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No, Scientists Have Not Found the ‘Gay Gene’

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By Ed Yong

The media is hyping a study that doesn’t do what it says it does.

A woman works with human genetic material at a laboratory in Munich May 23, 2011. On May 25, 2011 the ethic commission of the German lower house of parliament (Bundestag) will discuss about alternative proposals for a new law on the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (Praeimplantationsdiagnostik) is a technique used to identify genetic defects in embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) before pregnancy, which is banned by German legislation.

This week, a team from the University of California, Los Angeles claimed to have found several epigenetic marks—chemical modifications of DNA that don’t change the underlying sequence—that are associated with homosexuality in men. Postdoc Tuck Ngun presented the results yesterday at the American Society of Human Genetics 2015 conference. Nature News were among the first to break the story based on a press release issued by the conference organisersOthers quickly followed suit. “Have They Found The Gay Gene?” said the front page of Metro, a London paper, on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, the mood at the conference has been decidedly less complimentary, with several geneticists criticizing the methods presented in the talk, the validity of the results, and the coverage in the press.

Ngun’s study was based on 37 pairs of identical male twins who were discordant—that is, one twin in each pair was gay, while the other was straight—and 10 pairs who were both gay. He analysed 140,000 regions in the genomes of the twins and looked for methylation marks—chemical Post-It notes that dictate when and where genes are activated. He whittled these down to around 6,000 regions of interest, and then built a computer model that would use data from these regions to classify people based on their sexual orientation.

The best model used just five of the methylation marks, and correctly classified the twins 67 percent of the time. “To our knowledge, this is the first example of a biomarker-based predictive model for sexual orientation,” Ngun wrote in his abstract.

The problems begin with the size of the study, which is tiny. The field of epigenetics is littered with the corpses of statistically underpowered studies like these, which simply lack the numbers to produce reliable, reproducible results.

Unfortunately, the problems don’t end there. The team split their group into two: a “training set” whose data they used to build their algorithm, and a “testing set”, whose data they used to verify it. That’s standard and good practice—exactly what they should have done. But splitting the sample means that the study goes from underpowered to really underpowered.

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There’s also another, larger issue. As far as could be judged from the unpublished results presented in the talk, the team used their training set to build several models for classifying their twins, and eventually chose the one with the greatest accuracy when applied to the testing set. That’s a problem because in research like this, there has to be a strict firewall between the training and testing sets; the team broke that firewall by essentially using the testing set to optimise their algorithms.

If you use this strategy, chances are you will find a positive result through random chance alone. Chances are some combination of methylation marks out of the original 6,000 will be significantly linked to sexual orientation, whether they genuinely affect sexual orientation or not. This is a well-known statistical problem that can be at least partly countered by running what’s called a correction for multiple testing. The team didn’t do that. (In an email to The Atlantic, Ngun denies that such a correction was necessary.)And, “like everyone else in the history of epigenetics studies they could not resist trying to interpret the findings mechanistically,” wrote John Greally from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in a blog post. By which he means: they gave the results an imprimatur of plausibility by noting the roles of the genes affected by the five epi-marks. One is involved in controlling immune genes that have been linked to sexual attraction. Another is involved in moving molecules along neurons. Could epi-marks on these genes influence someone’s sexual attraction? Maybe. It’s also plausible that someone’s sexual orientation influences epi-marks on these genes. Correlation, after all, does not imply causation.

So, ultimately, what we have is an underpowered fishing expedition that used inappropriate statistics and that snagged results which may be false positives. Epigenetics marks may well be involved in sexual orientation. But this study, despite its claims, does not prove that and, as designed, could not have.

In a response to Greally’s post, Ngun admitted that the study was underpowered. “The reality is that we had basically no funding,” he said. “The sample size was not what we wanted. But do I hold out for some impossible ideal or do I work with what I have? I chose the latter.” He also told Nature News that he plans to “replicate the study in a different group of twins and also determine whether the same marks are more common in gay men than in straight men in a large and diverse population.”Great. Replication and verification are the cornerstones of science. But to replicate and verify, you need a sturdy preliminary finding upon which to build and expand—and that’s not the case here. It may seem like the noble choice to work with what you’ve got. But when what you’ve got are the makings of a fatally weak study, of the kind well known to cause problems in a field, it really is an option—perhaps the best option—to not do it at all. (The same could be said for journalists outside the conference choosing to cover the study based on a press release.)As Greally wrote in his post: “It’s not personal about [Ngun] or his colleagues, but we can no longer allow poor epigenetics studies to be given credibility if this field is to survive. By ‘poor,’ I mean uninterpretable.”

“This is only representative of the broader literature,” he told me. “The problems in the field are systematic. We need to change how epigenomics research is performed throughout the community.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Plays Well With Others

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Name: Jim & Elaine
Gender: Couple
Age: 42 & 38
Location: Denver
We have been happily married for 15 years. We have a good, but pretty vanilla sex life together. We want to spice things up and are talking about maybe looking for other couples online. We’re both in good shape and have very outgoing personalities. Both of us have had one short affair in the past, now we think we want to play together. Thoughts?

You guys want to look for other couples online…for ummm sex? I mean you imply that but you don’t really come right out and say it, do you? I know you are new to this and you are just feeling your way through this unfamiliar territory, but unless you want to look like rank amateurs by other consensual non-monogamous couples, like swingers and polyamorous folks…and that’s what we’re talking about, right? You’d better get comfortable articulating precisely what it is you want, how you want it, and with whom.white on black

If you’ve already begun your online search, you’ve probably already discovered that there are several different avenues for you to pursue. There are, of course, dating and profile sites. There are also sites that feature ads from other non-monogamous couples. If swinging is what you are after, there are exclusive swing parties and more inclusive swinger clubs. And each of these outlets may offer special groupings for the fetish-oriented swinger.

Since you don’t actually say what kind of consensual non-monogamy you’re looking for, let’s talk swinging for now. Like I said, this isn’t the only kind of consensual non-monogamy, but it’s probably the oldest most established variety.

Before you swing, you guys need to decide what type of swing-set you want. If the vocabulary that follows is unfamiliar to you, you have some remedial homework to do before you launch your swing-capade. There is “soft” swinging and “hard” swinging. And bisexually may or may not be an option for you.

polyamory1If you assume that all swingers are open-minded about sex, consider this; lots of swing outlets prohibit male-on-male sex. Personally, I find this extremely bizarre and off-putting, but I suppose it only reflects the prejudices of the popular culture. There are some swing-sets that allow novice swingers to simply to be voyeurs. I can’t fuckin’ figure this out either. Maybe it’s a heterosexual thing.

If you gravitate toward the club-set there are 3 types to consider:

  1. SEX clubs — these clubs allow full-on sex, but only in designated areas.
  2. NO-SEX clubs — allow for lots of exhibitionism and voyeurism, including nudity, but no full-on sex. These clubs are great for meeting other swingers and to set up your own sex dates.
  3. Swinger parties are NO-SEX events, and are usually held in a nightclub or restaurant. Again, you can meet like-minded folks there and set up your own sex dates.

Whichever outlet you choose; make sure you understand the rules and regulations of the get together before you attend.

Like I said, it’s of the utmost importance that you guys decide, in advance, what your limits are. A good number of otherwise healthy marriages flounder at this point. Have a clear and frank exchange with each other on the ground rules of your swinging and then stick to them. Trying to negotiate a change to the rules of engagement during a swing is a very bad idea. That’s not to say that your ground rules won’t change and evolve over time; just don’t attempt to adjust them while they are in play.

Never push your partner into doing something he/she is not ready to do. Be open with each other before, during and especially after a swing. Effective communication is essential. This goes for communicating with your fellow swingers. Be sure to let everyone know that you are newbees to the scene. (Don’t worry, everyone will have figured that out already.) Novices stick out like a sore…hard-on.

Sexy people

Sexy people

Most clubs and groupings don’t allow single men. Most swing-sets are women oriented, to the degree that women set the tone for the swing. That being said, it’s still a man’s world. Men generally dictate the type of sexual expression that will be tolerated — thus the prohibition, stated or unstated, against male on male sex. Female on female sex is, of course, encouraged for obvious reasons. How’s that for a screwed-up double standard?

Most clubs expect full or partial nudity. My swinger friends advise that if you just want to attend so you can ogle others, stay the fuck home! Novice swingers, like you guys, ought to stay together until you feel comfortable being apart. But for Christ sake, don’t glom on to one another like the other swingers have the cooties.

Most of all, take responsibility for your eroticism and your sexuality. Be friendly and good-natured. And don’t try to pretend you’re a more accomplished sexual athlete than you are.

Be advised, you are about to embark on a sexual journey that will take you to the edges of what society regards as appropriate sexual behavior. Don’t be surprised if some of your more traditional friends discriminate against you when they find out about your new activities. Finally, swinging is far less about what you do (sex) and way more about who you are (a lifestyle). To that end, I’d like to turn you on to a fantastic resource. Check out my friends, John and Allie, at SwingerCast.  And be sure to listen to my two-part interview with them right here on my site. You’ll find Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE!

Good luck

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The Virginity Myth

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Name: Tia
Gender: Female
Age: 19
I have a problem. I’m still a virgin, but my bf thinks I’m not. It’s really my fault he thinks this, cuz I told him I was all experienced and everything. We’ve been going together for about 8 months already and I really want my first time to be with him, but how am I going to act all experienced when I don’t know what I’m doing.
HELP ME PLEASE!!!

That sure enough is a pickle you got yourself into darlin’. You’ve got some ‘splanin’ to do Lucy!

Funny, because I’m more likely to hear from young women who are not virgins, who want to know how they can fool a new partner into thinking, they are. I guess we can chalk up all this deception and confusion to the powerful associations every culture imposes on virginity…female virginity, that is.

virginityLike most things sexual there is a huge double standard between the cultural and personal importance of virginity between the sexes. The cultural expectations about virginity are also tied to age as well as gender. For example, our society expects its 16-year-old girls to be virgins. To be otherwise, at that tender age, would be a scandal in most communities. But a 35year old woman who is still a virgin is considered an old maid — or worse, a dyke — in our society.

Of course, things are more fluid when it comes to boys and men. On the one hand, a 16year old boy, who is not a virgin, may raise some eyebrows in most communities. But many others in those same communities would praise him for being a stud. On the other hand, a 35year old man who is still a virgin is not only the butt of jokes — or worse, a queer — but he’s also more of a disgrace to his gender than an old maid is to hers. Funny how that works, huh?

I hasten to add that there is a lot to argue with in terms of these arbitrary cultural norms, and I encourage ya’ll to argue away. God knows I do! And you don’t have to buy into them either. God knows I don’t! But till things change these norms are the norms, like it or lump it.

I’d love to know why you felt the need to deceive your BF in the first place? Do the people you hang with, prize sexual experience over sexual innocence for a woman of 19? And what are the expectations of your group regarding a 19year old guy? I’ll bet the expectation is that he not be a virgin. Right?

Well you can see why a lot of people, not just you Tia, find this whole thing just too damned complicated. And rather than adding to the confusion or the deception, I encourage you to come clean with the BF about your cherry.Sign-Virginville-VillageOf

Here’s why I think this is the best policy. First, if the BF is sexually experienced, it will be very difficult for you to hide the fact that you’re not. Besides, like you said in your message to me. “I really want my first time to be with him.” Tell him that, sweetheart! No man is gonna turn that down…ever. Simply put, that is the most sexually charged and treasured sentence in any language.

Begin the big talk with your man like this. “Baby, I got something real special to tell you. You know how I’ve been sayin that I’ve been with other guys and shit? Well that was just my way of keeping all the other guys from pestering me for my junk. Baby, the truth is that I haven’t had sex before now. And the best part of this is I’ve decided that I really want my first time to be with you. My cherry belongs to you, baby”

Like I said, Tia, no man is gonna turn that down. The BF will be so flattered you won’t have to pretend to be something you’re not. Clearing the air like this will also allow you to relax when the magic moment finally happens. And relaxation is the key to enjoying yourself. And you should enjoy yourself.

Good luck

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Casa Rodrigo, Yee-ha!

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Hey sex fans,

The summer holidays are over and we’re all back at the old grind. Bummer, I know. But I have what I think is the antidote.  It’s a little something that, I believe, will brighten your day.

  • Ya’ll know how fond I am of smart and smutty erotica, right?
  • Ya’ll know that for nearly seven years I produced a podcast series, The Erotic Mind, right?
  • Ya’ll know that each and every one of these marvelous shows, that feature conversations with erotic artists of every stripe, literary and graphic, are archived right here on my site, right?
  • Ya’ll know that all you have to do is use the pull-down PODCAST menu in the header to find them, right?

Good, I thought so.

Anyhow today I have something that will sure enough make you sit up and say; “oh boy howdy!”Casa Rodrigo cover

I want to introduce you to Casa Rodrigo, the 12 person audio play written and directed by award nominee, and my new friend, Johnny Miles.

Like I said, Casa Rodrigo, an audio play featuring 11 characters and a narrator, as well as an extensive sound engineering that transport us, the listening audience, back to Spain and the Caribbean during the mid-1600s, allowing us to feel the dangers and excitement the era had to offer. Four and a half hours of pure aural experience awaits us. The story is richly layered and textured, with effects to help stimulate our senses. It’s an immersive experience not to be missed.

The good folks at Mania Media, the producers of audio play, believe it is important to provide their audience with a great entertainment experience and Casa Rodrigo certainly fits that bill.

Johnny Miles began his writing career in 1985, when his first erotic short story was published by Numbers magazine. Since then, his work has appeared in various adult magazines. After several decades of working in various careers, Johnny re-entered the world of erotica in 2008 with the release of his first full-length novel, Casa Rodrigo. Published by Loose Id, the controversial story was followed by Lauderdale Hearts, Learning To Samba, The Rosas of Spanish Harlem, Yuletide Knights, and Yuletide Knights: A Spring Frost, and The Last Stop: USA, all of which you can find on Johnny’s site.

Johnny has asked me to share with you the first two chapters of the book. You’ll find the links below. And when you’ve finished the sampler, you can mozie on over to Audible to pick up the whole audio play, or Johnny’s site.to snap up the e-book.

Have a ball, ya’ll!

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Chlamydia at 50… Could it be you?

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by Jenny Pogson

senior intimacy

If you think only young people are at risk of sexually transmitted infections, think again – rates could be on the rise in older adults.

With more of us living longer and healthier lives, and divorce a reality of life, many of us are finding new sexual partners later in life.

While an active sex life comes with a myriad of health benefits, experts are warning those of us in mid-life and beyond not to forget the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection from a new partner.

Figures suggest rates of infections have been on the increase among older people in the US and UK in recent years and there is a suggestion the same could be happening in Australia.

Chlamydia, a common bacterial STI, is on the up among all age groups in Australia, and has more than doubled in those over 50 since 2005; going from 620 cases to 1446 in 2010.

Gonorrhoea, another bacterial infection, has seen a slight increase in the over 50s, rising from 383 infections in 2005 to 562 in 2010.

While these increases could partly be attributable to more people being tested, the trend has caused concern in some parts of the medical community here and overseas.

Cultural shift

Older people are increasingly likely to be single or experiencing relationship changes these days, according to the UK’s Family Planning Association, which last year ran its first sexual health campaign aimed at over 50s.

It’s much easier to meet new partners, with the advent of internet dating and the ease of international travel. Plus, thanks to advances in healthcare, symptoms of the menopause and erectile dysfunction no longer spell the end of an active sex life.

But despite this, education campaigns about safe sex are generally aimed at younger people; not a great help when it’s often suggested that older people are more likely to feel embarrassed about seeking information about STIs and may lack the knowledge to protect themselves.

And, as noted by Julie Bentley, CEO of the UK’s Family Planning Association, “STIs don’t care about greying hair and a few wrinkles”.

Risky sexual practices

Dr Deborah Bateson, medical director at Family Planning NSW, started researching older women’s views and experience of safe sex after noticing a rise in the number of older women asking for STI tests and being diagnosed with STIs, particularly chlamydia.

The organisation surveyed a sample of women who used internet dating sites and found, compared with younger women, those aged between 40 and 70 were more likely to say they would agree to sex without a condom with a new partner.

Similarly, a telephone survey commissioned by Andrology Australia found that around 40 per cent of men over 40 who have casual sex do not use condoms.

While the reasons behind this willingness to engage in unsafe sex are uncertain, Bateson says older people may have missed out on the safe sex message, which really started to be heavily promoted in the 1980s with the advent of HIV/AIDS.

In addition, older women may no longer be concerned about becoming pregnant and have less of an incentive to use a condom compared with younger women.

“There is a lot of the information around chlamydia that relates to infertility in the future, so again for older women there may be a sense that it’s not relevant for them,” she says.

However, the Family Planning survey did find that older women were just as comfortable as younger women with buying condoms and carry them around.

“There’s obviously something happening when it comes to negotiating their use. Most people know about condoms but it’s just having the skills around being able to raise the subject and being able to negotiate their use at the actual time,” Bateson says.

As with most things in life, prevention is better than cure – something to remember when broaching the topic of safe sex and STIs with a new partner.

“If you’re meeting a new partner, they are probably thinking the same thing as you [about safe sex],” says Bateson.

“So being able to break the ice [about safe sex] can often be a relief for both people.”

Stay safe

Anyone who has had unprotected sex, particularly with several people, is potentially at risk of STIs, says Professor Adrian Mindel, director of the Sexually Transmitted Infections Research Centre based at Westmead Hospital, Sydney.

“People who are changing partners or having new partners, they and their partner should think about being tested,” he says.

“Also think about condom use at least until [you] know [the] relationship is longer lasting and that neither of [you] are going having sex with anyone outside the relationship.”

The UK’s Family Planning Association also stresses that STIs can be passed on through oral sex and when using sex toys – not just through intercourse.

It also notes that the signs and symptoms of some STIs can be mistaken as a normal part of aging, such as vaginal soreness or irregular bleeding.

And remember that often infections don’t result in symptoms, so you may not be aware you have an STI. However, you can still pass an infection on to a sexual partner.

So if you are starting a new sexual relationship or changing partners, here is some expert advice to consider:

  • If you have had unprotected sex, visit your GP to get tested for STIs. This may involve giving a urine sample to test for chlamydia, examination of the genital area for signs of genital warts, or a swab of your genitals to test for STIs such as herpes or gonorrhoea. A blood test may also be required to test for syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B.
  • If you are starting a new relationship, suggest your partner also gets tested.
  • Use a condom with a new partner until you both have been tested for STIs and are certain neither of you is having unprotected sex outside the relationship.
  • If you have symptoms you are concerned about, such as a urethral discharge in men or vaginal discharge, sores or lumps on the genitals, pain when passing urine or abdominal pains in women, see your GP.

Complete Article HERE!

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