opportunity to let loose and indulge in your adventurous side—in between the sheets, and otherwise.
With that being said, now that you’re outside of the giant safety net that is your parents’ supervision, you should be taking a few extra precautions to make sure that your transition into the world of sex wherever, whenever, is a safe one.
Now, none of the points I’m about to bring up are anything new or groundbreaking, but the following tips are worth keeping in mind. -Di Daniels

The golden rule of consent

Sex can be an exciting, amazing experience—but never without consent from both parties. The definition of consent is something you must know if you are sexually active or plan to take your first steps into the experience. Consent involves a variety of factors, and it’s important to be well-versed in all of them.

Consent means that both parties have made an enthusiastic, direct, voluntary, unimpaired, and conscious agreement to engage in sexual activities of any kind. Consent cannot be given if either party is impaired by any kind of drug. You cannot use your own intoxication as an excuse for carrying out actions of sexual violence—your “I was so drunk I can’t remember a thing” excuse might get you out of other unpleasant scenarios during 101 Week, but consent for sexual activities is NOT one of them.

You cannot assume the person has said yes because they haven’t said no. You cannot receive consent from a person who is asleep or impaired in any way. Consent can never, ever be given under threat from the requesting party, or if the person is in a position of authority over the person being asked.

Even if you’ve stripped down and teased each other for an hour, if your partner decides they don’t want to participate at ANY point, you must respect that their consent can be revoked at any given time during the activity.

You can find a more extensive definition of “consent” in the University of Ottawa’s new sexual assault policy.

“No” does not mean “I want to be convinced”. “No” does not mean “I’m playing hard to get”. “No” means nothing else but “no”, and the golden rule of all sexual relations is that you must always respect this.

Make safer sex a routine

It’s probably not new information that you should use some form of birth control during any erotic encounters, but even though methods like the pill or an IUD can prevent an unwanted pregnancy, these commonly used contraceptives do not protect you against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).

In this light, it’s important to always, always use a condom. Some people don’t disclose or just don’t know that they have an STI, so it’s essential that you put yourself first and use protection. But even these best-laid plans can fail if you don’t use a water-based lube with the condom, as oil-based lube can cause breakage.

If walking into a store and buying condoms over the counter isn’t your thing, go online at Sex It Smart and order free condoms—they literally deliver right to your door, and for those with allergies they also offer latex-free order options. You can also pick some up for free at the U of O’s Health Services.

Not all tests happen in the classroom

After a raunchy week in your new residence, you find yourself itchy, bumpy, or just plain uncomfortable down below. What to do? First of all, try not to feel ashamed about it. The stigma around STIs and other genital infections is still strong on campus, but the reality is that the rates among university students have proven to be on the rise—you are NOT alone in your experience. Even if it feels shameful to do it, it’s important to go see a doctor if you have symptoms and get tested for STIs.

Even if you don’t feel unusual, it’s worth noting that some STIs can lay dormant and cause no symptoms for a period of time, so it’s always a good idea to get checked out on the regular once you become sexually active.

Not sure where to go to discuss your concerns? Lucky for you, the University of Ottawa offers a walk-in clinic, as well as appointments with family doctors, so that you won’t have to go far to get tested. You can also get free and confidential STI testing done at the City of Ottawa’s Sexual Health Centre.

On-campus support

If your 101 Week leaves you feeling uncertain, scared, or anxious about your sex life or sexuality, please seek support—our campus offers so much of it, right at your fingertips.

Student Academic Success Service’s free counselling and coaching service offers counsellors that will help guide you through any turbulence your transition to university may bring. The Women’s Resource Centre offers peer support and guidance from a feminist perspective, as well as free safer sex supplies. The Pride Centre offers drop-in services that provide members of the LGBTQ+ community with a safe space to share experiences with like-minded peers, as well as a service that provides training to those outside of the community on how to become a better ally

Complete Article HERE!

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Men: How to fight prostate disease

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prostate-cancer

By Shawn Clark

The prostate is a gland that is a part of the male reproductive system, and it wraps around the male urethra near the bladder.

As men get older, they start experiencing prostate problems. In fact, these health issues are quite common in men older than 50. Unlike women who are more open to conversations about their health, men aren’t eager to talk about this subject, particularly when it comes to prostate and other similar problems.

That’s why staying up to date with recent health news, reading professional articles and consulting your doctor is the best way to improve not only your prostate health but the overall quality of life. When we’re talking about articles and health news, the World Wide Web is flooded with them, but not all of them are worthy of your time.

Consumer Health Digest poses as your go-to website that helps you fight with prostate diseases. Let’s find out how!

Common prostate problems

Before you see different ways Consumer Health Digest helps you fight prostate diseases, let’s talk about the most common problems that men usually face. They are listed below.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)

BPH is, in fact, an enlarged prostate gland. As your prostate gets bigger, it may partly block or squeeze the urethra thus causing problems with urinating. This is one of the most common prostate problems and affects almost all men as their age. It’s not entirely clear what causes prostate enlargement, but experts assume it comes down to changes in hormone balance as men are getting older. Symptoms associated with BPH include:

  • Frequent or urgent need to urinate
  • Inability to empty the bladder
  • Frequently urinating during the night
  • Straining while urinating
  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Dribbling at the end of urination
  • Weak urine stream

Some of the less common signs and symptoms of this disease include blood in urine, urinary tract infections, and inability to urinate. Luckily, there are numerous treatments available for BPH including medications, surgery, etc.

Acute and chronic bacterial prostatitis

 This problem refers to swelling and inflammation of the prostate. Acute bacterial prostatitis affects men of all ages, but men older than 50 are more prone to it. Common strains of bacteria primarily cause this prostate problem and the most frequent symptoms are the following:

  • Pain or burning sensation while urinating
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Painful orgasms
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Pain or discomfort in penis or testicles
  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Pain in the abdomen, groin, or lower back
  • Pain in perineum (area between scrotum and rectum)

This prostate problem is successfully treated with the help of medications.

Chronic bacterial prostatitis is a very rare condition that causes recurring infections in the prostate. The symptoms are very similar to those of acute bacterial prostatitis.

Chronic (nonbacterial) prostatitis

Chronic nonbacterial prostatitis is the most common type of prostatitis accounting for 90% of all cases. The condition is indicated by genital and urinary pain and discomfort for at least three of past six months. Although patients don’t have bacteria in their urine, they have other markings of inflammation.

Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. According to the American Cancer Society, this prostate problem can be treated successfully. In fact, about 2 million men in the United States are proud prostate cancer survivors! Just like other prostate problems, this one also affects men older than 50 in most cases. Furthermore, African-American men have a higher risk of developing this cancer.

How Consumer Health Digest helps?

At this point, you’re probably wondering how Consumer Health Digest can help you fight common prostate problems. Here are some, of many reasons.

Latest news

Consumer Health Digest successfully keeps up with the latest news and trends in medicine, health, science, and wellness, thus providing you a constant flow of articles related to prostate problems. This way you are more educated about issues you’re dealing with and can find new ways to improve your prostate health.

Accuracy

All articles on our website, including prostate health news, are reliable and accurate. That’s because they are evidence-based. Our articles are written by health-care professionals; which is why they are trustworthy. Our experts make sure that every person who visits our website can find out everything related to their health problem and be sure the text they’re reading is 100% accurate. Unlike many other sites, we do not publish misleading or click-bait types of articles just to increase traffic. To us, quality of information is essential.

Supplements

Prostate supplements are widely popular nowadays, and there are hundreds of them on the market. Consumer Health Digest reviewed all those supplements for you and published useful articles that aim to help you choose the best one for you. The only way to get an effective supplement is to know how to buy it. We have the most extensive database of supplement reviews, and the most important thing is that all reviews are done in an unbiased manner with a desire to inform you about the efficacy of the product only.

Healthy lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle is the key towards successful management of prostate problems. To help you fight your prostate problems, our website features useful content that will help you have a healthier lifestyle. For example, you can find out what foods to eat for a healthy prostate, what exercises to do, etc. The best thing is that all tips included into our articles are easy to implement.

Conclusion

Consumer Health Digest poses as the ideal place for all men who want to improve prostate health or fight the certain problem. The reasons are numerous including accuracy of information, latest prostate health news, useful tips and tricks, and thorough analysis of supplements. We aim to help you improve your overall quality of life one article at a time.

Complete Article HERE!

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A handy history

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Condemned, celebrated, shunned: masturbation has long been an uncomfortable fact of life. Why?

by Barry Reay

A handy history

The anonymous author of the pamphlet Onania (1716) was very worried about masturbation. The ‘shameful vice’, the ‘solitary act of pleasure’, was something too terrible to even be described. The writer agreed with those ‘who are of the opinion, that… it never ought to be spoken of, or hinted at, because the bare mentioning of it may be dangerous to some’. There was, however, little reticence in cataloguing ‘the frightful consequences of self-pollution’. Gonorrhoea, fits, epilepsy, consumption, impotence, headaches, weakness of intellect, backache, pimples, blisters, glandular swelling, trembling, dizziness, heart palpitations, urinary discharge, ‘wandering pains’, and incontinence – were all attributed to the scourge of onanism.

The fear was not confined to men. The full title of the pamphlet was Onania: Or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution, and all its Frightful Consequences (in Both Sexes). Its author was aware that the sin of Onan referred to the spilling of male seed (and divine retribution for the act) but reiterated that he treated ‘of this crime in relation to women as well as men’. ‘Whilst the offence is Self-Pollution in both, I could not think of any other word which would so well put the reader in mind both of the sin and its punishment’. Women who indulged could expect disease of the womb, hysteria, infertility and deflowering (the loss of ‘that valuable badge of their chastity and innocence’).

Another bestselling pamphlet was published later in the century: L’onanisme (1760) by Samuel Auguste Tissot. He was critical of Onania, ‘a real chaos … all the author’s reflections are nothing but theological and moral puerilities’, but nevertheless listed ‘the ills of which the English patients complain’. Tissot was likewise fixated on ‘the physical disorders produced by masturbation’, and provided his own case study, a watchmaker who had self-pleasured himself into ‘insensibility’ on a daily basis, sometimes three times a day; ‘I found a being that less resembled a living creature than a corpse, lying upon straw, meagre, pale, and filthy, casting forth an infectious stench; almost incapable of motion.’ The fear these pamphlets promoted soon spread.

The strange thing is that masturbation was never before the object of such horror. In ancient times, masturbation was either not much mentioned or treated as something a little vulgar, not in good taste, a bad joke. In the Middle Ages and for much of the early modern period too, masturbation, while sinful and unnatural, was not invested with such significance. What changed?

Religion and medicine combined powerfully to create a new and hostile discourse. The idea that the soul was present in semen led to thinking that it was very important to retain the vital fluid. Its spilling became, then, both immoral and dangerous (medicine believed in female semen at the time). ‘Sin, vice, and self-destruction’ were the ‘trinity of ideas’ that would dominate from the 18th into the 19th century, as the historians Jean Stengers and Anne Van Neck put it in Masturbation: The Great Terror (2001).

There were exceptions. Sometimes masturbation was opposed for more ‘enlightened’ reasons. In the 1830s and 1840s, for instance, female moral campaign societies in the United States condemned masturbation, not out of hostility to sex, but as a means to self-control. What would now be termed ‘greater sexual agency’ – the historian April Haynes refers to ‘sexual virtue’ and ‘virtuous restraint’ – was central to their message.

Yet it is difficult to escape the intensity of the fear. J H Kellogg’s Plain Facts for Old and Young (1877) contained both exaggerated horror stories and grand claims: ‘neither the plague, nor war, nor smallpox, nor similar diseases, have produced results so disastrous to humanity as the pernicious habit of Onanism; it is the destroying element of civilised societies’. Kellogg suggested remedies for the scourge, such as exercise, strict bathing and sleeping regimes, compresses, douching, enemas and electrical treatment. Diet was vital: this rabid anti-masturbator was co-inventor of the breakfast cereal that still bears his name. ‘Few of today’s eaters of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes know that he invented them, almost literally, as anti-masturbation food,’ as the psychologist John Money once pointed out.

The traces are still with us in other ways. Male circumcision, for instance, originated in part with the 19th-century obsession with the role of the foreskin in encouraging masturbatory practices. Consciously or not, many US males are faced with this bodily reminder every time they masturbate. And the general disquiet unleashed in the 18th century similarly lingers on today. We seem to have a confusing and conflicting relationship with masturbation. On one hand it is accepted, even celebrated – on the other, there remains an unmistakable element of taboo.

When the sociologist Anthony Giddens in The Transformation of Intimacy (1992) attempted to identify what made modern sex modern, one of the characteristics he identified was the acceptance of masturbation. It was, as he said, masturbation’s ‘coming out’. Now it was ‘widely recommended as a major source of sexual pleasure, and actively encouraged as a mode of improving sexual responsiveness on the part of both sexes’. It had indeed come to signify female sexual freedom with Betty Dodson’s Liberating Masturbation (1974) (renamed and republished as Sex for One in 1996), which has sold more than a million copies, and her Bodysex Workshops in Manhattan with their ‘all-women masturbation circles’. The Boston Women’s Health Collective’s classic feminist text Our Bodies, Ourselves (1973) included a section called ‘Learning to Masturbate’.

Alfred Kinsey and his team are mainly remembered for the sex surveys that publicised the pervasiveness of same-sex desires and experiences in the US, but they also recognised the prevalence of masturbation. It was, for both men and women, one of the nation’s principal sexual outlets. In the US National Survey (2009–10), 94 per cent of men aged 25-29 and 85 per cent of women in the same age group said that they had masturbated alone in the course of their lifetime. (All surveys indicate lower reported rates for women.) In the just-published results of the 2012 US National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, 92 per cent of straight men and a full 100 per cent of gay men recorded lifetime masturbation.

There has certainly been little silence about the activity. Several generations of German university students were questioned by a Hamburg research team about their masturbatory habits to chart changing attitudes and practices from 1966 to 1996; their results were published in 2003. Did they reach orgasm? Were they sexually satisfied? Was it fun? In another study, US women were contacted on Craigslist and asked about their masturbatory experiences, including clitoral stimulation and vaginal penetration. An older, somewhat self-referential study from 1977 of sexual arousal to films of masturbation asked psychology students at the University of Connecticut to report their ‘genital sensations’ while watching those films. Erection? Ejaculation? Breast sensations? Vaginal lubrication? Orgasm? And doctors have written up studies of the failed experiments of unfortunate patients: ‘Masturbation Injury Resulting from Intraurethral Introduction of Spaghetti’ (1986); ‘Penile Incarceration Secondary to Masturbation with A Steel Pipe’ (2013), with illustrations.

‘We are a profoundly self-pleasuring society at both a metaphorical and material level’

Self-stimulation has been employed in sexual research, though not always to great import. Kinsey and his team wanted to measure how far, if at all, semen was projected during ejaculation: Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, Kinsey’s biographer, refers to queues of men in Greenwich Village waiting to be filmed at $3 an ejaculation. William Masters and Virginia Johnson recorded and measured the physiological response during sexual arousal, using new technology, including a miniature camera inside a plastic phallus. Their book Human Sexual Response (1966) was based on data from more than 10,000 orgasms from nearly 700 volunteers: laboratory research involving sexual intercourse, stimulation, and masturbation by hand and with that transparent phallus. Learned journals have produced findings such as ‘Orgasm in Women in the Laboratory – Quantitative Studies on Duration, Intensity, Latency, and Vaginal Blood Flow’ (1985).

In therapy, too, masturbation has found its place ‘as a means of achieving sexual health’, as an article by Eli Coleman, the director of the programme in human sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School, once put it. A published study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 1977 outlined therapist-supervised female masturbation (with dildo, vibrator and ‘organic vegetables’) as a way of encouraging vaginal orgasm. Then there is The Big Book of Masturbation (2003) and the hundreds of (pun intended) self-help books, Masturbation for Weight Loss, a Womans Guide only among the latest (and more opportunistic).

Self-pleasure has featured in literature, most famously in Philip Roth’s novel Portnoys Complaint (1969). But it is there in more recent writing too, including Chuck Palahniuk’s disturbing short story ‘Guts’ (2004). Autoeroticism (and its traces) have been showcased in artistic expression: in Jordan MacKenzie’s sperm and charcoal canvases (2007), for example, or in Marina Abramović’s reprise of Vito Acconci’s Seedbed at the Guggenheim in 2005, or her video art Balkan Erotic Epic of the same year.

On film and television, masturbation is similarly pervasive: Lauren Rosewarne’s Masturbation in Pop Culture (2014) was able to draw on more than 600 such scenes. My favourites are in the film Spanking the Monkey (1994), in which the main character is trying to masturbate in the bathroom, while the family dog, seemingly alert to such behaviour, pants and whines at the door; and in the Seinfeld episode ‘The Contest’ (1992), in which the ‘m’ word is never uttered, and where George’s mother tells her adult son that he is ‘treating his body like it was an amusement park’.

There is much evidence, then, for what the film scholar Greg Tuck in 2009 called the ‘mainstreaming of masturbation’: ‘We are a profoundly self-pleasuring society at both a metaphorical and material level.’ There are politically-conscious masturbation websites. There is the online ‘Masturbation Hall of Fame’ (sponsored by the sex-toys franchise Good Vibrations). There are masturbationathons, and jack-off-clubs, and masturbation parties.

It would be a mistake, however, to present a rigid contrast between past condemnation and present acceptance. There are continuities. Autoeroticism might be mainstreamed but that does not mean it is totally accepted. In Sexual Investigations (1996), the philosopher Alan Soble observed that people brag about casual sex and infidelities but remain silent about solitary sex. Anne-Francis Watson and Alan McKee’s 2013 study of 14- to 16-year-old Australians found that not only the participants but also their families and teachers were more comfortable talking about almost any other sexual matter than about self-pleasuring. It ‘remains an activity that is viewed as shameful and problematic’, warns the entry on masturbation in the Encyclopedia of Adolescence (2011). In a study of the sexuality of students in a western US university, where they were asked about sexual orientation, anal and vaginal sex, condom use, and masturbation, it was the last topic that occasioned reservation: 28 per cent of the participants ‘declined to answer the masturbation questions’. Masturbation remains, to some extent, taboo.

When the subject is mentioned, it is often as an object of laughter or ridicule. Rosewarne, the dogged viewer of the 600 masturbation scenes in film and TV, concluded that male masturbation was almost invariably portrayed negatively (female masturbation was mostly erotic). Watson and McKee’s study revealed that their young Australians knew that masturbation was normal yet still made ‘negative or ambivalent statements’ about it.

Belief in the evils of masturbation has resurfaced in the figure of the sex addict and in the obsession with the impact of internet pornography. Throughout their relatively short histories, sexual addiction and hypersexual disorder have included masturbation as one of the primary symptoms of their purported maladies. What, in a sex-positive environment, would be considered normal sexual behaviour has been pathologised in another. Of the 152 patients in treatment for hypersexual disorder in clinics in California, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah, a 2012 study showed that most characterised their sexual disorder in terms of pornography consumption (81 per cent) and masturbation (78 per cent). The New Catholic Encyclopedia’s supplement on masturbation (2012-13), too, slips into a lengthy disquisition on sex addiction and the evils of internet pornography: ‘The availability of internet pornography has markedly increased the practice of masturbation to the degree that it can be appropriately referred to as an epidemic.’

Critics think that therapeutic masturbation might reinforce sexual selfishness rather than sexual empathy and sharing

The masturbator is often seen as the pornography-consumer and sex addict enslaved by masturbation. The sociologist Steve Garlick has suggested that negative attitudes to masturbation have been reconstituted to ‘surreptitiously infect ideas about pornography’. Pornography has become masturbation’s metonym. Significantly, when the New Zealand politician Shane Jones was exposed for using his taxpayer-funded credit card to view pornographic movies, the unnamed shame was that his self-pleasuring activities were proclaimed on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers – thus the jokes about ‘the matter in hand’ and not shaking hands with him at early morning meetings. It would have been less humiliating, one assumes, if he had used the public purse to finance the services of sex workers.

Nor is there consensus on the benefits of masturbation. Despite its continued use in therapy, some therapists question its usefulness and propriety. ‘It is a mystery to me how conversational psychotherapy has made the sudden transition to massage parlour technology involving vibrators, mirrors, surrogates, and now even carrots and cucumbers!’ one psychologist protested in the late 1970s. He was concerned about issues of client-patient power and a blinkered pursuit of the sexual climax ‘ignoring … the more profound psychological implications of the procedure’. In terms of effectiveness, critics think that therapeutic masturbation might reinforce individual pleasure and sexual selfishness rather than creating sexual empathy and sharing. As one observed in the pages of the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy in 1995: ‘Ironically, the argument against masturbation in American society was originally religiously founded, but may re-emerge as a humanist argument.’ Oversimplified, but in essence right: people remain disturbed by the solitariness of solitary sex.

Why has what the Japanese charmingly call ‘self-play’ become such a forcing ground for sexual attitudes? Perhaps there is something about masturbation’s uncontrollability that continues to make people anxious. It is perversely non-procreative, incestuous, adulterous, homosexual, ‘often pederastic’ and, in imagination at least, sex with ‘every man, woman, or beast to whom I take a fancy’, to quote Soble. For the ever-astute historian Thomas Laqueur, author of Solitary Sex (2003), masturbation is ‘that part of human sexual life where potentially unlimited pleasure meets social restraint’.

Why did masturbation become such a problem? For Laqueur, it began with developments in 18th-century Europe, with the cultural rise of the imagination in the arts, the seemingly unbounded future of commerce, the role of print culture, the rise of private, silent reading, especially novels, and the democratic ingredients of this transformation. Masturbation’s condemned tendencies – solitariness, excessive desire, limitless imagination, and equal-opportunity pleasure – were an outer limit or testing of these valued attributes, ‘a kind of Satan to the glories of bourgeois civilisation’.

In more pleasure-conscious modern times, the balance has tipped towards personal gratification. The acceptance of personal autonomy, sexual liberation and sexual consumerism, together with a widespread focus on addiction, and the ubiquity of the internet, now seem to demand their own demon. Fears of unrestrained fantasy and endless indulging of the self remain. Onania’s 18th-century complaints about the lack of restraint of solitary sex are not, in the end, all that far away from today’s fear of boundless, ungovernable, unquenchable pleasure in the self.

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The evolutionary puzzle of homosexuality

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In the last two decades, dozens of scientific papers have been published on the biological origins of homosexuality – another announcement was made last week. It’s becoming scientific orthodoxy. But how does it fit with Darwin’s theory of evolution?

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s hit song Same Love, which has become an unofficial anthem of the pro-gay marriage campaign in the US, reflects how many gay people feel about their sexuality.

It mocks those who “think it’s a decision, and you can be cured with some treatment and religion – man-made rewiring of a predisposition”. A minority of gay people disagree, maintaining that sexuality is a social construct, and they have made a conscious, proud choice to take same-sex partners.

But scientific opinion is with Macklemore. Since the early 1990s, researchers have shown that homosexuality is more common in brothers and relatives on the same maternal line, and a genetic factor is taken to be the cause. Also relevant – although in no way proof – is research identifying physical differences in the brains of adult straight and gay people, and a dizzying array of homosexual behaviour in animals.

But since gay and lesbian people have fewer children than straight people, a problem arises.001

“This is a paradox from an evolutionary perspective,” says Paul Vasey from the University of Lethbridge in Canada. “How can a trait like male homosexuality, which has a genetic component, persist over evolutionary time if the individuals that carry the genes associated with that trait are not reproducing?”

Scientists don’t know the answer to this Darwinian puzzle, but there are several theories. It’s possible that different mechanisms may be at work in different people. Most of the theories relate to research on male homosexuality. The evolution of lesbianism is relatively understudied – it may work in a similar way or be completely different.


The genes that code for homosexuality do other things too

The allele – or group of genes – that sometimes codes for homosexual orientation may at other times have a strong reproductive benefit. This would compensate for gay people’s lack of reproduction and ensure the continuation of the trait, as non-gay carriers of the gene pass it down.

There are two or more ways this might happen. One possibility is that the allele confers a psychological trait that makes straight men more attractive to women, or straight women more attractive to men. “We know that women tend to like more feminine behavioural features and facial features in their men, and that might be associated with things like good parenting skills or greater empathy,” says Qazi Rahman, co-author of Born Gay; The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation. Therefore, the theory goes, a low “dose” of these alleles enhances the carrier’s chances of reproductive success. Every now and then a family member receives a larger dose that affects his or her sexual orientation, but the allele still has an overall reproductive advantage.

Another way a “gay allele” might be able to compensate for a reproductive deficit is by having the converse effect in the opposite sex. For example, an allele which makes the bearer attracted to men has an obvious reproductive advantage to women. If it appears in a man’s genetic code it will code for same-sex attraction, but so long as this happens rarely the allele still has a net evolutionary benefit.

There is some evidence for this second theory. Andrea Camperio-Ciani, at the University of Padova in Italy, found that maternal female relatives of gay men have more children than maternal female relatives of straight men. The implication is that there is an unknown mechanism in the X chromosome of men’s genetic code which helps women in the family have more babies, but can lead to homosexuality in men. These results haven’t been replicated in some ethnic groups – but that doesn’t mean they are wrong with regards to the Italian population in Camperio-Ciani’s study.


Gay people were ‘helpers in the nest’

The fa'afafine of Samoa dislike being called "gay" or "homosexual"

The fa’afafine of Samoa dislike being called “gay” or “homosexual”

Some researchers believe that to understand the evolution of gay people, we need to look at how they fit into the wider culture.

Paul Vasey’s research in Samoa has focused on a theory called kin selection or the “helper in the nest” hypothesis. The idea is that gay people compensate for their lack of children by promoting the reproductive fitness of brothers or sisters, contributing money or performing other uncle-like activities such as babysitting or tutoring. Some of the gay person’s genetic code is shared with nieces and nephews and so, the theory goes, the genes which code for sexual orientation still get passed down.

Sceptics have pointed out that since on average people share just 25% of their genetic code with these relatives, they would need to compensate for every child they don’t have themselves with two nieces or nephews that wouldn’t otherwise have existed. Vasey hasn’t yet measured just how much having a homosexual orientation boosts siblings’ reproduction rate, but he has established that in Samoa “gay” men spend more time on uncle-like activities than “straight” men.

“No-one was more surprised than me,” says Vasey about his findings. His lab had previously shown that gay men in Japan were no more attentive or generous towards their nieces and nephews than straight, childless men and women. The same result has been found in the UK, US and Canada.

Vasey believes that his Samoan result was different because the men he studied there were different. He studied the fa’afafine, who identify as a third gender, dressing as women and having sex with men who regard themselves as “straight”. They are a transgender group who do not like to be called “gay” or “homosexual”.

Vasey speculates that part of the reason the fa’afafine are more attentive to their nephews and nieces is their acceptance in Samoan culture compared to gay men in the West and Japan (“You can’t help your kin if they’ve rejected you”). But he also believes that there is something about the fa’afafine way of life that means they are more likely to be nurturing towards nieces and nephews, and speculates that he would find similar results in other “third gender” groups around the world.

If this is true, then the helper in the nest theory may partly explain how a genetic trait for same-sex attraction hasn’t been selected away. That hypothesis has led Vasey to speculate that the gay men who identify as men and have masculine traits – that is to say, most gay men in the West – are descended from men who had a cross-gendered sexuality.


Gay people do have children

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In the US, around 37% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people have a child, about 60% of which are biological. According to the Williams Institute, gay couples that have children have an average of two.

These figures may not be high enough to sustain genetic traits specific to this group, but the evolutionary 002biologist Jeremy Yoder points out in a blog post that for much of modern history gay people haven’t been living openly gay lives. Compelled by society to enter marriages and have children, their reproduction rates may have been higher than they are now.

How many gay people have children also depends on how you define being “gay”. Many of the “straight” men who have sex with fa’afafine in Samoa go on to get married and have children.

“The category of same-sex sexuality becomes very diffuse when you take a multicultural perspective,” says Joan Roughgarden, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Hawaii. “If you go to India, you’ll find that if someone says they are ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ then that immediately identifies them as Western. But that doesn’t mean there’s no homosexuality there.”

Similarly in the West, there is evidence that many people go through a phase of homosexual activity. In the 1940s, US sex researcher Alfred Kinsey found that while just 4% of white men were exclusively gay after adolescence, 10% had a three-year period of gay activity and 37% had gay sex at some point in their lives.

A national survey of sexual attitudes in the UK last year came up with lower figures. Some 16% of women said they had had a sexual experience with another woman (8% had genital contact), and 7% of men said they had had a sexual experience with a man (with 5% having genital contact).

But most scientists researching gay evolution are interested in an ongoing, internal pattern of desire rather than whether people identify as gay or straight or how often people have gay sex. “Sexual identity and sexual behaviours are not good measures of sexual orientation,” says Paul Vasey. “Sexual feelings are.”


It’s not all in the DNA

Qazi Rahman says that alleles coding for same sex attraction only explain some of the variety in human sexuality. Other, naturally varying biological factors come into play, with about one in seven gay men, he says, owing their sexuality to the “big brother effect”.

This has nothing to do with George Orwell, but describes the observation that boys with older brothers are significantly more likely to become gay – with every older brother the chance of homosexuality increases by about a third. No-one knows why this is, but one theory is that with each male pregnancy, a woman’s body forms an immune reaction to proteins that have a role in the development of the male brain. Since this only comes into play after several siblings have been born – most of whom are heterosexual and go on to have children – this pre-natal quirk hasn’t been selected away by evolution.

Exposure to unusual levels of hormone before birth can also affect sexuality. For example, female foetuses exposed to higher levels of testosterone before birth show higher rates of lesbianism later on. Studies show that “butch” lesbian women and men have a smaller difference in length between their index and ring fingers – a marker of pre-natal exposure to testosterone. In “femme” lesbians the difference has been found to be less marked.

Brothers of a different kind – identical twins – also pose a tricky question. Research has found that if an identical twin is gay, there is about a 20% chance that the sibling will have the same sexual orientation. While that’s a greater likelihood than random, it’s lower than you might expect for two people with the same genetic code.

William Rice, from the University of California Santa Barbara, says that it may be possible to explain this 003by looking not at our genetic code but at the way it is processed. Rice and his colleagues refer to the emerging field of epigenetics, which studies the “epimarks” that decide which parts of our DNA get switched on or off. Epimarks get passed on to children, but only sometimes. Rice believes that female foetuses employ an epimark that makes them less sensitive to testosterone. Usually it’s not inherited, but occasionally it is, leading to same-sex preference in boys.

Dr William Byne, editor-in-chief of the journal LGBT Health, believes sexuality may well be inborn, but thinks it could be more complicated than some scientists believe. He notes that the heritability of homosexuality is similar to that for divorce, but “social science researchers have not… searched for ‘divorce genes’. Instead they have focused on heritable personality and temperamental traits that might influence the likelihood of divorce.”

For Qazi Rahman, it’s the media that oversimplifies genetic theories of sexuality, with their reports of the discovery of “the gay gene”. He believes that sexuality involves tens or perhaps hundreds of alleles that will probably take decades to uncover. And even if heterosexual sex is more advantageous in evolutionary terms than gay sex, it’s not only gay people whose sexuality is determined by their genes, he says, but straight people too.

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