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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!

Why Sex Is Better At 57 Than 27

Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Dame Helen Mirren approves of her wax replica.

Dame Helen Mirren approves of her wax replica.

Despite the fondness certain corners of the internet and cable television have for mocking sexually vital women of a certain age, new research suggests that those who embrace their sexuality may be laughing all the way to longer, healthier lives—though older men aren’t as lucky.

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A study out of Michigan State University (MSU) published this month in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior has found that frequent sex (defined as once or more per week) for women age 57 and older—especially if it’s “extremely pleasurable or satisfying”—resulted in a lower risk of hypertension and protected against cardiovascular disease.

Unfortunately for men, frequent sex in the 57 and older range is actually dangerous, increasing their risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and stroke. The risk is compounded by the use of medications such as Cialis and Viagra.

The study—an analysis of survey data of 2,204 people collected by the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project in 2005-6 and again five years later—isn’t just good news for older women, and should offer hope for younger women as they look to the future of their own sexuality.

Dr. Nancy Sutton Pierce, a nurse and clinical sexologist, suggests the best thing a young woman can do for her continued sexual health is to cultivate an attitude of optimism about it as she ages. “Younger women think sexy has an expiration date. Older women know it doesn’t,” she says.

The study is a stride toward busting the cultural myths that older women are supposedly non-sexual beings, which Sutton Pierce says “absolutely does them a disservice.” Sutton Pierce, who is almost 60, happily defies sexual stereotypes of older women. Married for thirty years to the same man, she says, “My sex life is better than ever, much better than my twenties.” In her work she says she sees women after forty “blossoming,” adding, “As women mature, we mature on all levels, which means we start to own our sexuality and sexual power. We don’t need someone else to tell us we’re hot, we can feel it.”

Study author Hiu Liu, an associate professor of sociology at MSU, also finds that for women, quality of sexual experience is a key contributing factor to the health benefits, not just quantity. “As a sociologist, I don’t see sex as just a physical exercise, as medical doctors do. It’s a social behavior, and has emotional meaning,” she says.

001For older women experiencing other kinds of physical declines related to illness, staying sexually active may bring other benefits. Irwin H., who asked to remain anonymous, of San Francisco found that for his 70-year-old wife, who has multiple sclerosis, increasingly limited mobility, and walks with a cane, “Sex gives her back her former sense of her physical self.” He even waxes a little poetic: “Sexuality for her is like an unexpected warm day in the middle of winter. It doesn’t end winter, but it makes it bearable.”

Some older women may believe they’ve lost their sexual selves when they experience the often dramatic physical changes at and after menopause, such as vaginal dryness and reduced libido. They need not despair, says Celeste Holbrook, PhD, a sexual health consultant and sexologist. “Sex, and fulfilling sex doesn’t always have to be centered on the goal of an orgasm, or penetrative sex,” she adds.

004However, Liu points out that the female sexual hormone released during orgasm, oxytocin, “may also promote women’s health” by reducing cortisol and increasing estrogen.

Holbrook urges communication between partners rather than silent acceptance. “Redefining your sexuality as we age for anybody is really good. Talk to your partner about your body changes and how you can create a fulfilling sex life while embracing those changes.”

Men shouldn’t worry too much, however. Though the MSU study seems to be the research equivalent of a cold shower for older men, Liu reminds them, “Moderate sex is good for older men, too.”

Complete Article HERE!

American Men Are Pretty Happy With Their Penises

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penis-satisfaction

For understandable reasons, society’s conversation about body satisfaction tends to focus on women. Women, it can safely be argued, face a lot more social pressure to look good all the time, to feel ashamed of their bodies, and to harp on minor imperfections.

Men aren’t immune from all that, though. And one particularly painful area where it manifests, according to sexual health researchers, is in insecurity about their penises. This can lead to some bad outcomes. As a team led by Thomas Gaither, a urologist at the University of California, San Francisco, point out in a new study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, “Case reports have shown men undergo risky procedures, such as silicon injections, to lengthen their penis and increase penile girth.” In addition, “Genital piercings, silicone injection, and subcutaneous implant are increasingly common and are associated with numerous complications.

Gaither and his colleagues wanted to better understand how men view their penises, so they conducted what they say is the first nationally representative survey using a newly developed scale called the Index of Male Genital Image, or IMGI. It consists of 14 statements ranked on a score of 1–7 involving penis length, girth, and so on — a score of 1–3 is coded as “dissatisfied,” while 4–7 is coded as satisfied. They got results from 3,996 men, the sample drawn from 18-to-65-year-olds who weren’t institutionalized.

Comparing those who landed in the “satisfied” (greater than 4.0) versus “unsatisfied” (4.0 or lower) buckets when the scores were averaged, the researchers didn’t find any statistically significant differences in penile satisfaction when it came to age, “race, marital status, education, location, income, or sexual partners.” Penile (dis)satisfaction appears to be pretty much constant across these categories.

Overall:

A total of 3433 (85.9%) reported an average greater than 4 per item on the IMGI and thus were classified as satisfied. Men reported highest satisfaction with the shape of their glans (64%), followed by circumcision status (62%), girth of erect penis (61%), texture of skin (60%), and size of testicles (59%). Men reported dissatisfaction with the size of their flaccid penis (27 %), length of erect penis (19%), girth of erect penis (15%), amount of pubic hair (14%), and amount of semen (12%). Men reported neutrality with the scent of their genitals (44%), genital veins (43%), location of urethra (42%), color of genitals (40%), and amount of pubic hair (36%). Of note, those who were extremely dissatisfied (score of 1 or 2) reported dissatisfaction with their flaccid penis (10.0%), length of erect penis (5.7 %), and girth of erect penis (4.5%).

There were some decent-size differences in terms of the sexual experiences of men who were satisfied versus dissatisfied with their penises. Those who were satisfied were less likely to be sexually active (73.5 percent versus 86.3 percent), and engaged in less daily and weekly sexual activity. There were also slight but statistically significant differences in the percentage of dissatisfied versus satisfied men who reported having had vaginal or receptive oral sex (85.2 percent versus 89.5 percent, and 61 percent versus 66.2 percent). The obvious question here is what’s causing what: To what extent are men who are dissatisfied with their penises less likely to seek out sex as a result of their insecurity? A correlational self-report study can’t answer that, nor can it answer whether these mens’ likes and dislikes were shared by their sexual partners.

It’s interesting that a sizable minority of men reported dissatisfaction with their testicle size or glans shape. On the one hand, in a survey like this you are explicitly asking about certain features, so these responses don’t mean that they are wandering around obsessing over this stuff. (It would be another thing entirely if you asked men to generate an open-ended list of body features they didn’t like and these kept popping up.) But on the other: It’s an interesting comparison to what women go through, because it highlights the fact that at least some of the things both men and women worry about probably aren’t, in fact, of much import to anyone else. If you’re a guy, the odds that a partner is going to care that much about the size of your testicles or the “shape of your glans” — that’s something I can honestly say I had never even thought about before reading this article, and which the researchers note “has little anatomic variability” — are probably pretty low.

More broadly, the main takeaway, as a first-pass attempt at understanding this stuff, is that men mostly feel pretty happy with their penises. Which can maybe explain the epidemic of unsolicited photos.

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!

Could my wife’s circumcision explain her lack of interest in sex?

Our sex life has been underwhelming. I wonder if what happened to her as a child could be to blame

By Pamela Stephenson Connolly

I cannot even try to guess your wife’s experience’

I cannot even try to guess your wife’s experience’

I am in my mid-40s and have been married for 16 years. Our sexual life has been very underwhelming. I have tried everything I know but my wife seems to have little or no interest in sex. I do know that she was circumcised as a child. Could that have affected her sexuality?

A person’s sexuality is created through a complex combination of physical, psychological and physiological factors as well as the messages about sex they received from childhood onwards – religious beliefs, parental warnings, societal judgment and formative experiences. You have told me little, but the fact that she was circumcised suggests that she may have been raised in a society where the notion of female sexuality was not exactly appreciated. In many of the world’s societies – including our own – it is judged by some as inappropriate, and even feared, suppressed, or punished.

I cannot even try to guess your wife’s experience, or the motives of those who performed it, but I am sure it has had some effect on her conceptualisation of sex and her ability to experience pleasure. This would be particularly true if her clitoris was removed. Gently ask her if she could try to express what the circumcision was like for her, and how it might have affected her ability to enjoy sex. A gynaecologist could shed some light on how nerve loss or damage might have affected her ability to orgasm or even become aroused, and a psychosexual counsellor could suggest alternative sexual approaches. After 16 years, your wife and you deserve some understanding and hope.

Complete Article HERE!