How Sexual and Non-Sexual Communication Differ

How Sexual and Non-Sexual Communication Differ

Communicating early and often about sex is one of the keys to a successful long-term romantic relationship. Indeed, research has consistently found that the more sexual communication couples engage in, the more sexually satisfied they tend to be. However, despite the powerful role that sexual communication plays in our relationships, surprisingly little is known about the way people navigate sexual discussions with their partners.

Studying sexual communication is important because by looking at how people feel about and approach it, we can come to understand why some people avoid sexual communication altogether, but also how struggling couples can facilitate effective communication in their own relationships. Fortunately, a new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior offers some valuable insight.

Read More

Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater? Here's What the Science Says

Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater? Here's What the Science Says

Is it a bad idea to get romantically involved with someone you know has committed infidelity in the past? Common sense tells us that "once a cheater, always a cheater." However, it's dangerous to rely on common sense to understand sex and relationships because research doesn't always back it up and also because different people can hold very different "common sense" beliefs. We need to look instead at what science says about whether past infidelity predicts future infidelity,

Read More

The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research: When Is Sexuality Too Risky To Study?

The Ethics of Sexual Orientation Research: When Is Sexuality Too Risky To Study?

A new paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggesting that computers have better “gaydar” than humans made quite a media splash this week. Specifically, this study found that a machine algorithm correctly classified 81% of men and 74% of women as either gay or straight; by contrast, human judges correctly classified just 61% of men and 54% of women in terms of their sexual orientation.

These findings have raised a lot of ethical concerns, with many gay rights groups expressing worry about how such findings could potentially be used for nefarious purposes.

Read More

Announcing the 5th Annual SPSP Sexuality Pre-Conference!

Announcing the 5th Annual SPSP Sexuality Pre-Conference!

I am pleased to announce the fifth annual SPSP Sexuality Pre-Conference! It will be held next March, just prior to the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Our last four pre-conferences were wildly successful and it is our great pleasure to continue building on this tradition.

The next SPSP Sexuality Pre-Conference will take place on Thursday, March 1, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta and Atlanta Marriott Marquis. The theme will be "global and cross-cultural perspectives in human sexuality." All of our invited talks will offer attendees the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge research on sexuality and gender issues. In addition, audience members will walk away with a greater understanding of how they might add an international component to their own teaching and research. 

Read More

Till Porn Do Us Part: Why You Should Be Skeptical of the New Study Claiming Porn Kills Love

Till Porn Do Us Part: Why You Should Be Skeptical of the New Study Claiming Porn Kills Love

A new study published in the Journal of Sex Research reports that when married people start using porn, their odds of getting divorced double. In other words, the results would appear to suggest that porn is inherently destructive to relationships.

Though the findings are provocative and based on longitudinal data from the General Social Survey (which is often a great source of information), I’m just not sold on the conclusion. Here’s why.

Read More

Is It A Bad Idea To Have Sex For Your Health?

Is It A Bad Idea To Have Sex For Your Health?

I received an email from a reader the other day who read an article chastising a lot of popular magazines and websites for pushing the narrative that we should be having sex more often because it’s good for our health. The point of this article was to say that when sex becomes a utilitarian activity, it takes all the fun out of it—it becomes something we think we need to do instead of something we want to do. The reader asked what I thought about this idea, and my answer is simple: I completely agree. And here’s why.

Read More

The HPV Vaccine is Still Woefully Underutilized—Here’s How We Can Change That

The HPV Vaccine is Still Woefully Underutilized—Here’s How We Can Change That

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. In addition to genital warts, it has the potential to cause a wide range of cancers, including cancers of the cervix, anus, and throat. A vaccine that can prevent HPV (and its associated cancers) has been around for nearly a decade; however, it continues to be widely underutilized in the United States.

Read More

What the Dutch Can Teach Us About Sex Education

What the Dutch Can Teach Us About Sex Education

This past summer, I taught a study abroad course on sex and culture in the Netherlands. We covered a lot of ground in this class, including an in-depth look at what a legalized prostitution system looks like and the implications of it for the mental and physical health of Dutch sex workers. In addition, we spent a lot of time talking about differences in sex education in the Netherlands compared to the United States. It turns out that these countries have radically different approaches to sex ed, and there’s a lot we can learn from the Dutch.

Read More

Who Has a Higher Sex Drive: Women or Men?

Who Has a Higher Sex Drive: Women or Men?

My social media feed has been blowing up lately with links to article headlines like this one from HuffPost, “Women Want More Sex Than Their Partner Does, According To New Study.” Naturally, as a sex researcher, I was intrigued--I wanted to read the paper and learn more. However, I was disappointed to learn that this wasn’t actually a scientific study and that numerous media outlets were reporting on it like it was legit science. Let's take a closer look at this "study" and what it does and doesn't tell us. 

Read More

Americans' Attitudes Toward and Experiences with Sex Toys and Sexual Media (Infographic)

Americans' Attitudes Toward and Experiences with Sex Toys and Sexual Media (Infographic)

To date, most national sex surveys in America have focused on people's attitudes toward and experiences with a relatively narrow range of sexual behaviors, namely: vaginal intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, and masturbation. As a result, we now have a pretty good idea as to how many people have engaged in those activities. However, this provides only a very limited understanding of Americans' sexuality because there are numerous other ways that people might express themselves sexually. Fortunately, a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE offers some insight into various other forms of sexual expression. The infographic below takes a look at Americans' interest in and experiences with sex toys and sexual media (think pornography, sexting, etc.) specifically.

Read More

When Your Sex Drives Get Out Of Sync: Dealing With A Sexual Desire Discrepancy

When Your Sex Drives Get Out Of Sync: Dealing With A Sexual Desire Discrepancy

Over the years, I’ve received countless emails from readers saying things along the lines of, “He says I don't want it enough. I think he wants it too much. What do we do?” Sometimes it’s women who want less sex than their male partners, sometimes it’s men who want less sex than their female partners, and sometimes it’s same-sex couples who aren’t on the same page about how much sex (or what kind of sex) they'd like to have.

Cases like this—where couples have persistent problems when it comes to matching up their sexual wants and needs—are known as sexual desire discrepancies. They’re incredibly common, too.

Read More

Does Everybody Have a Gay Gene?

Does Everybody Have a Gay Gene?

Where does our sexual orientation come from? That's a question that we don't yet fully understand. However, a growing body of research suggests that it may be determined, at least in part, by our genetics. 

Scientists have been searching for years for a so-called "gay gene," and the results have been nothing short of fascinating.

Read More

"Common Sense" Isn't A Substitute For Scientific Research

"Common Sense" Isn't A Substitute For Scientific Research

I spend a lot of time talking, writing, and tweeting about the latest scientific research on sex and relationships. Over the years, I've had more than a few people respond to my posts and articles with comments like, “We needed research to tell us this?” In other words, it's not uncommon for people to question whether a given study was ever needed because we could have used “common sense” to figure out the results instead.

Dismissing research in favor of common sense is one of my bigger pet peeves. In fact, it ranks right up there with people asking me whether I can read their minds when they find out that I have a degree in psychology. Once and for all, no, I’m not a psychic—that’s something completely different. But I digress.

What I want to do in this post is to take a moment to explain why it’s problematic to dismiss research with "Oh, that's just common sense." 

Read More

Do Gay and Bisexual Men on PrEP Take More Sexual Risks?

Do Gay and Bisexual Men on PrEP Take More Sexual Risks?

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (also known as PrEP for short) is an increasingly popular method of HIV prevention among persons at the highest risk of infection. It involves taking one pill per day that combines two different drugs (tenofovir and emtricitabine). These are actually the same drugs used to treat people who already have HIV; however, when someone who is uninfected takes them, it makes it very difficult for HIV to establish an infection in the body should that person be exposed to the virus through sexual activity or injection drug use.

PrEP was originally approved by the FDA five years ago and it’s estimated that 136,000 people are now taking it—a figure that continues to climb significantly year over year. The vast majority of the people taking PrEP in the United States are gay and bisexual men, given that they’re the group that’s most at risk for contracting HIV here. However, as more men who have sex with men have begun taking PrEP, concerns have been raised over whether this drug might be changing their sexual behaviors.

Read More

Celebrate 64 Years of Female Sex Research This Weekend

Celebrate 64 Years of Female Sex Research This Weekend

Sixty-four years ago this Sunday (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. As I'm sure many of you know, this was the first book of its kind to explore women's sexual attitudes and behaviors from a scientific point of view.

Read More

How Many Americans Have Tried BDSM? (Infographic)

How Many Americans Have Tried BDSM? (Infographic)

The immense popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey has prompted a lot of curiosity about BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism). Among other things, people have begun to wonder just how many of us have explored BDSM practices before. Unfortunately, however, this isn't a sexual activity that researchers have routinely inquired about on national sex surveys--at least not until now. A study published last month in the journal PLOS ONE offers some insight. Check out the infographic below for a look at Americans' interest in and experiences with various BDSM acts and some of the key takeaways from this survey.

Read More

Sex Is Good For Our Mental Health

Sex Is Good For Our Mental Health

Sex stands to benefit us in many ways. For example, research has found that being sexually active appears to be good for our physical health—not only does having sex burn calories, but frequent orgasms have been linked to better immune function and longer life expectancies. In addition, sex has been linked to enhanced cognitive functioning (including better memory), which suggests the provocative possibility that having sex just might make us smarter. As if that weren’t enough, a new study published in the journal Emotion reveals that sex also seems to be good for our mental health and well-being.

Read More

A Look at the South Korean Sex Industry (Video)

A Look at the South Korean Sex Industry (Video)

What is “normal” or “typical” when it comes to sex isn’t the same from one culture to the next. In fact, there’s incredible variation in sexual attitudes and practices throughout the world, and there’s a lot we can learn by adopting a cross-cultural lens.

Today, let’s take a look at sex in South Korea, a culture where sex is heavily stigmatized. Sex education is poor, open discussion about sexual matters is discouraged, and sex outside of marriage is highly frowned upon (despite the fact that the average age of first marriage is now 31 and most people live with their parents until they get married). So what does this mean for the sex lives of young adults?

Read More

This Is How Many American Adults Have Never Had Sex

This Is How Many American Adults Have Never Had Sex

Like most sex researchers, I tend to study people who have sex--and, over the years, we've developed a large scientific literature about them. But what about the people who, for whatever reason, never start having sex? What do we know about them? As it turns out, surprisingly little. However, a recent paper published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior offers some valuable insight. This paper looks at how many people in the United States enter adulthood without any sexual experience and identifies some of the characteristics associated with people who do not become sexually active.

Read More