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Sex and science stuff – 21/08/09

August 21st, 2009

Dr Petra

The big news this week is the World Health Organisation (WHO) has publicly confirmed that it does not endorse the use of homeopathic treatments for HIV, malaria, TB, influenza, and infant diarrhoea. This is important given the prevalence of homeopathic treatments being offered – often in developing countries. It is also important because there are currently numerous ‘studies’ being run on homeopathy in relation to HIV in particular where ethical approval is often not obtained and the quality of research poor. What impact the WHO statement will have on the prescribing of homeopathic remedies or research in this area remains to be seen. You can read the letter to the WHO, and other coverage at Sense About Science.

The New Scientist are at it again. I don’t know whether they really want to win a prize for worst coverage of sex research but they’re certainly going the right way about it. This time they’re going with a piece that tells us to beware the single predatory ladies out there who are almost certainly trying to grab your man . You may remember other gems from the NS that included irresponsible reporting of a small scale (drug company funded) study on the g-spot, or their ‘six things science has taught us about sex’. Undoubtedly sex coverage is popular within the NS. Sadly it’s also not very good. I think I might start trying to find out why.

Over at Feminisnt’s place there’s a cautionary tale of ‘Finding someone you know naked on the internet: a tale of two emailers’ where we learn how some people respond more than inappropriately when they discover someone they once knew is involved in porn. Unfortunately the problems Feminisnt reports are not unique to those who make porn. Myself and others involved in sex research and education have also experienced similar responses. Someone from your past being interested in what you do is fine. Someone from your past assuming their discovery of your sex-related work is an open invitation to become a sex pest is annoying at best and scary at worst. The lesson learned from Feminisnt is ‘don’t be a horny bully’.

Cory Silverberg’s running a series of bad sex tips based on his How to have bad sex blogs. Definitely worth checking out the advice which cautions against comparing yourself with others, ignoring your body, be closed minded or only ever listen to experts.

BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour hosted a fascinating discussion about celibacy today. You can find out more about the programme and listen again here. It featured historian Lesley Hall who is one of the most informed people on the history of sexuality I know and whose work I respect massively. Plenty of food for thought in this fascinating piece from Woman’s Hour. I’m glad to see the programme back on form, as only last week they asked me if I wanted to participate in a debate on whether it was okay for lady politicians to show cleavage at work, which I really thought was dumbing down the programme (and a non debate really). I refused as I really couldn’t imagine the discussion going much further than “this guest says it’s bad if a lady politician shows cleavage, this guest says it’s okay. There you have it, a nation divided”.

Ever assumed that blogging anonymously is a green light for name calling? Well, if that’s your view it’s a good idea to change your ways. The US court have compelled Google to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger who described a former model Liskula Cohen in very negative language. As ever legal blogger Jack of Kent has a helpful summary of this case and what it means for bloggers.

And on that note, Jack of Kent and I will be talking about the legal and ethical aspects of science blogging at the Science Online conference in London tomorrow. In particular we’ll be outlining the rights and wrongs of science blogging and highlighting the ethical responsibilities that come with online science communication. There are a number of presentations relating to science blogging (see link above) which range from using blogs as open access science communication through to managing communities online. Some of the conference will be twittered and broadcast in second life and I believe some of the talks will be available after the event. I’ll be hosting our slides and additional notes at a future date. If you’re at the conference, come and say hi.

I’ll leave you with a break up poem (or two). A few styles to help if you ever need to let someone down gently….

The Break-Up Poem – watch more funny videos

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