Sexy Sex Newsy News: The Buzz on Sex in the News with Dr. Carol Queen, Good Vibrations Staff Sexologist

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Week of September 25-October 2, 2013
Men Cheat More than Women, But Women Can Smell the Competition
Some weeks we can count on the Interweb news machine to tell us things we don’t already know, but this week HuffingtonPost Divorce tells us that Texas A&M researchers have nailed down the reason why men cheat more than women: higher sex drive!

“Sex can be hazardous,” intones the opening line of this study. It’s actually a two-part research project trying to determine if men have lower impulse control than women (not especially, the survey found, even though they did cheat more); the second part seeks to find out whether men are more likely to report attraction to a variety of faces, some of whom, they are told, belong to women who are compatible with them. (Guess what? They were attracted regardless of compatibility! Quelle surprise!) What have we learned here, class? Anything?

And this week in pheromones… We have the latest T-Shirt Study, this one from the researchers at Florida State as reported in Discovery News. College students moonlighting as research subjects are constantly smelling each others’ t-shirts, but often the sniffing is heterosexual, as researchers try to determine whether people can smell good genetic matches and things of that sort. This time, though, the sniff test was woman-on-woman, and resulted in some interesting findings: When a woman smells another woman who’s ovulating, her testosterone levels jump, as does her desire to compete. Low-fertility women, as sniffed via their shirts, caused the sniffers’ T levels to go down. Please note here that the researchers are associating testosterone spikes with competition as if it were simple to determine that an ovulating woman IS competition for another woman, and just what kind. I smell a sociobiologist in the woodpile.

It’s worth pointing out that both these studies were conducted on students (actually, the Men Are Hornier survey was a two-part study, and the first part recruited crowdsourcing site Mechanical Turk for its participants; some actual post-collegiate adults may have been among the respondents). Research done in universities is very frequently conducted on students, which means that we may learn a fair bit about young adults and those who pursue higher education — but any claims that the research results are generalizable to the population as a whole may not hold up.

And I have a follow-up question to the T-Shirt Study: Are they sure those sniffing women weren’t experiencing testosterone spikes because sniffing other women’s t-shirts made them feel turned on?

Ah, science.

Sextortion and Revenge Porn
This week we have a new law in California that makes revenge porn, AKA posting nude or erotic pictures of your (ex)partner/s to harass or humiliate them, against the law. Apparently New Jersey has already taken this step, although I wonder if the proximity of Anthony Weiner to the Garden State made them hurry up and get that law on the books. SB 255 allows for six months in jail and a $1000 fine, people! That picture I have featuring Mr. X with an inflatable sheep is indeed awesome, but I won’t be posting it on Facebook, no way, nohow.

There has also been a good deal about sextortion in the news, largely because of the Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf case in which an old high school classmate of the newly-crowned beauty queen highjacked her computer to take photos of her in various states of undress, then used them to try to blackmail her. He’d done this with many others, apparently. Cassidy reported him, though.

What do we learn from these news items? Miss Teen USA can be a superhero! That jerk you remember from high school might really be a jerk! Your ex might really truly be a jerk, but now at least there’s a law against that. And yo, those sexy pictures you took of your sweet (ex)baboo are not yours to do with as you please unless you paid for them (and s/he signed a release).

By the way, the civil libertarians (including my pals at the Electronic Freedom Foundation) are concerned about this, reasoning (probably rightly) that this is an over-broad law that criminalizes regardless of whether a person is victimized; I note that it might be pretty challenging to prove intent, as well. Still, I am keeping that sheep picture to myself.

I got information about Cassidy and the sextorting jerk from the LA Times and CNN. CNET and The Guardian wrote about the CA revenge porn law.

Interesting tidbit: the Cali law is brought to us thanks to a Republican politician, which makes me wonder if this guy is as tender-hearted as we usually imagine Democrats to be, if he really just doesn’t like porn no matter what kind it is, or if perhaps there are some spicy pix of him floating around out there. Hey, it happened to Dr. Laura!

New News from the Women’s Health Initiative
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is back in the news thanks to yet another element of the large meta-study known as the Women’s Health Initiative. This looks at 15 years of research data pertaining to “the most common causes of death, disability and poor quality of life in postmenopausal women — cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis” (National Institutes of Health). A significant factor in the research has been the search for the truth about HRT: what health benefits does it confer? What health problems might it encourage? The WHI has already debunked the idea that every post-menopausal woman should take HRT, especially long-term. This week we learn for USA Today that short-term use, especially for just-menopausal women in their 50s, confers some clear benefits, both in terms of symptom control (hot flashes, libido change, vaginal dryness) and in specific overall health markers: it seems to help protect against diabetes, for instance, as well as hip fractures. The older a woman gets, the more significant the arguments against HRT and health risks associated with it, including stroke. Combined therapy (estrogen plus progestin) is observed by the WHI to be riskier than estrogen-only HRT because in combination, the risk of breast cancer is higher, as is the risk of dementia in women over 65. Progestin has a protective effect against uterine cancer, though, so estrogen-only HRT is not recommended either, unless a woman is post-hysterectomy.

Contrary to the received wisdom of the health care industry pre-Women’s Health Initiative, HRT is no longer recommended for preventing chronic illnesses. Diet and exercise are back in the middle of the charmed circle of health maintenance, a position from which HRT probably never should have dislodged them.

Think Outside the Pink
It’s Pink Consumer Goods Month! Are you participating? Have you bought a range of pink items? Have you helped put the kaibosh on breast cancer by doing so? Good for you!

There is, of course, a discourse about the Shop Pink breast cancer fundraising machine, ranging from concerns about the large breast cancer organization most linked in the public eye with pink ribbon marketing; irritation that it encourages well-meaning folks to be shopaholics; anger that it genders breast cancer and alienates those who do not see themselves as traditionally feminine; and worries that making consumer goods pink plays zero role in rooting out toxics from said consider goods. (For more critical perspective on pink shopping, check out http://thinkbeforeyoupink.org/ )

Good Vibrations partners with breast cancer charities each October through the GiVe program, though not That Big Charity, which is a little too conservative to want support from sex toy companies. Other nonprofits working to end breast cancer and to provide support to people who have breast cancer are not similarly choosy, and this year funds are being raised for the National Breast Cancer Coalition. You can simply donate — or you can shop a range of specially-selected vibrators from GV partners, and funds from each purchase support NBCC. And guess what? They aren’t pink!

Here’s how the partnership works:
From October 1st to October 31st Good Vibrations’ customers can show their support for NBCC by making a financial gift to the National Breast Cancer Coalition at the time of their purchase; 100% of their donation goes to NBCC. Online shoppers can contribute directly at checkout and learn more about their donations program on the GiVe Partner page.

Good Vibrations is also partnering with six top vendors to make doing good feel better. 10% of the proceeds from partner products – in a variety of colors – will go to NBCC, including the We-Vibe 3, Pyxis from Jopen, Fifi by JeJoue, Mystic Wand from Vibratex, the Gyro-G by Pleasure Works, and the Jimmyjane Form 3. Online shoppers can see the selections on the GiVe Partner page, and make an additional gift if they choose.

Use hashtag #thinkoutsidethepink if you want to further this discussion!

Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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