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.

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More Sex Means More Money? Maybe Not

More Sex Means More Money? Maybe Not

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).

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A Guide To Becoming Literate In The Science Of Sex

A Guide To Becoming Literate In The Science Of Sex

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.

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Are Women Really More Likely To Cheat On Men With Big Penises?

Are Women Really More Likely To Cheat On Men With Big Penises?

A new study that sought to uncover what factors predict women’s likelihood of committing infidelity has been making a lot of headlines [1]. Although this study identified several variables linked to women’s cheating behaviors, most media reports have focused exclusively on one: women were statistically more likely to cheat on men with longer penises. Most of the headlines said something along the lines of “The Larger Your Penis, The More Likely Your Wife Will Cheat.” Others went as far as claiming that penis size is “a leading cause of marital infidelity.” The message is clear: large penises are destroying the institution of marriage! But why? According to media reports, it’s because bigger penises cause painful and uncomfortable sex, which leads women to look for partners who are packing less heat. So are these claims warranted by the data? A closer look at the research suggests that the headlines have been wildly exaggerated.

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Are Sex Dreams Related To Your Sleep Position?

Are Sex Dreams Related To Your Sleep Position?

Erotic dreams are common. In fact, research has found that as many as 93% of men and 86% of women report having had them before [1]. Some people dream about sex a lot more than others, though. Indeed, for some folks, such dreams are a pretty regular occurrence, whereas for others, they are pretty rare. Why is that? A new study suggests that one’s likelihood of having sex dreams may be a function of the position in which that person usually sleeps [2].

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Will Having A Lot Of Sexual Partners Wreck Your Love Life?

Will Having A Lot Of Sexual Partners Wreck Your Love Life?

The title of a forthcoming article in the journal Personal Relationships recently caught my eye: “Sowing Wild Oats: Valuable Experience, or a Field Full of Weeds?” As a sex researcher, I was naturally intrigued, but a little irritated. I despise article titles that give the impression that certain sexual behaviors are universally good or bad for everyone--in reality, nothing is ever that simple. My disappointment didn't stop with the title, though. In fact, after reading the entire article, I was left wondering how it ever got published in the first place because it feels more like an exercise in moralizing about the dangers of premarital sex than a piece of scientific writing.

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Does The Size Of A Man’s Testicles Say Anything About His Parenting?

Does The Size Of A Man’s Testicles Say Anything About His Parenting?

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.

 
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Why The Daily Mail Is A Terrible Source For Sex News

One of the reasons I started this blog is because I saw too many media reports about sex research that were sensationalized, misleading, and (in some cases) just plain wrong. In response, I have sought to create a resource for the public that provides an accurate and unbiased look at the science of sex. If there’s one media outlet that I wish would take a page from my book, it has to be The Daily Mail. I frequently come across sex headlines from them that make me cringe. Below, I take a look at five of their worst headlines of all time and clarify what the research actually says.
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Is Your First Sexual Experience The Most Important?

According to almost every teen-centered film or television show ever produced, losing your virginity is a big deal. A really big deal. But just how important is that one sexual event when the reality is that sexually active people may have sex hundreds if not thousands of times during their entire lives? A new study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy suggests that your first sexual experience can potentially set the tone of your sex life for years to come.

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Men Who Earn Less Money Than Their Wives Are More Likely To Use Viagra

Traditional gender roles dictate that men should be the primary breadwinners in heterosexual marriages. Throughout most of modern history, men have almost invariably brought home bigger paychecks than their wives; however, this has changed in recent years. In fact, more than one in five heterosexual married couples in the United States today features a wife who earns more than her husband.1 As a result, scientists have been wondering what, if any, psychological implications there might be for men who suddenly find themselves out-earned by their wives. A new study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin argues that there may be sexual costs for such men.2 However, before you go making too much of the findings, you’ll want to take a closer look at the data.
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Do Men Who Avoid Household Chores Really Have More Sex?

A new study published in the American Sociological Review reports that when married couples divide household chores along gendered lines (i.e., with women doing more work inside the home, such as cleaning and ironing, and men doing more work outside of the home, such as mowing the lawn and fixing the car), they tend to have more sex [1]. In response, several headlines have popped up saying things like “Men who don’t do chores have a lot of sex” and “What to have more sex? Men, stop helping with the chores.” So it’s settled, then. Put down those vacuum cleaners and dirty dishes, guys, and prepare to get laid like you’ve never been laid before. On second thought, scratch that. A closer look at the research suggests that maybe we shouldn’t take these headlines or the results of this research too seriously.
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Will Having Sex On The First Date Kill Your Relationship?

A new study published in The Journal of Sex Research has concluded that the sooner a couple starts having sex, the lower the quality of their relationship. Perhaps not surprisingly, several media outlets have picked up on this and are publishing headlines along the lines of “First-Date Sex May Harm Couples.” However, a closer look at the research reveals that both this study and another one that came out earlier this year suffer from the same set of limitations and, in actuality, they really tell us nothing about the effects of early sex on relationships.
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Does Penis Size Actually Affect Female Sexual Pleasure?

Do heterosexual women have an easier time reaching orgasm if their partner has a larger than average penis? For several decades, the answer reported in most sexuality textbooks has been an emphatic no. However, this answer is based largely on speculation by Masters and Johnson in their classic 1966 book Human Sexual Response [1], in which they argued that the vagina is highly elastic (and therefore capable of accommodating a range of sizes) and contains relatively few nerve endings. But what do women actually think? Is there a relationship between penis size and personal pleasure? A new study suggests that there is for some, but not most women [2].
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Is Jumping Into Bed Quickly Harmful To Relationships?

Are couples who start having sex right away not as happy in the long run? A new study has found that heterosexual romantic partners who had sex within the first month of seeing each other reported lower levels of relationship satisfaction, communication, and commitment compared to partners who waited six months or longer to begin having sex [1]. However, these effects held only for women, not men, meaning that timing of sexual activity was not related to how men felt about their relationships. The popular media has jumped on this study running headlines such as “How Leaping Into Bed Harms Relationships” and “Sex Before Marriage Adversely Impacts Relationships.” These media reports go on to claim that early sex “stunts” relationship development and causes “unhappy” marriages. However, if you look at the actual data, it will become apparent that these reports are sensationalized and that it is far from clear whether early sex is truly “harmful” to our romantic lives.
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Sex Question Friday: Can Intercourse Position And Timing Affect The Sex Of Your Child?

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week, we’re talking about whether you can pick the sex of your baby by having sex in certain positions or by timing how closely you have sex to when a woman ovulates. It appears that a lot of people are interested in learning about this topic because questions of this nature have come up with surprising frequency among students in my classes!

Can different sexual positions determine the sex of a child?

Can timing intercourse in relation to ovulation affect whether you have a boy or girl?

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Fact Check: Is Online Porn Causing Men to Masturbate More Often?

Fact Check: Is Online Porn Causing Men to Masturbate More Often?

Men are masturbating 50 to 500% more than they would normally without Internet porn. So if a guy normally masturbated once a day, he might now be doing it two or three times a day. If he masturbated three times a week, he might now be getting graphic with his graphics 15 times a week. – Ian Kerner

I recently read an article claiming that men are masturbating up to 500% more often now that porn has become so widely available on the Internet. Most people (including myself) would agree that men are probably masturbating more in the digital era because it seems intuitive that greater access to porn would “stimulate” more self-pleasure, right? However, is this actually the case, and are we really talking about a potential 500% increase? 

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Featured Book Series: Sex at Dawn

A brand new addition to the blog is the Featured Book Series, in which I will review and analyze books relevant to human sexuality that I hope will be of interest to readers. Think of this as an opportunity to get some ideas for summer reading material, as well as an opportunity to participate in a virtual book club (discussion is encouraged!). I’m kicking things off with Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships (2010; Harper Collins). I realize this isn’t a new book and some of you may already be familiar with it, but I’m starting here because it is fresh in my mind from having assigned it in my Human Sexuality course this past semester. This is actually the very first time I have assigned a mass-market paperback as reading material in a college course, which should tell you that this is a book I think is definitely worth checking out.
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Do Sexy Students Make Teachers More Likely To Divorce?

A few years back, a journal article entitled Teaching May Be Hazardous to Your Marriage was published.1 This article reported a study showing that men who teach at the high school and college levels have a significantly increased likelihood of being divorced or separated compared to guys in other occupations (the same finding did not hold true for women). The researchers interpreted this finding as evidence that being exposed to teenage women on a regular basis is harmful to men’s marriages by creating a contrast effect. That is, male professors are thought to be more inclined to divorce because their wives don’t look as good in comparison to the teenage beauties who populate their classrooms on a daily basis. The title of this paper and the language used by the authors (who repeatedly mention the “real consequences” of working in higher education) imply that people who are married to male teachers might want to start sending their husbands to work with blindfolds on. But is there really any cause for alarm?
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Ten of the Most Sensationalized Sex Headlines From the Past Few Years

Ten of the Most Sensationalized Sex Headlines From the Past Few Years
I make it a point to keep up with the latest sex and relationships news but, unfortunately, I find that a lot of the media reports on these topics are not very well written and tend to be overly sensationalized. Part of the problem is that many of the people we trust to report on science don’t have a solid understanding of statistics and the scientific method. As a result, I constantly come across articles that are misleading or, in some cases, completely false. What I’d like to do in this article is share some of most sensationalized articles I’ve come across in recent years and explain where the reporting went wrong.
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Is Pornography Harmful to Our Brains and to Our Love Lives?

Is Pornography Harmful to Our Brains and to Our Love Lives?

"America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography.  A wealth of research is now available demonstrating that pornography causes profound brain changes in both children and adults, resulting in widespread negative consequences…Pornography is toxic to marriages and relationships. It contributes to misogyny and violence against women."

The above quote comes from 2012 Presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s Campaign Website. He and a number of other prominent politicians have recently waged a war on porn, claiming that it is damaging to society on a number of levels. In fact, Cogresswoman Michele Bachmann has gone as far as to pledge her support for a constitutional ban on all forms of pornography in order to combat these supposed negative effects. But is there anything to all of these claims that exposure to porn is harmful? Is there really a “wealth of research” indicating that pornography causes a host of “widespread negative consequences?”

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