Where Do Our Sex Fantasies Come From?

Where Do Our Sex Fantasies Come From?

What’s the source of your favorite sex fantasy? Did it emerge from a previous sexual experience? Is it from something you saw in porn or in the popular media? Or did it come from somewhere else? It turns out that our fantasies can spring from several different sources. In this post, we’ll consider what 4,175 Americans said when asked where their biggest sexual fantasy of all time came from (note that this survey formed the basis for my latest book, Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life).

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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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Sex Research Literacy in an Era of Fake, Biased, and Sensationalized News

Sex Research Literacy in an Era of Fake, Biased, and Sensationalized News

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.

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10 Things You Should Know About the Sex Lives of American Teenagers

10 Things You Should Know About the Sex Lives of American Teenagers

Popular media articles on adolescent sexuality usually paint a portrait of the modern American teenager as hypersexual. Among other things, these articles give the impression that teens are having sex at younger and younger ages, they’re constantly hooking up and sexting, and they’re engaging in a lot of risky sexual behavior, thanks to a diet of highly sexual movies and TV shows. By contrast, scientific research on the sex lives of adolescents suggests a very different set of conclusions. Here are 10 things you should know about the sex lives of American teenagers, according to science.

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Why We Need Better Media Reporting On the Science of Sex

Why We Need Better Media Reporting On the Science of Sex

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.

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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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Why You Shouldn’t Get Your Sex News From Katie Couric

Why You Shouldn’t Get Your Sex News From Katie Couric

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.’”
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Are College Students Today Hooking Up More Than Ever?

Are College Students Today Hooking Up More Than Ever?

For the last several years, the popular media has been running story after story about college “hookup culture.” These articles argue that today’s youth are more sex-crazed than previous generations and that casual sex is largely replacing traditional dating and relationships. But is there any truth to these frequent claims?  A closer look at trends in sexual behavior reveals that college students today are no more sexually active than students were a couple of decades ago.


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How Many Kids Today Are Sexting?

How Many Kids Today Are Sexting?

Numerous media reports have appeared recently suggesting that there has been an “explosion” of sexting behavior among adolescents, which is just the latest in a string of claims about the hypersexual nature of today’s youth. These reports claim that kids are increasingly taking and sharing nude photos of themselves with their smartphones, webcams, and applications like Snapchat, which allows users to upload photos that are only visible to other users for 10 seconds (unless, of course, another user takes a screenshot on their end). But just how common is this behavior? Is it actually becoming normative for kids to share naked photos online? A new study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that while adolescent sexting is indeed a problematic behavior on multiple levels, it isn’t nearly as common as we’ve been led to believe.

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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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The Media’s Tales Of A Deadly New “Sex Superbug” Are Greatly Exaggerated

The Internet exploded today with stories about an incredibly dangerous “sex superbug” at our doorstep. Some of the more provocative headlines included “Sex superbug could be ‘worse than AIDS’” (CNBC) and “New sex superbug could be global killer, doctors warn” (The Sun). All of these stories went on to talk about a very aggressive strain of gonorrhea known as HO41 that is resistant to all known antibiotics (and, no, I don’t know whether scientists were trying to be funny when they named this STI “ho-41”). Moreover, the stories talked about how the infection is spread quickly and easily and can lead to death “in a matter of days.” Time for a global panic, right? Hold your horses, because in the rush to report this news quickly, a number of journalists failed to check their facts.
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Is Sexual Content In Movies Related To Sexual Risk Taking?

Over the past two decades, sexual content in the movies and on television has become more explicit than ever before. These graphic depictions of sex have become a source of social concern for many parents, who worry that the increased visibility of sex in the media may lead adolescent viewers to imitate the behaviors they see on screen. This concern is compounded by the fact that most media depictions of sex portray it in risky and unrealistic terms. For example, an analysis of sexual content from the most popular movies released between 1983 and 2003 revealed that the vast majority of sex acts depicted (70%) occurred among people who had just met, and almost every scene (98%) failed to address the topic of contraception in any way.1 Not only that, but virtually none of these sexual acts resulted in negative consequences (e.g., unintended pregnancies, STIs, etc.). So is parents' concern warranted? Do such media depictions of sex have the potential to generate risky sexual behaviors among adolescents? A recent study published in Psychological Science suggests that they might.
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Does Internet Porn Really “Cause Memory Loss?”

A new study published in The Journal of Sex Research about the psychological effects of exposure to online pornography has been making the rounds in the media recently. A number of provocative headlines have popped up stating things such as “Viewing Online Pornography Can Make You Lose Your Memory” and “Your Porn Addiction May Lead To Memory Loss.” So, basically, porn causes amnesia. Sounds pretty serious, right? Not so fast. A closer look at the research reveals that these claims are overblown.
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Adopted Children Do Just As Well Regardless Of Their Parents’ Sexual Orientation

Earlier this year, a study was released suggesting that children are better off when raised by heterosexual couples than by same-sex couples [1]. That study received widespread media attention, despite the fact that it was fundamentally flawed and really said next to nothing about the parenting skills of gay and lesbian parents (you can read more about my take on that study here). In contrast, a new study about adopted children just came out concluding that such kids do equally well irrespective of the sexual orientation of their parents. Although the newer study was far more academically rigorous, it was largely ignored by the mainstream media. In this post, I will review the findings of this study and discuss why the media just doesn’t seem to care about it.
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Why The Harvard “Munch” Club Is Not Actual News

Last week, the Harvard College Munch became an official student organization on campus. The goal of this group is to provide a forum for students who are interested in “kinky” sex to discuss their interests and to build a community. As soon as word of the club’s approval hit the street, the national and international news media picked it up and ran story after story about the new “sex club” at Harvard. This became such a huge media frenzy that the Munch was a top story on CNN.com all weekend, snatched headlines around the globe, and prompted heated debates on some of the biggest political talk shows. But is it really a more important point of discussion than the “fiscal cliff” or any of the actual newsworthy events going on in the world right now? No. And here’s why…
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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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Fact Check: Do Stressed-Out Men Really Prefer Curvier Women?

Fact Check: Do Stressed-Out Men Really Prefer Curvier Women?
A recent study looking at the types of women that men are attracted to during times of stress made huge international news this month. Among the many headlines I came across reporting on this study were “Stressed-Out Guys Prefer Chubbier Women,” “Stressed Men Prefer Big Ladies,” and “Men Prefer Fat Women When Under Stress.” To the casual observer glancing at these headlines, the logical conclusion would appear to be that when men get stressed, their ideal partner’s body type becomes much larger. But is this really the case? Not exactly. As you’ll see below, it’s pretty clear that most of the reporters covering this story didn’t even bother to consult the original source.
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Have Scientists Really Found The Next Viagra?

There was a recent media frenzy about a new study suggesting that the hormone oxytocin may improve male sexual desire and functioning. Among some of the more provocative headlines I came across were “Oxytocin could be new Viagra” and “Forget Viagra, the 'Cuddle drug' could be the new way to boost performance in the bedroom.” These and numerous other headlines around the world made very bold claims about oxytocin’s ability to enhance men’s sexual abilities. But were they justified? A closer look at the research reveals yet another case of the media jumping the gun and making sensationalized claims that go far beyond the available science.
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Do Straight Couples Really Make Better Parents Than Gay Couples?

Do Straight Couples Really Make Better Parents Than Gay Couples?
Every time a new study comes out comparing the outcomes of children raised by same-sex and heterosexual couples, it garners a huge amount of media attention. It doesn’t matter what the actual findings are or whether the study is even of good quality—reporters, politicians, and activists take it as an opportunity to reignite the debate over whether a couple’s sexuality affects their parenting skills. In my view, such media reports are not only inconsequential, but they are also offensive and counterproductive. Let me explain.
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Study Provides Scientific Evidence That Sexy Women Are Perceived As Objects Instead Of Persons

Study Provides Scientific Evidence That Sexy Women Are Perceived As Objects Instead Of Persons
The use of scantily clad women to sell products is a popular strategy among advertisers hocking everything from beer to floral arrangements to spicy BBQ burgers (click here for just a few examples of such ads). This persistent sexualization of women in the media has led many scientists to wonder what effects this might have on our psychological perception of women in general. A new study suggests that such media portrayals may be quite dangerous and could potentially be contributing to a major difference in how people view and treat women compared to men.
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