I've been reading and hearing a lot about spotted hyenas in the media lately. They caught my attention because, well, hyenas don't usually show up in my newsfeed very often (or at all). However, in the process, I learned a lot about hyenas--and hyena sex. And it's pretty fascinating stuff.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
Dozens of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein have surfaced in the last two weeks (see here for a complete list). These allegations have prompted several celebrities to speak out about the issue. However, many have noticed that the celebrities who have spoken out so far are disproportionately female, which has led many—including writer and director Lena Dunham in a NYT op-ed—to ask why the men of Hollywood have largely been silent.
Many different explanations have been offered. For example, Dunham suggests (among other things) that perhaps men don’t see it as being their problem. Others have argued that it reflects a broader culture of misogyny in Hollywood. While these factors might very well be playing a role, my training as a social psychologist points to a few other possibilities.Read More
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
We’ve all seen headlines before that say things like “More Sex Means More Money.” These headlines try to present the results of scientific studies in very simple and straightforward terms: if you do this, that will happen. However, what you’ll almost invariably find if you look past these claims is that they’re based on correlational data. This is a type of research in which scientists look to see how strongly two variables are statistically associated with one another. While correlational studies have the potential to be very informative and useful, the unfortunate reality is that they can’t tell us anything about whether one variable (like sex) truly causes another (like making more money).Read More
Most popular media reports touting the results of the latest sex study suffer from one of the following problems: they're either inaccurate, biased, or highly sensationalized. Unfortunately, too few readers recognize this, which means that too many end up taking what they read at face value. That's a serious problem, especially given the fact that there's already so much misinformation out there about sex as it is. Sex research literacy is therefore vital for helping readers to separate good from bad media reports--and never has this been more important than in this current era of "fake news." To that end, here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you read a popular media article about sex research.Read More
A lot of people claim to be “experts” on sex and relationships. However, as you probably know, being an “expert” isn’t an official title—anyone can claim expertise if they want to. So how can you tell whether someone who touts themselves as an expert on sex or love is likely to be legitimate and knows what they’re talking about?Read More
When it comes to teaching American adolescents about sexuality, “we are completely silent around girls' sexual entitlement and girls' pleasure,” says Peggy Orenstein, author of the new book Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape. But it’s not just that—American culture is sending a message to young women today that “they're supposed to be sexy, that they're supposed to perform sexuality for boys, but that their sexual pleasure is unspoken.”Read More
When science is reported in the media, it is often horribly distorted. One of the biggest reasons for this stems from the fact that many of the journalists and bloggers reporting on science simply don’t have a very good understanding of how science in general works. But it's not just that--many of them don't even make an attempt to understand the specific studies they're writing about, with some publishing articles based upon nothing more than a quick review of an abstract or press release.
The end result is that far too many media reports about science contain nothing but bogus information. Unfortunately, this is something I see all the time when research on sex and relationships is covered.Read More
When it comes to sex, a lot of what we think of as being "normal" today was illegal and carried serious punishments in the not-too-distant past. For instance, federal law in the United States (specifically, the Comstock Law) used to prohibit the distribution of pornography, contraceptive devices (including pamphlets and information about birth control), and sex toys through the mail. This law was in effect for decades, and it had enormous implications for people's sex lives, not to mention their health. However, this is just one of many examples of how sex laws have been out of synch with people's sexual needs and desires.Read More
This week, I participated in a segment on the WHYY and NPR program Radio Times in order to discuss the fallout of the Ashley Madison hacking scandal. Joined by Philadelphia therapist Edward Monte, we discussed not only how common infidelity is, but also the motivations behind cheating, what happens to marriages when affairs are discovered, and what you can do to reduce the likelihood of cheating occurring in your own relationship. You can listen to the full show below, but our segment begins at 13:28.Read More
Flibanserin, a drug some of you probably know more commonly as "female Viagra" or "pink Viagra," has been in the news a lot lately. This is a drug that is widely misunderstood and very controversial, so let's take a moment to set the record straight on it. In the video below, Indiana University physician and health researcher Dr. Aaron Carroll explains what we do and do not know about Flibanserin. He starts by describing the differences between how Flibanserin and Viagra actually work, and explains why the media's common usage of the term "female/pink Viagra" is inaccurate and misleading. He then breaks down the data on the effectiveness of Flibanserin, it's side-effect profile, and what the FDA's recent vote on drug really means. Overall, this video offers an excellent look at what the science actually says about Flibanserin, without all of the media spin.Read More
Although sex is a topic about which many of us are inherently curious, there are surprisingly few reliable sources out there for learning about it, especially sources that are grounded in scientific research instead of arbitrary notions of sexual morality. That is precisely the reason I started this blog in the first place. However, in order to get the most out of the sex research I share on this site (not to mention the research you might come across elsewhere in the media), it is vital that you first become literate in the science of sex. That is, it is important to understand and appreciate what sex research can and cannot tell us. To that end, below are six things you should keep in mind any time you sit down to read the latest write-up of sex research.Read More
This Valentine’s Day weekend, a lot of couples will be heading out for dinner and a movie—and for many of them, their film of choice is likely to be the big-screen adaptation of the popular book Fifty Shades of Grey. Fifty Shades tells the tale of Christian Grey, a successful and sexy businessman who introduces a young female college student, Anastasia Steele, to the world of bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism (BDSM). For some viewers of this film, it may very well be their first exposure to the topic of BDSM—and that’s rather unfortunate. Not only does Fifty Shades perpetuate false stereotypes about the people who are into BDSM, but it also presents an inaccurate portrayal of how BDSM plays out in the real world.Read More
Katie Couric recently ran a segment on her show entitled “How To Prevent Your Kids From Watching Porn.” The title of the segment makes the agenda clear: all pornography is damaging to kids and parents need to protect them from it. Couric brought in two experts to discuss this issue, but when one of them (Dr. David Ley, author of The Myth of Sex Addiction) dared to mention that the research examining the effects of porn on kids isn’t so black and white, Couric wasn’t having any of it. For instance, according to Ley:
“There are good research studies that show that adolescents’ use of pornography explains only 2% of the variance in their behavior in relationships, drug use, or behavior problems later on. That’s important. We are over-focusing on pornography because sex, masturbation, and pornography are ‘scary.’”Read More
Compared to the United States, European nations tend to have more relaxed attitudes toward public nudity. Certainly, there’s a lot of variability across individual countries in terms of the type and amount of nudity that is acceptable, but it is pretty clear that Europeans generally don’t have as many hangups about seeing the human body a naturel. For example, just consider that sunbathing in the nude is permitted in many public parks and beaches across Europe (something that is very rare to find in the U.S.). I don't think anyone is particularly surprised to hear this; however, if you're anything like me, you were probably shocked to see all of the recent news reports claiming that Sweden has taken things to a whole other level by declaring that public masturbation is also acceptable. But is this really true?Read More
A new study looking at the link between men’s testicular size and their parenting qualities has been making the rounds in the media lately, with provocative headlines ranging from “Choose Dads with Smaller ‘Nads” to “Dudes with Smaller Balls are Better Parents” to “Big Testicles Indicate Rubbish Dads.” The message is pretty clear: if you’re looking for a baby daddy who’s going to stick around and take care of your kids, look for the guy with the smallest testicles you can find. However, before you go and dig out the measuring tape, it's worth taking a closer look at the details of this study.
Sixty years ago today (August 20, 1953), the media first reported on the findings of Alfred Kinsey's classic book Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. It was the first book of its kind to explore women's sexual attitudes and behaviors from a scientific perspective. Although this book shocked the world at the time and many people considered it to be obscene, we look back on it now as one of the most important publications ever on human sexuality because it debunked numerous myths and revealed that women are much more sexual than previously assumed. For example, Kinsey found that women were masturbating, having sex before marriage, and engaging in same-sex behavior, among other things. Men aren't the only ones with sexual needs and desires? Who knew?Read More
In a recent New York Times
editorial, author Susan Jacoby laments the increasingly popularity of
cybersex, and other such virtual connections. Jacoby argues that virtual
the sensuality inherent in an in-person sexual encounter and that people
who have sex online are settling for a much lesser experience. She also
implies that the people who are drawn to such behavior suffer from low
self-esteem. Indeed, she (judgmentally) ponders “what does a man really
think of himself when he must feed his ego with phony gasps of erotic
from strangers in a digital vastness? What does a woman think of herself
same arid zone of sex without sensuality?” However, she goes further and
that virtual sex represents an even more problematic behavior for women
for men. Indeed, she claims that “women who settle for digital
lowering their expectations and hopes even more drastically than their
collaborators are.” So are sexting and cybersex really so terrible and
people who engage in these behaviors as pathetic as Jacoby suggests?