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What asexuality can teach us about sexual relationships and boundaries

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There is an expectation that everyone feels sexual attraction and sexual desire and that these feelings begin in adolescence. Assumptions about sex are everywhere – most of time we don’t even notice them. Music videos, films, reality shows, advertising, video games, newspapers and magazines all use sexual content which supports the idea that sexuality, attraction and desire are normal. There is, however, a group of people that are challenging this sexual assumption, who identify as asexual.

Asexuality was once thought of as a problem which left people unable to feel sexual attraction to others. Upon the discovery that some people had little or no interest in sexual behaviour, researchers in the 1940s called this group “asexuals”, and labelled them as “Group X”. There was no more discussion of “Group X”, and asexuals and asexuality were lost to history, while studies of sexuality grew and flourished.

Even today, asexuality still seems to be something of a mystery for many people – despite more people talking about it, and more people identifying as asexual. Asexuality is difficult for a lot of people to understand. And research shows that as a sexual identity, people have more negativity towards asexuals than any other sexual minority.

What is asexuality?

What exactly asexuality is, is very much still being decided – with a lot of debate going on as to whether it is a sexual orientation or a sexual identity. There have also been discussions about whether it is a medical condition or if it should be seen as a problem to be treated.

But it seems that for many, being asexual is less about a traditional understanding of sexual attraction and behaviour, and more about being able to discuss likes and dislikes, as well as expectations and preferences in the early stages of a relationship. In this way, it is a refreshing way of being honest and clear with potential partners – and avoiding any assumptions being made about sex. Maybe because of this approach, a growing number of self-identified asexuals see asexuality as less of a problem, and more of a way of life.

Discussions about sex and sexuality during the early stage of a relationship can make partners and potential partners more respectful towards a person’s choices and decisions. They also can reduce the potential of others making requests that may make someone uncomfortable, or which carry subtle elements of coercion.

Redefining boundaries

In this way, then, with its need for honesty and clarity, asexuality is an insightful way of looking at sexuality, and the ways in which non-asexuals – also known as allosexuals in the asexual community – interact with others on a close and intimate level.

According to one asexual, her friends’ reactions to her “coming out” were underwhelming – mainly because it is an orientation defined by “what is not happening”. But for self-identified asexuals, there is actually a lot happening. They are exploring and articulating what feels right in the context of intimacy. They are considering different aspects of relationships and partnerships. They are talking to others about their experiences. And they are looking for people they can share a similar experience with.

Asexuals are thinking carefully and critically about what it means to be close to someone, and in doing so, many of them have an understanding of non-sexual practices of intimacy. By doing all of this, they are developing a very unique skill set in a culture which is often considered to be over sexualised.

At a time when there is a growing recognition that many teenagers struggle to understand what a healthy romantic relationship actually looks like, asexuality gives us a new way of understanding relationships – both sexual and asexual, romantic and unromantic. And this could have a huge potential to help others understand closeness in relationships where there is an absence of sexual intimacy.

Complete Article HERE!

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Older people still have sex, but it’s the intimacy and affection that matters more

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Sexuality is still an important part of life for older people, but it’s seldom discussed and rarely researched.

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Sexuality encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction and what we think, feel and believe about them. It has been a research focus for over a hundred years, and highlighted as an important part of the human experience. Since the first studies on human sexuality in the 1940s, research has consistently demonstrated that sexual interest and activity are sustained well into old age. However, only a fraction of the research has explored sexuality in the later years of life.

Most of the early research on sexuality and ageing looked at the sexual behaviours and biology of older adults, generally ignoring the wider concept of sexuality. When researchers did discuss sexuality more broadly, many referred to sexuality as the domain of the young, and emphasised this was a major barrier to the study of sexuality in older adults.

Sexuality in later life ignored

Towards the end of the 20th century, research expanded to include attitudes towards sexual expression in older adults, and the biological aspects of sexuality and ageing. Consistently, the research showed sexual expression is possible for older adults, and sustained sexual activity into old age is more likely for those who had active sex lives earlier in life.

By the late 1980s, there was a strong focus on the biological aspects of ageing. This expanded to include the reasons behind sexual decline. The research found these were highly varied and many older adults remain sexually active well into later life.

But despite evidence adults continue to desire and pursue sexual expression well into later life, both society in general and many health professionals have inadvertently helped perpetuate the myth of the asexual older person. This can happen through an unintentional lack of recognition, or an avoidance of a topic that makes some people uncomfortable.

Why does this matter?

These ageist attitudes can have an impact on older adults not only in their personal lives, but also in relation to their health needs. Examples include the failure of medical personnel to test for sexually transmissible infections in older populations, or the refusal of patients to take prescribed medications because of adverse impacts on erection rigidity. We need more health practitioners to be conscious of and incorporate later life sexuality into the regular health care of older adults. We still have a long way to go.

By ignoring the importance of sexuality for many older adults, we fail to acknowledge the role that sexuality plays in many people’s relationships, health, well-being and quality of life. Failure to address sexual issues with older patients may lead to or exacerbate marital problems and result in the withdrawal of one or both partners from other forms of intimacy. Failure to discuss sexual health needs with patients can also lead to incorrect medical diagnoses, such as the misdiagnosis of dementia in an older patient with HIV.

It’s not about ‘the deed’ itself

In a recent survey examining sexuality in older people, adults aged between 51 and 89 were asked a series of open-ended questions about sexuality, intimacy and desire, and changes to their experiences in mid-life and later life. This information was then used to create a series of statements that participants were asked to group together in ways they felt made sense, and to rank the importance of each statement.

The most important themes that emerged from the research encompassed things such as partner compatibility, intimacy and pleasure, and factors that influence the experience of desire or the way people express themselves sexually. Although people still considered sexual expression and sexual urges to be important, they were not the focus for many people over 45.

Affectionate and intimate behaviours, trust, respect and compatibility were more important aspects of sexuality than intercourse for most people. Overall, the message was one about the quality of the experience and the desire for connection with a partner, and not about the frequency of sexual activities.

People did discuss barriers to sexual expression and intimacy such as illness, mood or lack of opportunity or a suitable partner, but many felt these were not something they focused on in their own lives. This is in line with the data that shows participants place a greater importance on intimacy and affectionate behaviours such as touching, hugging and kissing, rather than intercourse.

These results help us challenge the existing stereotype of the “asexual older person” and the idea intercourse is necessary to be considered sexually active. They also make it clear researchers and health practitioners need to focus on a greater variety of ways we can improve the experience and expressions of sexuality and intimacy for adults from mid-life onwards beyond medical interventions (like Viagra) that focus on prolonging or enhancing intercourse.

Complete Article HERE!

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You’re probably not ‘totally straight,’ according to new research

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Society tends to be less accepting of men who are sexually fluid.

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  • There is a new type of sexual orientation called “mostly straight,” according to new research.
  • This sexuality entails identifying as straight but occasionally experiencing same-sex attraction and arousal.
  • Men have a harder time coming out as mostly straight because society is less forgiving of male sexual fluidity.

If there is anything to be gleaned from the past thousand years of human interaction, it is that human sexuality has never been simple.

And now, we have more scientific literature to back up the claim. According to recent research from Ritch Savin-Williams, a psychology professor of human development at Cornell University, there is a spot on the sexual spectrum that is not straight, gay, or bisexual — it’s called being “mostly straight.”

Savin-Williams’ conclusion stems from research on sexuality that he conducted and published in a book titled “Mostly Straight: Sexual Fluidity Among Young Men“.

In one study Savin-Williams worked on, participants who identified as men or women were shown pornography. By measuring the dilation of their pupils — an indicator of sexual arousal, as proven by a previous study of his published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Savin-Williams and his team were able to conclude that women were aroused by pornography featuring women with men and women with women. Men had similar results, which Savin-Williams calls being “mostly straight.”

This is not to say that no one is straight. “I wouldn’t say that [no one is totally straight] and I never have, despite press reports,” Savin-Williams told INSIDER. “I believe the vast majority of men are exclusively straight.”

Sexuality is a spectrum, but society doesn’t always allow room for male transgressions.

Savin-Williams is not the first scientist to deal with the idea that sexual preference isn’t quite as rigid as was previously believed. Many people already know about the Kinsey scale, the near-ubiquitous system that allows people to gauge their sexuality on a sliding scale, which revealed that people do not always fit exclusively into heterosexual or homosexual categories. In fact, according to Savin-Williams, the Kinsey scale allows space for people who might identify as mostly straight.

The Kinsey scale.

“Because the seven-point Kinsey Scale was a continuum from exclusively straight to exclusively gay/lesbian, there was an obvious place between exclusively straight and bisexual leaning straight — Kinsey 1s or mostly straight,” Savin-Williams told INSIDER.

But men have largely been excluded from the sexual fluidity narrative.

“Very few researchers seemed to notice these [sexually fluid or mostly straight] individuals, except with women,” Savin-Williams told INSIDER. “Then, while interviewing straight men for a study, I discovered that a number of them said that they were not exclusively straight, but mostly straight. These self-reports were confirmed by their confidential surveys and by their physiological reactions to watching porn: their pupils dilated to men masturbating, not as much as their pupils dilated to women masturbating, but an elevation nevertheless.”

This exclusion is due to the fact that, as Savin-Williams said, conventional society doesn’t allow much room for variance or growth in male sexuality.

“Men are affected by the belief that any level of same-sex attraction must mean you’re gay. Our culture likes our men simple — gay or straight,” Savin-Williams told INSIDER. “We give women greater freedom to be flexible, to be affected by the environment; they can act ‘masculine’ and not be labeled lesbian but men can’t act ‘feminine’ without being thought gay.”

Women have sexually fluid representation, but men don’t get as much.

This is certainly true in popular culture. It’s hard to come across a movie or TV show these days that doesn’t feature a complex, sexually fluid female character, like Eleanor Shellstrop on “The Good Place” or Petra Solano on “Jane The Virgin.”

Male characters have some sexually fluid representation “Jane The Virgin,” for example, has a male character, Adam, who is bisexual) but, generally, male figures in popular culture are relegated to one of two binaries: 100% straight or 100% gay.

Savin-Williams believes that the answer to helping men and women becoming more comfortable with mostly straight men relies, in part, upon “more famous people coming out as mostly straight,” he told INSIDER. “Josh Hutcherson began this years ago, but few have followed. I would love to see more young men come out as mostly straight to their friends and families.”

More pop culture representation wouldn’t hurt, either.

“There are more mostly straights among the millennial generation than in previous generations, largely because there’s an incredible acceptance and celebration of sexual, romantic, and gender diversity. Young people believe in the spectrum of sexuality and romance,” Savin-Williams told INSIDER. “There are already more mostly straight women and men than bisexual and gay/lesbian individuals combined. Mostly straights need to be freed from their closets — how about a movie or two?”

Complete Article HERE!

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How to close the female orgasm gap

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Studies show sexual pleasure, self-esteem and satisfaction profoundly impacts our wellbeing. That’s why increasing our ‘sexual IQ’ matters

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In this moment of brave truth telling and female empowerment, it’s time to address one topic that’s been missing far too long from our conversations around sex: female pleasure.

Study after study show that sexual pleasure, self-esteem and satisfaction have profound impacts on our physical and mental wellbeing. It is a natural and vital part of our health and happiness.

As a society, we accept this premise fairly easily when it comes to men and they learn it at a young age. When discovering how babies are made, male ejaculation (ie his pleasure) plays a featured role. Men feel entitled to pleasure and our culture supports that. There are endless nicknames for male anatomy and jokes about masturbation; and TV shows, movies, advertisements and porn all cater to their fantasies.

Women, on the other hand, appear mostly as the object in these fantasies rather than as subjects. In middle school sex ed classes, drawings of female anatomy often don’t even include the clitoris, as if women’s reproductive function is somehow separate from their pleasure. Female pleasure remains taboo and poorly understood. There is little scientific research on the topic and even doctors shy away from discussing it: according to a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, less than 30% of gynecologists routinely ask their patients about pleasure and sexual satisfaction.

This silence has real consequences. Almost 30% of college-age women can’t identify their clitoris on an anatomy test, according to a study from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Another survey by the UK gynecological cancer charity, Eve Appeal, finds that women are more familiar with men’s bodies than their own: while 60% could correctly label a diagram of the male body, just 35% of women correctly labeled female anatomy. (For the record, men scored even worse.)

Lack of sexual health knowledge is associated with lower rates of condom and contraceptive use. It also contributes to pleasure disparities in the bedroom. While gay and straight men climax about 85% of the time during sex, women having sex with women orgasm about 75% of the time and women having sex with men come last at just 63%, research from the Kinsey Institute shows. The reasons for this “orgasm gap” are surely multifaceted, but we can start to address it by talking more about the importance of women’s pleasure.

Let’s talk about what women’s sexual anatomy really looks like, so that we can normalize differences, reduce body shame and improve self-care. We should encourage self-exploration from an early age so that women (and men) learn what feels good to them and how that changes as we move through the different stages of our lives.

Knowing our own bodies can promote our own health and wellbeing, and empower our relationships. The Kinsey study showed that compared to women who orgasmed less frequently, women who experienced more pleasure were more likely to ask for what they want in bed, act out fantasies and praise their partner for something they did in bed, among other things. We can’t talk about what we like or don’t like with our partners if we don’t know ourselves.

In order to cultivate a culture of true gender equality, we need candid conversations and accurate, sex-positive information. Without this, pop culture, pornography and outdated cultural institutions fill in these gaps with unhealthy stereotypes and unrealistic expectations that center on male pleasure and leave women in a supporting role.

Through our willingness to speak openly about sex and to seek out empowering information, we can increase our “sexual IQ” and make more informed choices that will improve our sexual satisfaction, happiness and wellbeing throughout our lives.

As author Peggy Orenstein says “We’ve raised a generation of girls to have a voice, to expect egalitarian treatment in the homes, in the classroom, in the workplace. Now it’s time to demand that ‘intimate justice’ in their personal lives as well.”

Complete Article HERE!

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9 reasons having sex is good for you, according to science

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By Alexandra Thompson

Science reveals nine ways having sex benefits your health.

According to California-based obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Sherry Ross, few things in life are better for people’s hearts, bodies and souls than getting intimate between the sheets.

From burning calories to boosting the immune system and even fighting the signs of ageing, numerous studies reveal regular love making seriously boosts people’s wellbeing.

Sex is even a natural painkiller and could help combat insomnia, Dr Ross adds.

Below, Dr Ross outlines the nine ways, proven by science, being active between the sheets boosts people’s health and wellbeing.

Burns calories

Researchers from the University of Quebec at Montreal analysed 21 heterosexual couples with an average age of 22.

Results revealed women burn, on average, 69.1 calories when they have sex for just under 25 minutes.

This calorie-burning number climbs higher still if you are on top, in a squat position or having an orgasm.

Dr Ross told NetDoctor: ‘The act of sexual intimacy can be a great workout and counts as such for many as their daily exercise regimen.’

Boosts the immune system

A study by Indiana University found women with healthy sex lives produce higher levels of antibodies, which fight off infections.

Dr Ross said: ‘Regular sex makes for a stronger immune system, fighting off common illnesses such as colds and having less sick days from work.

‘Sex also helps lower your blood pressure and lowers your risk of heart attacks.’

Prevents incontinence

For women suffering from urinary incontinence, which is common after childbirth, incorporating Kegel exercises into your sex life can strengthen your pelvic floor and improve bladder control, according to Dr Ross.

If this isn’t enough, such exercises also heighten orgasms for both you and your partner, she adds.

Is a natural painkiller

Contracting genital muscles generate a pleasurable feeling that can reduce the discomfort of menstrual cramps, headaches and joint pain, according to Dr Ross.

She adds tracking your menstrual cycle and scheduling in an orgasm before your first period could prevent crippling discomfort.

Aids insomnia

After an orgasm, endorphins and the hormone prolactin are released, which relax the body and mind to promote sleep, Dr Ross claims.

Boosts pregnancy chances – even if you’re not ovulating!

Researchers from the Kinsey Institute and Indiana University found women who have sex when not ovulating create an environment in their wombs that make it more hospitable for growing embryos.

This is due to orgasms activating the immune system, which then seems to prepare women for even the possibility of pregnancy.

Improves mental health

According to the sex therapist Vanessa Marin, skin-to-skin contact releases oxytocin, which is also known as the ‘cuddle hormone’.

This can reduce anxiety and stress, while promoting feelings of closeness.

Prevents wrinkles

In 2013, UK-based neuropsychologist Dr David Weeks questioned more than 3,500 people about their sex lives over 10 years.

Results revealed those who have regular, healthy sex lives look up to seven years younger than people who do not get intimate two-to-three times a week.

Dr Weeks believes this is due to the release of endorphins that boost circulation and reduce stress, as well as the production of human growth hormones, which promote skin elasticity.

Makes you brainier

According to a study published in the Journals of Gerontology, sexually-active older adults perform better in verbal and visual tests.

This may be due to the release of oxytocin and ‘the happy hormone’ dopamine, which have both been linked to improved cognitive function.

Complete Article HERE!

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