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Shocker! Lube Makes Sex Feel Good

November 13, 2009 News, Research No Comments

Surprise! An Indiana University study has found that lubricant use during sexual activity contributes to more pleasurable sex.

The study was conducted by Debby Herbenick, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University’s School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. It involved involving 2,453 women ages 18 to 68 who used one of six different water- or silicone-based lubricants.

The study also found that side effects were rarely associated with lubricant use; vaginal tearing occurred during less than 1 percent of vaginal intercourse events and genital pain was reported in less than 5 percent of intercourse acts when lubricant was used.

Information via MedicalNewsToday.

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.

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?

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.

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?

Housework Is A Turn On

October 25, 2009 News, Research No Comments

washerBack in high school, my friends and I had a special code phrase for getting it on: doing laundry. It possibly originated in the belief that having sex on a washing machine while it was in the spin cycle led to a more intense orgasm, but I can’t be sure.

The funny thing is, a new study has revealed the more housework a person does, the more often he or she is likely to have sex with their partner.

The study, published in the Journal of Family Issues and based on a random, nationally representative sample of 6,877 married couples, suggests that investing time in the shared interest of the home is a total aphrodisiac. A summary of the results in the Wall Street Journal added:

The link held true even after researchers controlled the results for spouses’ attitudes about traditional sex roles–that is, whether the respondents believed doing housework and maintaining marital intimacy is part of a wife’s proper role. The results also were controlled for age, health, duration of couples’ relationship, religion, income, education and marital satisfaction.

More time in the paid workforce is also linked to higher sexual frequency in marriage, according to the study. The researchers say the results are evidence that some people – not all – are high achievers who approach life with a “work hard, play hard” mentality, drawing energy from activity in one realm, such as job or home, to invest in other areas, such as marriage.

Well, what are you waiting for? Time to do some laundry!

Image by Radek Szuban. Information via The Wall Street Journal.

Foreplay or Death

October 24, 2009 News, Research No Comments

The female Australian redback spider is known for eating its suitors as a post-coital snack. What we didn’t know until recently is why the spider behaved in this way.

redbackApparently, it has to do with foreplay. According to research by Jeffrey Stoltz and Maydianne Andrade at the University of Toronto, a male redback has to vibrate the female’s web for 100 minutes before attempting to mate or the female will cannibalize the over-eager loser.

Boys, you should feel grateful today.

Thumbnail image by William. Information via Animal Planet.

Red Makes Women More Desirable to Men

October 22, 2009 News, Research No Comments

A study by researchers Andrew Elliot and Daniela Niesta in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that the color red increases desire in men for women astronomically–completely unrelated to a female’s appearance.

How? Participants in the study were asked to rate black-and-white pictures of women–some of these were shown on a red background and others in other colors.

The graph below, from Psychology Today’s Daniel R. Hawes, illustrates the significant difference between how much more attractive men found women whose images were presented on a red background than they did images of women presented on green.


“A plausible hypothesis for the effect is that there is an overlap of the evolutionary meaning of red for the male mind as well as the learned cultural association,” writes Hawes. Meaning it’s probably a mixture of biology and the connotation red has taken on culturally.

Thumbnail image by The Heart Truth.

We Can Smell Your Desperation!

October 20, 2009 News, Research No Comments

Back in the day, when we still lived in caves, we were pretty good at getting an idea of what an approaching human was all about just by looking at them. The process of inferring things about others from a small number of cues is still with us today.

Psychology Today‘s Andrew Galperin wrote this week about a 2007 study on these thin slices of behavior as they relate to speed dating.

The study by Paul Eastwick and his colleagues first appeared in Psychological Science and answered the question of whether we can tell when someone we meet is desperate. Prepare to have your fears confirmed: yes, people can tell when you’re desperate.

The experiment went like this: people came in for a speed-dating session and talked to each of their dates for four minutes. After the event, they rated each partner in terms of romantic/sexual attraction, interpersonal chemistry, and desire for another date. Participants were also asked to estimate how selective they felt each partner was.

Results showed that people can apparently smell desperation from miles away.

People who are not selective (i.e., have low standards, are desperate) could not hide this from the others, which makes them undesirable to others.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that if a participant showed a unique desire toward another, the desired person was more likely to reciprocate that desire. Sadly, the team did not cover the response to those who expressed no desire (because God knows I’m a sucker for men who seem like they could care less).

“So what have we learned?” asks Galperin. “As usual, the lesson is that liking people is bad. You hear that, boys and girls? At speed dating events, don’t go around smiling at everyone–just be nice to a few people and treat everyone else like crap. That will get you a bunch of follow-up dates in no time, where you will be able to assess a thicker slice of behavior.”

Juicy. And tell me how that works out for you.

Thumbnail image by AV Flox.


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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...