Archives For sex and sexuality

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When last we left Pat Fagan, he was aghast that premarital sex was legal and demanding that a country in which more than nine in ten adults had sex before marriage punish all the fornicating sinners lest society fail. As you probably won’t be surprised to find out, his delusion is so strong that he’s proclaiming momogamous, one-partner fundamentalist Christian couples to be masters of all things sexual in the same manner as a certain Fox New contributor decided that losing his virginity in a honeymoon suite made him a sexual and relationship black belt. Now, unlike almost every argument in his verbal assault on premarital sex, Fagan actually managed to cobble what seem like real numbers and real data to add an undertone of possible sanity under his claims of fundamentalist couples getting the best of porn stars in bed. You see, according to a survey of adult sexual habits, some 88% of married couples say they enjoy their sex lives, which is a 22% gain over divorced couples and a 14% advantage over singles. Unfortunately for Fagan though, these numbers are exceedingly unlikely to mean what he thinks they mean.

Basically, his thesis is that couples who had no other partners besides each other to compare a sexual relationship’s overall quality, are happy because they can’t make those comparisons. But that’s kind of like saying that Weird Things is the best blog on the web because Weird Things is the only blog you’ve ever read. Or that Taco Bell is the best Mexican food in the world because that’s the only Mexican food you’ve ever tried. How do you explain how ridiculous this is to a man who says this out loud and actually means it? At least we could take a crack on why he says this based on the horror-fantasies religious fundamentalists have about sex in the secular world. You see, they seem to assume that secularists have sex all the time. Life, outside of work and family, is just a big orgy for us with no complications, feelings, or attachments because we don’t care to emotionally support each other and if something goes wrong, we can just turn to antibiotics and have an abortion since the evils of modern science have enabled this kind of terrifying life away from Godly consequences to exist, and we secularists bask in the resultant debauchery.

Of course when you think that non-fundamentalists are living a life somewhat along these lines you’re going to assume that they spend every other sexual experience comparing it to the last, and rating partners on some sort of complicated scale. In reality, premarital sex is kind of a test drive for many couples, and after establishing general compatibility and tying the knot, of course they’ll report being happier than singles or divorcees. They’re having sex with someone able to satisfy them and had time to learn what they want and what they need. By contrast, singles are just trying to find the person to push all their buttons and divorcees are still dealing with a fallout from their last marriage and getting back into the game. This explains Fagan’s numbers far, far more plausibly than first-timers in sex and marriage being zapped with divine prowess in bed, so much so that they can give adults with many years of relationship and sexual experience under their belts a run for their money. I still have no explanation for what compels Fagan to open his mouth and say the things he does, but then again, I think I never will…

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There’s been a bit of a splash by a new study which says that meeting your spouse online could mean a longer, happier marriage, and confirms that far from being the last refuge of lonely shut-ins, online dating is now one of the top ways to meet your mate. Now, the numbers do bear this conclusion out. Out of a representative sample of 19,131 people, the researchers found that a couple that met online is 28% less likely to divorce than their offline matched counterparts, and that the happiest marriages start with a meeting in MMORPGs and on social networks. However, and you knew this was coming, the differences are statistically significant but far from huge, and there are several caveats to taking the findings too close to heart, caveats which result directly from the study’s design. Basically, they’re collecting some demographic information if a subject was married between 2005 and 2012, asking how the subject met his or her spouse, and how happy the marriage seems, then looking for any statistically notable trends to emerge.

Here’s what the data mining found. A smidgen more than a third of the subjects (35%) married a person they met online. Half of those meetings happened on a dating site, usually eHarmony or Match.com, which each claim a quarter of these dating site meetups. So if you’re looking to get into a serious relationship or get married, those sites are probably a very good bet. Likewise, a few very interesting data points jump out from the results. The more well educated and gainfully employed you are, the more likely you are to meet a serious partner online. Those who earn at least $75,000 per year and have a college education represent some 57% of relationships that started online. Oddly enough, those with graduate degrees have the lowest share of marriages to partners they met online, under 15% of the total. The data doesn’t show why, but I would be interested in figuring this out. Why is this finding so worthy of attention? Because it may have a connection to the so-called leisure inequality and tell us more about why online dating grown so much in the last decade or so. But I digress. Now, what about that marriage satisfaction?

Well, again, the numbers do show that people who married their online friends report a better marriage, especially those who met playing online games or on social networks (which could or could not include dating sites, the paper isn’t specific on this). On a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being the equivalent of "I’m ready to file for divorce this second" and 7 being "this marriage is perfect," these subjects reported an average satisfaction score of 5.72, which is pretty damn good. But if we consider the score of the most miserable married couples who met offline in a bar or through a blind date, they still post a very respectable 5.35 average. Yes, the online couples are happy and they’re happier than many other couples, but not by leaps and bounds. Could you really tell the difference between a 5.35 and a 5.72 happy when general contentment is 3.5? If we indulge in paraphrasing Futurama, these researchers are techncially correct, the best kind of correct in science. But practically, they just found close to 20,000 happy couples, a third of which just so happened to have met online and got married in a certain time range.

And that brings us to the biggest caveat with this study. Only 8% of these subjects are divorced which is both, a lot lower than the national average, and only shows the short term trend. If you look at marriages 10 years out rather than the seven for this survey, the odds of a divorce are about 30% or so. Get 20 years out and the odds increase to 48% on the high end. The sample here just hasn’t been married long enough and it’s probably a safe assumption that a lot were caught in their early phases of marriage. But the goal for getting married generally tends to be staying married for life, which means roughly half a century, going by the typical life expectancy figures. The researchers are, in a sense, catching people a mile or two into a marathon when a whole lot usually hasn’t happened yet and the biggest bumps in the road are still ahead, getting a general thumbs up from some 92% of the respondents, and splitting hairs about who gave the most enthusiastic thumbs up. True, this doesn’t mean that there’s a problem with a marriage to someone you met online and yes, maybe these couples are happier. But it’s too soon to tell.

Likewise, we should also point out that marriage rates keep on falling and the domestic partner has been slowly becoming the new spouse. After witnessing messy divorces and confronted by general antipathy for marriage from many sides, a lot of people who would’ve already tied the knot are deciding to forgo the whole affair altogether. Now, this could mean that what the survey captured is a trend of people who get married staying together longer and being happier while more and more of their peers are opting out of married life, balancing out the high divorce rate over the next decade or so, but this is just an idea after looking at the data. Marriage as we are used to it in the modern world is changing. It’s becoming less commonplace, involves those who are more financially secure, and alternative households are becoming the new norm. So in light of all these changes, maybe the better question to ask is not what makes for a happier marriage but what makes for happy long term relationships, or at least what today’s long term relationship looks like from an academic standpoint. Work in that area is only beginning…

See: Cacioppo, J., et al. (2013). Marital satisfaction and break-ups differ across on-line and off-line meeting venues PNAS DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1222447110

[ photo illustration by Carlos Zangheri/flickr ]

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Psychology has occasionally been called "the study of college undergraduates" and while that would usually be a joke in the psych department, a few writers are raising red flags that it’s too common of a practice and might be affecting the quality of the science. The study they chose to highlight? A survey trying to make the link between someone’s first sexual experience and what sexual activity follows based on 319 heterosexual college students who started having sex only about two years prior to the study and were asked to describe their intimate activities with some very positive and some very negative adjectives from a proscribed list. While the critics ask why the population was so homogeneous and the responses were so limited, this actually makes a lot of sense. If you’re not sure of your hypothesis, you want to have the most uniform samples you can find and limit inherently qualitative feedback into more quantitative form. From there on, you can test if the theory holds for more sexually experienced and diverse populations. So why are science writers harping on a perfectly legitimate, well done hypothesis fishing study?

Probably because it’s recent and it found that the students’ first sexual experience tended to be indicative of how they’d describe their future ones. And when limited to the population studied, it does make sense. Many of them are still relatively wet behind the ears and having finally had a real sexual encounter, they’re wondering what others will be like and comparing it to their first as they get more and more experience because it’s usually one of their few points of reference. At the same time, however, as the first experience fades into memory, new highlights come to take its place and a terrible first time gets forgotten in favor of the last mind-blowing experience and that might go on to color future encounters. We could also wonder about couples who lost their virginity to each other and haven’t had sex with anyone else. So why didn’t the researchers take cases like this into account? Well, they’d be outside the scope of the study, which basically just points out the obvious that yes, there’s a mental link between what you thought of your first time and your future preferences and expectations, as it applies to the sample population.

And that last phrase is really the crux of the matter because while human sexuality is so diverse and complex that questions about it could easily fuel centuries of studies and experiments, the pool of people willing to be studied is limited and the external factors they’d bring into the study makes it complicated to tease out complex and minute differences that might hint at something more, something that merits further research. College undergraduates are easy to recruit, easy to find close to the researchers’ labs, and fairly easy to homogenize, so they make for a simple, convenient set of test subjects in pilot studies. They’re a classic go-to convenience sample, and if you want to study special populations, you’ll go and study those special populations when you have the resources to do so. It’s just not fair to expect a narrow study to account for everything and use it a s springboard to pontificate on the limited utility of convenience sampling in basic psychology published for the public. And here the media has to take some heat as well.

How many pop sci writers just copy and paste the press release? How many of them wrote click bait headlines that sound as if an exhaustive study settled the question of just how special your first time is to you and what role it plays in your sex life? And how many of them trying their best to be contrarians put words in the researchers’ mouths and criticized them for making claims not actually made by the study? My guess? Quite a few. In fact, the links to a critical review of three other studies in the referenced critique were papers uncritically hyped by the media to become the viral stories they became. We can certainly argue about how much psychologists are relying on convenience samples of white, college educated students in the West, and what this does to the field as a whole. However, if the initial studies seem to be suffering from a bad sample or are way too limited to be applied outside of a very narrow socioeconomic group, the media klaxon is making the problem a hundred times worse. For writers to then wag their finger at the scientists, saying "tsk, tsk on your sampling techniques" without acknowledging that their colleagues have been running away with inconclusive and narrow studies for years is very disingenuous.

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Conspiracy theories about mind control are nothing new. In fact, I’ve lost count how many books from Jim Marrs and David Icke purport some sort of mind control beam, or wave, or program by the nefarious Illuminati altering our consciousness so we become mere puppets to the will of an evil intelligence. And considering how many of them are out there, they’re getting harder to sell, even to an audience primed to hear more stories about sinister mind control experiments which sound pulled right form the pages of the Illuminatus! Trilogy, so if you’re a conspiracy theorist with a book to sell, you have to spice it up somehow, and sex slavery seems to be emerging as the new trend in getting people’s attention. A good example is a new book from the Conspiracy Journal which builds itself on the story of Cathy O’Brien, a woman who claimed that she was a victim of the CIA’s more sinister MKULTRA subproject codenamed Monarch in a Satanic Panic era potboiler called Trance Formation of America. Yes dear readers, sex can sell anything…

Now, where do we begin? When you open an online version of O’Brien’s book, you’ll be quickly hammered by countless attempts to prove that a) mind control exists, b) no one talks about it to hide how effective it is from you, thus engaging in a form of mind control, and c) because there are reams of paperwork showing that the CIA experimented with mind control, it means we have to believe O’Brien and her stories of CIA sex slaves created for the pleasure of malevolent big wigs whose cooperation America wanted to secure during the Cold War. Oy. Here’s the problem in this line of reasoning. The kernel of truth here is that the CIA did attempt to experiment with all sorts of mind control ideas to teach its spies, but just about all of them were spectacular failures so one of the big reasons why so many were kept hush hush is because they flatly didn’t work and the agency didn’t want anyone to know how badly they were struggling with anything other than drugging a person and very unevenly interrogating him or her in an intoxicated state.

But instead of showing how mind control can work, O’Brien simply claims that absence of a well understood or recognized form of mind control means that it must exist, then goes on to equate tightly controlled state propaganda with mind control. That doesn’t really work. Mind control has the connotation that there’s a device, or a chemical cocktail that will make you do the bidding of whoever has it. Propaganda is basically brainwashing through tight control of information. That’s not the same thing, and it relies on a totalitarian regime that could control everything its citizens see and hear, a regime like North Korea. And even there the total control breaks down when an errant signal gets picked up on the radio or an outlawed internet connection is established that lets the regime’s prisoner-citizens see into the outside world. Having lived in a real authoritarian state, I can tell you that America today is far too permissive to exercise that kind of “mind control by disinformation,” unless you can prove that the entire Western world is being brainwashed, a claim that requires a very significant burden of proof and for some political miracles to occur.

And this is where the mind controlled CIA/Illuminati/Builderberg sex slaves come in. They are the reward for those rich, famous, and powerful enough to advance the New World Order’s agenda, though one wonders since when the rich and powerful, for whom money is no object, became so easily bribed with sex. They can easily charm or buy their way into women’s panties as shown by countless scandals of exactly that happening. Even more bizarre to me is that stories of female sexual slaves are plentiful while virtually nothing exists on male sex slaves. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Surely a global network of thousands of power players must feature straight women with an appetite for lithe young men, or homosexual fatcats. So why do we hear nothing at all about them? Of course there’s more. O’Brien’s vivid recollections of abuse at the hands of all sorts of foreign diplomats, power brokers, and Satanic cultists — oh we’ll be back to that, don’t you worry for a second that we won’t — came to her through hypnosis, like the memories of alien abductees though a process we’ve seen before, a process which has no scientific basis.

So in the end, what we have is a mix of Satanic Panic ritual sexual abuse, misuse of hypnosis on highly suggestible subjects, and conspiracy theories borrowing from the Taxil Hoax. And that’s a perfect mix in the 1990s, when the tabloids are on fire with the idea of Satanic subliminal music, and wild claims of countless children being tortured and future Miss Teen Americas raped in the catacombs of cultists acting on behalf of the Devil, and greedy con men are writing confessions of their supposed guilt in the nasty undertaking. Isn’t it odd that O’Brien’s tale fits just oh so very perfectly with the predominant money making conspiracy literature of the time, literature quickly shown to be either untrustworthy or outright made up and sold as real accounts? And shouldn’t we wonder why perfectly these calibrated salacious rumors and supposed real tales of power, sex, magic, and aliens should be trusted when they’re repackaged to sell to us a second time, a few decades after they were last popular? Human trafficking like the type shown in Taken is bad enough without money-making boogeymen like the Repotoids, CIA, and the Illuminati. Maybe we should keep them out of a very real and very dire problem? Just a thought…

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As just about every organization with the word “family” in its name, the Family Research Council is an archconservative group that spends its time fighting against big government when it wants to fund social programs or raise taxes, and promoting it when they think it should barge into your bedroom to check if you’re having sex in the positions they deem not too indecent with a person they find acceptable to be your sexual partner. So when one of the FRC’s senior fellows went on the radio to advocate the illegalization of pre-marital sex, declaring that “functioning societies” could never tolerate it, it’s hardly big news. Considering that virtually every major study on the subject shows that between 80% and 95% of the Western world engages in pre-marital sex and the modern Occidental civilization is nowhere near collapse, I could only describe his comments as downright imbecilic and so fantastically detached from reality that it boggles the mind.

But of course none of this confuses or surprises me. No, what I find so bizarre and worthy of an actual post about Pat Fagan’s brain-dead proclamations is how incredibly unaware of the world around him he must be to think even for a moment that he had a logical line of thought. At least the Fox News featured prude with a superiority complex famous for his obnoxious naiveté on the subject, Stephen Crowder, was at least self-aware enough to shame those of us who treat sex not as a forbidden fruit, but as an important facet of any romantic relationship, not demand that the government crack down on anything sexual without a ring and a marriage license involved. Fagan’s plea for the Supreme Court to illegalize pre-marital sex by once again making it a crime to sell contraceptives to singles is so patently absurd and so spectacularly devoid of any hint of nuance or logical follow-up that is sounds like a manifestation of a pathology.

Then again, we’re talking about zealots who see the world in black-and-white absolutes, whose definition of a crumbling society is based on their belief that any family unlike the ones in which they and tried friends and loved ones were raised is fundamentally wrong and broken, and that just the fact that the typical American family has changed over the last 60-plus years is a sign of societal collapse. Perhaps I’m simply expecting too much to have such people think through the talking points they spew and realize why so few take them seriously, much less take the time to study anything about human sexuality or acquaint themselves with the volumes of work showing that artificial prudishness results in more unwanted pregnancies, more STDs, and more demand for social programs to support kids and their young parents, who had children when they weren’t ready for it and were lied to about their family planning options. They’ll simply find any excuse to stay in their cozy, self-righteous bubbles, getting high on their own pious fumes…

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Perhaps one of the things I love hearing most as a techie about the tools my profession creates for making communication easier and more convenient is how these tools are destroying decent society and are supposedly turning people into hyperactive idiots. Almost invariably, this comes from old fogeys, either in age or at heart, who think their Luddism is the cure for what they see as the ills of the modern world. But what if the social malaise they want to treat so badly is not a problem at all but an outdated practice that needs to change or die off completely? For the past few weeks, a number of big news sites have been lamenting the death of dating and courtship in today’s wired world, blaming online dating, new inequalities between genders, and even texting for the near demise of the traditional courtship ritual your great grandparents would’ve endured, citing fictional characters or those with poor communication skills as examples of its swift demise at the hands of technology and the economy. So, courtship is dead? Terrific, good riddance.

Now, it’s important to point out that the good, old-fashioned dinner-and-a-movie dates are alive and very well, and a lot of married couples still have date nights. Go out on a weekend and you will see plenty of couples holding hands or getting to know each other over dinner with that stiff awkwardness so many people have during the first half an hour of a first date. Where the writers reading dating’s eulogy go way off the rails is by failing to consider that official numbered dates of the looking-for-my-soulmate variety are not the only way men and women enjoy each others’ company anymore and serious relationships can start from casual hook-ups, just hanging out on a regular basis, or just come together by going with the flow. My wife and I had one date in three years and shacked up about a week after we met. The arrangement was supposed to last a few months and you know how that worked out if you paid attention to the previous sentence. She’s still here. We didn’t have to court. We just enjoyed each other’s company after our first date.

This relaxed let’s-see-what-happens attitude seems to be the new face of dating and it removes a lot of pressure from meeting someone new or formally committing to a person until you really, really get to know him or her. One of the biggest reasons I usually avoided dating other Russian immigrants was because the culture is still typically set on traditional courtships and parents are organizing dates and referring potential suitors to their children. From the very first date, you’re under a microscope and everything about you is being evaluated for your potential as a spouse while you’re assured that this is totally not what’s happening at all, you’re just having fun. I was not and I’m guessing it wasn’t fun for her either, especially the post-date parental interrogations that start with "so, what do you think?" Would anyone with the option to avoid all this really want to go through these uncomfortable motions? Dating isn’t solely about finding a spouse anymore, it’s about getting to know people better and seeing what they’re like to be around.

Using a fictional bed-hopper as done by The Atlantic, or collecting quotes about how someone misunderstood a rather vague text doesn’t prove that technology is killing the concept of a date or that there is no dating today any more than a short text instead of a phone call proves that conversation is dead and gone. As helpfully pointed out at Slate, the courtship process usually detailed by those who aren’t aware that society has moved on from the 1890s puts far too much pressure on women to find husbands and reads like a manual on how to be a fake, hollow shell of the person you actually are. Women are encouraged to be perfect little Stepford wives-to-be and whom they marry is secondary as long as they get married, while men are left to navigate a dating world where any warmth or genuine affection are to be treated as warning signs because they’re not lady-like and unsuited for a proper wife. If that’s not a recipe for misery, I really don’t know what is and it’s asinine to think that with today’s options for casual dating and taking things slow and naturally we’d still be living by such backwards, prudish, totalitarian rules.

For all the talk about how technology is making the dating scene confusing and encouraging all those young whippersnappers to consider more dating options and have fun doing it instead of settling down, the old fogeys don’t seem to realize that creating this assembly line of families in their social engineering experiment by outmoded rules is what dehumanizes people while texting and online dating are really putting the choice for how they want to run their love lives back into their hands. Rather than mourning the writhing decay of courtship, we should be celebrating it by picking up a phone and texting that cute guy or girl we recently met "hey there, wanna hang out tonight?" And if he or she replies yes, say what you want to happen. Imagine that. Hanging out with no pressure or expectations with life-long consequences, and getting married when you think you’re ready and it makes sense rather than spend your youth playing a role and trying to find a spouse as the elders impatiently tap their feet and ask why it’s taking so long. What evils has modern technology wrought on the young adults of today, am I right?

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It’s a frequent societal stereotype that women in porn must have been sexually abused as kids, otherwise they would never go into this line of work. You can hear it from social conservatives in their dire warnings about porn addiction and from feminists who find all porn to be merely an exploitation of women for the enjoyment of men, alike. So one would think that to put the idea of the typical porn star as dealing with molestation or abuse through hypersexuality to rest, all one would have to do is have them take a survey, right? It seems fairly straightforward and it’s just what one study has done. After a survey administered to 177 women being tested between their videos, it found that 36% report being molested as children. If that sounds rather high, a control group of women who presumably had nothing to do with pornography reported a stunning 29% rate of sexual abuse. Basically, when taking the small sample sizes into account, it looks like the stereotype is wrong and women in porn are not predominantly survivors of molestation.

Oddly, note that according to the surveys, nearly a third of all women have been molested and often cited numbers say that anywhere between 20% to 40% of women have experienced some sort of sexual abuse as children. That’s disturbing to say the least, but the matter if also rather problematic because nearly all of these studies are relying on self-reporting on surveys given to convenience samples of women, which is science jargon for "asking whoever’s first available to fill out the questionnaire." This could easily produce a skew because the samples are not a truly random slice of the population but more homogenous demographic groups and the answers will reflect experiences typical for their group as well as their interpretation of what it means to have been sexually abused. Some groups of women may report a very low incidence of abuse during one study and a totally different group would report a very high one in a later one. And while a sample of women will consider a particular episode in a gray area during their childhood to be abuse, others would have forgotten and never reported it, or considered odd but not abusive.

So what does all this mean? It means that this study is certainly not definitive and could well be skewed, especially because women in porn know that people are eager to stereotype them into their image of what a female porn starlet should be: a hapless victim degrading herself because she was denied a proper childhood and now suffers from self-esteem issues that manifest as an over-active sex drive. When they’re doing self-selection and self-reporting, a bias simply could not be ruled out. And this, as well as the comments on the results of this study on news sites, is the other result from this study I find extremely disturbing. There really seem to be people who want female porn stars to be "damaged" so they can rationalize their choice to have sex on film as something only a person who "has issues" would do. And I’ll bet cash money that those exact same people commenting on how those poor abused dears whose father figures had boundary problems would go on to watch porn with those poor abused women. It’s not just a few weirdos watching it; only social media use exceeds online porn viewing. And not by much at that.

There’s something fundamentally unhealthy and downright bipolar in how we view porn and sex in general here in the U.S., and even this small study and the issues it raises gives us a peek at that. We cannot be a society that promotes unrealistic, self-indulgent piety and prudishness, just as we also can’t demand that everyone must embrace every sexual position, arrangement, kink, and relationship with nothing less than an orgasmic grin. This is absolutely a case in which the golden median is not a fallacy but a good approach. Humans are wired for sex. We enjoy it, we enjoy watching it, entire areas of our brain are dedicated to lust and encouraging us to find new mates, and all this enjoyment evolved to coax us into reproduction. To stigmatize natural urges and demean those who we end up watching doing the very things we said only "damaged" people do, fueling an industry that pays them for doing them in the process to the tune of billions per year, is hypocritical at best. And it’s especially bad when it’s done for irrational reasons like the wholehearted embrace of cold, haughty, snobby prudishness as the social norm…

See: Griffith, J., et al. (2012). Pornography actresses: an assessment of the damaged goods hypothesis Journal of Sex Research, 1-12 DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2012.719168

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I have a confession to make. You see, I’ve never been married but I’m not a virgin. What’s more is that I’ve been with more than one person. Just let that sink in for a minute and if that does not shock you or change your opinion of me, it’s probably because I’m just like 95% of adults in the real world who don’t wait until their wedding night to have sex, or their honeymoon to live with a partner, and chances are that you’re exactly like me in this regard. But according to Fox News columnist Stephen Crowder — whose "work" was recently mentioned in a Cracked.com list of all sorts of ridiculous ideas to promote abstinence — the reason why I’m not shamefully denying my sexual history is because I’m an insecure, emotionally damaged husk of a man unlike him, an ecstatic virgin who waited until his wedding night to show the world what it’s like to have sex, then gloat about his newfound prowess in marital life, and basically just be a judgmental prick.

His column sounds a little like the bragging of someone who just finished boot camp and thinks his basic training makes him SEAL Team 6 material, and provides a very handy counterpoint to my post about haughty polyamorists who look down on those in monogamous relationships as depressed shells of human beings who are just repressing their natural desires. Crowder does the exact same thing, only with high-minded abstinence talk and wants those of us who had sex more than once and had relationships beyond high school-style dates, to praise him for jumping into marriage with someone he barely knows. He bet his single life on a woman with whom he did not live in the same home, with whom he had never been intimate, and whose bathroom habits were a mystery to him until his wedding night. Maybe this will work out for him, but what he did is to leap without really getting to know his future bride and wants our applause and admiration for turning in his V card at the honeymoon suite. The man got laid, now give him a medal!

Right now, I’m sure he’s elated. But there’s a reason why we refer to periods of euphoria as the honeymoon phase. Not everything will be champagne, roses, caviar, and losing your virginity. It will only be a matter of time until the kind of compromises and decisions you only learn to make when you live with someone will have to be made, and the kind of facts you can only learn from seeing your partner day to day at home, will have to be dealt with. Our marital white belt with zero experience in any of this proudly discards these warnings as jealous rumbles from floozies and emotionally damaged men who can’t possibly understand how happy he feels right now. In that honeymoon stage they mentioned as the high point from which things will inevitably get tougher unless he’s outright manic. He’s been married for just a few weeks. I’ve shared my home with my significant other for three years. We’ve been poor together, we’ve been frustrated grad students together, and we set up our lives by each other’s’ side. Do you really think he knows his partner better than I do mine? Does he think I’m incapable of being in love without a ring on my finger or a self-imposed pledge to avoid doing anything sexual until I do?

And here’s why his column annoyed me so much. This matter actually hits pretty close to home for me. My significant other was the maid of honor for someone who refused to talk to her after learning that we didn’t just live together platonically and were happy with the arrangement. Just like Crowder, she believes that being associated with us is now beneath her superior morals, so any event at which the three of us were present at the same time quickly became torture. And a close-minded, judgmental prude like Crowder, or like my partner’s former friend is supposed to be the shining example for us to follow according to social conservatives. Rather than truly get to know each other through thick and thin and enjoy some of the pleasures of being healthy and active adults before making any wedding plans, we were supposed to jump into marriage to win their approval and learn what we’ve learned so far in a situation when a mutual parting without a lot of paperwork and lawyers isn’t an option. This is not a healthy way to have relationships. It’s an asinine fantasy by those who steadfastly ignore reality to feel better about themselves.

While those who promote comprehensive sexual education, because it solves so many social ills associated with uninformed sexual experimentation, would compare trying to stop people from having sex to peeing into a windstorm and wonder why we’re peeing into gale force winds, every abstinence-only advocate would just scream for us to pee harder and accuse us of wanting kids to end up pregnant or disease-ridden sex addicts. More than 9 in 10 adults have sex without a wedding involved in the process, but in their fantasy, everyone must be pure and asexual until a chosen partner magically falls from the sky. That’s their wish for our society, to stay ignorant and virginal until we find our soul mates. Well, when I was a kid my wish was to be an astronaut. Just because I wanted to be one doesn’t mean I ever will, and just because you have a dream of how the world should be ran doesn’t mean that it will ever happen or even that it’s a good idea. And the sooner self-absorbed abstinence-only zealots like Crowder wake up from their fantasy, the sooner we can fix a lot of major problems their denial of reality causes every day.

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lexi belle

Ok, so it’s not the most tactful and well thought out fundraiser for breast cancer research ever, but at least PornHub’s heart was in the right place when it announced that it would donate one cent per every 30 views of adult videos in certain obvious categories. It might seem rather low but considering that adult ads pay a few dollars per 1,000 views, they’re actually taking a pretty good chunk out of their revenues and that’s before we account for the considerable bandwidth expenses. Wouldn’t you know it though, nobody seems to want to take their money lest cancer research be forever tainted with the scent of porn. I mean come on, follow the logic, first science takes cash from adult entertainment and next thing you know, the morality genes in cancers are going to get wise to what went into making the treatments and refuse to let the tumors die when doused with a new experimental therapy. Cancers have prudish morality genes, right?

Now, certainly, I can understand why high profile non-profits wouldn’t want to be associated with porn and why they would find the idea of raising money through soliciting views of graphic adult videos to be rather crass and exploitative. And we can even go as far as to say that millions of dollars in free-floating research funds aren’t exactly stuck in a moralistic limbo so it’s not a major problem per se. However, we do need to consider that cancers don’t exactly care about funding sources for their treatment and a therapy made possible by money from porn tycoons may work just as well or even better than money raised through a corporate fundraiser or religious charity drives because in the end, all money is green — at least in the United States — and all of it can enable researchers to do more experiments, conduct more basic research, and test more ideas for effectively fighting cancerous tumors or even preventing them in the first place.

There are times when appearances are important and we have to be discriminating about how the money we use for R&D gets to the researchers to prevent conflicts of interest and attempts at whitewashing serious misdeeds, but there are also times when any cash should be accepted because the problem it’s supposed to help solve cares nothing about our opinions on sexuality, entertainment, or values. Cancers claim both crime bosses and selfless givers, prostitutes and prudes, ardent fundamentalists and atheists. Right now we’re at a stage when we know enough about cancers to start fighting them but not nearly enough to subdue them, and we’ll need a lot more money, time, and hard work to get to our goal of keeping patients in permanent remission, money for which we often have to beg, time we rarely have, and work few are qualified to do. So to reject any donation meant to fight such a complex and widespread problem for political and prudish purposes is a luxury that we really can’t and shouldn’t be willing to afford.

[ illustration: porn starlet Lexi Belle ]

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male model

Like the vast majority of men around the world, I’m not an eunuch. And you can probably tell by some of the graphics on this blog that I’m hardly disinterested in anything sexual. But according to a trio of researchers from South Korea, this isn’t a good thing for my lifespan and if anything, my male hormones are actually slowly but surely killing me. They base this conclusion on a study of historical records that detail the lifespans of 81 Naesi servants in Korea, who as you already guessed, were all eunuchs. When their lifespan was averaged and compared to that of similarly well off Korean aristocracy which was not castrated, the difference was 14 years. Royalty had a life expectancy of 56 years, eunuchs could count on living to be 70 and above, some of them reaching well past 100 and doing so at a rate the researchers say is 30 times greater than the centenarians in modern First World nations with access to highly advanced medicine.

Of course if I know my fellow male members of the species (hey, no snickering there in the back row, this is serious business), we’ll trade almost a decade and a half of life for the ability to have sex because after all, a life of celibacy is embraced by only 1% of the entire population and as far as nature is concerned, we’re here to reproduce. So don’t expect a whole lot of castration on the elective surgery schedules at your local hospital, and for good reason. This study shows an interesting anomaly, true, but there are a lot of missing factors. For one, the researchers state that a comparison with eunuchs in other societies is necessary to falsify their hypothesis, and in many societies there were a lot of eunuchs serving royalty and overseeing harems, living highly comparable lifestyles to the Naesi. Another issue is that the research only really accounts for the number of years lived by aristocrats and the eunuchs. It doesn’t really compare their lifestyles in other meaningful ways. Maybe the eunuchs were clean and sober while the blue bloods were all party animals and it’s unhealthy habits that did them in sooner, like with Chinese royalty?

Keep in mind that in many cultures, being an eunuch meant that you had to live to a strict code of religious and social conduct that emphasized purity and spiritual devotion. For example, the Naesi were regularly examined for their grasp of Confucianism, and in other cultures, they were held as transcendent above base human desires like fornication. In the meantime, regular Joes with their penises intact lived fast and hard, going to war, picking fights, drinking, and partying in a constant search of a sexual partner or two. Or three. Depending on their luck. Males who don’t live quite as hard tend to last only a few years less than women on average, something we often tend to attribute to our greater susceptibility to genetic defects. And overall, sex does prolong lives by several years and improve one’s quality of life as seen in many animal models and a lot of humans, so giving up on sex in an attempt to live longer might not be such a great decision in the long run. We don’t know if a lack of male hormones had adverse side effects in old age or if the eunuchs would’ve suffered from shaky health and depression on a regular basis.

Finally there’s the sample size issue. Over some 600 years there have been thousands of Naesi employed by the royal courts and yet the study covers just 81 of them from a single genealogical tome. It’s a convenience sample, and one that’s compared to over 3,000 aristocrats. Why were those eunuchs included in this tome? What results would the researchers get if they reviewed a few thousand Naesi lifespans? Would it smooth out the differences or solidify them? Less than a hundred eunuchs in one country just isn’t enough to make this hypothesis anything more than conjecture backed up by a few experiments in which castrated mice seemed to live longer for an unknown reason and a few rather vague historical records. It’s not just important to know if men lived longer as eunuchs, it’s also critical to understand their cause of death, something that very old records can’t provide us with any reliability since the medicine of the time wasn’t exactly all that advanced; even pronouncing someone officially dead back then was more of an art than a science. Though one could argue that this problem sometimes rears its head today…

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