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China Running Out Of Women (You’re Surprised?)

January 13, 2010 News, Research 1 Comment

Well-known for its bias toward male children and gender-specific abortions, it comes as no surprise to us here at Sex and the 405 that by 2020 Chinese men will have no one to woo or wed.

A study by the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences found that gender imbalance among newborns is the most serious demographic problem facing the country’s population of 1.3 billion.

The latest figures show that for every 100 girls born in China, 119 boys are born. However, the study found that in some areas, the ratio was as high as 130 males for every 100 females.

Wang Guangzhou, a researcher active in the study, said that men living in less-prosperous areas of China could find themselves marrying later in life or remaining unmarried all their lives.

“The chance of getting married will be rare if a man is more than 40 years old in the countryside,” Wang said. “They will be more dependent on social security as they age and have fewer household resources to rely on.”

The government policy introduced in 1979 of encouraging married couples not to have more than one child has contributed to the problem, the study said, as well as China’s insufficient social security system. There’s also a reluctance among young urban Chinese to have a first or second child.

As a result of this imbalance, abductions, trafficking of women, and sexual slavery have become commonplace, in areas that are now beginning to feel the impact.

Information from The Sphere.

Ink on Skin Indicates Sin? (LOL)

January 13, 2010 Culture, News, Research 3 Comments

If you’re worried what your mom will say about your girlfriend’s tramp stamp, you can fear no more–research is on your side!

A new study by researchers at Texas Tech University who studied piercings and tats for the last decade suggests the relationship between body art and deviant behavior is significant only for those who have adorned their exteriors in extreme ways. The paper, just published in The Social Science Journal, reports that the relationship between body modification and deviant behavior is only significant for those who have gone to the extreme.

Researchers surveyed 1,753 students from four American colleges (two state schools and two highly selective religious institutions) and found 37 percent reported at least one piercing and 14 percent were tattooed.

Four percent reported having seven or more piercings, four or more tattoos, and/or at least one piercing in their nipples or genitals.

Aside from their tats and piercings, the students surveyed answered questions about drug and alcohol use, sexual activity and whether they cheat on tests.

The findings suggest there is a distinct difference in deviance between students with just one tattoo and those with four or more, and between those with just one to three piercings or seven or more.

“The level of deviance reported by respondents with low levels of body art is much closer to those with none than to those with multiple tattoos and piercings, or intimate piercings,” said sociologist Jerome Koch, the paper’s lead author. “Results indicate that respondents with four or more tattoos, seven or more body piercings, or piercings located in their nipples or genitals, were substantially and significantly more likely to report regular marijuana use, occasional use of other drugs, and a history of being arrested for a crime. Less pronounced, but still significant in many cases, was an increased propensity for those with higher incidence of body art to cheat on college work, binge drink and report having had multiple sex partners over the course of their lifetime.”

Tom Jacobs writes at Mullen-McCune:

The researchers suggest the traditional subculture of piercing and tattoos, traditionally associated with deviant behavior, has been “encroached upon from the outside” by the increasing acceptance of body art. So those who feel a part of this subculture “may need to modify or extend their behavior to maintain social distance.” Ergo, nipple piercings.

So, that butterfly on your sophomore’s ankle is not a sign she is hanging out with the wrong crowd. But if she comes home for spring break covered from head to toe, start worrying.

I guess that means my un-pierced, single-tattooed self a mainstream. Sweet.

Image by Doug Sparks. Information from Miller-McCune.

Fruit Fly Hook-Ups

January 9, 2010 News, Research No Comments

OMG, ever wonder why male fruit flies have spikes in their genital areas?

Yeah, me neither, but scientists are starting to figure it out, so I’m going to share with you: male fruit flies use these spikes to hook onto the female and prevent sliding during sex. They “hook up”–literally! Get it?

Not very long ago, researchers had suggested these spikes were used to deliver sperm into the wounds they inflicted on females, but evolutionary biologists at the University of Cincinnati zapped off the spikes of a few male fruit flies (Drosophila bipectinata) and found that males were still able to inseminate the females–though with much more difficulty, as they continuously slid off during copulation.

“In Drosophila, unwilling females resist male sexual advances by vigorous kicking with their hind legs, bucking, extruding their genitalia in telescoping fashion, and if all else fails, by simply running or flying away from eager males,” said researcher Michal Polak, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Cincinnati. “The spines may be an evolutionary solution in males to overcome these forms of female resistance.”

Essentially, the spikes act like grappling hooks or genital Velcro, preventing the female from pushing off a male, or as LiveScience says, “like seatbelts on a bucking bronco.”

(Yeah, science reporting for the masses is really fun.)

But because researchers have not studied the female of the same species, it is hard to say whether these spines behave as Velcro or hooks. Polak suggests it’s the former, as the spines seem to embed at the same place on female genitals, meaning there could exist a place for the spine to anchor itself on the female.

He and his colleagues are planning to conduct more laser studies on genitals to get to the bottom of creatures’ adaptive functions in sexual selection.

Can’t wait!

Image from LiveScience and BOLD Systems. Information via LiveScience.

Have Sex To Quit Bad Habits? Yes, And More!

January 8, 2010 News, Research 2 Comments

Yoga instructor Sadie Nardini and her husband wanted to quit cigarettes and chocolate, so they decided to have sex every day for the entire month of December, hoping the activity would assist them in overcoming their cravings.

Not only did sex help, but the couple began experiencing other benefits as well: they slept better, they had more energy, and they didn’t come down with the usual winter cold.

These and other health benefits of sex will soon be flooding our media, in a soon-to-be-published article in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Dr. Irwin Goldstein, editor-in-chief of that journal, says that when you read about the physical benefits of sex, “you can’t help but say, ‘Holy God! Sexual activity is a very important thing to do. Human beings were really meant to do this.’”

The article on CNN outlines ten main benefits. These are our top five:

Longer life
In a British study, men who had intercourse at least twice a week lived longer than men who had sex less than once a month. A U.S. study had similar findings, and a Swedish study examining the sex lives of 70-year-olds found that men who died before their 75th birthday had ceased having sexual intercourse at earlier ages.

Healthier heart and lower blood pressure
In a British study, people who had intercourse twice a week or more were less likely to have heart attacks and other fatal coronary events. Those who had sex less than once a month had twice the rates of fatal coronary events, compared with those with the highest frequency of intercourse. In a study published in the journal Biological Psychology, people who had sex more often tended to have lower diastolic blood pressure, or the bottom number in a blood pressure reading.

Lower risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer
A French study found that women who have vaginal intercourse not at all or infrequently had three times the risk of breast cancer, compared with women who had intercourse more often. A Minnesota study found that men who’d had intercourse more than 3,000 times in their lives had half the prostate cancer risk of those who had not. While it’s not clear why this would be true, studies have found that men who had more intercourse tended to have better prostate function and eliminated more waste products in their semen.

Pain relief
Sex researcher Beverly Whipple and others have conducted studies suggesting that more sexual activity helps relieve lower back pain and migraines.

Better testosterone levels
A group of men being treated for erectile problems saw greater increases in testosterone when, along with the treatments, they had frequent sex. Specifically, men who had sex at least eight times per month had greater increases than those who had sex less than eight times per month.

Well, what are you waiting for? Have at it!

Information from CNN, via Neenz at Alltop.

G Spot: Fact or Fiction? Wait, What?

“Women everywhere have read or heard that they may possess a secret pleasure zone inside their bodies that, if stimulated correctly, yields intense pleasure and even orgasm,” CNN reported yesterday, adding: “But this so-called G-spot has never been precisely identified as a concrete biological entity. Scientists are still arguing over what it is and whether it exists at all.”

The g-spot (or g-ridge)–named so for Ernst Gräfenberg, a German scientist best known for his studies of female genitalia–is an area located on the anterior wall, one to three inches above the vaginal opening, which, when stimulated, reportedly leads to intense orgasms.

Now, research conducted by a team at King’s College London of over 1,800 female twins is suggesting that there is no genetic basis for a g-spot and that pleasure experienced from its stimulation may be more related to psychology than anything–meaning, it’s a bit like the placebo effect.

The existence of the g-spot has been the subject of contention since Gräfenberg’s day and now that this research has surfaced, media outlets are positively in a feeding frenzy over it.

Here’s my issue with the research: clinical psychologist Andrea Burri, who authored the report for the Journal of Sexual Medicine, and her team did not physically examine the women in the study to see whether they had a g-spot–they only gave participants a survey asking whether they believed that they had one.

To say there is no genetic correlation in a study of twins based on perception and not anatomy is to essentially say: in genetically similar or identical women, one may believe she has a g-spot while the other does not.

This is a study about perception, not about whether a g-spot exists.

They found that 56 percent of respondents answered “yes” and that there was no genetic correlation. But only about 30 percent said they were able to achieve orgasm during intercourse, which may indicate that women were confused by the G-spot question because stimulation of the G-spot is supposed to induce orgasm, she said.

The definition of G-spot in the study is too specific and doesn’t take into account that some women perceive their G-spots as bigger or smaller, or higher or lower, said Debby Herbenick, research scientist at Indiana University and author of the book Because It Feels Good.

“It’s not so much that it’s a thing that we can see, but it has been pretty widely accepted that many women find it pleasurable, if not orgasmic, to be stimulated on the front wall of the vagina,” said Herbenick, who was not involved in the study.

The study also found correlations with personality components in women who did report having G-spots: For instance, these women tended to be more extroverted, arousable and open to experience, which may indicate a psychological component to the G-spot, Burri said.

Certainly our perception of our bodies is critical to sex research, but to call into question that the g-spot exists without the proper examination of study subjects is bad science reporting at best.

“Initially, it was a good concept, because who wouldn’t like the idea of ‘push a button and get the best orgasm ever?’ ” Burri said, to which CNN’s Elizabeth Landau added: “But those women who can’t orgasm from vaginal intercourse may feel inadequate, and knowing that the G-spot may not exist can take some pressure off.”

That makes perfect fucking sense. Let’s tell people the clit doesn’t exist next so women who can’t orgasm through its stimulation and men who can’t find it don’t feel pressured, either.

God help me.

Good For You

January 4, 2010 News, Research No Comments

The Sydney Morning Herald has compiled an entire alphabet of things that are good for you.

Unsurprisingly, a few of them deal with sex and sexy things. Surprisingly, one of the pieces of good news was actually very bad news.

KISSING

University of Zurich researchers studied 51 German couples for a week and found those who reported more physical contact had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva. But you need to be in a close relationship to benefit because apparently, indiscriminate kissing just won’t do. And it increases your risk of meningitis, a deadly infection of the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

ORGASM

Orgasms are natural stress-relievers. Serotonin levels in the brain become elevated during sexual activity, promoting a sense of well-being that has a calming effect on cravings, such as those for junk food or cigarettes. An orgasm can also help boost the immune system and flush toxins from the skin.

UNDERWEAR

This is actually bad news: researchers are suggesting the loose cotton variety of undies is optimal to prevent fungal infection, which tends to occur in moist, airless and warm places such as the vagina or the anus. Loose undergarments are also preferable for men, as tight underwear can affect sperm production by increasing the temperature of the testes.

Maybe I’d give up smoking if the man of my dreams promised to make me orgasm every day, at least three times a day. But giving up cute underwear or letting him defect to loose boxers so I can no longer enjoy looking at his package? Never gonna happen.

Information from The Sydney Morning Herald.

If Time Flies When You’re Having Fun, Will You Have Fun If You Make Time Fly?

January 3, 2010 News, Research No Comments

Einstein said it best when he explained relativity: “When you sit with a nice girl for two hours, it seems like two minutes. When you sit on a hot stove for two minutes, it seems like two hours.”

Yes, everyone knows that time slips away at light speed when you’re having fun. But is the reverse true? Is it possible to have fun if you somehow make time move faster? Aaron Sackett, a psychology researcher at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, decided to put the idea to the test.

Fun isn’t the only thing that makes time appear to fly by, after all, he reasoned. Drinking coffee or using any upper, or experiencing an adrenaline rush can easily have the same effect.

Since he couldn’t exactly change the speed of time, he and researchers worked on speeding up or slowing down the perceived passage of time by taking away subjects’ mobiles and watches (“so they could better concentrate,” they told them) and flat-out lying about what time it was.

Subjects were told to read a text and underline all words with double letter combinations, like apple or mammal. Half of the participants were told they would be doing this for five minutes and the other half for 20. In truth, both groups did the exercise for 10.

The fibs created surprise among the subjects when they were told their time was up. For those told they were doing the exercise for five minutes, it seemed endless. For those who thought they were doing the execise for 20 minutes, time seemed to speed by.

“People who thought that they spent 20 minutes on this 10-minute task, for whom those 20 minutes, in their mind, flew by, rated the task as much more enjoyable, as more fun, and just overall more positively than did participants who felt as though time dragged by,” Sackett says.

To see if fun things could be made even more fun, the researchers had people pick their favorite songs. As they listened to them, a rigged clock on the music player counted the seconds, either speeding them up or slowing them down slightly.

“When we instigated this sense that ‘time flew by’ while they were listening to the song, they rated it even more positively than they otherwise would have,” says Sackett.

The sense that time was speeding by also made the annoying slightly less annoying: in another study, the researchers tricked subjects about how long they’d be exposed to horrible noise. When participants were made to believe they’d been listening for shorter time than they actually were, they reported to hate the sounds. But those who believed they’d be exposed longer but were not “just sort of slightly disliked it,” says Sackett.

Why is this? Sackett thinks it’s because we have been conditioned to believe the fast passage of time indicates fun.

To test this, he did the underlining experiment again and gave the participants earplugs, casually suggesting that these may affect their perception of time. For these people, there was no “time flying effect.”

“It was like they no longer needed to make that attribution that ‘Time was flying, I must have had fun,’ ” explains Sackett. “Instead, they said to themselves, ‘Well, time was flying because I had earplugs in.’”

A report about this study is set to appear in the journal Psychological Science.

Information from NPR.

Let’s Sanitize Our Movies in The Name of Sales!

December 30, 2009 Culture, Film, News, Research 5 Comments

Sex doesn’t sell–we’re too jaded.

That’s what a recent study titled “Sex Doesn’t Sell — nor Impress! Content, Box Office, Critics, and Awards in Mainstream Cinema” is saying, after analyzing the box office success of movies containing explicit sex scenes between 2001 and 2005.

“Sex did not sell, whether in the domestic or international box office, and even after controlling for MPAA rating,” said co-author Dean Keith Simonton, who is also a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis. “In other words, even among R movies, less graphic sex is better.”

The study was prompted by an experience almost a decade ago of its co-author, Anemone Cerridwen, who, when taking acting classes, increasingly became uncomfortable with the sexual content in films.

“I assumed sex sold, and wanted to know by how much,” Cerridwen said. “I braced myself for the worst, and got quite the surprise.”

Why?

“Nothing is as shocking anymore,” says Craig Detweiler, director of the Center for Entertainment, Media and Culture at Pepperdine University. “You can see it in Britney Spears’ kiss with Madonna and Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl performance. Things that were a big controversy among some, the next generation kind of yawned at it.”

Detweiler told CNN he bears witness to a revolution by the new generation against those of time past, whose goals are “not doing drugs, not sleeping around and not getting divorced.” He thinks this is why Jane Austen films and the Twilight series are so popular today.

“Those stories are really about sexual separation,” he said. “They are all about wooing, not winning.”

The authors of the study hope that Hollywood keeps the research in mind.

“I do believe that there are a fair number of people in the film industry who want to make better films, and this study may give them some ammunition,” Cerridwen said. “I know that Hollywood has been trying to make more family-friendly films for a while (since the ’90s) and it seems to be helping ticket sales, so my guess is that this research would complement that.”

When did the presence of sex in a film make that film “bad”? Sex is human. It merits representation in our art, and that includes film.

Information from CNN, via Rita Arens.

Sexual Conflict: A Twisted Screw

December 29, 2009 News, Research 1 Comment

Patricia Brennan has been interested in the weirdness of duck genitals for years. Why are drake penises corkscrew shaped? Why are they so long? Discovery’s Carl Zimmer reports:

As Brennan dissected duck penises, she began to wonder what the female sexual anatomy looked like. If you have a car like this, she said, what kind of garage do you park it in?

Brennan discovered that female ducks have equally weird reproductive tracts (called oviducts). In many species, they are ornamented with lots of outpockets. And like duck penises, duck oviducts are corkscrew-shaped. But while male duck penises twist clockwise, the female oviduct twists counterclockwise.

Brennan speculated that all this bizarre anatomy is the result of a peculiar form of evolution known as sexual conflict. A strategy that allows females to reproduce the most offspring may not be so good for males, and vice versa. For example, male fruit flies inject their mates with lots of chemicals during sex, and those chemicals make her less receptive to other males, thereby boosting his chances of fathering her eggs. But those chemicals are harsh and will make female flies sick. Females, in turn, have evolved defenses against those chemicals, blunting their effects.

With many examples of sexual conflict in nature, Brennan wondered if sexual conflict between male and female ducks was giving rise to their weird genitals. Female ducks pair off with male partners for the breeding season, but they also get harrassed by other males, sometimes being forced to have sex (and sometimes dying from the attacks). A third of all duck matings are forced.

And yet only 3 percent of the ducklings that female ducks produce come from such forced matings. Brennan speculated that the female ducks can block forced copulations with their mismatched spirals. And they might also be controlling which drake got to fertilize their eggs by socking away the sperm of different mates in different pockets. And the extravagant penises of males might be the result of an evolution around those defenses.

Now we have video showing how it all works, too. (And it’s not really safe for work!)

Eversions in barriers / from blogs.discovermagazine.com/loom from Carl Zimmer on Vimeo.

Image by AV Flox. Information from Discovery, via Gizmodo.

Jury’s Still Out On “Sex Addiction”

December 25, 2009 Health, News, Research No Comments

Sexual addiction–if dinner parties had trending topics, this would rank first this holiday season.

We told you about Dr. Drew’s new show Sex Rehab, about eight people dealing with issues stemming from their addiction to sex, last month and just recently one of our writers wrote a scathing critique of the classification of Tiger Woods’ multiple affairs as sexual addiction.

Everyone seems to be talking about this new pandemic, but some experts are not so sure this ailment is legit.

A piece in Forbes recently explored the matter:

No such diagnosis is even recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), psychiatry’s Bible. The DSM-IV assiduously avoids the word “addiction,” preferring to talk about dependence, withdrawal and compulsion. A new condition, called hypersexuality, might be something close, but some psychiatrists bristle at the idea of talking about human sexuality as an addictive force unto itself.

Craig Fabrikant, a clinical psychologist at Hackensack University Medical Center, says that he doesn’t believe that sex addiction exists in the same way that alcohol or cocaine addiction does. Real disorders, however, might cause behavior that is interpreted as sex addiction. For example, someone in the manic phase of bipolar disorder can be overly sexual, and a person with obsessive compulsive disorder might look at pornography frequently.

The idea of sex addiction, however, got a big boost in 1983 with the publication of a book called Out of the Shadows by Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., who has treated patients with the disorder at several clinics. The idea is that because sex releases dopamine in the brain and provides a momentary high just as many drugs do, problematic sexual behavior could be understood as being very much like a chemical dependency.

But is compulsive sexuality really similar to pathological gambling or even compulsive shopping? One small brain-imaging study says maybe not. Researchers at the University of Minnesota compared eight people who had been diagnosed with hypersexuality with others who had been diagnosed with impulse-control disorders like gambling or attention deficit disorder. There was also a control group.

The subjects were asked to look at a flashing letter on a screen, and quickly press a button if they saw any letter other than “X.” Patients who have impulse disorders usually press the button more often; this held true for both the patients who had traditional problems as well as the sexually compulsive people.

Things changed, however, when the researchers had their subjects do this task inside an MRI machine. People with impulse disorders had reduced activity in the bottom front of the brain (as seen in previous experiments), but the people with sexual disorders had reduced activity at the top front of the brain, indicating that something different was going on.

Michael H. Miner, one of the University of Minnesota researchers, cautions that his study is too small to draw any firm conclusions.

“There’s a lot of conceptual writing, there’s a lot of theoretical writing, there’s not a great deal of empirical data,” Miner says. “If this is a disorder, what is it? Is this really a disorder at all, or is it a series of symptoms that are part of something else?”

The truth is we don’t know.

Read the entire article at Forbes.

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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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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...