Thursday, September 21, 2017

US women report diverse preferences related to sexual pleasure


Faculty members from the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington and the school's Center for Sexual Health Promotion recently published a paper in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy focused on addressing gaps in scientific understanding of women's sexual pleasure. The study findings, from the research team's OMGYES Pleasure Report: Women and Touch, focused on orgasm and sexual pleasure as related to genital touch and stimulation. "There had been little known at the population level about detailed aspects of women's sexual pleasure and orgasm," said Debby Herbenick, lead author of the study and professor at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. "Most previous studies utilized clinical, college and convenience samples. We worked to change that with this research and provide data surveying a U.S. nationally representative probability sample of adult women."
Herbenick and her research team, including Brian Dodge, associate professor in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, conducted the OMGYES Sexual Pleasure Report: Women and Touch with a focus on discovering a greater understanding of women's sexual pleasure and orgasm.
"The study results challenge the mistaken, but common, notion that there are universal 'sex moves that work' for everyone," said Dodge. "On the other hand, the data also make clear that there are certain styles of touch that are more commonly preferred by women, emphasizing the value of studying sexual pleasure - and not just sexual problems."
The study found that the more than 1,000 women, ages 18 to 94, surveyed reported a diverse set of preferences for genital touch, location, pressure, shape and pattern. Further, 41 percent of women preferred just one specific style of touch, underscoring the value of couples having conversations about their preferences and desires.
This study provides the first U.S. nationally representative data on pathways to orgasm during intercourse, noting that nearly 75 percent of women reported that clitoral stimulation was either necessary for their intercourse-orgasms, or helped their orgasms feel better, while 18 percent noted that vaginal penetration alone was sufficient for orgasm.
Women's sexual health is one of several research areas focused on within the IU School of Public Health's Center for Sexual Health Promotion. The center, which is a collaborative of sexual health scholars from across the campuses of Indiana University and strategic partner academic institutions, also continually researches community based participatory research and sexual health, reproductive health, men's sexual health, health and well-being among sexual and gender minority communities, and global sexual health.
The IU School of Public Health-Bloomington is reimagining public health through a comprehensive approach that enhances and expands disease prevention and reshapes how parks, tourism, sports, leisure activities, physical activity and nutrition impact and enhance wellness. Unique in the nation, the school's multidisciplinary approach, history of community engagement and emerging strengths in epidemiology, biostatistics and environmental health bring new vigor and energy to the traditional concept of a school of public health.
OMGYES is a research company that partners with scientists to fill the gap in scientific and public understanding of sexual pleasure. It also operates a website, OMGYES.com, to get the study findings to the public in relatable and refreshingly frank videos. They're currently studying the ways sexual pleasure changes during menopause as well as during pregnancy and postpartum.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Couples weather bickering with a little help from their friends

                     

Every couple has conflict, and new research finds that having good friends and family members to turn to alleviates the stress of everyday conflict between partners. In fact, according to the study led by The University of Texas at Austin's Lisa Neff, social networks may help provide protection against health problems brought about by ordinary tension between spouses.
In a paper published this week in the online edition of Social Psychological and Personality Science, Neff and other researchers in UT Austin's Department of Human Development and Family Sciences found that "spouses who reported being more satisfied with the availability of friends and family, whom they knew they could connect with during times of marital conflict, experienced conflict as less physiologically stressful."
The paper is the first to look at the link between spouses' cortisol levels, which are an indicator of physiological stress, and marital conflicts occurring in the home. At a time when more couples in the U.S. are living in communities separate from where their families and friends reside, the research suggests there is a strong correlation between relationships like these outside of a marriage and people within the marriage experiencing lower risk factors for health problems such as weight gain, insomnia, depression and even heart disease.
"We found that having a satisfying social network buffers spouses from the harmful physiological effects of everyday marital conflicts," said Neff, an associate professor. "Maintaining a few good friends is important to weathering the storms of your marriage."
The research looked at 105 newlywed couples who kept daily records of marital conflict in their home environment and completed questionnaires about the number, quality and characteristics of their connections with friends and family. In addition, the couples participating in the study collected morning and evening saliva samples for cortisol testing every day for six days. Cortisol levels over the course of the day are a measure of the stress response.
The overall number of friends and family members that study participants reported having didn't appear to affect couples' ability to handle conflicts nearly as much as the quality of those outside relationships. Neff and her colleagues found that people who reported having even a few close friends or family members to talk to outside of their marriage experienced lower levels of stress when marital conflicts arose.
"Even everyday conflict takes a toll on people physiologically," Neff said. "But we found that the association between marital conflict and cortisol responses completely disappears when people are happy and satisfied with their available social network." 

How the shape and size of your face relates to your sexuality

                   


Men and women with shorter, wider faces tend to be more sexually motivated and to have a stronger sex drive than those with faces of other dimensions. These are the findings from a study led by Steven Arnocky of Nipissing University in Canada. The research investigates the role that facial features play in sexual relationships and mate selection and is published in Springer's journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.
The study adds to a growing body of research that has previously shown that certain psychological and behavioral traits are associated with particular facial width-to-height ratios (known as FWHR). Square-faced men (who therefore have a high FWHR) tend to be perceived as more aggressive, more dominant, more unethical, and more attractive as short-term sexual partners than their thinner and longer-faced counterparts.
Researchers attributed differences in facial proportions to variations in testosterone levels during particular developmental periods, such as puberty. This hormone plays a role in forming adult sexual attitudes and desires.
In this paper, Arnocky and his colleagues report two separate studies conducted among students. In the first, 145 undergraduates who were in romantic relationships at the time completed questionnaires about their interpersonal behavior and sex drive. The researchers also used photographs of the participants to determine their facial width-to-height ratio. The second study involved 314 students and was an extended version of the first study, which included questions about participants' sexual orientation, the chances of them considering infidelity, and their sociosexual orientation. The latter is a measure of how comfortable participants are with the concept of casual sex that does not include love or commitment.
According to Arnocky, their findings suggest that FWHR can be used to predict a measure of sexuality in both sexes. Men and women with a high FWHR (therefore, square and wide faces) reported a greater sex drive than others.
"Together, these findings suggest that facial characteristics might convey important information about human sexual motivations" , says Arnocky.
It was also found that men with a larger FWHR not only have a higher sex drive than others, but also are more easy-going when it comes to casual sex and would consider being unfaithful to their partners. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Finding true love with online dating


 
Looking for love online? You are not alone. Nearly 50 percent of the American public knows someone who has used an online dating site and 5 percent of Americans who are married or in committed relationships today met their significant other online. But with so many different online dating platforms, how can users know which one will best meet their needs? According to a new study in the INFORMS journal Management Science, it all depends on if you are comfortable with rejection. If not, be prepared to pay more.

The study, "Competing by Restricting Choice: The Case of Search Platforms," explained that most sites, such as Match.com, compete by building the largest user base possible, and provide users with access to unlimited profiles on the platform. Others, such as eHarmony.com, pursue user growth with the same intensity, but allow users to only view and contact a limited number of others on the platform. However, despite the limited choice, eHarmony's customers are willing to pay an average of 25 percent more than Match's customers.

The study authors, Hanna Halaburda of the Bank of Canada and New York University, Mikolaj Piskorksi of IMD Business School, and Pinar Yildirim of the University of Pennsylvania, created a stylized model of online, heterosexual dating which found that increasing the number of potential matches has a positive effect due to larger choice, but also a negative effect due to competition between users of the same sex.

Therefore by offering its members access to a large number of profiles, Match's users are also more likely to experience rejection, as each of their potential matches will have access to a larger number of options, increasing the competition among members. With access to only a limited number of profiles, eHarmony users are more likely to successfully and more rapidly identify a match with another user, who because of limited choice, is less likely to reject them.

"Online dating platforms that restrict choice, like eHarmony, exist and prosper alongside platforms that offer more choice, like Match.com," said Halaburda. "On a platform that offers more choice, agents also face more competition as their candidates also enjoy a larger choice set."

Ultimately, for online dating users who can tolerate rejection and aren't bothered by a potentially longer timeframe to identify a match, Match.com provides much greater choice of options. However, for users who are looking to more quickly identify a potential mutual match, eHarmony limits competition that may result in rejection.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Relationship science: How can couples keep moving forward


For some couples in romantic relationships, just staying together is good enough. But others want to see their relationship move forward--to get better and better--and are willing to put in the effort to get there.
Family studies researchers at the University of Illinois who study the science behind maintaining romantic relationships focus their work on the central organizing unit--the relationship--rather than on the individual. Through their work, they hope to find out what works and, maybe, what doesn't in keeping a relationship moving forward.
"We know relationships are key," says Brian Ogolsky, associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at U of I. "We spend all of our time in these relationships. Whether we are at home, with our siblings, our parents, or our colleagues, these are all extremely important. And consequently we spend very little time alone with our thoughts. So it's critical that we carefully and methodically understand what's going on in relationships and what is unique that two individuals bring that you can't get from studying person 'x' and person 'y' separately."
In a recent study published in the Journal of Family Theory and Review, Ogolsky and his research team discuss romantic relationship maintenance and the two primary motives behind a couple's attempts at staying together: threat mitigation and relationship enhancement.
Ogolsky calls these "macro-motives," or the main reasons people maintain their relationships. In their study, the researchers provide a visual framework of how relationships may be maintained by staving off threats or moved forward by relationship enhancement strategies, which involve putting effort into the relationship for the pleasure of it. For the most part, relationships include a combination of both.
"Threats to the relationship come from all kinds of different places," he explains. "Generally, there are many threats early in relationships that can cause problems, but that is not to say that these disappear later. We know couples cheat in the long-term, people end up in new work places and in new situations where possible alternative partners show up, conflicts arise, or a lack of willingness to sacrifice time for your partner emerges."
Some threat mitigation tactics can actually become enhancement strategies over time, Ogolsky says, but adds that the reverse is not usually true. "We get to a place where we are pouring energy into the relationship simply because we want to keep the relationship moving forward rather than just mitigating threats."
In their integrative model of relationship maintenance, the researchers also illustrate individual versus interactive components of maintenance. "This question of 'is this an individual thing or is this a couple-level thing' often goes unanswered. But as we were doing this review, we started noticing that there are ways to maintain the relationship that we can characterize as 'more or less in our own heads.' We are doing something to convince ourselves that this is a good relationship and therefore it's good for our relationship," Ogolsky explains. "Things like positive illusions, the idea that we can believe our relationship is better than it is or that our partner is better than he or she is. We can do that without our partner."
Mitigating conflict, however, is something that partners must do together. "Good conflict management or forgiving our partner for doing something wrong is an interactive process. When a threat comes in, we can do one of two things: we can ditch our partner or forgive them over time."
The same is true of enhancement strategies: partners can do things individually or interactively. "Individually, even the act of thinking about our relationship can be enhancing. Whereas engaging in leisure activities together, talking about the state of our relationship, these are all interactive," Ogolsky says.
But why study relationship maintenance as a science?
While Ogolsky rarely offers direct interventions to couples, he explains that he tends to study the positive side of relationships because of what can be learned from people who are going through what, he says, is inherently a very turbulent thing.
"Relationships have ups and downs. I never go into my work saying people should stay together or they should break up. Relationships are individualized, a unique pairing of people that comes with a unique history. What we are talking about here are processes that exist across different kinds of couples, some of which work very well for some people, some of which may not work for some people. I am interested in understanding processes that keep relationships moving."
For the review, Ogolsky and his team searched for previous research, regardless of discipline, dealing with relationship maintenance. They eventually discussed about 250 studies in the paper (reviewing more than 1,100) that deal with romantic relationships and that met their criteria. Ogolsky hopes the review will bring together relationship scholars from across many disciplines.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Formula to predict attraction is more elusive than ever


Dating websites often claim attraction between two people can be predicted from the right combination of traits and preferences, but a new study casts doubt on that assertion.

The study, which used speed dating data, found a computer could predict who is desirable and how much someone would desire others -- who's hot and who's not -- but it could not unravel the mystery of unique desire for a specific person.

"Attraction for a particular person may be difficult or impossible to predict before two people have actually met," said Samantha Joel, a University of Utah psychology professor and lead author. "A relationship is more than the sum of its parts. There is a shared experience that happens when you meet someone that can't be predicted beforehand."

The study, "Is Romantic Desire Predictable? Machine Learning Applied to Initial Romantic Attraction," was published today online by the journal Psychological Science. Co-authors on the paper are Paul W. Eastwick of the University of California, Davis, and Eli J. Finkel of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Joel also will present the findings at TEDxSaltLakeCity on Sept. 9 at Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah campus.

The researchers used data from two samples of speed daters, who filled out questionnaires about more than 100 traits and preferences and then met in a series of four-minute dates. Afterward, the participants rated their interactions, indicating level of interest in and sexual attraction to each person they met.

Joel and her colleagues used a cutting-edge machine learning algorithm to test whether it was possible to predict unique romantic desire based on participants' questionnaire responses and before the individuals met.

The answer was no. They found it was possible to predict the overall tendency for someone to like and to be liked by others -- but not which two particular people were a match.

"We found we cannot anticipate how much individuals will uniquely desire each other in a speed-dating context with any meaningful level of accuracy," Joel said. "I thought that out of more than 100 predictors, we would be able to predict at least some portion of the variance. I didn't expect we would find zero."

It would be great if people were able to circumvent the hassle and heartache of the dating process by entering information into a computer and having it produce the perfect soul mate, Joel said.

"We tried to do it and we couldn't do it," Joel said. "Dating can be hard and anxiety provoking and there's a market there for a short cut. What if you didn't have to kiss all the frogs? What if you could skip to the part where you click with someone? But our data suggests that, at least with the tools we currently have available, there isn't an easy fix for finding love."

While online dating sites provide a valuable service by narrowing the field and identifying potential romantic prospects, "they don't let you bypass the process of having to physically meet someone to find out how you feel about them," Joel said.

The bottom line is relationship science still has a long way to go to decipher romantic attraction and what makes two particular people click, said co-author Eastwick.

"It may be that we never figure it out, that it is a property we can never get at because it is simply not predictable," Eastwick said. "Romantic desire may well be more like an earthquake, involving a dynamic and chaos-like process, than a chemical reaction involving the right combination of traits and preferences."


Monday, August 28, 2017

'Marrying up' is now easier for men, improves their economic well-being


As the number of highly educated women has increased in recent decades, the chances of "marrying up" have increased significantly for men and decreased for women, according to a new study led by a University of Kansas sociologist.

"The pattern of marriage and its economic consequences have changed over time," said lead author ChangHwan Kim, associate professor of sociology. "Now women are more likely to get married to a less-educated man. What is the consequence of this?"

Kim's co-authored the study with Arthur Sakamoto of Texas A&M University, and the journal Demography recently published their findings. They examined gender-specific changes in the total financial return to education among people of prime working ages, 35 to 44 years old, using U.S. Census data from 1990 and 2000 and the 2009-2011 American Community Survey.

The researchers investigated the return to education not only in labor markets but also in the marriage market.

"Previously, women received more total financial return to education than men, because their return in the marriage market was high. However, this female advantage has deteriorated over time despite women's substantial progress in education and labor-market performance," Kim said.

The researchers found the overall net advantage of being female in terms of family-standard-of-living decreased approximately 13 percent between 1990 and 2009-2011. Women's personal earnings have grown faster than men's earnings during this time as women have increased their education and experienced a greater return on education.

However, the number of highly educated women exceeds the number of highly educated men in the marriage market, the researchers found. Women are more likely to be married to a less-educated man. Because of the combined facts that husbands are less educated than their wives than before, and the return on earnings for men has stagnated, a husband's contribution to family income has decreased. On the other hand, wives' contribution to family income has substantially increased.

This has led to a faster improvement of the family standard of living for men than for equally educated women themselves, Kim said, and helped converge the gap in equivalised income between wives and husbands.

"This could explain why it seems men don't complain a lot about this," Kim said. "Our answer is that's true because look at the actual quality of life, which is determined more likely by family income rather  than by personal earnings. It seems fine for men because their wife is now bringing more income to the household. One implication of these findings is that the importance of marriage market has increased for men's total economic well-being."

These developments could also result in gender convergence in the family standard of living associated with this shift in the norm of marriage, away from previous eras.

"Marriage is now becoming more egalitarian and becoming equal," Kim said. "If you look at gender dynamics or from a marriage-equality standpoint, that is a really good sign."

However, the study's results also have implications for examining potential effects of marriage and economic inequality.

"For less-educated women, the contribution of their husbands has been substantially reduced so that their standard of living has diminished, even though their personal earnings have grown," the researchers said.

This could aggravate a wealth gap among less-educated or low-income families, the researchers said. Kim said potential future research could monitor how family demography still shapes and directly underlies inequality, even as family relations continue to evolve.

"When we consider family dynamics," Kim said, "men are getting the benefit from women's progress."