How many people in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT)? A recent Gallup poll that received a lot of media attention put the overall number at 3.4% of the population and reported that women were slightly more likely than men to identify as LGBT (3.6% vs. 3.3%). How much stock should we put in the results of this poll? In light of other published sex surveys, I would be cautious about drawing too many conclusions from it.
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Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader who wanted to know whether substance use can lead to problems “keeping it up” during sex.
What does it mean when men in college can't stay hard during sex? If you smoke a lot of weed, does that make it more difficult to stay hard in the same way alcohol does?
Over the past two decades, sexual content in the movies and on television has become more explicit than ever before. These graphic depictions of sex have become a source of social concern for many parents, who worry that the increased visibility of sex in the media may lead adolescent viewers to imitate the behaviors they see on screen. This concern is compounded by the fact that most media depictions of sex portray it in risky and unrealistic terms. For example, an analysis of sexual content from the most popular movies released between 1983 and 2003 revealed that the vast majority of sex acts depicted (70%) occurred among people who had just met, and almost every scene (98%) failed to address the topic of contraception in any way.1 Not only that, but virtually none of these sexual acts resulted in negative consequences (e.g., unintended pregnancies, STIs, etc.). So is parents' concern warranted? Do such media depictions of sex have the potential to generate risky sexual behaviors among adolescents? A recent study published in Psychological Science suggests that they might.
I was troubled to learn that just last month, a prominent college right down the street from me tried to shut down a student group on campus that gives out free condoms and sexual health pamphlets. Specifically, administrators at Boston College (a Jesuit Catholic school) sent a letter to the students involved saying that “the distribution of condoms is not congruent with our values and traditions” and that if they are caught distributing condoms, they will be subject to “disciplinary action.” It is also worth mentioning that the sexual health section of the college’s website makes no mention of contraception or condoms and essentially states that abstinence is the best policy. Thus, the overall message the school seems to be sending is that restricting access to condoms and promoting abstinence will discourage students from having sex and promote better sexual health. But will it work and do colleges even have the legal authority to ban condoms among students? From my perspective, the answers are no and no.
Do Women Prefer Well-Endowed Men? Why You Should Be Skeptical Of The New Study Claiming “Size Matters”
A new study examining women’s perceptions of penis size has been making the rounds in the media lately with headlines ranging from “Science Proves Women Like Men with Bigger Penises,” to “This Just In: Women Prefer Well-Endowed Men,” to “Science Proves Women Love a Big ‘Ol D.” Based upon these and dozens of other international headlines, one might reasonably conclude that the age-old question “Does size really matter?” has been settled once and for all. So women who are attracted to men are looking for guys with humongous penises because a bigger penis makes for better sex, right? Not so fast. The reality is that these headlines don't tell the whole story, and this study says nothing about whether penis size affects female sexual pleasure.
Media headlines have been abuzz lately with reports of kids having sex at younger and younger ages. Perhaps you heard about the four Louisiana fifth-graders who made national news when it was discovered that they had sex at school in an unsupervised classroom. Or perhaps you read about the lawsuit filed against a California preschool when it was discovered that two 5-year-old girls performed fellatio on a male classmate and the teacher failed to stop it. Is sexual activity among kids really as rampant as these and other media reports suggest? According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, perhaps not.
It is a widely held belief that people in sexually monogamous relationships are happier and healthier than their non-monogamous counterparts. For instance, when asked to describe the benefits of monogamy, most people say that being sexually exclusive promotes trust, meaningfulness, and commitment.1 But is this the case in reality? Are monogamous couples really the most emotionally fulfilled and committed to one another? According to a new study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, the association between monogamy and relationship outcomes depends upon the partners’ level of attachment anxiety.
“Though we often associate love with the heart, the true magic can be seen inside the brain.”
This fascinating video by ASAP Science explores the neurobiology behind love. It turns out that when we’re in love, our brains activate the same pleasure centers as when we take drugs like cocaine, thereby resulting in a psychological “high.” Specifically, when we are around the person we love, our brains release a number of chemicals, including dopamine, norepinephrine, and oxytocin, which generate sexual desire and that feeling of being bonded with another person. At the same time, our brains release lower levels of serotonin. Given that low serotonin is linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), this could help to explain why people in love often report having obsessive thoughts about their partner.
Check out the video below to learn more about what happens to our brains when we’re in love.
A fascinating case study entitled “Penile Incarceration Secondary to Masturbation with a Steel Pipe” was recently published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Based on the title alone, I knew I had to blog about it, and not just because the term “penile incarceration” is rather amusing. As it turns out, men have been “incarcerating” their penises for more than 250 years leading to a range of unpleasant consequences and inventive “jailbreaks.”1
Research has found that when heterosexual men are around an attractive woman, they experience a natural increase in testosterone and, sometimes, become more prone to engaging in physically risky behaviors. For instance, one study found that when male skateboarders performed in front of a female observer, they experienced elevated testosterone levels and attempted more dangerous stunts that increased their likelihood of crashing.1 Scientists theorize that this spike in testosterone leads men to engage in sexual displays that "demonstrate their value" or manliness. So does this happen every time heterosexual men are in the presence of the other sex? According to a new study published in Human Nature, this increase in testosterone does not occur when men interact with a woman they know is already committed to one of their friends.
Every so often, I come across a news story that makes me cringe…and then laugh a little. Lately, virtually all of those stories have centered around women placing highly unusual items inside their vaginas, including stolen goods, concealed weapons, and more. Needless to say, the vagina is not meant to be a storage locker, nor is it a particularly handy place to stockpile daggers and firearms. I mean, if danger arises, would you really be able to get it out in time? Below I give you the five most unusual items women have hidden inside themselves. Needless to say, don’t try any of these at home…or anywhere else for that matter!
Research across various animal species suggests that early caregiving experiences shape patterns of sexual attraction later in life. For instance, if you ever took an Introductory Psychology course, you probably learned how Konrad Lorenz discovered that baby geese would “imprint” on the first moving object they saw shortly after birth, meaning they treated that object as if it were their mother.1 As evidence of this, perhaps your professor showed you some adorable photos of Lorenz being trailed by a gaggle of geese who had imprinted on him. Even more fascinating, however, is that as adults, these geese would attempt to mate with human men that physically resembled Lorenz (i.e., White dudes with big white beards)! So do similar effects occur among humans? Are we sexually attracted to people who physically resemble our early caretakers? According to a new study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, the answer appears to be yes.
Our sense of smell has long been known to play an important role in sexual attraction. Indeed, the multi-billion dollar perfume, cologne, and deodorant industries are founded on the premise that smelling good is one of the keys to finding and maintaining a relationship partner. However, those artificial scents aren’t the only thing driving attraction. More and more research suggests that human beings subtly communicate with one another through pheromones, chemicals naturally secreted by the body that can be picked up through our noses. As some particularly compelling evidence of the importance of having a functional set of nostrils, a new study reveals that lacking a sense of smell appears to have implications for one’s sex life.
Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader who wanted to know why some women enjoy deep penetration during vaginal intercourse more than others.
Why is deeper better for a lot of women when the most sensitive parts of the vagina are on the outside and close to the labia and clitoris?
According to some of the most popular dating advice books, one of the keys to attracting a romantic partner is to take the somewhat counterintuitive step of pretending like you aren’t interested in the other person. But does this tactic really work? Can “playing hard to get” really help you score a date? According to a new set of studies published in the European Journal of Personality, it would appear so.