Many psychologists believe that our personalities consist of five underlying traits: openness to experience (your willingness to try new things), conscientiousness (how detail oriented and organized you are), extraversion (how outgoing and sociable you are), agreeableness (how much care and concern you have for other people), and neuroticism (how well you deal with stress and how emotionally stable you are). Scientists have studied how each of these traits is related to people’s sexual attitudes and behaviors (and you can read all about that here), but some new research suggests that one of these traits in particular might be especially important when it comes to our sex lives: conscientiousness.Read More
A few years ago, I decided to get the HPV vaccine. This vaccine didn’t hit the market until I was well into adulthood, so I didn’t have a chance to be vaccinated in my youth like most kids today (about 6 in 10 US parents are currently choosing to have their kids vaccinated against HPV). Unfortunately, I found that it was a ridiculously difficult and expensive process.
Because the recommended age for the vaccine is only up to 26—and I was older than that—my insurance company wouldn’t cover it and many providers weren’t willing to give it to me, even though I said I would pay out of pocket (long story short: I eventually got it, and you can read all about the experience here). Fortunately, things look like they’re about to get easier (and cheaper) for the over-26 crowd.Read More
I’ve been running the Sex and Psychology blog for nearly 7 (!) years at this point. When I started, I didn’t know a whole lot about blogging. I gradually picked it up over time, but it definitely took a while to find my stride. As you might imagine, I learned a lot about the dos and don’ts of blogging on sex science (and science more broadly) along the way. I’m often asked for writing advice by people who are new to this, so if you’re thinking about becoming a science blogger, here are some of the key things I’ve learned so far:Read More
A few years ago, I came across some research reporting that the way a child is born appears to have consequences for their health. How so? Scientists believe that the bacterial composition of a woman’s vagina changes during pregnancy in order to allow certain bacteria to coat the child as it passes through the birth canal during delivery. These bacteria are thought to promote healthy development and functioning. If a child is delivered via Caesarean section (i.e., C-section), that child does not have the benefit of being exposed to those bacteria and, as a result, could potentially experience worse health outcomes than those born vaginally. However, some doctors believe there may be a way to remedy this and boost the health of C-section babies.Read More
Infidelity has long been a topic of interest to scientists who study sex and relationships. Over the years, they’ve uncovered a number of fascinating things about how common cheating is, who does it, and why. Here’s a look at ten interesting things scientists have discovered about cheating.Read More
How are men’s and women’s sexual fantasies similar? And how are they different? I surveyed 4,175 Americans about their sex fantasies as part of my book Tell Me What You Want and uncovered the answers. Below, I've put together a brief video that highlights some of the important areas of overlap, but also some of the key ways in which men’s and women’s fantasies diverge.Read More
What is it that attracts us to other people? Can you fall in love at first sight? Can computer algorithms successfully predict who will make a good match? Read on for the answers to these and several other fascinating questions about sexual attraction, according to science.Read More
We tend to think of casual sex as, well, a pretty casual affair, meaning it’s just about the sex and nothing else. This view of casual sex is pervasive, even among those who study sex for a living. However, it turns out that casual sex is often about more than just a physical act of sexual gratification. For many people, there’s an important emotional component to it as well, according to a new study published in the Journal of Relationships Research.Read More
Each October, the media runs story after story warning parents about the dangers that sex offenders pose to children on Halloween. All of the panic stoked by these claims has prompted lawmakers across the country to begin passing laws that restrict the activities of convicted sex offenders on Halloween or that require police officers to check up on sex offenders during trick-or-treat hours. For example, in Tennessee, registered sex offenders must comply with a 6pm – 6am curfew each day from October 21 until November 1, during which time they must stay home but act like they aren’t there. Among other things, they must keep their porch lights off, avoid using decorations, and only answer the door for law enforcement. During this time, police go around the state and perform thousands of random checks to ensure compliance. This massive effort is known officially as “Operation Blackout.”
But is it justified? Is there really such a heightened risk of sex crimes on Halloween that we need to go to such great lengths? Let's take a look at the data.Read More
As someone who studies the science of sex for a living, I’m often asked what it is that drew me to this field. How and why did I decide to devote my life to studying, writing, and talking about sex? Here’s what I tell people.Read More
Nationally representative U.S. survey data reveal that approximately 1 in 7 adults today are living in a sexless marriage, meaning they report engaging in little to no sexual activity [1, 2]. Despite how common sexless marriages are, surprisingly little research exists on the topic. So why does sexual activity decline in so many couples in the first place and how does it affect the partners? Also, what are the factors that might lead people to stay in sexless marriages despite the fact that the experience tends to be highly distressing?
The state of sex education is poor for American adolescents—but you probably already knew that. However, what you may not have realized is that the state of sex education for US medical students isn’t all that great, either. This is both surprising and sad, given all of the important implications (good and bad) that sex can have for our health.Read More
When I was a graduate student studying the psychology of romantic relationships, I remember learning about “the cohabitation effect” in a few of my courses. Relationship scientists coined this term to describe the increased risk of divorce that seemed to accompany living together before marriage. At the time, several studies had been published in major journals supporting this idea.
Interestingly, however, recent studies suggest that “the cohabitation effect” is a thing of the past—and may have never even existed at all.Read More
Scientists have found that sex seems to be good for us in many ways. For example, sexual activity has stress-relieving properties: when couples in a good quality relationship have sex on one day, they report feeling less stressed the next day. Moreover, having sex increases people’s sense of meaning in life and leads to a boost in positive mood states. Beyond these psychological effects, some research suggests that having frequent sex might also have benefits for your heart health.Read More
I’m answering more of YOUR questions about sex today. In the video below, I’ll review ten questions submitted by readers of Sex and Psychology and explore what science can tell us about each one. As in previous videos, these questions cover a very diverse range of topics, from how long people tend to spend on sex to the effectiveness of the “pull-out” method to how many people have shaved their pubic hair. The specific questions are listed below. Check out the video for the answers!Read More
I surveyed 4,175 Americans from all 50 states about their sexual fantasies for my book Tell Me What You Want. Participants were asked to describe their favorite sexual fantasy of all time, as well as report on how often they fantasized about hundreds of different people, places, and things. They were also asked extensive questions about their personalities, sexual histories, and demographic backgrounds. The results are a treasure trove of information about what it is that turns us on and why. Here’s a sneak peek at seven of the most fascinating things I found:Read More
Alcohol and marijuana are among the most popular substances people use to enhance their sexual experiences. But when it comes to their effects, how similar or different are these drugs? A study published this year in the Archives of Sexual Behavior offers some insight.
Researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 24 young adults in New York City and asked them to compare their past experiences using alcohol and marijuana during sex. Obviously, this is a very small sample and we must be cautious when it comes to generalizing the findings; however, the results still tell us some important things. Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights:Read More
Most people are cisgender, meaning that their gender identity corresponds with their birth sex; however, some people are transgender, meaning their gender identity and birth sex are different. Increasingly, scientists have been working to help us understand what accounts for this gender variability, and research suggests that the answers may have to do with both genetics and the brain.Read More
Psychologists and psychiatrists use the term paraphilia to refer to unusual sexual interests. In other words, a paraphilia represents a desire for an uncommon sexual object or activity. Hundreds of different paraphilias have been described at one time or another; however, there are only eight specific paraphilias listed in the current DSM: fetishism, transvestism, voyeurism, exhibitionism, frotteurism, pedophilia, masochism, and sadism.
While these interests have long been thought to be rare, little data exists regarding their prevalence in the population at large. In fact, the vast majority of the research conducted on these topics so far has been limited to clinical samples, which don’t really give us much indication as to how many people might have these interests at one time or another. However, recent research suggests that they’re far more common than previously thought.Read More
Parents have the potential to play an important role in their children’s sex education. Indeed, many of you reading this probably received a version of the “birds and bees” talk from them at some point. For some of you, this talk may have been your very first introduction to the topic of sex (even if it was a little awkward).
However, some people are more likely to receive sex education from their parents than others. A new study suggests that your odds of having the “birds and bees” talk depends on your birth order, meaning whether you were a first-born or later-born child.Read More