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Sex and science stuff 08/09/2008

September 8th, 2008

Dr Petra

There’s been a great bunch of sex and science stories in the papers today.

Apparently if you want someone to fancy you, you should tell them. That’s according to a study being presented at the BA Festival of Science where researchers found people responded best to faces that held eye contact and looked happy. In a fairly massive leap beyond this data, coverage suggested talking to someone would increase your chances of pulling, although I don’t think anyone would disagree that might work if you had your eye on someone. This study follows in a fairly long line of experiments suggesting people respond more positively to those who look interested, smiley and approachable, or will overlook physical flaws if someone seems confident or happy. I don’t know whether we need a lab based study to tell us if we like someone to give them a smile and say hello, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of this now and again.

In a first person interview The Guardian talks to a couple who are married but don’t have sex. This is an interesting story about an asexual couple who speak frankly about their lives. Asexuality has long been documented within sex research but has only become a public issue recently with the rise in our sexualised culture (so people are shocked that some of the population don’t have or want sex) and the increase in asexual awareness groups. We’re seeing a treatment of asexuals within the popular press that echoes the way the media has previously dealt with gays and bisexuals. So asexuals are seen as folk who’re just going through a phase, who’ve not met the right person yet, or who just haven’t made up their minds what they want. And we’re very keen to ‘fix’ those who say they don’t want sex in much the same way we want to curb those who say they want it a lot. So it’s nice to see a general interview with a couple that lets them tell you how they see things – although disappointingly this story has led to numerous discussions on TV and radio, mostly with people saying ‘but how can they not want sex? There must be something wrong with them!’ :-(

Is your brain more important than your hormones? Well, only if you believe rather striking headlines. But go beyond that and you might find a rather interesting study that’s actually about cervical cancer survivors (and not about brains). A study from the Journal of Women’s Health has followed up women who’ve survived cervical cancer and found their sex lives have resumed and been satisfactory post surgery. This is important since much research on female cancer survivors or those who’ve had surgical menopause indicates low testosterone levels impair sexual functioning and require hormonal supplements. This study suggests that psychological factors may have an important role to play, and the role of hormones could be overstated in many existing studies (which makes sense given a lot of those studies are drug company funded). I’ve read the whole paper and it’s well worth browsing if you’re able. If not, email the authors and ask for a copy – I’m sure they’d be delighted by your interest.

Cory Silverberg summarises a very interesting piece of research that suggests people who’re into BDSM are okay. Which may not seem like news until you consider that a lot of discussions around folk who’re into bondage suggests they are driven by the desire to reconcile some childhood trauma or re-enact past abuse. This study suggests there are many reasons why people are into BDSM, but that kinky folk are not abnormal as suggested by previous theories.

Do you remember the good old days when Mills and Boon wrote books about romance and handsome doctors/pirates/businessmen/architects who, even though you didn’t like them at first, eventually won you round by their masculine-yet-caring ways? Well forget that. Mills and Boon have broken with tradition and launched their Spice range of novels that deal with desire, sex and perhaps a little bit of spanking. Call me old fashioned but I rather liked their old approach. Yes, you always knew what was going to happen, and yes the stories were always the same, but you did always know the heroine was going to get her man.

So I’ll leave you with a trip down memory lane….

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