Outliving Fertility: Why Menopause Might Be Evolutionarily Advantageous

Outliving Fertility: Why Menopause Might Be Evolutionarily Advantageous

On average, women in the United States hit menopause at age 51. At this point, they enter what some scientists call a “post-reproductive lifespan” (or PRLS for short), during which their bodies are no longer physically capable of sexual reproduction. Compared to other species, women are not unique in having a PRLS. In fact, so many primate and non-primate species show evidence of a PRLS that it has been classified as "a general mammalian trait" [1]. However, the thing that is unique about humans is the relative length of the female PRLS.

So why does menopause account for such a large proportion of women’s lives?

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More Partners, Less Sex: How Sex is Changing in Britain

More Partners, Less Sex: How Sex is Changing in Britain

In what ways have people's sex lives changed in the last twenty years? Results from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) offers some insight, at least in terms of how things have changed for folks in Britain. In the infographic below, data from the Natsal-3 are compared to data from earlier versions of this survey, and they suggest that British people today seem to be having sex with larger numbers of people, but they are doing it less often. Check out the infographic below for a closer look at these and other findings.

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“Transitional Bisexuality”: Why Some Gay Men First Come Out As Bisexual

“Transitional Bisexuality”: Why Some Gay Men First Come Out As Bisexual

On one episode of the popular television series Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw discovers that the guy she's currently seeing had dated both men and women in the past. Clearly uncomfortable with the thought of taking things any further with him, she confides to her friends: “You know, I did the ‘date a bisexual guy’ thing in college, but in the end they all ended up with men…I’m not even sure bisexuality exists. I think it’s just a layover on the way to gaytown.”

Carrie expressed a belief that a lot of folks in the real world hold, too—that all bisexual men are secretly gay and just aren’t quite ready to come out yet. This idea that all bisexual men are gays in disguise is, like Sex and the City, pure fiction (see here and here for scientific evidence that bisexuality is a distinct sexual orientation); however, it turns out that there is some truth to the idea that bisexuality sometimes serves as a transitional identity.

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Would Having Sex Every Single Day Make You Happier?

Would Having Sex Every Single Day Make You Happier?

Research suggests that most married folks have sex somewhere between a few times per month and a few times per week. Very few do it every single day. But let's imagine for a second that those people who aren't currently having daily sex tried doing it. What would happen? Would all of that extra action make them happier? 

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Does “Gaydar” Really Exist? Here’s What the Science Says

Does “Gaydar” Really Exist? Here’s What the Science Says

The intuitive ability to determine whether or not someone is gay is known colloquially as “gaydar.” When people use their gaydar, they attempt to make inferences about someone else’s sexual interests based upon minimal information, such as the way a person dresses, walks, or talks. Gaydar has been the subject of a fair amount of controversy as of late, with some scientists arguing that it’s real and others claiming that it’s a myth. So what’s the deal—is there something to this or not?

Social psychologist Nicholas Rule pulled together all of the available research on this topic in a new paper published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior (this paper is part of a forthcoming special issue devoted to “the puzzle of sexual orientation”—for coverage of other articles in this issue, see here and here). Here are some of the key highlights from Rule’s review of the literature

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Alcohol vs. Marijuana: Which One is a Better Aphrodisiac?

Alcohol vs. Marijuana: Which One is a Better Aphrodisiac?

Alcohol and marijuana are among the most popular drugs people use for sexual enhancement. But when it comes to their effects, how similar or different are they? A new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior offers some insight.

In this study, researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 24 young adults in New York City and asked them to compare past experiences using these substances during sex. Obviously, this is a very small sample and we should be very cautious when it comes to generalizing the results; however, the findings are still certainly informative. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights:

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4 Theories on the Origin of Sexual Masochism

4 Theories on the Origin of Sexual Masochism

Masochists are people who find certain types of pain--such as biting, spanking, and flogging--to be sexually arousing. It has long been thought that finding pain to be a turn-on is an atypical desire. In fact, psychologists formally classified masochism as a paraphilia (i.e., an unusual sexual interest) long ago, lumping it in the same category as fetishism, exhibitionism, and voyeurism. However, recent research suggests that masochism isn't so rare after all. As some evidence of this, a recent survey of over 1,500 Canadian adults found that more than one-third of women and more than one-quarter of men reported having fantasized about being spanked or whipped before (learn more about this study here).

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Video: One Secret for a Happy Marriage

Video: One Secret for a Happy Marriage

How do you keep a romantic relationship healthy and strong over the long haul? Research suggests that the way we respond to our partners' emotional states may be particularly important. As discussed in the video below from our friends over at The Science of Us, a new study suggests that the more sensitive we are to a partner's positive emotions in particular, the better off our relationships tend to be.

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Is Asexuality a Sexual Orientation?

Is Asexuality a Sexual Orientation?

In a forthcoming issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, a special section will be devoted to articles that address “the puzzle of sexual orientation.” I’ve been able to read a few of the articles so far, and it’s shaping up to be nothing short of fascinating! As such, I plan to cover at least a few of the articles here on Sex & Psychology. In fact, I’ve already covered one of them, which focused on the link between men’s height and their sexual orientation (read it here).

Today, I’m covering an article that addresses asexualityThis paper, co-authored by Drs. Lori Brotto and Morag Yule, was designed to explore the controversy over the nature of asexuality. This is something people have been debating for years. Some have argued that it’s a mental disorder, others have called it a sexual dysfunction, some think of it as a paraphilia (i.e., an unusual sexual interest), and yet others consider it a sexual orientation. So what does the research say? Let’s take a look.

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Is Porn Really a Threat to Public Health?

Is Porn Really a Threat to Public Health?

The war on porn has reached a fever pitch. Political elites, religious authorities, and a number of other public figures are coming out in ever larger numbers to warn us about the inherent dangers of pornography. Among other things, they claim that porn is "addictive," that it's causing men to commit rape and sexual assault, and that it's completely destroying our sex and love lives. In other words, they're pretty much arguing that porn is the cause of virtually all of the world's sexual problems. 

However, when you take a look at the research, what you see is that these claims just don't add up.

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5 Things You Should Know About Unusual Sexual Interests And The People Who Have Them

5 Things You Should Know About Unusual Sexual Interests And The People Who Have Them

Psychologists use the term paraphilia to refer a wide range of unusual sexual interests, including—but not limited to—exhibitionism, voyeurism, sadism, masochism, and fetishism. Because sexual desires and behaviors that fall under the paraphilia umbrella tend to be widely misunderstood, I thought it would be worth taking a closer look at some of the key things scientists have learned about them.

1.) Having a paraphilia does not necessarily mean that you have a psychological disorder.

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Infographic: Why Infidelity is a High Risk Sexual Behavior

Infographic: Why Infidelity is a High Risk Sexual Behavior

Most people think of cheating as a risky behavior--risky in the sense that, if discovered, it could potentially lead to hurt feelings, severe conflict, and maybe even breakup. However, infidelity doesn't just put the health of a relationship at risk. Research has found that it also puts the physical health of everyone involved at risk because, when people cheat, they don't appear to be particularly likely to practice safe sex. Check out the infographic below for a look at the data.

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Scientists Find More Evidence That Gay Men, On Average, Are Shorter Than Straight Men

Scientists Find More Evidence That Gay Men, On Average, Are Shorter Than Straight Men

Earlier this year, a study published in the Journal of Sex Research reported that gay men, on average, tend to be shorter than their heterosexual counterparts (click here to read a summary of the findings). This study had an important limitation, though, in that it wasn’t based on nationally representative data. Because all participants were either college students or attendees at an LGBT pride event, some concern was raised about how reliable the findings might be.

A new study that just appeared in the Archives of Sexual Behavior would appear to put this concern to rest. In it, the same group of researchers successfully replicated their height finding in a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults.

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Virginity Has Fallen Out Of Favor In Modern America

Virginity Has Fallen Out Of Favor In Modern America

Throughout much of recorded history, female virginity is something that has been highly coveted by heterosexual men who were looking to marry. Women who were known to have lost their virginity faced stiff social penalties, including a tendency to be deemed umarriageable.

This still holds true in many parts of the world today, including a number of countries in Africa and the Middle East, where women who have lost their virginity sometimes go to great lengths to become surgically “revirginized” due to fear of social exclusion and, in some cases, physical harm (you can learn more about so-called "revirginization" procedures and the psychology behind here)

In the Western world, however, things have changed dramatically in the past few decades.

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Video: How Do Men's And Women's Orgasms Compare?

Video: How Do Men's And Women's Orgasms Compare?

There are undoubtably some important differences between the male and female orgasm. Among other things, men tend to reach orgasm more often, women are more likely to have multiple orgasms, and women are more likely to say that they've faked an orgasm.

However, when it comes to the actual orgasmic experience--that is, what men and women say an orgasm really feels like, as well as what goes on inside the brain during a climax--well, that's another story entirely. In fact, it turns out that male and female orgasms really aren't that different when you look at how they're experienced.

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Happy K-Day! Celebrating 63 Years Of Scientific Research On Women's Sexuality

Happy K-Day! Celebrating 63 Years Of Scientific Research On Women's Sexuality

Sixty-three years ago this week (August 20, 1953), the media first reported on some of the major findings from Alfred Kinsey's classic book Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.  In case you aren't familiar, this was the first book of its kind to truly explore women's sexual attitudes and behaviors from a scientific perspective.

Kinsey's book sent shockwaves around the world and was quickly dubbed "obscene" by many; however, we now look back upon it as one of the most important publications ever on human sexuality. Kinsey's research was groundbreaking because it debunked numerous myths and misconceptions about women, revealing that they are far more sexual than most people had previously assumed.

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Infographic: The Sexting Habits of Single Americans

Infographic: The Sexting Habits of Single Americans

How many American adults are sending and receiving sext messages? And what's happening with of those sexts we're exchanging anyway? Are people keeping them private, or are they sharing them with others? A new study published in the journal Sexual Health sheds some light on the answers to these questions and more. The results of this study reveal that sexting is a very common behavior and that, while there's a widespread expectation that people will keep sexts private, a whole lot of them are being shared. For a closer look at the numbers, check out the infographic below.

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Why Some People May Be Better Suited To Consensual Nonmonogamy Than Others

Why Some People May Be Better Suited To Consensual Nonmonogamy Than Others

Given how high the rate of infidelity is, some people have argued that humans are, by nature, not very well suited to monogamy. Others have gone even further and argued that we’d probably all be a lot happier if we were consensually nonmonogamous instead. But is that likely to be the case? Would everyone be better off if they were in some kind of sexually open relationship?

According to data I presented at last month’s meeting of the International Association for Relationship Research, probably not. Rather, my data suggest that whether we respond favorably to monogamy or consensual nonmonogamy is, to some extent, a matter of personality.

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Announcing the 4th Annual SPSP Sexuality Pre-Conference!

Announcing the 4th Annual SPSP Sexuality Pre-Conference!

I am pleased to announce that, for the fourth year in a row, there will be a Sexuality Pre-Conference prior to the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP)! Our last three Pre-Conferences were hugely successful, with incredible talks and great attendance. We are so excited to continue building on this tradition.

The next SPSP Sexuality Pre-Conference will be held on Thursday, January 19th, 2017 at the Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. The theme of our upcoming pre-conference is "a new look." As such, all of our invited talks are designed to offer a fresh take on important issues in sex and sexuality research. We have also intentionally sought out speakers who will include a social justice perspective in their talks.

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