For your viewing (and learning) pleasure this Valentine's Day weekend, here's a playlist of five of my all-time favorite videos on the science of love. These videos span quite the range of topics, including what actually goes on inside our brains when we experience love and heartbreak, as well as scientifically-based tips on what you can do to improve your own relationship. Enjoy!Read More
Valentine's Day is almost upon us and many are still hunting for the perfect gift for their significant other. Unfortunately, a lot of folks will end up buying an expensive material object that ultimately provides only temporary happiness, is quickly forgotten, and ends up collecting dust somewhere. You can avoid this outcome--and potentially improve your relationship at the same time--by giving your partner something much more personal this year: touch.Read More
Many people are under the impression that all of us are “supposed” to reach orgasm each and every time we have sex. Indeed, when an orgasm does not occur, some people do not even categorize what just happened as sex, because sex without orgasm is often viewed instead as foreplay or “messing around.” As some evidence of this idea, research finds that college students are less likely to classify a given act as “sex” to the extent that orgasm doesn’t occur . That said, others may interpret a lack of orgasm very differently, with some seeing it as a “dysfunction” or a sign of a sexual problem in need of fixing.
This view of orgasm as essential not just to the definition of sex, but also to successful sex creates what has been dubbed the orgasmic imperative.Read More
Here’s a brief recap of the most interesting sex research reports that crossed my desk this week. They include studies on how scientists should be measuring porn use, how consensual nonmonogamy is linked to relationship quality, and whether “natural” aphrodisiacs really work as advertised.
Regnerus, M., Gordon, D., & Price, J. (in press). Documenting pornography use in America: A comparative analysis of methodological approaches. The Journal of Sex Research.
This is actually one of two papers I’ve seen in the past month that talks about some of the problems inherent in studying porn use. This one focused on the timeframe researchers should ask about when trying to determine how frequently people are using porn.Read More
Women’s behavior changes in several ways when they’re ovulating. Among other things, research has found that ovulating women fantasize about sex more often, they're more likely to wear red or pink clothing, and they’re more likely to flirt with “bad boys.” Together, these findings suggest that ovulation in humans isn't as concealed as previously thought.
Indeed, scientists have found that men seem to be able to identify when women are ovulating. Interestingly, however, a new set of studies suggests that women may also be able to pick up on other women’s ovulation and, furthermore, that there might be an evolutionary reason for this.Read More
If I were to tell you that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) persons are often excluded from scientific studies of romantic relationships, I doubt you would be surprised. However, the extremely high frequency with which this actually happens just might. Believe it or not, a new research review reveals that nearly 9 out of 10 relationship studies exclude sexual minority couples and, in an even bigger surprise, this trend doesn’t appear to be changing.Read More
A reader asked the following:
“Are there any health effects of swallowing semen? Is it better to spit it out instead of swallowing?"
Thanks for these very interesting questions. Let me start by saying that if you perform oral sex on a man who has an STI (e.g., chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis), you run the risk of contracting that infection. It doesn't matter whether his semen is actually swallowed—the risk comes from simply having his ejaculate in your mouth. So, if you know your partner has an infection or you aren’t sure of his status, it would be advisable to use a condom to prevent contact with his semen, thereby lowering your infection risk (read more about the potential STI risks of oral sex in this article).Read More
What does it actually mean to "have sex?" It depends who you ask. According to a new study published in the Journal of Sex Research, there is some pretty incredible variability in how college students personally define the term sex. There certainly seems to be a lot of agreement that things like vaginal and anal intercourse count as sex; however, students appear to be very split on whether things like oral sex and mutual masturbation count. It's also important to note that even behaviors such as breast stimulation and cybersex are viewed as sex by some folks. Check out the infographic below to learn more.Read More
A small percentage of the population is asexual. This term is often defined as either a lack of sexual attraction or a lack of desire for partnered sexual activity. Asexuality is something that many people are not familiar with and, as a result, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions about it. So, let’s take a moment to review some key facts about asexuality that have emerged from the science to date. To learn more about this topic, I highly recommend Anthony Bogaert's recent book, Understanding Asexuality.Read More
Sigmund Freud once argued that human beings are "polymorphously perverse," meaning that we have the potential to develop a sexual interest in virtually anything. Yes, we all know that Freud had his share of wacky ideas over the years; however, this wasn’t one of them. In fact, if I’ve learned anything over the course of my career as a sex educator and researcher, it’s this: if you can think of it, there’s probably someone out there who’s sexually aroused by it.Read More
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a major public health issue in the United States. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are as many as 20 million new infections that occur each year in the U.S. and that we spend upwards of $16 billion annually on health care to treat them. So what's been happening with rates of STDs in recent years? Are they increasing or decreasing? Check out the infographic below for a look at some of the data. To learn more, check out the CDC's full report here (please note that HIV/AIDS is covered separately in its own report here). In addition, visit this page for information on the CDC's current STD screening recommendations.Read More
There are a lot of women out there who find man-on-man pornography to be highly arousing. As some evidence of this, one of the biggest porn websites in the world, Pornhub, has reported that gay male porn is actually the second most popular category viewed by female visitors of the site. This has led many to wonder what it is that draws so many women to this type of porn. A new study published (appropriately enough) in the journal Porn Studies sheds some light on the answer.Read More
In the last few years, scientists have become increasingly interested in studying the potential effects of pornography on viewers. Several studies have been published, but many of them have yielded conflicting results. Some have found that porn use is linked to negative outcomes, others to positive outcomes, and yet others have found no effects at all. What accounts for this? It may have to do with the way that “porn use” is typically measured in research.Read More
What goes on inside the brain during sexual arousal and orgasm? And are there any neurological differences between men and women in this regard? In the Big Think video below, Dr. Barry Komisaruk sheds some light on the answers and discusses some of the other fascinating questions he has studied in his lab at Rutgers University, including whether it's really possible to think yourself to orgasm (at least for women, it certainly is!). Dr. Komisaruk is one of the world's leading experts on the neuroscience of orgasm and has written some fascinating books on the topic, including The Science of Orgasm and The Orgasm Answer Guide. Check them out to learn more.Read More
Bisexuality is a widely misunderstood sexual orientation that is the target of numerous myths and stereotypes. In light of this, I thought it would be useful to put together an article that explores some of the key findings that scientists have uncovered about bisexuality that are not only informative, but can also speak to some of the biggest misperceptions about it.
1.) Bisexuality is real, and it’s not the same as being gay or lesbian. A lot of people deny the existence of bisexuality and assume that everyone who identifies as bisexual is secretly gay; however, the results of several studies reveal that bisexuality involves a distinct pattern of sexual interest and arousal compared to homosexuality.Read More
Several studies have found that men and women have different age preferences when it comes to selecting romantic and sexual partners, with men preferring partners who are somewhat younger and women preferring partners who are somewhat older. Much of this research has been interpreted through the lens of evolutionary theory, which argues that it's adaptive for men to have evolved a preference for younger women because they're likely to be most fertile, whereas it's adaptive for women to have evolved a preference for older men, who presumably have more status and resources. But if that's the case, then what happens when reproductive concerns aren't part of the equation, such as in the case of same-sex relationships?Read More
What is it about sex that makes it so pleasurable? For many people the answer to this question would seem to be pretty obvious: orgasm. But is that really the case?
In the TEDx video below, sexual psychophysiologist Dr. Nicole Prause suggests that our intuitions here may be incorrect and, further, she challenges us to think differently about what it is that humans find so rewarding about sex.Read More
If a stranger on the street asks for help, how likely would that person be to receive assistance? If the requestor is a woman in high heels or a man walking a dog, research suggests that their odds would be pretty good.Read More
At the start of each new year, many of us make resolutions for self-improvement, such as losing weight, getting one's finances in order, or giving up smoking. As you ponder your own resolutions, let me give you an additional one to consider: resolve to have better sex. Not sure how? According to scientific research, here are six things you might consider doing in 2016 that have the potential to improve your sex life.Read More
As 2015 comes to a close, let's take a look back at this year's most read articles on Sex and Psychology. The ten posts that follow represent an incredibly diverse range of content and, combined, have been read more than 400,000 times! As you'll see, articles that addressed sex questions took most of the spots on the list. There were quite a few similarities to last year's list, but whereas articles related to penis size were especially popular in 2014, articles related to anal sex were especially popular in 2015.Read More