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In defense of opposite-sex friendships

By Heidi Stevens

My friend Jeff does not want to impregnate me.

And thank God for that, since his wife is expecting their third child this summer.

“Let me be clear,” he told me Thursday morning. “I have two, almost three children. I don’t want to impregnate anyone.”

I called him to check, since Lutheran pastor Hans Fiene put me and my fellow females on notice earlier this week.

“You don’t have any guy friends,” Fiene wrote in The Federalist on Tuesday. “In fact, you can’t have any guy friends.”

“Quite simply, men can’t be at peace being just friends,” Fiene wrote. “And there’s nothing you can do to change that. Platonic chilling won’t stop your inner (and outer) beauty from pulling a man towards romantic love. Telling him he’s like a brother to you won’t stop his brain from shouting ‘Marry that woman and impregnate her now’ when he encounters your femininity.”

Maybe Fiene didn’t mean my femininity, since I already have a husband. Maybe he didn’t mean Jeff’s brain, since Jeff already has a wife. But between his essay and Vice President Mike Pence’s no-dining-with-women rule, it’s a tricky time for opposite-sex friendships.

I’m here to defend them.

Jeff and I are friends because we work in similar industries, we live in the same neighborhood, our kids get along and we make each other laugh. I adore his wife. He likes my husband. Sometimes we meet for coffee. Sometimes we get together with our kids — with and without our spouses.

My husband, meanwhile, has a handful of female friends. He sometimes shares meals with them. With alcohol. Without me. I can’t overstate how much I prefer this setup over a husband who views all women as potential vessels to grow his babies. His female friends give him a greater understanding of half the world’s population. My male friendships do the same for me.

“It helps un-bro me,” Jeff said of his friendship with women. “I don’t know how bro-tastic I ever was, but certainly more so when I was younger and had exclusively male friends.”

Now his female friendships lend valuable insight and awareness to his home and work life. (He works in media relations.) “I haven’t had a male boss in 15 years or so,” he told me.

Friendships give us a different lens through which to see the world. They help us walk in someone else’s shoes. They give us people to care about, protect, laugh with, cry on, learn from, respectfully disagree with, cherish.

Friendships with people who don’t look and live just like us can open our minds and alter our behavior in ways that are immeasurable and invaluable.

And we should turn a skeptical eye — or avoid altogether — people whose reproductive parts don’t match ours?

I don’t think so.

We can acknowledge that some men are sometimes attracted to their female friends, and some women are sometimes attracted to their male friends. (And some men are sometimes attracted to their male friends, some women to their female friends, while we’re on the topic.)

We can also recognize that mature adults go through life, every single day, not acting on all our impulses. We don’t eat the whole pan of brownies. We don’t tell our bosses to take a flying leap. We don’t order martinis at lunch. We don’t sleep with our friends.

We don’t do the things, in other words, that sabotage our goals and our lives, even if they sound sort of fun at the time.

You can be friends with the opposite sex. You should, I would argue, be friends with the opposite sex.

The benefits of opposite-sex friendships far outweigh the possible, occasional risks, especially since we’re perfectly capable of mitigating those risks.

Men and women have far more to offer each other than our bodies, in bed. It’s insulting and, frankly, a little sad to suggest otherwise.

Complete Article HERE!

The Swinging Over-Sixties: most older couples are happy with their sex lives

By Katie Grant

It is a common assumption that once a couple ties the knot, sex goes out the window. Indeed, the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, who said “I do” nine times, once quipped: “I know nothing about sex, because I was always married”.

Yet new research indicates that most couples in long-term relationships remain happy well into their sixties.

While it is not uncommon for couples to disagree about how often they should have sex, this does not necessarily alter their commitment to the relationship, scientists at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference in Manchester will hear on Wednesday.

Levels of sexual desire

Researchers surveyed more than 5,000 heterosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual people aged 16 to 65 to discuss their relationships.

Around 60 per cent of respondents believed that sex was an important part of their relationship while 15 per cent disagreed. The remainder neither agreed nor disagreed.

One third (33 per cent) of women reported that their partners wanted sex more frequently than they did, while a larger proportion, 40 per cent, said this was not the case.

Only 10 per cent of men said that their partners wanted sex more frequently than they did, compared with nearly two thirds (60 per cent) who said they did not.

‘Part and parcel’ of relationship cycle

The research, conducted by Professor Jacqui Gabb, of the Open University, and Professor Janet Fink, of the University of Huddersfield, and presented in Manchester on Wednesday, reveals that differences in sexual desire are not considered “particularly significant”.

“Couples are saying that differences in sexual frequency and desire are just part and parcel of the relationship cycle and are accepted as not particularly significant,” Professor Gabb said.

Still going strong

The study also found that many older participants continued to derive pleasure from their sex lives even when sexual activity was less frequent than it had once been.

One older woman who participated in the research described sex as “one of the prerequisites of a relationship” for her.

However, she added: “There are other areas of a relationship which I think need a lot more work and are far more important, like trust, money, love [and] teamwork.”

Long-term love

Professor Gabb said of the findings: “Fluctuations in desire are inexorably tied into other life factors, but it is the sharing of a life together, the investment in that joint venture and the acceptance of change as an integral part of this shared life which enables couples to weather the ebbs and flows that characterise sexual intimacy and the passage of time in long-term relationships.”

She added: “The longevity of partnerships seems to be connected with couples’ capacity to negotiate changing circumstances. For older couples, the first blush of a new relationship may have worn off but the relationship has not tarnished.”

Complete Article HERE!

This Sex-Positive YouTuber Is Taking Sex-Ed Online

The personal is political

by Miranda Feneberger

California native Laci Green started uploading videos to her very first YouTube channel at age 18. Nearly 10 years later, Laci owns and operates the number one sex education channel on YouTube: LaciGreen. With more than a million subscribers, a Webby award-winning spinoff series for MTV, and content produced on behalf of Planned Parenthood and Discovery News, Green is now the reigning queen of the online sex-ed industry.


 
It all started while Green was studying law at UC Berkeley; while there, she also taught a course on Human Sexuality, organized peer-led sexual health programs for local high schools, and launched her Streamy award-winning sex-ed series, Sex+. She got a certificate in domestic violence and rape crisis counseling from the state of California in 2010 and was also featured last year in TIME magazine’s list of the 30 Most Influential People on the Internet.

Green approaches topics like masturbation, contraception, BDSM, and sexuality with the relatability of a sister and the credentials of an expert. Her channel is informative, fun, and, best of all, positive. Can you see why we’re obsessed with her? Below, we speak with Green all about online activism, sexual health, and how young people can join the sex-ed conversation.

How do you feel the internet, and YouTube specifically, has changed the way young people learn about sex?
The internet is amazing because it has offered an open platform to talk about sexuality in ways we haven’t been able to before. Whatever has been kept in the shadows is on full display online—for better or worse. It’s great in the sense that it’s more accessible, and people who live in sex-negative communities can just hop online to find community and information. But the openness of the internet has also created new challenges, like distinguishing fact from fiction.

Have you, over the years, seen a change in the way the high school and college students are responding to sex-ed, feminism, and LGBTQI+ issues?
Yes! I think the conversation is elevating, and some of the more basic myths about anatomy, safer sex, and sexual assault are slowly being debunked. My experience is that young people are, and have been as long as I’ve been doing this, very positive toward LGBT and feminist causes.

What are the resources you would recommend to young people who have questions about sexual health?
Go Ask AliceScarleteen, and Planned Parenthood are fantastic non-YouTube internet resources. As for books, every young woman should own a copy of Our Bodies Ourselves.

What is the most important thing young people should know about sexual health?
Taking care of your sexual health is just as important as taking care of your overall physical health. Things like STI screenings, birth control, and Pap smears are nothing to be embarrassed about; they’re part of adulting.

What do you think is at the root of the recent YouTube censorship of LGBTQI+ and feminist content?
Based on YouTube’s comments about this, I don’t believe it was deliberate. I think LGBT content got swept up in an algorithm change that was meant to offer parents a way to moderate the content that very young kids see. I don’t think there’s a problem with such a feature, but they need to figure out how to make sure LGBT content, couples, and creators are not targeted by the filter in ways that straight couples are not.

What advice would you give to a young person who might be interested in changing the way sex-ed is delivered at their school?
Politics are the reason sex education is so terrible, so it’s really important to hold our city and state level politicians accountable. Google who your representatives are, and pay attention to what they are doing. Reach out to them directly to voice your opinion. Talk to administrators at your school as well and ask questions. Remember, government officials work for you, not the other way around.

Complete Article HERE!

Does Progesterone Influence Baby’s Later Sexuality?

A new study addresses whether supplementing progesterone during pregnancy, a common practice to prevent miscarriage, could influence a baby’s sexual orientation in later life.

Dr. June Reinisch, director emerita of the Kinsey Institute in the U.S., led the study. She found that bisexuality is quite common among men and women whose mothers received additional doses of the sex hormone progesterone while pregnant.

As discussed in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers tracked the sexual development of 34 Danes whose mothers were treated with the hormone to prevent miscarriage.

According to the investigators, progesterone appears to be an underappreciated factor influencing the normal development of variations in human sexuality and psychosexuality.

Researchers believe the findings warrant further investigation given that little is known about the effects on offspring of natural variations in levels of maternal progesterone and that progesterone is widely used to treat pregnancy complications.

Men and women all naturally produce the sex hormone progesterone. It is involved in women’s menstrual cycles, and helps to maintain pregnancies and development of the fetus.

Progesterone plays a role in neural development and the production of other sex hormones as well as steroid hormones that help to regulate stress responses, inflammation, and metabolism in the body.

Physicians often prescribe progesterone and its bio-versions to support the fertilization process, to prevent miscarriages or premature births, or to increase babies’ birth weights.

The 34 participants in the study were drawn from the Copenhagen Perinatal Cohort, which comprises information collected from virtually all children born between 1959 and 1961 at the university hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The 17 men and 17 women were selected because their mothers exclusively received the progesterone lutocyclin to prevent a miscarriage.

These men and women were compared with a carefully selected control group who were not exposed prenatally to lutocyclin or any other hormone medication, but who otherwise matched the study participants based on 14 relevant physical, medical, and socioeconomic factors.

The participants were all in their mid-20s when asked about their sexual orientation, self-identification, attraction to each sex, and sexual history using questionnaires and a structured interview with a psychologist.

It was found that men and women whose mothers were treated with progesterone were significantly less likely to describe themselves as heterosexual. One in every five (20.6 percent) of the progesterone- exposed participants labeled themselves as other than heterosexual.

Compared to the untreated group, the chances were greater that by their mid-20s they had already engaged in some form of same-sex sexual behavior (in up to 24.2 percent of cases), and that they were attracted to the same (29.4 percent) or to both sexes (17.6 percent). Both exposed males and females also had higher scores related to attraction to men.

“Progesterone exposure was found to be related to increased non-heterosexual self-identification, attraction to the same or both sexes, and same-sex sexual behavior,” says Reinisch.

“The findings highlight the likelihood that prenatal exposure to progesterone may have a long-term influence on behavior related to sexuality in humans.”

The research team believes further studies on the offspring of women medically treated with progesterone and other progestogens during their pregnancies are necessary. Additionally, studies examining the effects of natural variation in prenatal progesterone levels are warranted to provide more insight into the role that this hormone plays in the development of human behavior.

Complete Article HERE!

Why men and women lie about sex, and how this complicates STD control

By

When it comes to reporting the number of sex partners or how often they have sexual intercourse, men and women both lie. While men tend to overreport it, women have a tendency to underreport it. Although the story is not that simple and clear-cut, I have discovered some interesting reasons why this is the case – and why it matters to doing research on sexual health.

Lying is an inherent aspect of reporting sexual behaviors. For instance, more females report being a virgin (i.e., had not had sexual intercourse) despite having had genital contact with a partner, compared to males.

I have studied sexual avoidance and also frequency of sex in patient populations. In this regard I have always been interested in gender differences in what they do and what they report. This is in line with my other research on gender and sex differences.

The low validity and usefulness of self-reported sexual behavior data is very bad news for public health officials. Sexual behavior data should be both accurate and reliable, as they are paramount for effective reproductive health interventions to prevent HIV and STD. When men and women misreport their sexual behaviors, it undermines program designers’ and health care providers’ ability to plan appropriately.

Pregnant virgins, and STDs among the abstinent

A very clear example is the proportion of self-reported virginal status among pregnant women. In a study of multi-ethnic National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, also known as Add Health, a nationally representative study of American youth, 45 women of 7,870 women reported at least one virgin pregnancy.

Another example is the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) which are not expected among young adults reporting sexual abstinence. Yet more than 10 percent of young adults who had a confirmed positive STD reported abstaining from any sexual intercourse in the last year before STD testing.

If we ask youth who have had sexual experience, only 22 percent of them report the same date of first sex the second time we ask about it. On average, people revise their (reported) age at first sex to older ages the second time. Boys have higher inconsistency reporting their first sex compared to females. Males are more likely than females to give inconsistent sexual information globally.

Why don’t people tell the truth about sex?

Why do people lie about their sexual behavior? There are many reasons. One is that people underreport stigmatized activities, such as having multiple sexual partners among women. They overreport the normative ones, such as higher frequency of sex for men. In both cases, people think their actual behavior would be considered socially unacceptable. This is also called social desirability or social approval bias.

Social desirability bias causes problems in health research. It reduces reliability and validity of self-reported sexual behavior data. Simply said, social desirability helps us look good.

As gender norms create different expectations about socially acceptable behavior of men and women, males and females face pressures in reporting certain (socially accepted) behaviors.

In particular, self-reports on premarital sexual experience is of poor quality. Also self-reports of infidelity are less valid.

Although most studies suggest these differences are due to the systematic tendency of men and women to exaggerate and hide their number of partners, there are studies that suggest much of this difference is driven by a handful of men and women who grossly inflate and underreport their sexual encounters.

Even married couples lie

Men and women also lie when we ask them who is making sexual decisions regarding who has more power when it comes to sexual decision-making.

We do not expect disagreement when we ask the same question from husbands and wives in the same couples. But, interestingly, there is a systematic disagreement. More interestingly, in most cases when spouses disagree, husbands are more likely to say “yes” and wives “no.” The findings are interpreted in terms of gendered strategies in the interview process.

Not all of the gender differences in reported sexual behaviors are due to men’s and women’s selective under- and over- reporting of sexual acts. And, some of the sexual behaviors do vary by gender. For instance, men have more sex than women, and men less commonly use condoms. Men have more casual partners, regardless of the validity of their report.

Secretive females, swaggering males

Studies have found that on average, women report fewer nonmarital sexual partners than men, as well as more stable longer relationships. This is in line with the idea that in general men “swagger” (i.e., exaggerate their sexual activity), while women are “secretive” (i.e., underreport sex).

Structural factors such as social norms shape men’s and women’s perceptions of appropriate sexual behaviors. Society expects men to have more sexual partners, and women to have fewer sexual partners.

According to the sexual double standard, the same sexual behavior is judged differently depending on the gender of the (sexual) actor (Milhausen and Herold 2001). Interestingly, men are more likely to endorse a double standard than women.

In the presence of sexual double standards, males are praised for their sexual contacts, whereas females are derogated and stigmatized for the same behaviors, “He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut.”

Research suggests that lifetime sexual partnerships affect peer status of genders differently. A greater number of sexual partners is positively correlated with boys’ peer acceptance, but negatively correlated with girls’ peer acceptance.

Self-serving bias is common

As humans, self-serving bias is a part of how we think and how we act. A common type of cognitive bias, self-serving bias can be defined as an individual’s tendency to attribute positive events and attributes to their own actions but negative events and attributes to others and external factors. We report on sexual behaviors which are normative and accepted to protect ourselves, and avoid stress and conflict. That will reduce our distinction from our surroundings, and will help us feel safe.

As a result, in our society, men are rewarded for having a high number of sexual partners, whereas women are penalized for the same behavior.

The only long-term solution is the ongoing decline in “double standard” about sexual morality. Until then, researchers should continue questioning the accuracy of their data. Computerized interviews may be only a partial solution. Increasing privacy and confidentiality is another partial solution.

Complete Article HERE!