In the real world, forcing someone to have sex is something that is widely regarded as a repugnant act. By contrast, in our sexual fantasies, the prospect of being forced to have sex is something that many people find to be a major turn-on. For instance, research on the prevalence of so-called “rape fantasies, “ or fantasies about being forced to have sex against one’s will, has found that they are quite common. Indeed, studies have found that anywhere from 31% to 57% of women report having had these fantasies; further, among those who report such fantasies, somewhere between 9% and 17% indicate that this is one of their favorite and/or more frequent fantasies .Read More
As part of the study abroad course I’m teaching on Sex and Culture in the Netherlands, I booked us a tour of Amsterdam’s Red Light District with the famous Fokken twins, Louise and Martine. The Fokken sisters have been employed as sex workers for over a half-century and the day we met just happened to be their 77th birthday. In addition to answering our questions, they talked with us about what it’s like to be a sex worker and how they’ve seen the business change over time. Here are a few of the most interesting parts of our conversation:Read More
The Netherlands is often seen as a utopia for people who are attracted to the same sex—and this view is perfectly understandable when you look at how homosexuality has historically been treated under the law. However, while homosexuality is something that has been accepted in the Netherlands far longer than in has in other parts of the world, this doesn’t mean that everyone in the Netherlands is accepting of sexual minorities or that sexual minorities here are immune from the effects of prejudice and discrimination.Read More
This week in my study abroad course on sex and culture in the Netherlands, we're focusing on cross-cultural differences in sexual health and sex education. As a starting point, we're reviewing some statistics that highlight how dramatically different teens’ sexual health outcomes are in the Netherlands relative to the U.S. Check out the infographic below for a quick overview, which shows that teen girls in the Netherlands have much lower rates of pregnancy, birth, and abortion. Below, we’ll discuss why.Read More
I've been researching sex laws in the Netherlands as part of the study abroad course on sex and culture that I'm teaching. One of the ways sex laws in the Netherlands are unique compared to the US is that prostitution and brothels are legal and regulated by the government--but you probably already knew that. So here are a few other legal differences that might be new to you.Read More
Today in my study abroad course on sex and culture in the Netherlands, we're focusing on sex work, especially the link between prostitution and mental health. Many studies have been conducted on the mental health of people (mostly women) who sell sex for a living. Most of this research has found that female sex workers suffer from rates of depression, anxiety, and PTSD that are much higher than the rest of the female population. However, virtually of all of this research is based on studies of female sex workers who live in countries where prostitution is illegal.
So what about places, like the Netherlands where sex work is permitted under the law?Read More
Greetings from Amsterdam! For the second year in a row, I’m teaching a study abroad course on Sexuality and Culture in the Netherlands. Today is the first full day of my two-week course, and I couldn't be more excited. Amsterdam is, of course, an awesome city—but it’s also a fascinating place to teach students about cross-cultural differences in sexuality for a couple of weeks.Read More
Scientific research papers are often indecipherable to the average reader. This is due, in part, to the fact that scientists use a lot of jargon—they have a special vocabulary that usually doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to non-scientists. This jargon issue is something that occurs across all scientific disciplines, and sexology is no exception.
In this post, let’s take a look at several sex jargon terms I’ve come across in research papers and decipher what the researchers were really talking about. Here goes…Read More
The question of whether there are racial differences in penis size is one that has been notoriously difficult to answer with any degree of scientific certainty. The problem has been that studies of penis size are usually fraught with problems. For one thing, there’s the question of who’s doing the measuring—the participant himself or a trained researcher? The concern, of course, is that guys will be generous when measuring themselves and/or will perform the measurements inconsistently. Then there’s the issue of participant selection effects—are men of a larger size more inclined to participate in such studies? In short (no pun intended), there’s reason to be cautious about drawing sweeping conclusions from the research in this area.
That said, recent studies support the idea that race-based differences in penis size may exist.Read More
Sexual minority individuals—that is, people who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, or who otherwise report same-sex attraction or behavior—are at increased risk for developing a number of physical health problems relative to people who are exclusively heterosexual. As some evidence of this, consider a new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, which analyzed the health of sexual minorities in the United States using a nationally representative sample of more than 30,000 Americans .
No matter what measure of sexual orientation was utilized in this study (LGB identity, same-sex attraction, same-sex behavior), sexual minorities were at increased risk of various health problems compared to heterosexuals.Read More
In the popular media, it’s easy to find claims of a rising “epidemic” of erectile dysfunction in young men. For example, this article argues that the rate of ED in young men has increased 1000% in the last decade alone—though, problematically, no research is cited to back it up, which makes this a very questionable claim. So what does the science say on this subject? Are erectile difficulties really rising at a dramatic rate in young guys? Let’s take a look.Read More
People email me with questions about their sex lives all the time. More often than not, these questions boil down to the same theme: "Am I normal?"
A lot of folks asking these questions have already researched the answers and, often, they've discovered that they differ from some statistical average reported in the media. It's the realization of this difference that prompts many follow-up emails to me. For instance, I sometimes hear from men who worry that they're masturbating and/or watching porn "too much," as well as people of all genders who worry that they aren't having "enough" sex with their partners.Read More
Difficulties with sexual desire and arousal are common, especially among women—and they’re notoriously difficult to treat with medications alone. However, the good news is that these problems are responsive to psychological treatments. Increasingly, one such treatment researchers have focused on is something known as mindfulness, and there’s a brand new book out about it that describes how you can use this technique to not only combat sexual difficulties, but also to have better sex in general.Read More
People who are into bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism (or BDSM for short) experience a lot of stigma. For one thing, they are often seen as psychologically disturbed, despite research showing that BDSM practitioners appear to be just as psychologically healthy as everyone else. For another, many people—including a lot of mental health professionals—question whether you can practice BDSM and still have a healthy relationship. In fact, in one survey of therapists, fully one-third of them reported being unsure of whether someone into BDSM could carry on a functional relationship .Read More
In an episode of the classic television series Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw discovers that a guy she's seeing has dated both men and women. Uncomfortable with the thought of taking things further, 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 people in the real world hold, too—that all bisexual men are secretly gay and just aren’t quite ready to come out. However, the stereotype 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). That said, it turns out that there is some truth to the idea that bisexuality sometimes serves as a transitional sexual identity.Read More
There’s a common assumption that monogamous relationships are superior to consensually non-monogamous relationships in virtually all ways. In fact, studies have found that monogamous relationships are thought to be better in terms of promoting closeness, trust, intimacy, companionship, and communication . However, the presumed benefits don’t stop there—monogamous relationships are assumed to be more sexually satisfying, too, because it’s presumed that people who open their relationships are only doing so because they’re unhappy in some way.
So is it really the case that monogamists necessarily have better sex lives and relationships overall compared to those who are in consensually non-monogamous relationships? Do the stereotypes reflect reality? Let’s take a look at the research.Read More
How many different reasons are there to have sex? At least 237, according to one study. However, that study was primarily based on young college students, which begs the question of how people’s sexual motivations might differ based on age. It’s also reasonable to wonder whether men and women experience similar or different changes in their reasons for having sex as they get older, too.Read More
There’s a lot of research out there looking at how many people have cheated, their reasons for cheating, and what “counts” as cheating; however, surprisingly little work has looked at who people are actually having sex with when they commit infidelity. Is it usually with someone they know, or with a stranger? And does this differ for men and women? A new study published in the Journal of Family Psychology offers some answers.Read More
Are Americans today more or less likely to cheat on their spouses than they were in the past? And how have their attitudes toward infidelity changed—have they become more or less tolerant of this behavior? A recent study published in the Journal of Family Psychology offers some insight into these questions.Read More
Most people have sex at least once in their lives. For example, in a longitudinal study of over 20,000 American adolescents who were surveyed repeatedly over a 15-year period, just 3% of them reported never having had vaginal, anal, or oral sex at any point. However, just because someone does it once, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they will remain sexually active throughout their lives.
For a variety of reasons, many people go through long periods of sexlessness, and a new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior offers some insight into just how common this is.Read More