In order to develop a close, intimate relationship with someone else, you need to be willing to open up to that person—to let your defenses down and become emotionally vulnerable. As you may have found in your own personal experience, this process sometimes takes a very long time to unfold. However, research suggests that it doesn’t necessarily have to.Read More
Before a scientific study is carried out, researchers usually need to receive approval from an Institutional Review Board (IRB), a body of fellow scientists who evaluate a given study’s potential risks and rewards. In the name of protecting research participants, IRBs often given studies focusing on “sensitive topics” heightened scrutiny.
Sex is often considered to be a sensitive topic, and many researchers (myself included) have encountered difficulties at one time or another in getting certain studies approved because their IRBs are concerned that students might be traumatized by certain kinds of sex questions (e.g., how would students who have been sexually victimized feel if they were asked questions about prior experiences with rape and sexual assault?).Read More
In the U.S. today, 37 states mandate that information on abstinence be provided in sex education courses. In those states, it is not uncommon for students to be asked to take “purity” or virginity pledges as part of the curriculum.
Students are often encouraged to take these pledges in order to both reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections and to prevent unintended pregnancies. As it turns out, however, abstinence pledges don’t necessarily accomplish either one of these things. In fact, a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggests that they may do just the opposite!Read More
When it comes to teaching American adolescents about sexuality, “we are completely silent around girls' sexual entitlement and girls' pleasure,” says Peggy Orenstein, author of the new book Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape. But it’s not just that—American culture is sending a message to young women today that “they're supposed to be sexy, that they're supposed to perform sexuality for boys, but that their sexual pleasure is unspoken.”Read More
For your reading pleasure this weekend, I've compiled a list of ten fun and interesting sex facts that you can share with your friends. Enjoy!
1. Nocturnal orgasms aren’t just a male phenomenon—many women have them too! In Alfred Kinsey’s groundbreaking research on female sexuality, he found that 37% of the women he surveyed had at least one such orgasm by their mid-40s. Read more about female nocturnal orgasms here.Read More
When science is reported in the media, it is often horribly distorted. One of the biggest reasons for this stems from the fact that many of the journalists and bloggers reporting on science simply don’t have a very good understanding of how science in general works. But it's not just that--many of them don't even make an attempt to understand the specific studies they're writing about, with some publishing articles based upon nothing more than a quick review of an abstract or press release.
The end result is that far too many media reports about science contain nothing but bogus information. Unfortunately, this is something I see all the time when research on sex and relationships is covered.Read More
History is full of examples of governmental and religious authorities going to great lengths to regulate people’s sex lives. Of course, these efforts continue in the modern world--however, sex today isn't regulated to quite the same extent as it was in the past, at least in the Western world.
By today’s standards, many of the older laws—and their corresponding punishments—seem, well, downright absurd. Below are five such examples drawn from the book, Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire by Eric Berkowitz.Read More
I write a weekly column for Playboy entitled Hard Science—a title that just works on so many levels. Lately, I’ve devoted several of my articles to exploring what we know about consensual nonmonogamy (CNM), not only because this is a topic people seem to be extremely curious about, but also because there are so many myths and misconceptions out there about CNM. In case you missed any of these articles, here they are:Read More
How do guys feel about their own bodies? And does a man's body image have any implications for his sex life? A new study published in the journal Psychology of Men & Masculinity sheds some light on these questions. The results suggest that many men are worried about how they look and that, for some of them, these concerns may be undermining their sex lives--however, these concerns appear to be more common among gay men compared to straight men. For a closer look at some of the key findings from this study, check out the infographic below.Read More
Throughout the animal kingdom, scientists have found that early caregiving experiences shape later patterns of sexual attraction.
For example, if you ever took an Introductory Psychology course, you probably learned about Konrad Lorenz’s discovery that baby geese “imprint” on the first moving object they see shortly after birth, meaning they treat that object as if it were their mother and start following it around . Perhaps your textbook even included some adorable photos of Lorenz being trailed by a gaggle of geese that had imprinted on him. However, what’s even more fascinating than this is that, when they grew up, these geese would attempt to mate with human men that physically resembled Lorenz himself—in this case, white dudes with big white beards!
This isn’t a phenomenon unique to geese, though—something similar happens in humans. I know some of you will find this creepy, but humans have a tendency to select romantic partners who physically resemble their childhood caretakers.Read More
A reader submitted the following question:
“I have read several blogs and magazines saying that having sex during menstruation can help to alleviate cramps. Is there any truth to this? Is there any research? Also is there any risk in having sex in those moments?”
Thanks for these great questions! With respect to the idea that sex reduces cramping and pain during menstruation, you’re right—there are a TON of websites out there making this claim. I did a quick search and saw it mentioned on WebMD, Kinsey Confidential, Medical Daily, and ABC News, among many, many others.
However, not a single one pointed to a specific study or source to back this idea up.Read More
Many sex researchers have surveyed heterosexual women about their preferences when it comes to penis size. Curiously, though, most of the studies out there have only focused on one dimension of penis size: length. So what do women think about penile circumference, perhaps known more commonly as "girth?" And is one of these two dimensions more important than the other?Read More
The conventional wisdom when it comes to marketing is that sex sells. This is why it’s not uncommon to see television commercials and magazine ads that focus more attention on scantily clad models than they do on the actual product that’s for sale. However, does this approach to advertising really work in terms of bringing in the bucks?
In the brief video below from our friends over at The Science of Us, they explore what the research has found, and the results are surprising.Read More
Although prostitution is illegal throughout most of the United States, it’s not uncommon for Americans to buy sex. Most of the purchasers are men, but beyond this, we don’t actually know all that much about who's buying sex or why. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that researchers really began to start looking into this.Read More
Having a secret relationship is hot, right? That's what the popular media would have us believe. Couples that sneak around together are usually depicted in the movies and on TV as being full of passion and excitement. But is that what secret relationships are actually like in real life? Research suggests that the reality tends to be quite different and that, if anything, secret relationships are likely to fare much worse in most respects than non-secret relationships.Read More
How should we teach people about sexual consent? This is a question that has been getting a lot of attention lately from scientists, politicians, and sex educators alike. Increasingly, one approach people have taken is to use analogies. Because sex is a topic that’s difficult for many people to discuss, the thought is that by analogizing it to something that’s perceived as less taboo or controversial, it has the potential to help bring more people into the conversation.Read More
A reader submitted the following question:
"How many people over age 50 are still having sex?"
Older adults are often assumed to be celibate, but the truth of the matter is that many of us remain sexually active for our entire lives.
As some evidence of this, let's consider findings from a recent, nationally representative U.S. survey of adults aged 14-94.Read More
Sexual contact between members of the same sex has been documented in numerous animal species. Several scientific explanations for this phenomenon have been proposed over the years, many of which have argued that the underlying reason may be adaptive. For example, the social glue hypothesis argues that same-sex behavior evolved because it plays a role in the establishment and maintenance of relationships among members of the same sex.
However, a new study published in the journal Behavioral Ecology suggests that animals’ same-sex behavior may not necessarily need to have an adaptive cause. Instead, it may sometimes arise from very specific environmental factors, such as a high population density combined with a heavily skewed sex ratio.Read More
Social psychologists have found that people have a tendency to view their romantic partners in overly idealized ways. For example, we may view our partners as being more intelligent, compassionate, or trustworthy than they really are. Such beliefs have been dubbed positive illusions.
So why do we do this? And is it better to hold positive illusions about a partner or to view them in more realistic terms?Read More