Eight Things Science Taught Us About Sex In 2018

Eight Things Science Taught Us About Sex In 2018

2018 has been memorable for a lot of reasons—including what science taught us about sex. Here’s a quick recap of some of the most interesting things we learned about sex this year. 

1. The G-Spot probably isn’t what you think it is. 

Scientists recently published one of the largest and most thorough anatomic explorations ever of the area commonly referred to as the G-Spot.

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Forbidden Fruit: How Many of Us Have Fantasized About Our Partner’s Best Friend? Or Their Sibling?

Forbidden Fruit: How Many of Us Have Fantasized About Our Partner’s Best Friend? Or Their Sibling?

In studying the sex fantasies of more than 4,000 Americans for my book Tell Me What You Want, I discovered that there’s one person who’s more likely to appear in our sexual fantasies than anyone else: a current romantic partner (or, if you’re single, an ex-partner). However, our fantasies aren’t only about our partners. For example, sometimes we fantasize about “forbidden fruit”—you know, people our partners might disapprove of, like their best friend or a sibling. Or perhaps we might fantasize about people that our culture or society would consider off-limits, such as someone else who’s married. 

So just how common are these “forbidden fruit” fantasies ? And do they differ based on gender and/or sexual orientation? Here’s a look at what I found when I dug into the data: 

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Believe It or Not, Nude Psychotherapy Used To Be A Thing—And Even The APA President Supported It

Believe It or Not, Nude Psychotherapy Used To Be A Thing—And Even The APA President Supported It

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine shared an article with me that offered a historical review of the “nude psychotherapy” movement in psychology. Wait—what? As I began to read it, I learned that in the 1960s and 70s, some psychologists were getting naked with their patients with the hope of getting them more in touch with their “true” or “authentic” selves.

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Romantic Red: Does Dressing In Red Really Make You More Sexually Attractive?

Romantic Red: Does Dressing In Red Really Make You More Sexually Attractive?

Over the last decade, scientists have published a series of studies claiming that the color red is a sexual signal and that wearing it makes you more attractive to the other sex. However, a new meta-analysis of the research in this area suggests that this claim may be overblown.

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People Think Sex Is Riskier Than It Really Is

People Think Sex Is Riskier Than It Really Is

There's a scene in the movie Mean Girls in which high school health teacher Coach Carr gives his students a lesson in sex education. It pretty much consists of him saying: "Don't have sex, because you will get pregnant...and die!"

As much as I wish I could say Coach Carr's class bears no resemblance to how we teach kids about sex in the real world, the sad fact of the matter is that the primary message many U.S. educators are sending out about sex is to be afraid. Be very afraid. Unfortunately, it turns out that this approach to sex education is problematic on multiple levels.

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The Most Common Reasons For Becoming a Sex Worker in a Country Where Sex Work is Legal

The Most Common Reasons For Becoming a Sex Worker in a Country Where Sex Work is Legal

There are a lot of stereotypes about female sex workers, and one is that no woman would ever choose this profession voluntarily. Some people see sex work as inherently victimizing, which means that—in their view—no women could truly ever enjoy this job. But is it true? According to research on female sex workers in cultures where sex work is legal, it turns out that many women decide to become sex workers precisely because they enjoy the work.

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How Many People Want To Have Sex With A Robot?

How Many People Want To Have Sex With A Robot?

I’ve seen a lot of articles lately about sex robots and how they’re supposedly going to revolutionize our sex lives. A lot of these articles make the assumption that there’s a lot of demand and desire for sex robots, but is that really the case? How many people are into the idea of getting it on with a bot anyway? And are robots likely to replace a lot of human-on-human sex?

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People’s Orgasm Faces Look Surprisingly Different Across Cultures

People’s Orgasm Faces Look Surprisingly Different Across Cultures

When I was training to become a social psychologist, I learned that many emotions and facial expressions seem to be universal across cultures. Recently, however, researchers have begun to debate this idea, suggesting that facial expressions of emotion are not necessarily the same from one culture to the next. A new study adds an interesting development to this debate by showing cross-cultural variation in the facial expressions people associate with having an orgasm. Yep, you read that right.

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Sharing and Acting on Group Sex Fantasies: Gender and Sexual Orientation Differences

Sharing and Acting on Group Sex Fantasies: Gender and Sexual Orientation Differences

I surveyed more than 4,000 Americans about their sexual fantasies for my book Tell Me What You Want and I found that group sex was one of the most common things that turned people on, regardless of their gender and sexual orientation. While threesomes were the most popular form of group sex, they were just one of many kinds of group activities that people fantasized about.

In the book, I talk at length about why group sex is such a popular fantasy and what people’s general experiences are like sharing and acting on it. However, when you dig a little deeper into the data, it turns out that the way things go when people share and act on group sex fantasies differs depending upon their gender and sexual orientation. So let’s take a closer look at those results.

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Why Being a “Details Person” Just Might Make You a Better in Bed

Why Being a “Details Person” Just Might Make You a Better in Bed

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. 

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Some Doctors Are Smearing C-Section Babies With Bacteria To Boost Their Health

Some Doctors Are Smearing C-Section Babies With Bacteria To Boost Their Health

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.

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“Casual Sex” Isn’t All That Casual

“Casual Sex” Isn’t All That Casual

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.

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Halloween Sex Offender Panic Is Here Again—But It’s Still Not Making Us Safer

Halloween Sex Offender Panic Is Here Again—But It’s Still Not Making Us Safer

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.

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Future Doctors Score a “D” in Sexual Health Knowledge Because Sex Ed Barely Exists in Medical School

Future Doctors Score a “D” in Sexual Health Knowledge Because Sex Ed Barely Exists in Medical School

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. 

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Men Who Have More Sex Have a Lower Risk of Heart Attacks

Men Who Have More Sex Have a Lower Risk of Heart Attacks

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.  

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Seven Fascinating Facts About Sexual Fantasies

Seven Fascinating Facts About Sexual Fantasies

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:

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How Booze and Weed Affect Us During Sex

How Booze and Weed Affect Us During Sex

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:

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First-Born Kids are Most Likely To Get a “Birds and Bees” Talk From Their Parents

First-Born Kids are Most Likely To Get a “Birds and Bees” Talk From Their Parents

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. 

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How Does Consent Work In An Orgy?

How Does Consent Work In An Orgy?

There’s a big assumption built into the way most people talk about sexual consent, which is that sex is exclusively a two-person activity. While it’s true that sex most often occurs in pairs, it’s definitely not the case that sex only ever involves two people. Sometimes people have threesomes or participate in orgies or other group encounters. So how does consent work when you have more than two people involved?

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Orgasms Trigger Migraine Headaches in Some, But Cure Them in Others

Orgasms Trigger Migraine Headaches in Some, But Cure Them in Others

We’ve long known that there’s a link between sex and headaches. In fact, we can trace this all the way back to Hippocrates, who is thought to be the first to point out a connection between “immoderate venery” and headaches (if, like me, you aren’t familiar with the term “venery,” I’ll save you the trouble of Googling it—it refers to “the practice or pursuit of sexual pleasure”) [1]. However, it wasn’t until the late 1960s and early 1970s that physicians really began formally documenting this in medical case reports [2].

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