Most heterosexual couples assume that if they’re using “the pill” or condoms to prevent pregnancy, they probably don’t have much to worry about because these forms of contraception are highly effective. The unfortunate reality, however, is that they are not as effective as many of us think. In fact, a new study finds that most women significantly overestimate how well most forms of reversible birth control actually work.1
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Every Friday on the blog, I answer sex questions submitted to me by actual college students. This week, we’re talking about whether there’s any truth to the old saying that men really think about sex every seven seconds, whether women can achieve orgasm through sexual intercourse alone, and how long sex is “supposed” to last.
You don’t have to be a relationship expert to know that intimacy is one of the cornerstones of a successful long-term partnership. Couple members who make a sincere attempt to understand and validate each other typically stay together longer than those who are less responsive and supportive. However, what role does intimacy play in initial attraction? According to psychologist Dr. Gurit Birnbaum, “people often say that they are looking for a lover who is ‘responsive to their needs.’” But is it really the case that we find highly responsive and caring people to be more sexually desirable? A new set of studies led by Birnbaum and collaborator Dr. Harry Reis suggests that emotional intimacy and responsiveness are not always desirable in a prospective partner and, in some cases, can actually be a turn off.1
Everyone was talking about same-sex marriage last week. First, voters in North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment banning legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Just a day later, even bigger news was made when President Obama publicly stated his support for extending marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. All of this talk about same-sex marriage got me thinking about why so much variability exists in people’s attitudes toward this issue and, particularly, why some people are so resistant to it. Of course, religion plays a very large role in determining people’s views on marriage. However, research suggests that there may also be some important psychological processes underlying opposition to marriage equality.
A few weeks back, I posted an article about how men’s and women’s sexual fantasies differ. As I mentioned in that piece, women’s fantasies typically contain a fair amount of emotional and romantic content. In addition, their fantasies usually aren’t as sexually explicit as men’s and are less likely to feature multiple partners. To explore women’s fantasies in a bit more detail, I have prepared a Top Ten List of Sexual Fantasies that women have anonymously submitted to me over the years. You’ll notice that a number of the fantasies do include romantic imagery. However, you’ll also find that women sometimes fantasize about the same things as men, with occasional mentions of sexy celebrities, masked superheroes, and threesomes. Enjoy!
Most of us have attended weddings before where the couple getting married explicitly promised to love each other “till death do us part.” And if you’re anything like me, you probably thought to yourself “yeah, that’ll happen” at least once, not necessarily because you are pessimistic or jealous (or maybe you are), but because you know all too well that a large number of marriages just don’t go on forever. So what’s a realistic expectation for how long a new marriage will last these days? New research suggests that, among heterosexuals, most people would be pretty fortunate to have a 20-year partnership.1
Paraphilias are one of the most fascinating topics in the field of human sexuality. In case you aren’t familiar with the term paraphilia, it refers to all unusual forms of sexual expression. Some of the most common paraphilias include fetishism, in which people become sexually fixated on non-living objects or specific body parts, and sadomasochism, in which people experience sexual arousal in response to giving or receiving pain. A huge number of paraphilias have been identified. In fact, one source puts the number at 547!1 Of course, many of these behaviors are exceedingly rare and most of them have not received enough research attention to merit their own clinical diagnoses in the DSM. In this article, I’d like to share some of the most interesting, but lesser known paraphilias that I have ever read about.
Every Friday on the blog, I answer sex questions submitted to me by actual college students. This week, we’re talking about bisexuality. Many students have asked me whether it is really possible for someone to be attracted to both men and women (a question I have previously answered here). However, the student who asked this week’s question wanted to know whether there is a difference between male and female bisexuality.
I have heard of research that determined men can only be attracted to one sex whereas women can legitimately be bisexual. Is this true?
Sexual scientists do not agree on why the female orgasm exists. Most of the theories that have been offered to date suggest that the ability of women to climax during sex is an evolved adaptation. For instance, some researchers have argued that orgasm promotes bonding between a woman and her partner, while others have argued that the female orgasm is a “sperm retention mechanism” that increases the odds of conception by drawing sperm further into a woman's reproductive tract. Another provocative theory that has received somewhat less attention suggests that there may not be any adaptive value at all to the female orgasm and that the pleasure it provides is nothing more than a “fantastic bonus” that accompanies being a biological woman.1
A few years back, a journal article entitled Teaching May Be Hazardous to Your Marriage was published.1 This article reported a study showing that men who teach at the high school and college levels have a significantly increased likelihood of being divorced or separated compared to guys in other occupations (the same finding did not hold true for women). The researchers interpreted this finding as evidence that being exposed to teenage women on a regular basis is harmful to men’s marriages by creating a contrast effect. That is, male professors are thought to be more inclined to divorce because their wives don’t look as good in comparison to the teenage beauties who populate their classrooms on a daily basis. The title of this paper and the language used by the authors (who repeatedly mention the “real consequences” of working in higher education) imply that people who are married to male teachers might want to start sending their husbands to work with blindfolds on. But is there really any cause for alarm?
Every Friday on the blog, I answer sex questions submitted to me by actual college students. This week, we’re talking about fetishes. Fetishes refer to cases where an individual’s sexual desires and behaviors hinge upon a specific object, such as shoes or feet. To be clinically diagnosed with a fetish, desire for this object must occur persistently over a period of at least six months and it must create personal distress (in other words, a fetish isn't considered a clinical "problem" unless the individual is bothered by it or finds that it interferes with their ability to develop and maintain relationships). People can have fetishes for virtually anything, from the conventional (e.g., silk panties and leather boots) to the unusual (e.g., dirt and cars). It is perhaps no surprise that the most common question people have about fetishes is how they develop in the first place.
"Why do some people develop strange fetishes?"
The use of scantily clad women to sell products is a popular strategy among advertisers hocking everything from beer to floral arrangements to spicy BBQ burgers (click here for just a few examples of such ads). This persistent sexualization of women in the media has led many scientists to wonder what effects this might have on our psychological perception of women in general. A new study suggests that such media portrayals may be quite dangerous and could potentially be contributing to a major difference in how people view and treat women compared to men.1
Many people are involved in romantic relationships that are not accepted by their family, friends, or society at large. Sometimes it is because the partners are of the same sex, while other times it is because the partners are of different races or because one partner is much older than the other. Regardless of why one’s relationship is socially rejected, this bias can have significant implications for the partners involved. For instance, the more relationship disapproval a couple experiences, the more likely they are to break up in the future.1 A brand new study suggests that the effects of romantic disapproval may extend even further than this and could potentially harm couple members' health and well-being.2
Every Friday on the blog, I answer sex questions submitted to me by actual college students. This week’s question hits on a topic many people are curious about: the origin of homosexuality. Although we don’t know with certainty why variations in sexual orientation exist, there is growing evidence that biology is one of the biggest contributors. In this article, we will explore some of the science supporting this point.
Is a homosexual’s brain different from a heterosexual’s brain?
Yes, you read that headline right. Last year, the president elect of the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Lazar Greenfield, resigned from his position after penning a controversial Valentine’s Day editorial in Surgical News. In his editorial, Greenfield cited a controversial journal article published a decade ago which found that women who did not use condoms reported fewer depressive symptoms than women who practiced safe sex.1 Based upon these results, some scientists have argued that semen may have antidepressant properties. Greenfield is an apparent believer because he wrote in Surgical News that “there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates.” Female surgeons around the world were offended (and rightfully so) at Greenfield’s implication that semen is the best “gift” for women. Most media outlets that covered this story focused only on the sexism embedded in Greenfield’s editorial, but if you’re anything like me, you probably couldn’t help but wonder whether the study Greenfield cited has even a hint of scientific validity. Does it really provide evidence that semen has beneficial effects on women’s psychological well-being? Let's take a closer look at the research.