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Sex and science stuff 16/11/08

November 16th, 2008

Dr Petra

There’s been a lot going on in the world of sex, gender and sexuality over the past week or so. Here’s a summary of some of the stories that have caught my attention.

STIs, Thirty Somethings, and Dating
Research published this week indicates something that practitioners in GU clinics have known for a long time. STIs are not just the problem of the young. Those in their thirties and forties are also a risk group for sexually transmitted infections. However, if you do have an STI a new dating site specifically for people with infections could be helpful to you. Whether this catches on is unclear but it does seem a useful way for those living with STIs to find partners (presuming you don’t mind having a partner who has an STI as well).

Poppy Project Investigation Continues

Feminist Blogger Penny Red had decided to investigate further the Poppy Project after covering their recent research on her blog and following criticisms from the academic community about the research (specifically problems with a lack of ethics approval, methodological approaches, data analysis and conclusions drawn). Penny Red has been to meet with the Poppy Project and describes discussions held with the organisation. This makes for interesting reading although I think the concerns over the robustness of the recent Poppy research still remain. My colleagues and I are happy to discuss why the research is problematic and recommend ways for organisations like Poppy to ensure any future research they conduct is ethical, accurate and balanced – so any conclusions made can be relied upon. I’ll be blogging shortly on some of these issues for those who want to complete accurate research on sex work.

A marriage MOT could improve your relationship
Therapist James Cardova is evaluating a ‘marriage MOT’ where couples can have a regular assessment of their relationship and identify problems and ways to address those. Cardova argues there is help for couples where relationships are in crisis, but little for those who may want to improve their relationship. He plans to randomly assign couples to the marriage checkup or no checkup and monitor differences. This is a positive step as all too often therapies for couples are suggested as ‘working’ simply because they exist. Evaluating whether an existing therapy works will allow other practitioners to decide whether to implement it (if successful) and will also set a higher standard for relationship therapists who need to work from an evidence-based perspective. I’ll keep you posted on this study.

FGM, past abuse and sexual dysfunction

Two pieces of research are linking physical and psychological problems to sexual dysfunction. One recent study (which will be published shortly and I’ll blog about at a later date) has indicated that Female Genital Mutilation has a direct link to psychosexual dysfunction. Saudi doctors are investigating the high prevalence of women with psychosexual problems resulting from FGM and intend to use this as a means for campaigning against FGM.

The second study suggests a link between being physically abused as a child and having a psychosexual problem as an adult. While this may seem obvious, this research is setting out links between past physical abuse and the likelihood of either being abused again in adulthood, or acting in sexually coercive and violent ways when grown up. This evidence may be helpful for those treating child victims or adult survivors. The only problem I have with this study is it also suggests those who’ve been physically abused as children may be drawn to BDSM as adults. Pathologising BDSM is not new, but I don’t think it’s helpful to draw parallels between BDSM and coercive sexual behaviour or being abused as an adult. You may predict this aspect of the study will cause some controversy among the BDSM community, although that doesn’t mean the remainder of the research findings should be overlooked.

Church promotes daily sex message

Over at Cory Silverberg’s place he’s got a story about a US pastor who’s encouraging his flock to have sex every day for a week to improve their relationship. There seems to be something about churches and sex at the moment since another church has also been advocating daily sex for a month to enhance intimacy. In the latter case they have provided a wide(ish) view about relationships and intimacy and encourage reflection on your relationship (albeit with a heavy emphasis on biblical readings). My problem with these approaches (which Cory shares) is they are highly prescriptive. They focus on sex rather than communication, sharing, intimacy or exploration. They are only aimed at married heterosexuals. The promise of daily sex still seems to be presented in a keeping-hubby-happy format.

If you decide to have daily sex for a week or month that’s your decision. However within these schemes there’s little suggestion that the daily activity could be varied in terms of kinky, spiritual, quick or slow sexual activity. There’s little advice on what to do if you get bored, tired, sore or end up with cystitis from all your shagging. Unfortunately a lot of journalists have already picked up on this idea (I’ve heard from three TV companies trying to build programmes around the sex-every-day-for-a-month angle). All it does is make sex very competitive, samey, and reinforces the unhelpful idea that ‘good sex’ equals lots of sex.

Trans Issues Roundup

It’s been a very emotional week for the Trans community, their friends and supporters. After the recent successful demonstration outside Stonewall, journalist Julie Bindel replied with a piece in last weekend’s Guardian that distressed many Trans folk. Sadly this was followed by the sad news that Trans campaigner Duanna Johnson had been murdered. Next Manchester Metropolitan University’s School of Law in conjunction with Press for Change announced it would be hosting a debate on The Feminist Perspective on the Transsexual Debate (details at end of this blog). Speakers include Julie Bindel and Dr Susan Stryker. Some have welcomed this as a chance to learn more about this complex and currently politically sensitive area. Others have seen it as a carefully thought out academic approach to a recent schism within the Trans community. Still more have felt insulted by the pairing of Ms Bindel and Dr Stryker and feel it is a provocative action taken by established Trans organisations who may be feeling threatened by grass roots groups. I gather from the event organisers that transcripts of the debate won’t be made public but there is the possibility of a podcast – let’s hope so for those of us want to see the discussion and learn more about this issue but can’t make the event.

“The Manchester Metropolitan University School of law
The Manchester Institute for Social and Spatial Transformations

A Feminist Perspective on the Transsexual Debate

Friday 5th December 2pm-5pm, The School of Law, Manchester Metropolitan University, M16 6HB – just off Oxford Rd.

Julie Bindel, Guardian Journalist, nominee for the Stonewall Journalist of the Year 2008, author of “Women Overcoming Violence and Abuse”, and “The Map of My Life: The Story of Emma Humphreys”

Dr. Susan Stryker, Women’s Studies, the University of Illinois, Visiting Professor, Harvard University, Author of “The Trans Studies Reader”, and “Transgender History”

Chair: Prof. Stephen Whittle, MMU School of Law, author of “Respect and Equality: Transsexual and Transgender Rights” and “The Trans Studies Reader”.

Public Attendance Cost: £12 or £5 on benefits (evidence of benefits must be produce at door).

Free for MMU Staff and Students, ticketless entrance: your staff or student card must be shown at the door.

People who are not MMU staff or students must apply for tickets. Without a ticket you will be refused entrance to this event.

To apply for tickets:

Email: send Full details , indicating the number of tickets, to David Hulme, Please send a separate cheque for the correct amount by postal mail to Dave at the address below. Admittance will not be allowed without payment.

Postal Mail: send Full details , indicating the number & type of tickets, with a cheque for payment to: David Hulme, The School of Law Office, Sandra Burslem Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, Lower Ormond St, Manchester M15 6HB.

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