Sex Research Literacy in an Era of Fake, Biased, and Sensationalized News

Sex Research Literacy in an Era of Fake, Biased, and Sensationalized News

Most popular media reports touting the results of the latest sex study suffer from one of the following problems: they're either inaccurate, biased, or highly sensationalized. Unfortunately, too few readers recognize this, which means that too many end up taking what they read at face value. That's a serious problem, especially given the fact that there's already so much misinformation out there about sex as it is. Sex research literacy is therefore vital for helping readers to separate good from bad media reports--and never has this been more important than in this current era of "fake news." To that end, here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you read a popular media article about sex research.

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What I Learned About BDSM at a Sex Research Conference

What I Learned About BDSM at a Sex Research Conference

Earlier this month, the fourth annual Sexuality Pre-Conference was held just prior to the meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). Together with a few of my colleagues, I have been helping to co-organize this pre-conference for the last four years with the goal of making sure that sexuality research is consistently well represented at SPSP.

I truly believe that this year’s program was our best yet and wanted to take a few moments to share some of the key insights and takeaways from this event in case you missed it (and also to entice you to attend next year!). Specifically, I want to tell you a bit about our very first presentation of the day, which focused on the science of BDSM. (Do we know how to get people’s attention at 8:00 AM or what?)

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Golden Showers and Watersports: How Many People are Sexually Aroused by Urine and Why?

Golden Showers and Watersports: How Many People are Sexually Aroused by Urine and Why?

For the last two weeks, I’ve been inundated with both reader questions and requests for media interviews on a topic I’ve rarely been asked about before: urophilia, which refers to being sexually aroused by urine. Initially, most of the inquiries were looking for comment on why a certain high-profile public figure allegedly has this sexual interest, and I was not about to get involved in that—I’m not in the business of commenting on the rumored sexual proclivities of celebrities or politicians. However, the questions I'm getting now have shifted away from attempts to understand a specific person and toward a more general curiosity about the prevalence and psychological origins of urophilia. These are the kinds of queries I’m much more inclined to answer. So, here’s what we know.

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Could Antibacterial Mouthwash Help Prevent the Spread of Gonorrhea?

Could Antibacterial Mouthwash Help Prevent the Spread of Gonorrhea?

One sexually transmitted infection (STI) that has public health officials increasingly worried is gonorrhea. Although infection rates have declined dramatically from their peak in the 1970s, research has found that not only is gonorrhea on the rise again, but that this infection has also become more resistant to antibiotic treatments. Essentially, what this means is that we have fewer and fewer drugs available that can successfully clear it from the body. Scientists fear that, eventually, a strain may emerge that we can’t cure. As such, more research into gonorrhea treatment and prevention strategies is urgently needed.

A new set of studies suggests that one tool that could potentially help in the fight against antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea is—wait for it—mouthwash. But not just any mouthwash—we’re talking specifically about antibacterial mouthwashes, such as Listerine.

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Infographic: How STD Rates in the United States are Changing

Infographic: How STD Rates in the United States are Changing

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a massive public health issue in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 110 million infections in the U.S. today. Furthermore, 20 million new infections are estimated to occur each year. All of these infections translate to significant healthcare costs: believe it or not, we spend an estimated $16 billion per year on STD treatment! 

So what's going on with rates of STDs? Have they been increasing or decreasing over the last few years? 

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What Was Popular In Porn In 2016?

What Was Popular In Porn In 2016?

Pornhub recently released their annual year-in-review of users’ viewing habits and, as usual, the results were fascinating. Among other things, they reported that nearly 92 billion videos were viewed on their site in 2016 (to put that number in context, that’s the equivalent of each person on earth watching 12.5 videos). In addition, the most popular porn-watching times were between 11 PM to 1:00 AM (or “fappy hour,” as they call it), and the most popular search term overall on the site was “lesbian” (for the second year in a row) You can check out the full report here in all its glory, but if you’re just after a few highlights, here are some of the things that stood out to me during my review of the data.

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Inside The Growing World of Scrotal Enhancement

Inside The Growing World of Scrotal Enhancement

The number of men seeking to enhance the size of their penises is on the rise, with guys lining up to buy everything from pills to pumps to stretching devices to fat injections, all designed to give them extra inches in length and/or girth. My guess is that most of you reading this probably already knew that; however, what you might not have known is that men's interest in genital enhancement actually goes well beyond the penis. In fact, some guys are seeking procedures designed to change the appearance of their scrotums, too--for instance, by making them bigger or less wrinkly.

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Abortion: Fact vs. Fiction (Video)

Abortion: Fact vs. Fiction (Video)

Abortion is one of the most controversial and hotly debated political topics in the United States today--and that debate is about to hit a fever pitch, given the double whammy of a looming nomination to the Supreme Court and threats by the Republican party to cut off all federal funding to Planned Parenthood. As such, now might be a good time to step back and take a look at some of the most common claims about abortion and evaluate them in terms of how they match up with data.

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Changes in Americans' Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors Since the 1980s (Infographic)

Changes in Americans' Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors Since the 1980s (Infographic)

In what ways have the sexual attitudes and behaviors of American adults changed in the last thirty or so years? For a look at the answer, check out the infographic below, which reviews selected data from the General Social Survey, including information on number of partners, how many people have had casual sex in the last year, and attitudes toward sex outside of marriage. To learn more about other changes that have occurred in Americans' sexual attitudes, check out this article for a look at how Americans' views on sexual morality have evolved.

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How Does Sexual Satisfaction Change in Older Age?

How Does Sexual Satisfaction Change in Older Age?

It’s a simple biological fact that, as we age, the odds of developing one or more sexual problems increases. But what exactly does this mean for the sexual satisfaction of older adults? Are they necessarily discontent with their sex lives? Study after study has found that there is a negative correlation between age and sexual satisfaction, such that the older people get, the less satisfied they report being [1,2]. However, if you dig a little further into the research, you will see that it would be a mistake to conclude that older adults are inherently unhappy in the bedroom.

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10 Things You Should Know About the Sex Lives of American Teenagers

10 Things You Should Know About the Sex Lives of American Teenagers

Popular media articles on adolescent sexuality usually paint a portrait of the modern American teenager as hypersexual. Among other things, these articles give the impression that teens are having sex at younger and younger ages, they’re constantly hooking up and sexting, and they’re engaging in a lot of risky sexual behavior, thanks to a diet of highly sexual movies and TV shows. By contrast, scientific research on the sex lives of adolescents suggests a very different set of conclusions. Here are 10 things you should know about the sex lives of American teenagers, according to science.

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Advice From a Behavioral Economist on Dating and Relationships

Advice From a Behavioral Economist on Dating and Relationships

A lot of people in relationships find that their partner has one or two (or maybe twenty) quirks or habits that annoy them. In these situations, it's tempting to think that you might be happier if you were to end things and start going out with someone new. After all, chances are that your new partner won't have the same peccadillos. However, according to behavioral economist Dr. Dan Ariely, this kind of thinking can set you up for a lifetime of disappointment.

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Scientists Find More Evidence That Sex Might Be Good For Your Brain

Scientists Find More Evidence That Sex Might Be Good For Your Brain

A growing body of research suggests that frequent sexual activity has brain benefits. For instance, a 2010 study on male rats discovered a link between sexual activity and neuron growth [1]. Specifically, rats that were allowed to have sex daily over a two-week period demonstrated more neuron growth than rats that were only allowed to have sex once during that time. Likewise, a 2013 study—which also focused on male rats—found that daily sexual activity was linked not only to generation of more new neurons, but also to enhanced cognitive functioning [2].

Clearly, sex seems to be good for the brains of rats—but what about humans? A new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior suggests that sex may very well be good our brains, too [3].

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6 Resolutions For Better Sex In The New Year

6 Resolutions For Better Sex In The New Year

Every time a new year rolls around, people start making resolutions for self-improvement--you know, like losing weight, getting your spending under control, or finally giving up smoking. As you ponder your own resolutions, let me give you one more worth considering: resolve to have better sex this year.

Not sure where to start? When in doubt, do what I do and take a cue from science. Here are six scientifically-backed suggestions for enhancing your sex life in 2017.

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The Year In Sex: The 10 Most Read Articles on Sex & Psychology in 2016

The Year In Sex: The 10 Most Read Articles on Sex & Psychology in 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, let's take a look back at this year's ten most read articles on Sex and Psychology. The following posts represent an incredibly diverse range of content and, combined, have been read well over a half-million times! There were quite a few similarities to last year's list--in fact, the top five articles from last year appeared somewhere on the list again this year. Like 2015, articles related to anal sex continued to be especially popular, as were articles that addressed questions submitted by readers of the blog (in fact, seven of the top ten articles were Q&As!).

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What Human Faces And Chimpanzee Butts Have In Common

What Human Faces And Chimpanzee Butts Have In Common

Sometimes, science makes us laugh before it makes us think--and this is precisely why the Ig Nobel awards were founded back in 1991. The goal of these awards is to recognize scientific achievements that might sound silly or absurd at first, but that ultimately yield useful knowledge and challenge us to think differently about the world.

I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the contenders for the next Ig Nobel competition will be a new paper published in the journal PLOS ONE, which explores what the faces of humans and the rear ends of chimpanzees have in common.

Yep, that's really what they studied. But please bear with me--I promise, it's a funny story that tells us something fascinating about both sex and psychology.

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From Fertility Symbol to Cancer Treatment: What You Don’t Know About Mistletoe

From Fertility Symbol to Cancer Treatment: What You Don’t Know About Mistletoe

A lot of people decorate with mistletoe around the Christmas holiday. Many hang it from the ceiling or over a door and offer kisses to those who stand under it. But have you ever wondered why? How did mistletoe come to be associated with kissing in the first place? Here’s what we know, along with some other interesting trivia about what many consider to be the most romantic Christmas symbol.

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Fifth Blogiversary of Sex and Psychology

Fifth Blogiversary of Sex and Psychology

Sex and Psychology is officially five years old! When I first started this blog in 2011, I had no idea what kind of response it would receive, but I couldn't be more thrilled with the results. I am so pleased that Sex and Psychology has become such a widely read and referenced resource for scientifically-based information on sex and sexuality.

Thank YOU for everything you do to support the site, including reading and sharing the articles, submitting your questions, and weighing in with your comments. Sex and Psychology is the single most rewarding aspect of my professional career and I just can’t imagine my life without it. I hope you’re looking forward to another year of great sex [research] as much as I am! In the meantime, here are some fun facts and statistics for your reading pleasure. 

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The Seasons of Sex: A Look at Sex Trends in December

The Seasons of Sex: A Look at Sex Trends in December

Generally speaking, people have more sex in the summer than they do in the winter [1]—however, it turns out that December is the exception to the winter sex slump. Evidence from multiple studies shows that sexual activity appears to rise this month, especially in that week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. 

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Do Men’s Penises Get Smaller As They Get Older?

Do Men’s Penises Get Smaller As They Get Older?

A reader submitted the following question:

“I wonder, does the penis get any smaller with age? In other words, does the penis shrink as men get older?”

Thanks for this great question! If you try searching Google for the answer, you’ll quickly come across lots of articles saying that this does indeed occur—however, none of those articles actually cite any research to back up their claims. Instead, they rely on the opinions of physicians and other medical experts. That's all well and good, but I always like to have data. So, I did some digging.

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