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Negativity Is Cool

April 7, 2010 Health, News, Research No Comments

Looks like some nasty habits aren’t so nasty after all. Commenting in a recent article in O Magazine, Bryan Gibson, professor of social psychology at Central Michigan University, says: “In certain situations, what is typically a detrimental trait can turn out to be a good one.”

And just what is he talking about? Being negative, swearing, and getting pissed.

Negativity

“Picture the worst-case scenario and work your way backwards,” says Nicole Jordan, our resident PR pro. And she’s right — focusing on the negative outcomes help us prepare and thus overcome difficulties.

“Defensive pessimism—thinking specifically about what might go wrong—can turn anxiety into action,” says Julie K. Norem, professor of psychology at Wellesley College and the author of The Positive Power of Negative Thinking.

Cussing

Bad words make you feel better! According to a recent study published in NeuroReport, participants who immersed their hands in icy water and were allowed to shout bad words experienced significantly less prickly, numbing pain than when they said neutral words. The reason? Swearing seems to activate the stress response, boosting our pain thresholds to better deal with crisis.

Getting Pissed

And by that, we don’t mean piss drunk. Though we’re sure researchers could find a good reason to get wasted if they really tried. Anyway, get this, so long as your rage isn’t a recurring thing, getting angry when you face a difficult situation does help deal with stress.

According to Jennifer Lerner, director of the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory, reacting with focused anger instead of allowing yourself to get carried away with anxiety releases less of the stress hormone cortisol. Less stress means less likelihood of losing bone mass, becoming depressed or obese. Fantastic!

So, cherish your pessimism, embrace your inner sailor and for the love of all things good and decent, let yourself get seriously pissed every once in a blue moon instead of “dealing with it.”

It’s good for you, trust us.

Image from Tambago the Jaguar. Information from O Magazine.

L.A. Dudes Have Tiny Dicks

April 5, 2010 News, OMGWTFBBQ, Research 1 Comment

So get this, recently, the giant Condomania averaged the sizes of their custom-sized TheyFit condoms ordered by a sample of some 25,000 men in the U.S. between 2004 and 2010 to figure out what cities have the best-endowed men.

Los Angeles, they found, comes in at 17, a full nine places below San Francisco.

The SF Weekly wasted no time rubbing it in:

Finding a good man in San Francisco is not easy. We actually devoted a cover story to the challenging hunt. Yet apparently finding a well-endowed man is not too, umm, hard. According to stats released by internet condom store Condomania, it’s much easier in the City by the Bay than in the city of over-inflated pricks to the south, Los Angeles.

San Francisco ranked a respectable No. 8 among the nation’s 20 most populous cities, while Los Angeles came in at a stumpy 17th. And L.A. seems to be feeling a little down about their shortcomings, noting that even Ron Jeremy couldn’t carry the team. Basically they’re taking their loss like a man, concocting lame excuses about how not a lot of men in L.A. even wear condoms so the stats are skewed. Wah, wah, wah.

For all the grief we put San Diego through up here in the City of Angels, we here at Sex and the 405 have to admit that their coming in third place in the city rankings is pretty damn impressive.

And the smallest cocks? Detroit, Philadelphia, and Dallas/Ft. Worth.

Disagree? Pics or we’re not buying it!

And if you know someone who defies the results of this survey, send them a proper thank you!

Image by Julie K. Information via the SF Weekly.

Porn: Decreases Sex Crimes?

March 11, 2010 News, Research 1 Comment

Porn — does it lead to sexual assault? The question continues to fascinate us. A recent piece in The Scientist puts the data together to show a picture few of us were expecting: that as pornography becomes more available sex crimes decrease — or, at least, stay the same.

What follows is an excerpt:

Despite the widespread and increasing availability of sexually explicit materials, according to national FBI Department of Justice statistics, the incidence of rape declined markedly from 1975 to 1995. This was particularly seen in the age categories 20–24 and 25–34, the people most likely to use the Internet.

The best known of these national studies are those of Berl Kutchinsky, who studied Denmark, Sweden, West Germany, and the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. He showed that for the years from approximately 1964 to 1984, as the amount of pornography increasingly became available, the rate of rapes in these countries either decreased or remained relatively level.

Later research has shown parallel findings in every other country examined, including Japan, Croatia, China, Poland, Finland, and the Czech Republic. In the United States there has been a consistent decline in rape over the last 2 decades, and in those countries that allowed for the possession of child pornography, child sex abuse has declined. Significantly, no community in the United States has ever voted to ban adult access to sexually explicit material. The only feature of a community standard that holds is an intolerance for materials in which minors are involved as participants or consumers.

In terms of the use of pornography by sex offenders, the police sometimes suggest that a high percentage of sex offenders are found to have used pornography. This is meaningless, since most men have at some time used pornography.

Looking closer, Michael Goldstein and Harold Kant found that rapists were more likely than nonrapists in the prison population to have been punished for looking at pornography while a youngster, while other research has shown that incarcerated nonrapists had seen more pornography, and seen it at an earlier age, than rapists. What does correlate highly with sex offense is a strict, repressive religious upbringing. Richard Green too has reported that both rapists and child molesters use less pornography than a control group of “normal” males.

Information from The Scientist.

Sex by Numbers

March 3, 2010 News, Research No Comments

60 to 100 million: Number of condoms that are improperly disposed of each year in the U.K.

7/8: Ratio of sex toys tested which contained phthalates (in concentrations ranging from 24 to 51 percent), to all toys tested, in a study conducted for Greenpeace Netherlands.

Almost 50 percent: Number of pregnancies in the U.S. which are unplanned each year; the U.S. has one of the highest rates of unintended pregnancies of all industrialized nations.

20 percent: Percentage of adults worldwide who has used a vibrator.

22 percent: the percentage of people worldwide who have had sex in the garden.

Image by Stephen Coles. Information from Planet Green.

Bacon or Sex?

February 17, 2010 News, Noms, Research 2 Comments

A recent survey suggests that Canadians prefer bacon to sex.

The survey, conducted by Angus Reid for Maple Leaf Foods, discovered 43 percent of Canadians would take the nomy goodness that is bacon over a romp.

“We wanted to probe how deeply rooted Canadians’ passion for bacon is — and the For the Love of Bacon survey sure opened our eyes!” explained Adam Grogan, their vice president of marketing.

The survey involved 1,006 randomly selected Canadian adults.

And forget Dior and Givenchy, too. The survey found that when asked to rank various aromas by preference, 23% of men ranked bacon as number one.

This totally explains the bacon-flavored lipgloss we saw in our editrix’s drawer the other day. Man-pleaser.

Image from Alltop. Information from Perishable News, via Alltop. Thanks to Heather Meeker for the tip.

Marriage: A Sweet Deal for Dudes?

January 20, 2010 Culture, News, Research 1 Comment

It looks like marriage is a sweet deal after all–for dudes.

A new Pew Research Center report has uncovered that a larger share of today’s men, compared with their 1970 counterparts, are married to women whose education and income exceed their own, and a larger share of women are married to men with less education and income.

“In the past, when relatively few wives worked, marriage enhanced the economic status of women more than that of men,” wrote the report’s authors, Richard Fry and D’Vera Cohn. “In recent decades, however, the economic gains associated with marriage have been greater for men.”

Median household income rose 60 percent between 1970 and 2007 for married men, married women and unmarried women. It went up only 16 percent for unmarried men.

In 1970, according to the report, 28 percent of wives between 30 and 44 had husbands who were better educated than they were, outnumbering the 20 percent whose husbands had less education. By 2007, only 19 percent of wives had husbands with more education, compared with 28 percent whose husbands had less education.

Only 4 percent of husbands had wives who earned more than they did in 1970, compared with 22 percent in 2007.

During that span, women’s earnings grew 44 percent, compared with 6 percent growth for men, although a gender gap remains. According to 2009 Census Bureau figures, women with full-time jobs earned salaries equal to 77.9 percent of what men earned, compared with 52 percent in 1970.

The Pew report found that unmarried women in 2007 had higher household incomes than their 1970 counterparts at each level of education, while unmarried men without post-secondary education lost ground because their real earnings decreased and they didn’t have a wife’s wages to offset that decline.

Unmarried men with college degrees made income gains of 15 percent, but were outpaced by the 28 percent gains of unmarried women with degrees.

Ladies? One word: pre-nup. Trust me.

Information from the AP.

Blondes Have More Fun? They’d Better Or They’ll Kick Your Ass

January 20, 2010 News, Research 2 Comments

Good morning! How about a little pseudo-science to kick off the day?

A study by the University of California, Santa Barbara is suggesting that blondes are more “warlike” than brunettes and redheads. The researchers, led by Aaron Sell, speculate that this aggression comes from a lifetime of attracting more attention than women with darker hair color. They’re calling this “the princess effect.”

And it’s not just limited to natural blondes–box blondes and attractive women are equally vulnerable to the princess effect.

“We expected blondes to feel more entitled than other young women — this is southern California, the natural habitat of the privileged blonde,” said Sell, who led the study which has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. “What we did not expect to find was how much more warlike they are than their peers on campus.”

The research indicates that the more special people feel, the more likely they are to get angry to reach their goals.

“Blondes are more confident in their abilities, although the results do not necessarily support their confidence,” said Catherine Salmon, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Redlands, California. “Maybe responding to their own stereotypes, brunettes tend to work harder and expect less special treatment. Women who go blonde quickly get used to the privileges of blondeness — usually male attentiveness.”

The study, which examined the link between confidence and aggression, involved a small (and questionable) sample of 156 female undergrads. I put stock in Survival of the Prettiest, but this needs more development.

I was blonde once in my life (triple-process, which took some six hours) and I’m trying to remember if I got my way more than usual. I can’t really remember. I usually always do. The roots were a bitch, though. Every thirteen days. Like clockwork. Now that makes me warlike just to think about.

Image from Anne Bowerman. Information from the BBC, TimesOnline, via Guy Kawasaki.

If You Come Any Closer, I’ll Blow Up

January 16, 2010 News, Research No Comments

A report published recently in the Royal Society’s Biology Letters journal suggests that female cane toads inflate to prevent the male from being able to take hold and have their way with them.

It was widely believed that frogs and toads evolved this ability to inflate their bodies with air to appear larger and thus deflect predators.

But these new findings from the University of Sydney are changing that theory, suggesting instead that inflating the body is a mechanism related to choosing mates.

Dr. Benjamin Phillips from the University of Sydney, one of the scientists who took part in this study of female toads, explained in the paper that scientists had noticed previously that females inflated their bodies during male-male wrestling matches and assumed it was a response to the physical stress.

“Our work now shows that females can actually manipulate the outcome of male-male competition by inflating at the right moment,” Phillips told the BBC.

This could help ensure that the female gets to mate the the biggest, strongest male, which is likely to produce the healthiest offspring.

Image by Sparks Leigh. Information from the BBC, via Andy Sternberg.

Chickensoup for the Soul, Tylenol for the Broken Heart

January 15, 2010 News, Research No Comments

“How long does it last?!” I screamed at Melissa, startling the barista at the westside Starbucks who’d taken my order.

“It’s like a fucking gash that feels like a fucking ton on my fucking chest,” I said, referring to the recent conclusion of a relationship. “HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?”

“I… I don’t know,” she replied. “It depends.”

If she’d told me to pop a Tylenol, I’d have probably slapped her. But research by Naomi Eisenberger suggests that the pain we feel emotionally and the pain we experience physically are closely related, both occurring in the anterior cingulate cortex.

With that in mind, psychologist C. Nathan DeWall and colleagues at the University of Kentucky had 25 subjects to take either acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a placebo for three weeks, and then to lie in a brain scanner and play a multi-player video game requiring teamwork, rigged to make them feel brutally ignored.

DeWall’s team discovered that the subjects who had taken Tylenol showed less activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. These findings suggest that over-the-counter painkillers normally used for physical aches and pains do have an effect on alleviating the pain we feel emotionally from alienating social situations.

Because the sample was small, the results are less than conclusive, but if this is the case and analgesics can work to deal with some of our heartache… well, imagine that.

Jeff Wise, author of Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger, comments:

On the flip side of the equation, it’s long been known that hugs and kisses from a loved one help reduce the sensation of physical pain. (It’s amazing how quickly my one-year-old son stops crying after I kiss the spot where he’s bumped his head). In fact, Eisenberger published another study last year which found that even looking at the photograph of a loved one can reduce the sensation of pain. So why shouldn’t the analgesia work the other way, as well?

Worth a shot. Just promise you’ll self-medicate reasonably.

Image by bored-now. Information from Psychology Today.

Spirituality vs. Religion in the Bedroom

January 14, 2010 Culture, Faith, Research 2 Comments

Women seeking to connect with the transcendent have more sex, more sexual partners, and are less likely to use a condom.

That’s one way to read the results of a finding from a recent study from the University of Kentucky. Now, most of our empirical knowledge in psychology comes from experiments on white mice and undergrads, and this study is no exception: it was performed on 353 students “attending a large public university.”

Of those students, 88 percent were Caucasian, 82 percent were Protestant or Catholic, and the mean age was 20, with nobody over 29, so we’re talking about a young, predominantly white, predominantly Christian sample.

Given that kind of sample, it seems like a stretch to generalize this study into a catchy headline like “Spiritual Women Have More Sex” (like LiveScience did) or “Is Spirituality Harmful to Women’s Sexual Health?” (like Science and Religion Today did). Nonetheless, it is an interesting study.

Here are the findings, in all their academic glory:

Consistent with previous literature, religiousness was negatively associated with participants’ lifetime number of sexual partners and frequency of vaginal sex. […] Spirituality, on the other hand, demonstrated consistent and positive associations with female participants’ number of sexual partners, frequency of vaginal sex, and frequency of sex without a condom.

In non-academic speak: young women who are religious have less sex, but young women who are spiritual have more. After hearing about this study, my initial reaction was that spirituality was probably associated with other behaviors—drinking, drugs, etc.—which were really accounting for the difference. That’s certainly the impression my college experience has left me with. The researchers in this study were apparently thinking the same thing, though, because they checked for that. Even above and beyond these other factors, spirituality and sex seem to go hand in hand, whereas religiousness seems to repel sexual partners. So if religiousness and spirituality lead to opposite sex lives, what’s the difference between religious and spiritual takes on sex?

The measure of someone’s religiousness was based on test containing questions like this: “My religious beliefs lie behind my whole approach to life.” That question would be rated from 1 (not at all true) to 5 (totally true). The goal of this test is to figure out how much someone adheres day-to-day to their practices and beliefs.

The spirituality questions, on the other hand, measured a “personal search for connection with a larger sacredness.” Questions were things like: “In the quiet of my prayers and/or meditations, I find a sense of wholeness.”

So “religiousness” here is a measure of adherence to some set of standards, whereas “spirituality” here is searching for connectedness, a sense of universality, or an expectation of prayer fulfillment. According to this study’s data, it’s that first part of spirituality—connectedness—which the women seem to be searching for in both spirituality and in sex. That connectedness is unique to spirituality as opposed to religiousness: people who rated high in “connectedness” rated low in religiousness, but those who rated high in “universality” and “prayer fulfillment” also rated high on religiousness.

Like religiousness, universality and prayer fulfillment seemed to put a damper on the amount of sex: apparently women expecting “Dear God” to work in the church don’t work the “Oh God” in the bedroom.

By the way, the story for the men in this study is quite a bit different—spirituality has no association with the number of sexual partners or condom use, and is actually associated with less frequent sex. The paper’s authors find this unsurprising since “having sex to achieve emotional intimacy and union is relatively unique to women,” a fact that’s surprising to this emotional-intimacy-and-union-seeking man.

What do you think of the findings?

Image by Gisela Giardino.

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Sex and the 405 is what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.

Here you’ll find news about the latest research being conducted to figure out what drives desire, passion, and other sex habits; reviews of sex toys, porn and other sexy things; coverage of the latest sex-related news that have our mainstream media's panties up in a bunch; human interest pieces about sex and desire; interviews with people who love sex, or hate sex, or work in sex, or work to enable you to have better sex; opinion pieces that relate to sex and society; and the sex-related side of celebrity gossip. More...