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Fiddler Crabs Will Boink for Survival

November 5, 2009 Research No Comments


Male fiddler crabs will gladly rise in defense of a strange female of their species when an intruder crab comes around. Chivalry? Not so much. Researchers from the Australian National University in Canberra have found that female fiddler crabs bestow sexual favors on males to ensure their own safety.

“This study shows, for the first time, that in exchange for sex and other benefits, males protect their female neighbors from territory-seeking male intruders. The paper provides the first evidence of ‘defense coalitions’ between territorial males and females,” says Michael Jennions, who assisted with the study, which was published in the journal Biology Letters.

Jennions, along with researchers Richard Milner and Patricia Backwell, studied the crabs living in mud flats off the African country of Mozambique late last year. Fiddler crabs are territorial and live in burrows; while the males have large claws to protect themselves, the females do not. The researchers took crabs from other parts of the mud flats and placed them near occupied burrows.

Male invaders did not fare well with the male residents. In 21 trials, resident males fought off the male invaders 95 percent of the time.

Of course, in 20 trials involving female intruders, the males residents only fought 15 percent of the time. Jennions theory? Male crabs prefer to keep females nearby, because they will almost always have sex with resident males.

Image by barloventomagico. Information from The Associated Press.

Which Is Hotter, Fantasy or Reality?

November 5, 2009 Analyze This 2 Comments

The question of all questions.

And one that has troubled many a philosopher, as well. Most recently, Aaron Ben-Zeév, president and professor of philosophy at the University of Haifa and author of In the Name of Love: Romantic Ideology and its Victims wrote a thought-provoking essay on the duality of the imaginary and the real.

“There are two prevailing claims: a) our desire is greater when the object is real and attainable; b) our desire is greater when the object is imaginary and unattainable,” says Ben-Zeév. “Which claim is correct? Do we desire the one we have more than we desire the one we imagine having?”

The answer is simple: we want both.

The real, as he points out, is more intense.

“A very strong event, which may be quite relevant to our well-being, may not provoke excitement if we succeed in considering it as fantasy,” he says. “Thus, despite the horrifying impact of a potential nuclear holocaust, many people do not allow this to upset them, since they do not consider the event to be a real possibility.”

So the real is tangible–right there where you can see it–and possibly attainable. Onto it we project the fantasy elements.

“In contrast to how we feel about what we already have, we are typically excited by anything that is incomplete, unsettled, unexplained, or uncertain,” Ben-Zeév says. “When the situation becomes stable and normal, there is no reason for the mental system to be on the alert and to invest further resources.”

So basically to be desirable, one must exist but be sufficiently unknown to enable others to impose their own ideas on us. Oh, but there one more thing–attainability.

“This factor is one of the features of reality. Something that is attainable is real in the ontological sense–it is not merely a fantasy but is rather something that exists and that could be experienced immediately,” Ben-Zeév adds. “However, something that is attainable needs no attention since it is likely to be perceived as being granted already. On the other hand, incomplete experiences, which are a kind of unfinished business, are more desirable because, among other aspects, they require more effort to be invested in them, which can cause them to be perceived as more worthy. Hence, those who play hard to get often make themselves more desirable.”

But you can’t be too unavailable. Ben-Zeév warns: “When the required effort is too immense and the probability of its success is low, people may give up the idea… At a certain point, an increase in the required effort decreases emotional intensity since people begin to believe that the outcome for which effort is being invested is actually unattainable and hence unreal.”

People You’ve Slept With: Calculation Errors Explained

November 5, 2009 Research 13 Comments

How many people have you slept with?

A horrible question that never did anyone any good. (I understand concerns about a new partner’s sexual health, but that’s what tests are for. Trying to calculate the risk of sexual disease based on how many partners someone has had has to be the most flawed method I’ve ever heard of. It only takes one time, after all.)

Conventional wisdom on the matter was best illustrated by the movie American Pie. Men tend to increase the number of sexual partners and women tend to lower theirs. Research seems to support this.

Norman Brown, a psychologist at the University of Alberta, finds that American men report an average of 18 partners while women report 5–but he thinks it’s more than people lying. Psychology Today elaborates:

Women are more likely to “just know,” or to have a tally somewhere, a method psychologists call “notches on the bedpost.” Women are also more likely to use enumeration (“Let’s see, Dave, Tarik, that guy from the gym…”), which produces underestimates, since people forget instances.

Men are more likely to use rough approximation (“Jeez, I don’t know, like maybe 50?”) or rate-based estimates (“Let’s see, one a month for the last five years…”)—a method that produces overestimates.

How do you count your lovers?

Live! Nude! … Rehab?

November 5, 2009 Hollywoody 1 Comment

Dr. Drew of Celebrity Rehab is back this month, this time with Sex Rehab.

In a nutshell, Dr. Drew will guide eight patients suffering from sexual addiction using one-on-one and group therapy.

The eight patients, all of them attractive almost-famous people, will live together for the span of the 21 days and try really hard not to sleep together. And all this will be broadcast on national television.

It’s gross and exploitative and will possibly do more damage to our understanding of sexual addiction than good, but it has all the makings of a voyeuristic hit.

Some more critique from The Los Angeles Times:

Consider the demographics of the patients. The female-to-male ratio is 5 to 3, with almost all of the women being highly attractive, provocatively dressed adult performers. “What are they thinking, putting us here with these hot chicks?” asks James Lovett, a haggard pro surfer who quickly casts himself as the bad-boy truth teller of the group, and frankly, it’s a question that begs an answer.

As does the producers’ decision to shoot an opener explaining the disease while music throbs and clips from porn movies fly by. The whole point of sexual addiction is that it isn’t fun or sexy; it’s an obsession. And though Lovett and one or two of the other patients seem genuinely beset by demons, most of the others are too busy showing off their sex toys on their “audition” tapes to even consider what overcoming sexual addiction means.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t watching. But we are vulture culture. We love this stuff. It’s a good thing other people’s drama has no caloric value because that would send our already-ailing nation into cardiac arrest territory in two seconds flat.

Image by AV Flox.

Nicole Kidman Betrays Womankind?

November 4, 2009 Hollywoody, News, Opinion No Comments

The media was in a tizzy about Nicole Kidman’s role as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for Women a week ago. Why? Her roles in films betray the Sisterhood.

gqPer Janet Street Porter at The Independent: “she’s been raped in one film (Dogville), and had kinky sex with Tom Cruise in another (Eyes Wide Shut). She had a bath with a rather young boy (in Birth) and shagged Billy Zane in Dead Calm, her Hollywood debut–all in the name of art, of course.”

I have two things to say about this. First: violence against women is real. Their stories are real. Sanitizing film and television of these scenes is not really the answer. Secondly–there is a distinct different with exploring sexuality through BDSM and being brutalized. To say Kidman betrays womankind because she has kinky sex is to betray the segment of womankind who do enjoy healthy and fulfilling non-vanilla sexual relationships.

True to form, Nicole isn’t taking this one lying down. In an interview with British GQ, the usually reserved Kidman talked about exploring non-vanilla sex not just in film, but in her private life as well.

“I’ve explored obsession. I’ve explored loss and love in terms of being in a grief-stricken place, I’ve explored strange sexual fetish stuff, I’ve explored the mundane aspect of marriage, and monogamy,” she said.

Guess what? This is one of the truths of womankind. Just as having a choice about what projects you pursue in your career and what parts you play. If you can’t respect that, I’m afraid you’re the one betraying womankind.

Image of GQ cover via The New York Daily News.

Smart Women Suck At Love

November 3, 2009 Analyze This No Comments

An oldie but goodie because I’m feeling a little cranky up here in my ivory tower and misery loves company:

Dr. Robert Holden is the author of Success Intelligence and a firm believer that a high intelligence quotient spells doom in relationships.

In a piece at the Daily Mail, he explains:

IQ is all to do with your head and the meeting of minds. You could have two incredibly intellectual sparky people who know how to stimulate each other with a fantastic debate, but this in no way means they have what it takes for a long-term relationship. To have a successful relationship, you have to have a developed EQ which is emotional empathy and a respect for each other’s feelings.

The logic of emotions is different to the logic of thoughts. With a high IQ, we are often so headstrong that we over-ride what our heart is feeling. We essentially silence our emotions. Without the engagement of the head and the heart, relationships are not a safe place to be, but the bright woman is headstrong enough to tell herself that she will be able to make this work.

Often, people with a high IQ lack a genuine sense of self-acceptance which leads to a very tortured mental existence and constant mental self-flagellation. Your IQ might mean you are prone to being more judgmental than normal, and, therefore, you have more fear and anxiety in relationships than the average person. In general terms, it means that having a higher IQ doesn’t help you make better emotional decisions.

[You] try to approach love like they approach their careers–as an academic exercise. Sometimes you’ve got to drop your cast-iron pride and be willing to admit you’ve got it entirely wrong for Mr Right to show up at all.

Don’t be too quick; too quick to dismiss someone because they don’t know who ruled the Byzantine Empire, or too quick to give yourself entirely to someone just because they laughed at your joke.

Don’t be too dominant or competitive because that leads to short-term safety and long-term boredom. Finally, develop your EQ. Learn to have emotional strength which is about yielding, surrender, openness and a willingness to be vulnerable.

How’s that for a Tuesday morning? Yeah, I love you, too.

Thumbnail image by Sasha Wolff.

Researchers Find Link Between Perceived Body Weight And Sex Habits

November 2, 2009 Research No Comments

The November issue of Pediatrics is reporting on some studies done by researchers at the University of Pittsburg on teen girls’ body weights, perceived body weights and sexual habits. This is what they found:

teenCaucasian girls who thought they were underweight — whether they actually were or not — were more likely to have had sex and to have had four or more sexual partners than those who thought their weight was normal. Caucasian girls who were truly overweight were less likely to use condoms.

Underweight African-American girls were less likely to use condoms than those of normal weight, and overweight African-American girls were more likely to report four or more sexual partners.

Latina girls of all weights were more likely to engage in a wide variety of risky sexual behaviors, from lack of condom use and sex before age 13 to having more than four sexual partners during their teens and using alcohol.

Read the whole study.

Image from wikiHowl. Information via The Washington Post.

Fruit Bat Head: Speculations on the Function of Oral

October 30, 2009 News, Research 1 Comment

Everything has a reason, they say. Yesterday Maggie Koerth-Baker at BoingBoing reported on a team of researchers trying to figure out how head plays into the scheme of things by studying the oral habits of fruit bats.

In their paper, published on October 28th in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers Min Tan, Gareth Jones, Guangjian Zhu, et. al. explain that bats who engage in oral end up copulating for longer than those who don’t warm things up.

The team has several theories on the benefits of foreplay:

Oral sex could be doing everything from increasing the chances of sperm fertilizing egg, to killing bacteria on the penis and protecting both parties from sexually transmitted disease. Of course, the only thing proven is that oral sex means longer sex in fruit bats.

Naturally, this is all speculation. But yes, by all means, give us more reason to engage in this behavior.

Read more about bats and oral sex at The Huffington Post.

Thumbnail photo by Diana Lili.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Mom!

October 29, 2009 Hollywoody No Comments

Kate Hudson discusses her sex life with her parents! OMG!

kateAccording to Monsters and Critics, the actress is an oversharer when it comes to sex, unhesitatingly regaling her mother Goldie Hawn and stepfather Kurt Russell with deets of her exploits with New York Yankees baseball player Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez.

A source close to the star told Us Weekly magazine: “They love sex! They talk about it all day. Kate gets graphic talking about his body, even to her parents.”

Open communication with your parents–awesome or weird?

Thumbnail image by Katie.

Dopamine: The Drive, Not The Pleasure

October 26, 2009 Research No Comments

Dopamine, the decade’s “it” neurotransmitter, has taken a Pluto-style demotion.

Once regarded as the brain chemical that made us feel good and got us addicted to that feeling, is now believed to be more centered on motivation, says The New York Times:

People talk of getting their “dopamine rush” from chocolate, music, the stock market, the BlackBerry buzz on the thigh — anything that imparts a small, pleasurable thrill. Familiar agents of vice like cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol and nicotine are known to stimulate the brain’s dopamine circuits, as do increasingly popular stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin.

In the communal imagination, dopamine is about rewards, and feeling good, and wanting to feel good again, and if you don’t watch out, you’ll be hooked, a slave to the pleasure lines cruising through your brain. Hey, why do you think they call it dopamine?

Yet as new research on dopamine-deficient mice and other studies reveal, the image of dopamine as our little Bacchus in the brain is misleading, just as was the previous caricature of serotonin as a neural happy face.

In the emerging view, discussed in part at the Society for Neuroscience meeting last week in Chicago, dopamine is less about pleasure and reward than about drive and motivation, about figuring out what you have to do to survive and then doing it.

“When you can’t breathe, and you’re gasping for air, would you call that pleasurable?” said Nora D. Volkow, a dopamine researcher and director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Or when you’re so hungry that you eat something disgusting, is that pleasurable?”

In both responses, Dr. Volkow said, the gasping for oxygen and the wolfing down of something you would ordinarily spurn, the dopamine pathways of the brain are at full throttle. “The whole brain is of one mindset,” she said. “The intense drive to get you out of a state of deprivation and keep you alive.”

Dopamine is also part of the brain’s salience filter, its get-a-load-of-this device. “You can’t pay attention to everything, but you want to be adept as an organism at recognizing things that are novel,” Dr. Volkow said. “You might not notice a fly in the room, but if that fly was fluorescent, your dopamine cells would fire.”

In addition, our dopamine-driven salience detector will focus on familiar objects that we have imbued with high value, both positive and negative: objects we want and objects we fear. If we love chocolate, our dopamine neurons will most likely start to fire at the sight of a pert little chocolate bean lying on the counter.

But if we fear cockroaches, those same neurons may fire even harder when we notice that the “bean” has six legs. The pleasurable taste of chocolate per se, however, or the anxiety of cockroach phobia, may well be the handiwork of other signaling molecules, like opiates or stress hormones. Dopamine simply makes a relevant object almost impossible to ignore.

What neurotransmitter will it be next, I wonder?


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Gamers Won’t Be Seduced, Will Stare At Random Cleav Instead

That Steam allows the objectification and sexualization of female characters in a variety of its games but refuses to accept a game about actually engaging with women in a more interactive fashion is astonishingly backward.

FetLife Is Not Safe for Users

That the site doesn’t take measures to protect user content and has shown incompetence or negligence in regard to user privacy, all the while prohibiting victims from warning others about predatory behavior creates an environment where it is nearly impossible for members of the community to take care of themselves and one another. By enabling FetLife to continue espousing a code of silence, allowing the spinning self-created security issues as “attacks,” and not pointing out how disingenuous FetLife statements about safety are, we are allowing our community to become a breeding ground for exploitation.

Why You Should Vote No On Prop 35

Should people who benefit (parents, siblings, children, roommates!) from the earnings of “commercial sex acts” (any sexual conduct connected to the giving or receiving of something of value) be charged with human trafficking? Should someone who creates obscene material that is deemed “deviant” be charged as with human trafficking? Should someone who profits from obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should people transporting obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should a person who engages in sex with someone claiming to be above the age of consent or furnishing a fake ID to this effect be charged with human trafficking? What if I told you the sentences for that kind of conviction were eight, 14 or 20 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $500,000, and life as a registered sex offender?

Pretty and Calls Herself a Geek? Attention Whore!

If you are a woman, you might be given a chance to prove yourself in this community. Since there is no standard definition of what a “geek” is and it will vary from one judge to the next anyway, chances of failing are high (cake and grief counseling will be available after the conclusion of the test!). If you somehow manage to succeed, you’ll be tested again and again by anyone who encounters you until you manage to establish yourself like, say, Felicia Day. But even then, you’ll be questioned. As a woman, your whole existence within the geek community will be nothing but a series of tests — if you’re lucky. If you aren’t lucky, you’ll be harassed and threatened and those within the culture will tacitly agree that you deserve it.

Cuddle Chemical? Moral Molecule? Not So Fast

Zak’s original field, it turns out, is economics, a far cry from the hearts and teddy bears we imagine when we consider his nickname. But after performing experiments on generosity, Zak stumbled on the importance of trust in interactions, which led him, rather inevitably, to research about oxytocin. Oxytocin, you might remember, is a hormone that has been linked previously to bonding — between mothers and children primarily, but also between partners. What Zak has done is take the research a step further, arguing in his recent book, The Moral Molecule, that oxytocin plays a role in determining whether we are good or evil.

How to Avoid Pissing off a Stripper

Let’s talk about the strippers. Whether they like to be half-naked or not, whether they enjoy turning you on or not, there’s one thing they all have in common: they’re working. Whether you think that taking one’s clothes off for money is a great choice of career is really beside the point (is it a possibility for you to make $500 per hour at your job without a law degree? Just asking). These women are providing fantasy, yes, but that is their job. And as a patron of the establishment where they work, you need to treat them like you would anyone else who provides a service to you.


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