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We May Have Just Identified Genetic Evidence of Male Sexual Orientation

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But that still doesn’t mean there’s a ‘gay gene’.

By PETER DOCKRILL

Scientists are reporting what could amount to be the firmest evidence yet of genetic links to male sexual orientation, in the first published genome-wide association study (GWAS) examining the trait.

Researchers recruited more than 2,000 men of both homosexual and heterosexual orientation and analysed their DNA, identifying two genetic regions that appear to be linked to whether individuals are gay or straight.

“Because sexuality is an essential part of human life – for individuals and society – it is important to understand the development and expression of human sexual orientation,” says psychiatrist Alan Sanders from NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Illinois.

“The goal of this study was to search for genetic underpinnings of male sexual orientation, and thus ultimately increase our knowledge of biological mechanisms underlying sexual orientation.”

To do so, Sanders’ team studied 1,077 homosexual men and 1,231 heterosexual men of primarily European ancestry, who were respectively recruited from community festivals and a nationwide survey.

For the purposes of the study, the men’s sexual orientation was based on their self-reported sexual identity and sexual feelings. Each individual taking part provided a sample of their DNA in the form of blood or saliva samples, which were genotyped and analysed.

When the researchers sifted through the data, they isolated several genetic regions where variations called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) signalled single-letter changes in the DNA, with two of the most prominent congregations located near chromosomes 13 and 14.

“The genes nearest to these peaks have functions plausibly relevant to the development of sexual orientation,” the researchers explain in their paper.

On chromosome 13, the variants were located next to a gene called SLITRK6, which is expressed in the diencephalon – a part of the brain that’s previously been shown to differ in size depending on men’s sexual orientation.

While the mechanisms here aren’t fully understood, the researchers explain the SLITRK gene family is important for neurodevelopment and could be of relevance for a range of behavioural phenotypes, not just sexual orientation.

On chromosome 14, the strongest associations were centred around the thyroid stimulating hormone receptor (TSHR) gene, and it’s thought the cluster of SNP variants here could conceivably affect sexual orientation due to altered expression in the hippocampus – in addition to producing atypical thyroid function.

It’s not the first time scientists have examined our genetic code looking for hints as to predictors of sexual persuasion.

While there are numerous environmental factors to consider, previous research – that has not yet been replicated – linked a genetic marker in the X chromosome called Xq28 to male sexual orientation back in the 1990s.

This gave rise to the idea of the so-called ‘gay gene’, even though that’s technically a misnomer, since the Xq28 band actually contains several genes, and the science on the region remains unclear.

More recently, a controversial study presented in 2015 by UCLA researchers suggested an algorithm analysing epigenetic markers that affect gene expression could predict male sexual orientation with up to 70 percent accuracy, but the findings were never published.

Similarly controversial – but in a completely different field of science – researchers from Stanford University made headlines in September when they claimed an AI they had developed could correctly distinguish between gay and heterosexual men and women (81 percent of the time and 74 percent of the time respectively).

While those findings produced an uproar, the claims – if true – serve as another illustration that our biology may contain innumerable clues about things like our sexual orientation that science is only beginning to reveal.

In terms of the new results, there’s bound to be a lot of interest in the study, but the researchers are eager to emphasise their findings are largely speculative for now, since there’s still a lot we don’t know about what these genetic variations really mean.

There’s also the relatively small size and skewed European basis of the sample – not to mention the fact that it’s all men – which limit what it can tell us about genetic underpinnings to sexual orientation more broadly across race and sex lines.

Despite those shortcomings, there’s a lot for other researchers to consider here, and the team hopes this could lay the groundwork for future investigations that could more deeply penetrate the genetic factors that help influence our sexual identities.

“What we have accomplished is a first step for GWAS on the trait, and we hope that subsequent larger studies will further illuminate its genetic contributions,” says Sanders.

“Understanding the origins of sexual orientation enables us to learn a great deal about sexual motivation, sexual identity, gender identity, and sex differences, and this and subsequent work may take us further down that path of discovery.”

The findings are reported in Scientific Reports.

Complete Article HERE!

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A history of sexual depictions in art

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‘Sex has been evoked in ways that simultaneously challenge, repress and embrace its notions’

Even though the existence of humankind is dependent on sex, it has always been a taboo topic of discussion.

The entire history of art, from ancient to contemporary, has portrayed sex in very overt ways, bringing the subject of sex into the institution of art museums. Because of the lack of recorded history about sex, these frank depictions of sexuality in art visually uncover the way sexuality was viewed over time. These works of art can help us understand attitudes towards sex as they were transformed and shifted geographically through time.

Studying erotic art exposes the open attitude ancient Romans had towards sex. Statues, frescoes and household decorative items from ancient Rome prove that sex was an integral part of their everyday lives and that they were not afraid to show it.

The Secret Museum in Naples exhibits ancient Roman works of people having sex, phallic statues and beastiality, which is sexual relations between a human and an animal. Although the ancient Romans were seemingly comfortable with sex, the museum is called The Secret Museum because King Naples I of Naples deemed the works inappropriate and demanded they be locked away. Art’s attempts to comfortably illustrate sex have been historically shunned and disapproved because it is considered taboo.

Mesopotamian art (c. 4500-539 BCE), like ancient Roman art, portrayed sex openly. Observing these works reveals the sex customs in the culture as well. For example, it was a custom for every woman to perform a specific type of prostitution at least once in their life. This ritual was for women to sit outside the Temple of Ishtar and have sex with a man who chooses them. Mesopotamian plaques frankly evoke people having sex as well as this ritual of prostitution.

Western culture is particularly known to disapprove of open sexuality. But, Western artists rebelled against this notion, especially with the introduction of Modernism. Prior to what we call Modern art (1860s-1970s), was the Renaissance in Europe. Renaissance art is typically more discrete with depictions of sex and sexuality. Because it is inspired by classical antiquity, nudity is common among the works. This portrayal of nudity is not shunned because it depicts religious figures and figures of the past.

As a response to urbanization and industrialization, Modern art took a major turn from classical antiquity, which created a shift in subject matter. This introduced illustrations of what were contemporary figures rather than ancient ones. Suddenly, sex and nudity were deemed inappropriate and tasteless. Modern artists have intentions of being radical, disregarding this response to their work.

Modern artists in Europe explored how the rapid urbanization and industrialization of the time period commodified sex and alienated figures of the modern. Egon Schiele frankly depicts sex to address this condition of modernism in his work “Two Women Embracing” (1915). The drawing portrays two women being sexually intimate in front of a blank background.

Although the figures are embracing, the perspective and the background make them appear as if they are floating in a space of loneliness and alienation. This melancholy feeling of isolation that stems from modernization is a condition that Modern artists repeatedly evoked. Schiele expresses this feeling through a depiction of sex to elicit that even in the highest forms of intimacy, feelings of loneliness exist.

“Two Women Embracing” and the rest of Schiele’s works were extremely radical for the time. In fact, Schiele was forced to spend time in jail as a pornographer. His frank representations of sexuality were so incredibly radical because of his depictions of modern subjects and lesbianism. Schiele revolutionarily instigated a discussion about sex and sexuality in the Western world where it had been neglected and shunned.

Following Modern art is what we call Contemporary art, which was produced from the late 20th century to the 21st century today. Performance art was a medium introduced with Contemporary art. The medium aimed to create a bodily encounter between the artist and the viewer. Many performance artists took advantage of the live relationship between artist and viewer to bring sex into their workplace.

A lot of performance art would be considered abject art — art that works to introduce the bodily functions that are silenced and taboo into the museum. When a viewer encounters an abject work of art, they are forced to think about their own body and what they repress everyday. Abject artists oftentimes work with the concept of sex in an attempt to dismantle its history as something forbidden and address issues about sex and sexuality.

Vito Acconci’s abject work titled “Seedbed” (1972) encounters the viewer in a shocking and vulnerable way. It was a performance piece in which Acconci said sexual comments to the audience members walking past a little wooden square in the corner of a museum. During the performance, he hid under a ramp so the viewers could hear his vulgar comments out of a speaker yet they could not see him. Under the ramp, Acconci was masturbating to those who encountered the wooden square. By making the repressed sexual act of masturbation a public performance, Acconci attempted to break stigmas about sex while simultaneously addressing issues of sexual objectification.

The Contemporary artist Carolee Schneemann evoked sex through performance art as well. In her 1964 performance “Meat Joy,” men and women wrestled sexually with meat in an orgy encounter. She provoked the viewer to look at sex in a profoundly unusual way. Through this seemingly odd performance, Schneemann confronted the audience with this overt sexuality in an attempt to reject the notion that sex should be repressed.

Throughout the history of art, sex has been evoked in ways that simultaneously challenge, repress and embrace its notions. From ancient art to contemporary, artists have continuously worked to make sex a comfortable topic that should be embraced and addressed openly.

Complete Article HERE!

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How sex with a small penis can actually give you more pleasure – and how to tell your partner you have one

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Only a small number of men have a micropenis, and it’s not necessarily bad news for their sex life

By Zahra Mulroy

Penis size is the butt of many a joke, and, wrongly, nothing will elicit a titter more than the mention of a micropenis

With 0.6 per cent of the male population affected, they remain comparatively uncommon, but the physical and psychological repercussions can be serious and the cause of much anguish.

There’s undeniably a stigma attached: “Size matters” , you’re less of a man if you have one, your partner will get no enjoyment out of sex with you – the list goes on.

But having a micropenis isn’t necessarily the dire news it’s assumed to be – at least, according to sex therapist Elizabeth McGrath .

McGrath counsels clients with micropenises, and their partners.

She helps them get the most out of their sex lives and will talk them through “clothed, non-genital touch” the Daily Dot reports.

“I really practice this work and I believe in it, primarily because sex is of our bodies,” McGrath said. “When it comes to sex and relationships, I believe there’s only so much talking can do.

“So much of what keeps people down, makes them feel awful, are these ideas about what good sex is, and it’s a box, a very, very small box,” McGrath adds.

“For somebody with a micropenis or their partner, not fitting in that box is very painful.”

So what does McGrath advise?

“There’s humping, there’s grinding, there’s rubbing the penis on the labia or on the side, and then it expands into ‘What kind of fun things can we do together?'” she explains.

“Look at it as an opportunity to find new things rather than focus on one way of doing it specifically.”

McGrath also goes on to recommend oral sex becomes the “main event” and suggests that toys be used too.

“I think any augmenting toys can be fun. But more importantly, is it comfortable and does it feel good? Are you doing it because you enjoy it or is it because you feel like it makes you more normal?”

As for breaking the ice with a new partner and being honest about having a micropenis, McGrath says a man shouldn’t stress about this, as it only reinforces the idea that it’s something to be ashamed of.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Do Prostate Massage (For Better Sex)

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Men who are suffering with prostatitis or an enlarged prostate (aka, benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH) or who want to promote better sexual health can often benefit from prostate massage therapy (aka, prostate milking). If the thought of doing a prostate massage for yourself or having a partner do it for you is uncomfortable, you should know that learning how to do prostate massage or having it done for you could provide significant symptom relief and be highly beneficial for your sex life and sexual performance.

Historically, prostate massage has been used over the centuries to enhance a man’s sexual prowess. Men who had many partners or who were very sexually active used prostate massage to help ensure they could maintain their sexual activities. The benefits of prostate massage have now been expanded to include therapeutic advantages for men who are living with common prostate conditions as well as enhance orgasms and erectile function.

Please note, however, that you should not attempt prostate massage until you have consulted with your healthcare provider to ensure it is safe for you to do so.

How to do prostate massage manually

Prostate massage therapy can be performed in two basic ways: externally or internally, and each of these methods can be done manually or using a special prostate massage device. Some men prefer one approach over another, while others switch between them. In any case, prostate massage can improve blood flow in the treated area, enhance urinary flow, and help promote the integrity and health of the prostate tissue.

To prepare for a prostate massage, first empty your bowels and bladder. If you are going to have the massage done by hand, get a nonlatex glove or a condom and some lubricating gel, such as KY jelly. You can either lean over a table or get on all fours on the floor or a bed. Now you are ready for a self-prostate massage or one done by a partner or health professional.

Here is how to do a manual prostate massage using a finger:

  • Insert the lubricated finger into the anus and gently probe for the prostate. The prostate feels like a small round ball.
  • Once the prostate has been located, apply light pressure for several seconds, then pull back slightly to release the pressure.
  • Advance the finger again and apply gentle pressure on the same or a different spot if you can. Hold for several seconds and then release. Application of pressure to the center of the prostate releases fluid to the tip of the penis.
  • Repeat this massage process five to ten times. You may experience an erection, which is normal.

Another manual approach using a finger involves applying pressure to the perineum, which is the area located between the scrotum and anus. You can choose to use or not use a glove or condom with lubricant. Massage the entire length of the perineum for several minutes.

Here is how to do a manual prostate massage using a finger:

  • Insert the lubricated finger into the anus and gently probe for the prostate. The prostate feels like a small round ball.
  • Once the prostate has been located, apply light pressure for several seconds, then pull back slightly to release the pressure.
  • Advance the finger again and apply gentle pressure on the same or a different spot if you can. Hold for several seconds and then release. Application of pressure to the center of the prostate releases fluid to the tip of the penis.
  • Repeat this massage process five to ten times. You may experience an erection, which is normal.

Another manual approach using a finger involves applying pressure to the perineum, which is the area located between the scrotum and anus. You can choose to use or not use a glove or condom with lubricant. Massage the entire length of the perineum for several minutes.

When using an internal prostate massage product, you must lubricate it well before inserting it. Those with a vibration feature will vibrate when pressed against the prostate, which will help reduce inflammation, improve blood flow, and relax the gland.

External prostate massage products are designed so you can sit on them, which applies pressure to the perineum.

Regardless of which prostate massage approach you choose, you need to be patient. It typically takes several weeks before you will notice appreciable benefits of daily prostate massage therapy.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why society should talk about forced sex in intimate relationships, too

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In the wake of the deluge of news about sexual harassment and alleged assaults by several high-profile and powerful men, it is important to look at the causes and consequences of forced sex in the workplace – but also in intimate relationships.

Although forced sex by a boss and by an intimate partner considerably differ, they have these two things in common: They both disempower women and make women sick.

Sex is a double-edged sword. It enhances our well-being and boosts our relationships if it is consented. It becomes detrimental, however, if it is forced.

My research on sexuality focuses on causes and consequences of forced sex in intimate relationships. My studies have been on individual and environmental risk factors that increase risk of sexual abuse by male partners. I have studied the co-occurence between sexual and nonsexual violence in intimate relations. Finally, I have also studied the consequences of sexual abuse on mental health and relationship quality among women.

The recent news events provide an opportunity to address forced partner sex, a long-overlooked but insidious practice.

All too common

Let’s look at the numbers.

According to one report, one in four women experiences sexual violence by an intimate partner. According to another report, up to 50 percent of all sexual coercions are done by intimate partners. Around one-third of adolescent girls also report that their first sexual experience was forced.

About 15 percent of women also experience sexual harassment at their workplace.

Worldwide, 30 to 35 percent of women in a relationship experience some form of violence by their intimate partner. In the United States alone, more than 12 million adults, mostly women, experience intimate partner violence each year.

A sickening effect at home

In addition to the moral and human right violations of individual women, intimate partner violence imposes huge costs to society. According to a CDC report, the costs of intimate partner violence, including rape, physical assault and stalking, in the United States exceed US$5.8 billion each year.

Sexual abuse has a number of health effects, including higher risk of suicide. Individuals who experience sexual assault are also at higher risk of several chronic diseases such as asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, chronic pain conditions and heart disease.

Individuals who are forced into sex by a partner show depression and high psychological distress. In fact, sexual abuse increases risk for almost all forms of psychopathologies.

Forced sex reduces women’s ability to enjoy sex in the future. Although some victims exhibit an increase in sexual activity, in most cases, forced sex is a risk factor for sexual avoidance.

Shame is a key aspect of the emotional suffering of those who experience sexual abuse. Shame is a core element of anxiety, depression and suicide, and is a barrier against help-seeking. As a result, victims typically continue to suffer in isolation. This is more so in societies where the rape victims are also blamed for their victimization.

My own research has shown a link between forced sex and relationship distress among married couples. By being forced to have sex, the women lose a sense of control of their bodies. Forced sex shakes women’s trust and attachment security.

Some believe that sexual violence is probably most depressing when it is committed by a spouse, partner or relative. When a woman is victimized by a stranger, she has to live with a frightening memory. When she is being forced into sex by a spouse or a partner, she lives with the “rapist” all the time.

A sickening effect at work

Sexual abuse can become chronic when it happens at the workplace. Given the imbalance in the power, fighting an assault in the workplace may be an uphill battle for women. Many powerful forces, such as human resources directors and lawyers, can serve to protect the company or to discredit and blame the victim.

Sexual harassment has a major effect on women’s careers. Some women leave their jobs to escape their harassing environment. Some people stay and fight. In both scenarios, sexual harassment causes career disruption for women.

Much of workplace harassment is a result of unbalanced power, and some scholars have called sexual harassment “gendered expression of power.”

This inappropriate expression of power imperils young, minority and poor women in the workplace in particular. Studies have shown that power differences can increase sexual abuse of young, minority and low socioeconomic individuals.

So who does force women into sex?

My research shows that sexual abuse does not occur in a vacuum. It tends to co-occur with relational dysfunctions as well as other types of violence. Women should consider psychological or verbal abuse by a partner, co-worker or boss to be a warning sign for future risk of sexual assault.

They should also know that men who show other types of violence, including verbal, psychological and physical violence, are more likely to commit sexual violence. Men who are very controlling verbally, economically and emotionally are also more likely to be sexual perpetrators.

And, it is important to know that alcohol and drug use contribute to sexual violence. Many men who force people into sex are intoxicated. Also, impulsive traits increase the risk. Men who express more anger and aggression are also at a higher risk of committing sexual violence.

Power plays a corrupting role

Social psychology research reminds us that power corrupts people, independent of their level of morality. So, when humans are given unconditional power, authority and dominance (over others), they are very likely to abuse it. Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment showed that it is not evil people who do evil behaviors. Evil action is often about unconditional power and authority that people gain, rather than their immorality.

This may explain why the list of high-profile people who have been accused of sexually harassing women is mostly composed of powerful white men. This is not, I would argue, because white men are immoral, but because white men have the highest authority, dominance, social power and job control over their co-workers.

While the U.S. is undergoing a surge in awareness around workplace sexual harassment and abuse, people should also be mindful that the same dynamics are playing out among intimate relationships.

Complete Article HERE!

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