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Large number of young people experience sex problems, study finds

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More to be done to help with ‘sexual function’ as well as advice on STIs and pregnancy, say authors of survey

Many young people reported finding intercourse difficult and the inability to climax, the study found

Many young people reported finding intercourse difficult and the inability to climax, the study found

Large numbers of young people experience sexual problems such as pain or anxiety during sex, the inability to climax and finding intercourse difficult, a study has found.

A third (33.8%) of sexually active teenagers and young men aged 16-21 and 44.4% of sexually active young women the same age experienced at least one problem, which lasted for at least three months, with their ability to enjoy sex in the past year, according to the research.

Experts say the results, from the latest National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) study of sexual health in Britain, show that young people need help with their “sexual function” as much as advice on avoiding sexually transmitted infection or unintended pregnancy. They experience problems almost as much as older people, it emerged.

For women, the most common problem was difficulty in reaching climax, which 21.3% of female participants said they experienced. The next most common problems were: lacking enjoyment in sex (9.8%), feeling physical pain as a result of sex (9%), an uncomfortably dry vagina (8.5%), feeling anxious during sex (8%) and no excitement or arousal (8%).

Among men, the biggest difficulty was reaching a climax too quickly, which 13.2% had experienced. Smaller numbers reported difficulty in reaching a climax (8.3%), difficulty getting or keeping an erection (7.8%), lacking enjoyment in sex (5.4%) and feeling anxious (4.8%).

The Natsal surveys, the funders of which include the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health, are seen as the most in-depth portraits of sexual behaviour in Britain. This latest edition has been carried out by academics from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), University College London and NatCen Social Research. Natsal-3 is based on 1,875 sexually active and 517 sexually inactive men and women aged between 16 and 21.

“Our findings show that distressing sexual problems are not only experienced by older people in Britain”, said Dr Kirstin Mitchell, the lead author of the study. “They are in fact relatively common in early adulthood as well.

“If we want to improve sexual wellbeing in the UK population, we need to reach people as they start their sex lives, otherwise a lack of knowledge, anxiety or shame might progress into lifelong sexual difficulties that can be damaging to sexual enjoyment and relationships,” she added.

Among the sexually active, 9.1% of young men and 13.4% of young women said that they had felt distressed about a sexual problem that had troubled them for at least three months.

Natsal-3 found some significant differences between men and women in the sexual problems they encountered. Far more women (9.8%) than men (5.4%) lacked enjoyment in sex, felt anxious during sex (8% compared with 4.8% of men) and experienced no excitement or arousal during sex (8% compared with 3.2% of men).

The same stark gender divide was also apparent in those who professed no interest in having sex. One in five (22%) of women said they lacked interest, while far fewer men – 10.5% – said the same.

Young people are very unlikely to seek professional help for their problem. Although 36.3% of women and 26% of men said they had sought help, this was usually from family, friends, the media or the internet. Just 4% of young men and 8% of young women had turned to an expert such as a GP, psychiatrist or sexual health professional about their sex life.

Prof Kaye Wellings of LSHTM, a co-author, said: “UK sex education is often silent on issues of sexual satisfaction, but these are clearly important to young people and should be addressed. Sex education could do much more to debunk myths about sex, discuss pleasure and promote gender equality in relationships.”

Complete Article HERE!

Your Cock; A Complete Owners Manual (abridged)

Name: Hector
Gender: male
Age: 17
Location: Tujunga, CA
I’m afraid my penis isn’t right. I worry because it doesn’t look like other guys. For one thing I’m a lot smaller. I’m afraid to have sex or show my penis. Is there any way for me to know for sure? I hope to hear from you because this is making me real nervous. Thank you.

first-life-form-with-a-penis-humor

I’d chill out, if I were you, Hector. Lots of guys your age mistakenly think there is something wrong with their unit, when actually their willie is quite normal. This heightened concern, as you suggest, can lead to anxiety or even a complex about one’s cock size and shape. You don’t really give me much to go on as to why you think your pinga is not like the other guys. That leads me to think you don’t really know all that much about your package in general. Do you? I mean, who are you comparing yourself to anyway?

Since I don’t have a lot of information to go on, I suppose we oughta start with some essentials. Here’s Part 1 of my primer — Your Cock; A Complete Owners Manual (abridged). That’s supposed to be funny, BTW.

We all know that there are big ones and little ones, fat ones and skinny ones. Some are bobbed; some are whole. Some curve and bend; some are straight as an arrow. Some have a mushroom cap; some sport more of a helmet look. Some grow; some show. And they come in a veritable rainbow of colors.

Despite the amazing diversity, there are lots of things that each of our members has in common with everyone else’s. The average length of a flaccid cock is 3.7 inches with a diameter of 1.25 inches. The average length of a hardon is 5.1 inches, with a diameter of 1.6 inches. If you are over the age of 17, you pretty much have all the cock you’re gonna have. That’s not to say that as we age and as our muscles slack, our pal won’t hang a bit differently than when we were a young buck. But there’s not gonna be significant change in length or girth after puberty is done with us. Keep in mind that all this stuff is determined by genetics and heredity, like your overall body type, the color of your eyes, your hair pattern, and how tall you are. So the likelihood that any guy will add even one permanent inch to his dick either in length or girth, without surgery, is about as likely as him adding even an inch to his height.

The head of your dick is called the glans. (It’s the thing that can be shaped like a mushroom or a helmet.) It is made up of soft tissue called the corpus spongiosum. Just below the glans, on the underside of your cock is a waddle of skin called the frenulum. This puppy is chock-full of nerve endings that make it ground zero for dick-centered pleasure.

Male_anatomy

All uncut (uncircumcised) men have a prepuce, or foreskin that covers and protects his dickhead. Cut (circumcised) men don’t, because it has been surgically removed. If you are lucky enough to be intact, your foreskin is a highly specialized, sensitive, and functional organ of touch. No other part of the body serves the same purpose. Please note: circumcision actually removes 50% of the skin of a guy’s dick.  And who among us would choose that if we were allowed to choose?

You know the old adage, “Use it or lose it”? They may have had a penis in mind when that maxim was coined. Researchers agree — erections are good for you. When you get a woody, your cock is engorged with oxygen-rich blood, which is essential for the upkeep of the smooth muscle tissue. This kind of tissue makes up about 90% of your cock. You can see how a healthy circulatory system is vital to a vibrant sex life. An oxygen-deprived cock will build up a kind of plaque in your cock, which resembles scar tissue. This will cripple your rod (Peyronie’s disease) or rob you of your wood altogether.

penis mesureI also want to alert you of some startling new data that came out of recent research about masturbation. Australian researchers questioned over 1,000 men who had developed prostate cancer and 1,250 men who had not, about their sexual habits. They found those who had ejaculated the most between the ages of 20 and 50 were the least likely to develop prostate cancer.

The protective effect was greatest while the men were in their 20s. And get this; men who ejaculated more than five times a week were a third less likely to develop prostate cancer later in life. But let’s not get off topic too much.

The other big part of your package is the family jewels. We mind as well take a look at them too while we’re at it. Your nuts (testis) and the sack (scrotum) they’re housed in are an evolutionary marvel. Your testicles are about 4°F cooler than your core body temperature. Lucky for us, this is the ideal climate for healthy sperm production. 90% of the male hormone, testosterone, is manufactured in our balls. Evolution has even provided that one nut, generally the left, hangs slightly lower than the other. The lower nut will also be slightly larger. I suppose this keep them from knocking into each other so much.

Ok so you think the outside of your junk is pretty impressive, well you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Here’s where things get really interesting. First, there is no “bone” in your boner. Don’t laugh! Humans are one of the few mammals (horses, donkeys, rhinoceros, marsupials, rabbits, whales and dolphins, elephants and hyenas are the others) that don’t have a penis bone. Most males of our species have a unique bone called baculum in their penis. The baculum is designed for speed fucking. Sliding a bone in and out of a sheath is much faster than waiting for hydraulics to kick in. This enables our mammalian relatives to spend very little time actually mating. Which is, after all, a vulnerable position for them to be in.happy penis

If there’s no bone in there what make our dick hard? Good question. If you dissected your woody and looked at a cross-section you’d see three distinct spongy tubular structures, each are made up of smooth muscle tissue. Two of these tubular structures — one on either side of your cock, both of which run the length of your cock — are called the corpora cavernosa. These marvelous structures become engorged with blood lifting and thickening your cock to erection. The corpus spongiosum, the third tubular structure is located just below the corpora cavernosa. This baby houses your urethra, through which urine and semen pass during urination and ejaculation, respectively. This may also become slightly engorged with blood, but less so than the corpora cavernosa.

There are several points of interest in and around your balls too. I already mentioned your urethra, which stretches from your bladder to the tip of your dick. It carries your piss and cum, but not at the same time, I’m happy to report. Your prostate is an almond shaped gland that sits between your bladder and the root of your dick. Slightly in back of that is a pair of glands called the seminal vesicles. These tubular glands open into the vas deferens as it enters the prostate gland. They secrete the lion’s share of your spooge (ejaculate) about 70% to be precise. Most of us have two vas deferens tubes to correspond to the pair of ball (testicles) most of us have. These convey your mature sperm, the ones that have been comfortably relaxing in the epididymis, which is a tube filled mass at the back of each of your balls.

To conclude, the average male, between the ages of 15 and 60 will ejaculate 30 to 50 quarts of jizz (semen), containing 350 to 500 billion sperm cells. How amazing is that?

Good luck

I have a cold, sinking feeling in my stomach

Name: Scott
Gender: Male
Age: 20
Location: Kansas
I am a 20 year old virgin who has never even had phone- or cybersex. The reason for this is that when I am complimented in a sexual or sensual manner — for example “your voice is sexy” or “your intelligence is a major turn on” or even something as simple as “you’re cute (or adorable or whatever)” — I am aroused but I also have a very negative reaction. I have a cold, sinking feeling in my stomach, become slightly dizzy and even occasionally nauseous. I’ve been having these reactions since 7th grade, which was the first time I was propositioned. When I find the woman of my dreams I want to be able to satisfy her every want and need, but I won’t be able to if I continue to have these reactions. Can you help me get rid of this or at least give me an idea of where it comes from or what is causing it?

Sounds to me, pup, like you got yourself a bad case of sexphobia; an irrational fear of sex. This is classic: “I am aroused but I also have a very negative reaction. I have a cold, sinking feeling in my stomach, become slightly dizzy and even occasionally nauseous.” You should also know that this isn’t a particularly uncommon problem.

There’s probably a good reason why you’re experiencing this phobia. If you and I were working together I’d want to take a look at the incident you report happened to you in the 7th grade. You said you were propositioned. What does that mean? You were 12 and someone came on to you? A peer? Someone older? Was it someone inappropriate; say a family member, a clergy person, or a teacher? And why did you have such a negative response?stop

  • That being said, getting over a phobia, of whatever kind — fear of flying, snakes, spiders, public speaking, or sex — can be accomplished without dredging up the past. It may be as simple as:
    Identify the specifics of your fear as they play themselves out in your life now. What precisely frightens you about sex and/or intimacy?
  • Create a plan to take the edge off your fear in small steps. For example, start out with holding hands, move to embracing, then kissing. What behaviors push the panic button for you?
  • Address each and every thing that hampers your progress. For example, why does kissing push your buttons and holding hands and/or cuddling doesn’t?
  • Be firm in your resolve to push past your discomfort and stretch your limits. Sinking to the lowest common denominator will not do.
  • Address the emotional response you have to each aspect of your phobia before moving on to the next one. Build on your successes.

This is kinda hard to do on one’s one, but it’s not impossible. There are loads of books and programs on the market that help an individual move through a phobia. You might want to look online, look for something like: overcoming a phobia.

Some people have success with visualization techniques, for others hypnotherapy works. Basically, it’s simply a matter of desensitization — defusing the feared thing, and doing it incrementally.

Good luck

A handy history

Condemned, celebrated, shunned: masturbation has long been an uncomfortable fact of life. Why?

by Barry Reay

A handy history

The anonymous author of the pamphlet Onania (1716) was very worried about masturbation. The ‘shameful vice’, the ‘solitary act of pleasure’, was something too terrible to even be described. The writer agreed with those ‘who are of the opinion, that… it never ought to be spoken of, or hinted at, because the bare mentioning of it may be dangerous to some’. There was, however, little reticence in cataloguing ‘the frightful consequences of self-pollution’. Gonorrhoea, fits, epilepsy, consumption, impotence, headaches, weakness of intellect, backache, pimples, blisters, glandular swelling, trembling, dizziness, heart palpitations, urinary discharge, ‘wandering pains’, and incontinence – were all attributed to the scourge of onanism.

The fear was not confined to men. The full title of the pamphlet was Onania: Or the Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution, and all its Frightful Consequences (in Both Sexes). Its author was aware that the sin of Onan referred to the spilling of male seed (and divine retribution for the act) but reiterated that he treated ‘of this crime in relation to women as well as men’. ‘Whilst the offence is Self-Pollution in both, I could not think of any other word which would so well put the reader in mind both of the sin and its punishment’. Women who indulged could expect disease of the womb, hysteria, infertility and deflowering (the loss of ‘that valuable badge of their chastity and innocence’).

Another bestselling pamphlet was published later in the century: L’onanisme (1760) by Samuel Auguste Tissot. He was critical of Onania, ‘a real chaos … all the author’s reflections are nothing but theological and moral puerilities’, but nevertheless listed ‘the ills of which the English patients complain’. Tissot was likewise fixated on ‘the physical disorders produced by masturbation’, and provided his own case study, a watchmaker who had self-pleasured himself into ‘insensibility’ on a daily basis, sometimes three times a day; ‘I found a being that less resembled a living creature than a corpse, lying upon straw, meagre, pale, and filthy, casting forth an infectious stench; almost incapable of motion.’ The fear these pamphlets promoted soon spread.

The strange thing is that masturbation was never before the object of such horror. In ancient times, masturbation was either not much mentioned or treated as something a little vulgar, not in good taste, a bad joke. In the Middle Ages and for much of the early modern period too, masturbation, while sinful and unnatural, was not invested with such significance. What changed?

Religion and medicine combined powerfully to create a new and hostile discourse. The idea that the soul was present in semen led to thinking that it was very important to retain the vital fluid. Its spilling became, then, both immoral and dangerous (medicine believed in female semen at the time). ‘Sin, vice, and self-destruction’ were the ‘trinity of ideas’ that would dominate from the 18th into the 19th century, as the historians Jean Stengers and Anne Van Neck put it in Masturbation: The Great Terror (2001).

There were exceptions. Sometimes masturbation was opposed for more ‘enlightened’ reasons. In the 1830s and 1840s, for instance, female moral campaign societies in the United States condemned masturbation, not out of hostility to sex, but as a means to self-control. What would now be termed ‘greater sexual agency’ – the historian April Haynes refers to ‘sexual virtue’ and ‘virtuous restraint’ – was central to their message.

Yet it is difficult to escape the intensity of the fear. J H Kellogg’s Plain Facts for Old and Young (1877) contained both exaggerated horror stories and grand claims: ‘neither the plague, nor war, nor smallpox, nor similar diseases, have produced results so disastrous to humanity as the pernicious habit of Onanism; it is the destroying element of civilised societies’. Kellogg suggested remedies for the scourge, such as exercise, strict bathing and sleeping regimes, compresses, douching, enemas and electrical treatment. Diet was vital: this rabid anti-masturbator was co-inventor of the breakfast cereal that still bears his name. ‘Few of today’s eaters of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes know that he invented them, almost literally, as anti-masturbation food,’ as the psychologist John Money once pointed out.

The traces are still with us in other ways. Male circumcision, for instance, originated in part with the 19th-century obsession with the role of the foreskin in encouraging masturbatory practices. Consciously or not, many US males are faced with this bodily reminder every time they masturbate. And the general disquiet unleashed in the 18th century similarly lingers on today. We seem to have a confusing and conflicting relationship with masturbation. On one hand it is accepted, even celebrated – on the other, there remains an unmistakable element of taboo.

When the sociologist Anthony Giddens in The Transformation of Intimacy (1992) attempted to identify what made modern sex modern, one of the characteristics he identified was the acceptance of masturbation. It was, as he said, masturbation’s ‘coming out’. Now it was ‘widely recommended as a major source of sexual pleasure, and actively encouraged as a mode of improving sexual responsiveness on the part of both sexes’. It had indeed come to signify female sexual freedom with Betty Dodson’s Liberating Masturbation (1974) (renamed and republished as Sex for One in 1996), which has sold more than a million copies, and her Bodysex Workshops in Manhattan with their ‘all-women masturbation circles’. The Boston Women’s Health Collective’s classic feminist text Our Bodies, Ourselves (1973) included a section called ‘Learning to Masturbate’.

Alfred Kinsey and his team are mainly remembered for the sex surveys that publicised the pervasiveness of same-sex desires and experiences in the US, but they also recognised the prevalence of masturbation. It was, for both men and women, one of the nation’s principal sexual outlets. In the US National Survey (2009–10), 94 per cent of men aged 25-29 and 85 per cent of women in the same age group said that they had masturbated alone in the course of their lifetime. (All surveys indicate lower reported rates for women.) In the just-published results of the 2012 US National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, 92 per cent of straight men and a full 100 per cent of gay men recorded lifetime masturbation.

There has certainly been little silence about the activity. Several generations of German university students were questioned by a Hamburg research team about their masturbatory habits to chart changing attitudes and practices from 1966 to 1996; their results were published in 2003. Did they reach orgasm? Were they sexually satisfied? Was it fun? In another study, US women were contacted on Craigslist and asked about their masturbatory experiences, including clitoral stimulation and vaginal penetration. An older, somewhat self-referential study from 1977 of sexual arousal to films of masturbation asked psychology students at the University of Connecticut to report their ‘genital sensations’ while watching those films. Erection? Ejaculation? Breast sensations? Vaginal lubrication? Orgasm? And doctors have written up studies of the failed experiments of unfortunate patients: ‘Masturbation Injury Resulting from Intraurethral Introduction of Spaghetti’ (1986); ‘Penile Incarceration Secondary to Masturbation with A Steel Pipe’ (2013), with illustrations.

‘We are a profoundly self-pleasuring society at both a metaphorical and material level’

Self-stimulation has been employed in sexual research, though not always to great import. Kinsey and his team wanted to measure how far, if at all, semen was projected during ejaculation: Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy, Kinsey’s biographer, refers to queues of men in Greenwich Village waiting to be filmed at $3 an ejaculation. William Masters and Virginia Johnson recorded and measured the physiological response during sexual arousal, using new technology, including a miniature camera inside a plastic phallus. Their book Human Sexual Response (1966) was based on data from more than 10,000 orgasms from nearly 700 volunteers: laboratory research involving sexual intercourse, stimulation, and masturbation by hand and with that transparent phallus. Learned journals have produced findings such as ‘Orgasm in Women in the Laboratory – Quantitative Studies on Duration, Intensity, Latency, and Vaginal Blood Flow’ (1985).

In therapy, too, masturbation has found its place ‘as a means of achieving sexual health’, as an article by Eli Coleman, the director of the programme in human sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School, once put it. A published study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 1977 outlined therapist-supervised female masturbation (with dildo, vibrator and ‘organic vegetables’) as a way of encouraging vaginal orgasm. Then there is The Big Book of Masturbation (2003) and the hundreds of (pun intended) self-help books, Masturbation for Weight Loss, a Womans Guide only among the latest (and more opportunistic).

Self-pleasure has featured in literature, most famously in Philip Roth’s novel Portnoys Complaint (1969). But it is there in more recent writing too, including Chuck Palahniuk’s disturbing short story ‘Guts’ (2004). Autoeroticism (and its traces) have been showcased in artistic expression: in Jordan MacKenzie’s sperm and charcoal canvases (2007), for example, or in Marina Abramović’s reprise of Vito Acconci’s Seedbed at the Guggenheim in 2005, or her video art Balkan Erotic Epic of the same year.

On film and television, masturbation is similarly pervasive: Lauren Rosewarne’s Masturbation in Pop Culture (2014) was able to draw on more than 600 such scenes. My favourites are in the film Spanking the Monkey (1994), in which the main character is trying to masturbate in the bathroom, while the family dog, seemingly alert to such behaviour, pants and whines at the door; and in the Seinfeld episode ‘The Contest’ (1992), in which the ‘m’ word is never uttered, and where George’s mother tells her adult son that he is ‘treating his body like it was an amusement park’.

There is much evidence, then, for what the film scholar Greg Tuck in 2009 called the ‘mainstreaming of masturbation’: ‘We are a profoundly self-pleasuring society at both a metaphorical and material level.’ There are politically-conscious masturbation websites. There is the online ‘Masturbation Hall of Fame’ (sponsored by the sex-toys franchise Good Vibrations). There are masturbationathons, and jack-off-clubs, and masturbation parties.

It would be a mistake, however, to present a rigid contrast between past condemnation and present acceptance. There are continuities. Autoeroticism might be mainstreamed but that does not mean it is totally accepted. In Sexual Investigations (1996), the philosopher Alan Soble observed that people brag about casual sex and infidelities but remain silent about solitary sex. Anne-Francis Watson and Alan McKee’s 2013 study of 14- to 16-year-old Australians found that not only the participants but also their families and teachers were more comfortable talking about almost any other sexual matter than about self-pleasuring. It ‘remains an activity that is viewed as shameful and problematic’, warns the entry on masturbation in the Encyclopedia of Adolescence (2011). In a study of the sexuality of students in a western US university, where they were asked about sexual orientation, anal and vaginal sex, condom use, and masturbation, it was the last topic that occasioned reservation: 28 per cent of the participants ‘declined to answer the masturbation questions’. Masturbation remains, to some extent, taboo.

When the subject is mentioned, it is often as an object of laughter or ridicule. Rosewarne, the dogged viewer of the 600 masturbation scenes in film and TV, concluded that male masturbation was almost invariably portrayed negatively (female masturbation was mostly erotic). Watson and McKee’s study revealed that their young Australians knew that masturbation was normal yet still made ‘negative or ambivalent statements’ about it.

Belief in the evils of masturbation has resurfaced in the figure of the sex addict and in the obsession with the impact of internet pornography. Throughout their relatively short histories, sexual addiction and hypersexual disorder have included masturbation as one of the primary symptoms of their purported maladies. What, in a sex-positive environment, would be considered normal sexual behaviour has been pathologised in another. Of the 152 patients in treatment for hypersexual disorder in clinics in California, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah, a 2012 study showed that most characterised their sexual disorder in terms of pornography consumption (81 per cent) and masturbation (78 per cent). The New Catholic Encyclopedia’s supplement on masturbation (2012-13), too, slips into a lengthy disquisition on sex addiction and the evils of internet pornography: ‘The availability of internet pornography has markedly increased the practice of masturbation to the degree that it can be appropriately referred to as an epidemic.’

Critics think that therapeutic masturbation might reinforce sexual selfishness rather than sexual empathy and sharing

The masturbator is often seen as the pornography-consumer and sex addict enslaved by masturbation. The sociologist Steve Garlick has suggested that negative attitudes to masturbation have been reconstituted to ‘surreptitiously infect ideas about pornography’. Pornography has become masturbation’s metonym. Significantly, when the New Zealand politician Shane Jones was exposed for using his taxpayer-funded credit card to view pornographic movies, the unnamed shame was that his self-pleasuring activities were proclaimed on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers – thus the jokes about ‘the matter in hand’ and not shaking hands with him at early morning meetings. It would have been less humiliating, one assumes, if he had used the public purse to finance the services of sex workers.

Nor is there consensus on the benefits of masturbation. Despite its continued use in therapy, some therapists question its usefulness and propriety. ‘It is a mystery to me how conversational psychotherapy has made the sudden transition to massage parlour technology involving vibrators, mirrors, surrogates, and now even carrots and cucumbers!’ one psychologist protested in the late 1970s. He was concerned about issues of client-patient power and a blinkered pursuit of the sexual climax ‘ignoring … the more profound psychological implications of the procedure’. In terms of effectiveness, critics think that therapeutic masturbation might reinforce individual pleasure and sexual selfishness rather than creating sexual empathy and sharing. As one observed in the pages of the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy in 1995: ‘Ironically, the argument against masturbation in American society was originally religiously founded, but may re-emerge as a humanist argument.’ Oversimplified, but in essence right: people remain disturbed by the solitariness of solitary sex.

Why has what the Japanese charmingly call ‘self-play’ become such a forcing ground for sexual attitudes? Perhaps there is something about masturbation’s uncontrollability that continues to make people anxious. It is perversely non-procreative, incestuous, adulterous, homosexual, ‘often pederastic’ and, in imagination at least, sex with ‘every man, woman, or beast to whom I take a fancy’, to quote Soble. For the ever-astute historian Thomas Laqueur, author of Solitary Sex (2003), masturbation is ‘that part of human sexual life where potentially unlimited pleasure meets social restraint’.

Why did masturbation become such a problem? For Laqueur, it began with developments in 18th-century Europe, with the cultural rise of the imagination in the arts, the seemingly unbounded future of commerce, the role of print culture, the rise of private, silent reading, especially novels, and the democratic ingredients of this transformation. Masturbation’s condemned tendencies – solitariness, excessive desire, limitless imagination, and equal-opportunity pleasure – were an outer limit or testing of these valued attributes, ‘a kind of Satan to the glories of bourgeois civilisation’.

In more pleasure-conscious modern times, the balance has tipped towards personal gratification. The acceptance of personal autonomy, sexual liberation and sexual consumerism, together with a widespread focus on addiction, and the ubiquity of the internet, now seem to demand their own demon. Fears of unrestrained fantasy and endless indulging of the self remain. Onania’s 18th-century complaints about the lack of restraint of solitary sex are not, in the end, all that far away from today’s fear of boundless, ungovernable, unquenchable pleasure in the self.

Complete Article HERE!

The evolutionary puzzle of homosexuality

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In the last two decades, dozens of scientific papers have been published on the biological origins of homosexuality – another announcement was made last week. It’s becoming scientific orthodoxy. But how does it fit with Darwin’s theory of evolution?

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s hit song Same Love, which has become an unofficial anthem of the pro-gay marriage campaign in the US, reflects how many gay people feel about their sexuality.

It mocks those who “think it’s a decision, and you can be cured with some treatment and religion – man-made rewiring of a predisposition”. A minority of gay people disagree, maintaining that sexuality is a social construct, and they have made a conscious, proud choice to take same-sex partners.

But scientific opinion is with Macklemore. Since the early 1990s, researchers have shown that homosexuality is more common in brothers and relatives on the same maternal line, and a genetic factor is taken to be the cause. Also relevant – although in no way proof – is research identifying physical differences in the brains of adult straight and gay people, and a dizzying array of homosexual behaviour in animals.

But since gay and lesbian people have fewer children than straight people, a problem arises.001

“This is a paradox from an evolutionary perspective,” says Paul Vasey from the University of Lethbridge in Canada. “How can a trait like male homosexuality, which has a genetic component, persist over evolutionary time if the individuals that carry the genes associated with that trait are not reproducing?”

Scientists don’t know the answer to this Darwinian puzzle, but there are several theories. It’s possible that different mechanisms may be at work in different people. Most of the theories relate to research on male homosexuality. The evolution of lesbianism is relatively understudied – it may work in a similar way or be completely different.


The genes that code for homosexuality do other things too

The allele – or group of genes – that sometimes codes for homosexual orientation may at other times have a strong reproductive benefit. This would compensate for gay people’s lack of reproduction and ensure the continuation of the trait, as non-gay carriers of the gene pass it down.

There are two or more ways this might happen. One possibility is that the allele confers a psychological trait that makes straight men more attractive to women, or straight women more attractive to men. “We know that women tend to like more feminine behavioural features and facial features in their men, and that might be associated with things like good parenting skills or greater empathy,” says Qazi Rahman, co-author of Born Gay; The Psychobiology of Sex Orientation. Therefore, the theory goes, a low “dose” of these alleles enhances the carrier’s chances of reproductive success. Every now and then a family member receives a larger dose that affects his or her sexual orientation, but the allele still has an overall reproductive advantage.

Another way a “gay allele” might be able to compensate for a reproductive deficit is by having the converse effect in the opposite sex. For example, an allele which makes the bearer attracted to men has an obvious reproductive advantage to women. If it appears in a man’s genetic code it will code for same-sex attraction, but so long as this happens rarely the allele still has a net evolutionary benefit.

There is some evidence for this second theory. Andrea Camperio-Ciani, at the University of Padova in Italy, found that maternal female relatives of gay men have more children than maternal female relatives of straight men. The implication is that there is an unknown mechanism in the X chromosome of men’s genetic code which helps women in the family have more babies, but can lead to homosexuality in men. These results haven’t been replicated in some ethnic groups – but that doesn’t mean they are wrong with regards to the Italian population in Camperio-Ciani’s study.


Gay people were ‘helpers in the nest’

The fa'afafine of Samoa dislike being called "gay" or "homosexual"

The fa’afafine of Samoa dislike being called “gay” or “homosexual”

Some researchers believe that to understand the evolution of gay people, we need to look at how they fit into the wider culture.

Paul Vasey’s research in Samoa has focused on a theory called kin selection or the “helper in the nest” hypothesis. The idea is that gay people compensate for their lack of children by promoting the reproductive fitness of brothers or sisters, contributing money or performing other uncle-like activities such as babysitting or tutoring. Some of the gay person’s genetic code is shared with nieces and nephews and so, the theory goes, the genes which code for sexual orientation still get passed down.

Sceptics have pointed out that since on average people share just 25% of their genetic code with these relatives, they would need to compensate for every child they don’t have themselves with two nieces or nephews that wouldn’t otherwise have existed. Vasey hasn’t yet measured just how much having a homosexual orientation boosts siblings’ reproduction rate, but he has established that in Samoa “gay” men spend more time on uncle-like activities than “straight” men.

“No-one was more surprised than me,” says Vasey about his findings. His lab had previously shown that gay men in Japan were no more attentive or generous towards their nieces and nephews than straight, childless men and women. The same result has been found in the UK, US and Canada.

Vasey believes that his Samoan result was different because the men he studied there were different. He studied the fa’afafine, who identify as a third gender, dressing as women and having sex with men who regard themselves as “straight”. They are a transgender group who do not like to be called “gay” or “homosexual”.

Vasey speculates that part of the reason the fa’afafine are more attentive to their nephews and nieces is their acceptance in Samoan culture compared to gay men in the West and Japan (“You can’t help your kin if they’ve rejected you”). But he also believes that there is something about the fa’afafine way of life that means they are more likely to be nurturing towards nieces and nephews, and speculates that he would find similar results in other “third gender” groups around the world.

If this is true, then the helper in the nest theory may partly explain how a genetic trait for same-sex attraction hasn’t been selected away. That hypothesis has led Vasey to speculate that the gay men who identify as men and have masculine traits – that is to say, most gay men in the West – are descended from men who had a cross-gendered sexuality.


Gay people do have children

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In the US, around 37% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people have a child, about 60% of which are biological. According to the Williams Institute, gay couples that have children have an average of two.

These figures may not be high enough to sustain genetic traits specific to this group, but the evolutionary 002biologist Jeremy Yoder points out in a blog post that for much of modern history gay people haven’t been living openly gay lives. Compelled by society to enter marriages and have children, their reproduction rates may have been higher than they are now.

How many gay people have children also depends on how you define being “gay”. Many of the “straight” men who have sex with fa’afafine in Samoa go on to get married and have children.

“The category of same-sex sexuality becomes very diffuse when you take a multicultural perspective,” says Joan Roughgarden, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Hawaii. “If you go to India, you’ll find that if someone says they are ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ then that immediately identifies them as Western. But that doesn’t mean there’s no homosexuality there.”

Similarly in the West, there is evidence that many people go through a phase of homosexual activity. In the 1940s, US sex researcher Alfred Kinsey found that while just 4% of white men were exclusively gay after adolescence, 10% had a three-year period of gay activity and 37% had gay sex at some point in their lives.

A national survey of sexual attitudes in the UK last year came up with lower figures. Some 16% of women said they had had a sexual experience with another woman (8% had genital contact), and 7% of men said they had had a sexual experience with a man (with 5% having genital contact).

But most scientists researching gay evolution are interested in an ongoing, internal pattern of desire rather than whether people identify as gay or straight or how often people have gay sex. “Sexual identity and sexual behaviours are not good measures of sexual orientation,” says Paul Vasey. “Sexual feelings are.”


It’s not all in the DNA

Qazi Rahman says that alleles coding for same sex attraction only explain some of the variety in human sexuality. Other, naturally varying biological factors come into play, with about one in seven gay men, he says, owing their sexuality to the “big brother effect”.

This has nothing to do with George Orwell, but describes the observation that boys with older brothers are significantly more likely to become gay – with every older brother the chance of homosexuality increases by about a third. No-one knows why this is, but one theory is that with each male pregnancy, a woman’s body forms an immune reaction to proteins that have a role in the development of the male brain. Since this only comes into play after several siblings have been born – most of whom are heterosexual and go on to have children – this pre-natal quirk hasn’t been selected away by evolution.

Exposure to unusual levels of hormone before birth can also affect sexuality. For example, female foetuses exposed to higher levels of testosterone before birth show higher rates of lesbianism later on. Studies show that “butch” lesbian women and men have a smaller difference in length between their index and ring fingers – a marker of pre-natal exposure to testosterone. In “femme” lesbians the difference has been found to be less marked.

Brothers of a different kind – identical twins – also pose a tricky question. Research has found that if an identical twin is gay, there is about a 20% chance that the sibling will have the same sexual orientation. While that’s a greater likelihood than random, it’s lower than you might expect for two people with the same genetic code.

William Rice, from the University of California Santa Barbara, says that it may be possible to explain this 003by looking not at our genetic code but at the way it is processed. Rice and his colleagues refer to the emerging field of epigenetics, which studies the “epimarks” that decide which parts of our DNA get switched on or off. Epimarks get passed on to children, but only sometimes. Rice believes that female foetuses employ an epimark that makes them less sensitive to testosterone. Usually it’s not inherited, but occasionally it is, leading to same-sex preference in boys.

Dr William Byne, editor-in-chief of the journal LGBT Health, believes sexuality may well be inborn, but thinks it could be more complicated than some scientists believe. He notes that the heritability of homosexuality is similar to that for divorce, but “social science researchers have not… searched for ‘divorce genes’. Instead they have focused on heritable personality and temperamental traits that might influence the likelihood of divorce.”

For Qazi Rahman, it’s the media that oversimplifies genetic theories of sexuality, with their reports of the discovery of “the gay gene”. He believes that sexuality involves tens or perhaps hundreds of alleles that will probably take decades to uncover. And even if heterosexual sex is more advantageous in evolutionary terms than gay sex, it’s not only gay people whose sexuality is determined by their genes, he says, but straight people too.

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