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Sex and science stuff 12/11/09

November 12th, 2009

Dr Petra

We’re all familiar with the term ‘designer vagina’, but did you know there’s actually no clinical evidence to suggest non-essential female genital surgery is effective or safe? A systematic review of the literature on labial surgery for women (just out in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology) has found “medically nonessential surgery to the labia minora is being promoted as an effective treatment for women’s complaints, but no data on clinical effectiveness exist”. The paper isn’t open access but is well worth a read if you can find it. It outlines the issues around genital surgery including why this trend is increasingly popular. Sadly women’s media is not massively critical on this topic, so here’s hoping this research might encourage a bit more critical reflection among editors (although I’m not holding my breath).

Predictably plastic surgeons haven’t responded massively well to this review – I wonder why? You might be shocked or amused to see one practitioner’s reaction courtesy of the BBC:
“Essentially this is just about removing a bit of loose flesh, leaving behind an elegant-looking labia with minimum scarring”.
As ever, The Daily Mash wade in with their satirical take on what makes a whole ‘perfect vagina’.

Are orgasms bad for your health? Well, yes, according to Marnia Robinson (lawyer turned sex expert) who suggests that orgasms ‘play havoc with your neurochemistry’ and recommends people should practice sexual intimacy without orgasm. This is an interesting theory, but it’s only a theory, and the data included in Robinson’s thesis seems to be selective rather than systematic. While Robinson rightly does talk about conventional messages about sex being around achievement and unrealistic goal setting, her message ultimately becomes less about personal choice and slips into the familiar rhetoric of their being a ‘right’ way to have sex. This story’s picked up on here.

Movie star Jane Fonda’s got the media in a fluster by announcing sex is still great aged 71. It’s led to the predictable discussions about whether it’s okay or not for seniors to be sexy – and a whole flurry of spin off features and radio programmes all arguing that older people ought to be getting it on, and are sexier than ever before. Which doesn’t quite fit the evidence. Some older people do report positive relationships and enjoying intimacy – although that may not necessarily involve lots of intercourse (or even any intercourse at all). Caution is required so we don’t reinforce the stereotype that anyone over 60 should be sexless, or pressurise older people to think sex is a mandatory activity and there’s something medically wrong if they’re not still doing it. [You might be interested in some blogs about senior sex I’ve written previously – all linked within this blog].

In anticipation of tomorrow’s Disability: sex, relationships and pleasure conference at the Royal Society of Medicine, The Times asks ‘Is sex for the disabled the last taboo?’. The piece covers some of the issues facing disabled people about relationships (it’s a bit limited by some inaccurate reporting in places – the comments after the piece I think are more interesting). I’ll be blogging a report on the conference early next week where I’ll be particularly focusing on some of the key questions of evidence based policy and practice relating to sex positive support for disabled people.

Want to know how to talk dirty? Here’s a quick guide I contributed to for Playboy about some common errors people make around naughty chat (over 18s only). [I was glad to see this feature didn't go down the usual uncritical approach to spicing up your sex life and encourages readers to reflect on why they want to talk dirty and ensure it's something their partner is equally interested in].

There are two key errors people make with sexy talk:
- The first is to assume their partner is fine with talking dirty without checking, and launching into some rude chat that embarrasses, upsets or unnerves them.
- The second is thinking talking dirty is something they ought to be doing, but not feeling sure what to say – or when to say it.

Talking dirty can be a real turn on, but isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Saying something unexpectedly could really spice things up, but it also could be a disaster if you offend, upset or just make your partner fall about laughing. If you want to get better at communicating your desires I’d recommend Carol Queen’s Exhibitionism for the Shy.

Sex writer Brian Alexander contacted me recently with a problem he was answering from a reader of his Sexploration column. The woman in question had a partner who was getting off on her being sexually provocative with other men. It was hard to tell if this was a case of a couple with communication problems, or a guy being controlling and forgetting the key rules of acting out sexual fantasies – that it must always be safe, sane and consensual. You can read the problem and answer here.

Finally, the fantastic international sex education campaign 15 and counting have launched a competition where rappers, singers and musicians have been composing songs relating to the campaign. All the entries can be found here. With some of the most popular here. My favourite is Hemanifezt – Be a Protector for Yourself.

So if you’re a musician, song writer or performer why not contribute your song to the competition? Educators working within schools or healthcare may want to encourage young people to get involved in the competition. And feel free to share this information – both about 15 and counting and this music comp.

And if you want a bit of inspiration, let’s go back to the 90s with a groundbreaking safer sex song that still sounds great today.

Let’s talk about sex!

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