Tuesday, December 8, 2009

No harmful psychological impact: casual sex

University of Minnesota Project Eating Among Teens (EAT) researchers have found that young adults engaging in casual sexual encounters do not appear to be at increased risk for harmful psychological outcomes as compared to sexually active young adults in more committed relationships. While this study focused on the psychological impact, researchers caution that the physical risks of casual sex should not be overlooked.

Marla E. Eisenberg, Sc.D., M.P.H., Medical School, and colleagues used data from Project EAT, an ongoing study that assessed a diverse sample of 1,311 sexually active young adults. From 2003-2004, 574 males and 737 females in Minnesota with a mean age of 20.5 were surveyed regarding sexual behaviors and emotional well-being.

Of the sexually active respondents, 55 percent reported that their last sexual partner was an exclusive dating partner followed by 25 percent whose most recent partner was a fiancé/e, spouse, or life partner. Much lower percentages reported that their last sexual partner was a close but not exclusive partner (12 percent) or a casual acquaintance (8 percent). Over twice as many males as females reported that their last partner was casual (i.e. , either a "casual acquaintance" or "close but not exclusive partner").

Although there has been speculation in public discourse that sexual encounters outside a committed romantic relationship may be emotionally damaging for young people, this study found no differences in the psychological well-being of young adults who had a casual sexual partner verses a more committed partner.

"While the findings from this study show that young adults engaging in casual sexual encounters do not appear to be at increased risk for harmful psychological outcomes compared to those in more committed relationships, this should not minimize the legitimate threats to physical well-being associated with casual sexual relationships, and the need for such messages in sexuality education programs and other interventions with young adults," Eisenberg said.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Medication for Women with Hypoactive Sexual Desire

"Women simply shouldn't have to live with a distressing lack of sexual desire," asserts Anita Clayton, MD, professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. "But right now women don't have many treatment options."

That soon may change for the thousands - perhaps millions - of pre-menopausal women suffering from Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD), an under-treated medical condition often described by women as a distressing lack of, or decrease in, sexual desire that may put strain on relationships with their partners.

Dr. Clayton and fellow lead investigators have announced remarkable results from several nationwide Phase III clinical trials assessing flibanserin, a new non-hormonal medication that is proving to be an effective therapy for pre-menopausal women with HSDD. Findings were presented November 15, 2009 at the 12th Congress of the European Society for Sexual Medicine in Lyon, France.

Trial data demonstrates that flibanserin 100mg daily increased the number of satisfying sexual events (SSE) and sexual desire (the study's co-primary endpoints) while decreasing the distress associated with HSDD. Flibanserin is an investigational compound being developed by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

"With this data, we are making exciting progress in women's sexual health research, as flibanserin is the first in a class of drugs being studied for this condition in pre-menopausal women," says Dr. Clayton. "This is an important milestone for an under-recognized condition for which there is no FDA-approved treatment."

"HSDD is a complex condition that can cause distress and negatively impact a woman's self-esteem," Dr. Clayton continues. "Women suffering from this disorder often report feelings of frustration and anxiety and view themselves as being sexually defective. They worry about their lack of desire negatively affecting their relationship and their partner. But I think it's important to note that we're not talking about women who simply don't want to have sex or aren't concerned about a lack of desire. It's about the women who suffer significant mental distress from their lack of desire."

In the pooled analysis of 1,378 pre-menopausal women with HSDD, the frequency of satisfying sexual events (SSE) increased significantly in women taking flibanserin 100mg (increasing from 2.8 at baseline to 4.5 at study end) versus placebo (2.7 at baseline increasing to 3.7 at study end) over the 24-week study period. A patient reported outcome measure, SSE measures the number of sexual events (defined as sexual intercourse, oral sex, masturbation or genital stimulation by the partner), and whether each event was satisfying for the woman.

Flibanserin also demonstrated statistically significant improvements in sexual desire versus placebo as measured by a daily electronic diary (eDiary) and the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) desire domain. The FSFI is a 19-item self-administered questionnaire composed of six domains (desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction and pain).

Flibanserin significantly improved sexual functioning (as measured by the FSFI total score), distress related to sexual dysfunction (as measured by a self-administered questionnaire, the Female Sexual Distress Scale-Revised, FSDS-R, score) and distress related to low sexual desire (the score on FSDS-R question 13) versus placebo.

All women enrolled in the study were in stable, communicative, monogamous, heterosexual relationships with a sexually functioning partner for at least one year. Women ranged in age from 18 to 55 and were required to use a reliable form of contraception.

"HSDD is not a new disorder; it's been recognized in the field for more than 30 years," Dr. Clayton points out. "What's new is that people are beginning to talk about it. Before, women's sexual issues were taboo subjects - even between patient and physician. Now we have the chance to open up the dialogue."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Using lubricants during sex

An Indiana University study involving 2,453 women ages 18 to 68 found that lubricant use during sexual activity alone or with a partner contributed to higher ratings of pleasurable and satisfying sex.

Personal lubricants have long been recommended to women to improve the comfort of sexual intercourse and to reduce the risk of vaginal tearing, yet strikingly little available data is available on women's use of lubricants or associated vaginal symptoms.

The study, conducted by Debby Herbenick, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, involved women who used one of six different water- or silicone-based lubricants.

The study also found that side effects were rarely associated with lubricant use; vaginal tearing occurred during less than 1 percent of vaginal intercourse events and genital pain was reported in less than 5 percent of intercourse acts when lubricant was used.

Herbenick will present her findings at on Monday, Nov. 9, at 3:10 p.m. during the "What's Sex Got To Do With It?" session. Co-authors are Devon J. Hensel , IU School of Medicine; Kristen Jozkowski, Center for Sexual Health Promotion; Michael Reece, CSHP; and J. Dennis Fortenberry, IU School of Medicine.

Researchers from the Center of Sexual Health Promotion conducted more than 15 studies being presented at the APHA conference. Public health professionals routinely recommend the addition of lubricant to condoms during sexual activity, yet virtually no research has assessed the sexual situations during which the recommendations are followed. The following two CSHP studies help fill in the gaps.

A CSHP study involving 2,453 women examined their use of water-based or silicone-based lubricants during sexual activity. The use of lubricants during sexual activity has been recommended as a strategy to reduce the likelihood of vaginal tearing, which can increase risk for HIV and other STI. The study participants strongly endorsed the notion that lubricant use improved the sexual experience; in more than 70 percent of events, women indicated that using lubricants made sex feel very pleasurable and more comfortable (65.5 percent). The women in the study primarily were heterosexual (85.6 percent) and married (56.4 percent), with an average age of 32.5. Other findings: When applying lubricant, 58.4 percent of events involved application to the woman's genitals by their sexual partner, 54.7 percent involved women applying lubricant to their own or their partner's fingers, and 53.4 percent involved women applying lubricant directly on their partner's genitals. Most frequently reported reasons for lubricant use included the desire to reduce the risk of tearing (22 percent) and to make sex more comfortable (21.8 percent). Co-authors include lead author Jozkowski, Herbenick, Hensel, Reece and Fortenberry. The research was supported by The Patty Brisben Foundation. Jozkowski will present the findings on Monday, Nov. 9, at 2:30 p.m. during the "Women and HIV: Emerging Issues" session.

A CSHP study involving 1,834 men examined the use of lubricants during vaginal intercourse. The study involved 8,876 coital events, 46.8 percent of which involved the use of a latex condom and 24.7 percent of which involved the use of a lubricant. Additional results: most frequently, lubricant was added to the external tip of the condom after penile application (22.5 percent), directly in or around the partner's vagina (16.2 percent), and to both the condom and vagina (16.2 percent). The addition of lubricant to condoms was more likely during intercourse with a spouse than with a non-committed partner, during intercourse events of longer duration, when a female partner applied the condom to the partner's penis, and when a female partner used Nuva Ring, IUD or spermicidal jelly/foam as a method of contraception. The research was supported by The Patty Brisben Foundation. Co-authors include, Reece, Hensel, Herbenick, Fortenberry, and Brian Dodge, CSHP. Reece will present the findings on Monday, Nov. 9, at 10:30 a.m. during the "Innovative Research on Sexual Health" session.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Married with children the key to happiness?

New study shows that raising kids makes married people happier


Having children improves married peoples’ life satisfaction and the more they have, the happier they are. For unmarried individuals, raising children has little or no positive effect on their happiness. These findings (1) by Dr. Luis Angeles from the University of Glasgow in the UK have just been published online in Springer’s Journal of Happiness Studies.

Previous research suggests that increasing numbers of children do not make people any happier, and in some cases the more children people have, the less satisfied they are with their lives. Rather bleakly, this has been attributed to the fact that raising children involves a lot of hard work for only a few occasional rewards.

Dr. Angeles believes that this explanation is too simplistic. When asked about the most important things in their lives, most people place their children near or even at the top of their list. Contrary to previous work, Dr. Angeles’ analysis of the relationship between having children and life satisfaction takes into account the role of individual characteristics, including marital status, gender, age, income and education.

For married individuals of all ages and married women in particular, children increase life satisfaction and life satisfaction goes up with the number of children in the household. Negative experiences in raising children are reported by people who are separated, living as a couple, or single, having never been married. Children take their toll on their parents’ satisfaction with social life, and amount and use of leisure time.

Dr. Angeles concludes: “One is tempted to advance that children make people better off under the ‘right conditions’ - a time in life when people feel that they are ready, or at least willing, to enter parenthood. This time can come at very different moments for different individuals, but a likely signal of its approach may well be the act of marriage.”

Monday, October 12, 2009

Looks, $ Equally Attractive To Men and Women

What Men And Women Say And Do In Choosing Romantic Partners Are Two Different Matters

When it comes to romantic attraction men primarily are motivated by good looks and women by earning power. At least that's what men and women have been saying for a long time. Based on research that dates back several decades, the widely accepted notion permeates popular culture today.

But those sex differences didn't hold up in a new in-depth study of romantic attraction undertaken by two Northwestern University psychologists. In short, the data suggest that whether you're a man or a woman, being attractive is just as good for your romantic prospects and, to a lesser extent, so is being a good earner.

For a month, the romantic lives of study participants were scrutinized, including their prospects within and outside of a speed-dating event.

What people said and did in choosing romantic partners were two different matters.

"True to the stereotypes, the initial self-reports of male participants indicated that they cared more than women about a romantic partner's physical attractiveness, and the women in the study stated more than men that earning power was an aphrodisiac," said Paul Eastwick, lead author of the study and graduate student in psychology in the Weinberg School of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern.

But in reality men and women were equally inspired by physical attraction and equally inspired by earning power or ambition. "In other words good looks was the primary stimulus of attraction for both men and women, and a person with good earning prospects or ambition tended to be liked as well," said Eli Finkel, assistant professor of psychology at Northwestern. "Most noteworthy, the earning-power effect as well as the good-looks effect didn't differ for men and women."

Participants' preferences based on their live romantic interactions contrasted with the ideal sex-differentiated preferences that they reported 10 days before the speed-dating event.

"We found that the romantic dynamics that occurred at the speed-dating event and during the following 30-day period had little to do with the sex-differentiated preferences stated on the questionnaires," said Finkel.

The speed dating methodology gave the researchers an opportunity not available to earlier generations of researchers to compare stated romantic preferences with actual choices participants made about a series of potential partners.

The discrepancy between what people did and said in this dating situation fits with other research that shows that people often do a poor job explaining why they do things, often referring to accepted cultural theories to explain their own behavior.

The speed-dating methodology allowed the Northwestern researchers to move beyond the abstract world of romantic ideals to see how people actually rated a number of flesh-and-blood people regarding physical attractiveness, ambition and earning power.

"If you were to tell me that you prefer physically attractive romantic partners, I would expect to see that you indeed are more attracted to physically attractive partners," said Eastwick. "But our participants didn't pursue their ideal in this way. This leads us to question whether people know what they initially value in a romantic partner."

What about the academic argument that men are primed much more than women to highly value beauty in romantic partners in an evolutionary quest for health, fertility and preservation of the gene pool? The new Northwestern research poses at least as many questions as it answers about the differences between the sexes. Is it possible after all that, when it comes to romantic attraction, men aren't from Mars and women aren't from Venus? The new study suggests that both sexes have similar romantic responses to each other right here on planet Earth.

Women Prefer Prestige Over Dominance In Mates

A new study in the journal Personal Relationships reveals that women prefer mates who are recognized by their peers for their skills, abilities, and achievements, while not preferring men who use coercive tactics to subordinate their rivals. Indeed, women found dominance strategies of the latter type to be attractive primarily when men used them in the context of male-male athletic competitions.

Jeffrey K. Snyder, Lee A. Kirkpatrick, and H. Clark Barrett conducted three studies with college women at two U.S. universities. Participants evaluated hypothetical potential mates described in written vignettes. The studies were designed to examine the respective effects of men’s dominance and prestige on women’s assessments of men.

Women are sensitive to the context in which men display domineering behaviors when they evaluate men as potential mates. For example, the traits and behaviors that women found attractive in athletic competitions were unattractive to women when men displayed the same traits and behaviors in interpersonal contexts. Notably, when considering prospective partners for long-term relationships, women’s preferences for dominance decrease, and their preferences for prestige increase.

“These findings directly contradict the dating advice of some pop psychologists who advise men to be aggressive in their social interactions. Women most likely avoid dominant men as long-term romantic partners because a dominant man may also be domineering in the household.” the authors conclude.

Red Enhances Men's Attraction To Women

A groundbreaking study by two University of Rochester psychologists to be published online by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology adds color—literally and figuratively—to the age-old question of what attracts men to women.

Through five psychological experiments, Andrew Elliot, professor of psychology, and Daniela Niesta, post-doctoral researcher, demonstrate that the color red makes men feel more amorous toward women. And men are unaware of the role the color plays in their attraction.

The research provides the first empirical support for society's enduring love affair with red. From the red ochre used in ancient rituals to today's red-light districts and red hearts on Valentine's Day, the rosy hue has been tied to carnal passions and romantic love across cultures and millennia. But this study, said Elliot, is the only work to scientifically document the effects of color on behavior in the context of relationships.

"It's only recently that psychologists and researchers in other disciplines have been looking closely and systematically at the relationship between color and behavior. Much is known about color physics and color physiology, but very little about color psychology," said Elliot. "It's fascinating to find that something as ubiquitous as color can be having an effect on our behavior without our awareness."

Although this aphrodisiacal effect of red may be a product of societal conditioning alone, the authors argue that men's response to red more likely stems from deeper biological roots. Research has shown that nonhuman male primates are particularly attracted to females displaying red. Female baboons and chimpanzees, for example, redden conspicuously when nearing ovulation, sending a clear sexual signal designed to attract males.

"Our research demonstrates a parallel in the way that human and nonhuman male primates respond to red," concluded the authors. "In doing so, our findings confirm what many women have long suspected and claimed – that men act like animals in the sexual realm. As much as men might like to think that they respond to women in a thoughtful, sophisticated manner, it appears that at least to some degree, their preferences and predilections are, in a word, primitive."

To quantify the red effect, the study looked at men's responses to photographs of women under a variety of color presentations. In one experiment, test subjects looked at a woman's photo framed by a border of either red or white and answered a series of questions, such as: "How pretty do you think this person is?" Other experiments contrasted red with gray, green, or blue.

When using chromatic colors like green and blue, the colors were precisely equated in saturation and brightness levels, explained Niesta. "That way the test results could not be attributed to differences other than hue."

In the final study, the shirt of the woman in the photograph, instead of the background, was digitally colored red or blue. In this experiment, men were queried not only about their attraction to the woman, but their intentions regarding dating. One question asked: "Imagine that you are going on a date with this person and have $100 in your wallet. How much money would you be willing to spend on your date?"

Under all of the conditions, the women shown framed by or wearing red were rated significantly more attractive and sexually desirable by men than the exact same women shown with other colors. When wearing red, the woman was also more likely to score an invitation to the prom and to be treated to a more expensive outing.

The red effect extends only to males and only to perceptions of attractiveness. Red did not increase attractiveness ratings for females rating other females and red did not change how men rated the women in the photographs in terms of likability, intelligence or kindness.

Although red enhances positive feelings in this study, earlier research suggests the meaning of a color depends on its context. For example, Elliot and others have shown that seeing red in competition situations, such as written examinations or sporting events, leads to worse performance.

The current findings have clear implications for the dating game, the fashion industry, product design and marketing.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Did Early Humans Start Walking for Sex?

Jamie Shreeve
Science editor, National Geographic magazine
October 1, 2009
The big news from the journal Science today is the discovery of the oldest human skeleton—a small-brained, 110-pound (50-kilogram) female of the species Ardipithecus ramidus, nicknamed "Ardi." She lived in what is now Ethiopia 4.4 million years ago, which makes her over a million years older than the famous Lucy fossil, found in the same region 35 years ago.

(Full story: "Oldest 'Human' Skeleton Found—Disproves 'Missing Link.'")
PICTURES: 7 Major "Missing Links" Since Darwin
Buried among the slew of papers about the new find is one about the creature's sex life. It makes fascinating reading, especially if you like learning why human females don't know when they are ovulating, and men lack the clacker-sized testicles and bristly penises sported by chimpanzees.

(See pictures of Ardipithecus ramidus.)

One of the defining attributes of Lucy and all other hominids—members of our evolutionary lineage, including ourselves—is that they walk upright on two legs. While Ardi also walked on two legs on the ground, the species also clambered about on four legs in the trees. Ardi thus offers a fascinating glimpse of an ape caught in the act of becoming human. (Interactive: Ardi's key features.)

The problem is it is doing it in the wrong place at the wrong time—at least according to conventional wisdom, which says our kind first stood up on two legs when they moved out of the forest and onto open savanna grasslands. At the time Ardi lived, her environment was a woodland, much cooler and wetter than the desert there today.

So why did her species become bipedal while it was still living partly in the trees, especially since walking on two legs is a much less efficient way of getting about?

According to Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University, it all comes down to food, and sex.

In apes—both modern apes and, presumably, the ancient ancestors of Ardipithecus—males find mates the good old-fashioned apish way: by fighting with other males for access to fertile females. Success, measured in number of offspring, goes to macho males with big sharp canine teeth who try to mate with as many ovulating females as possible. Sex is best done quickly—hence those penis bristles, which accelerate ejaculation—with the advantage to the male with big testicles carrying a heavy load of sperm. Among females, the winners are those who flaunt their fertility with swollen genitals or some other prominent display of ovulation, so those big alpha dudes will take notice and give them a tumble, providing a baby with his big alpha genes.

Let's suppose that some lesser male, with poor little stubby canines, figures out that he can entice a fertile female into mating by bringing her some food. That sometimes happens among living chimpanzees, for instance when a female rewards a male for presenting her with a tasty gift of colobus monkey.

Among Ardipithecus's ancestors, such a strategy could catch on if searching for food required a lot of time and exposure to predators. Males would be far more successful food-providers if they had their hands free to carry home loads of fruits and tubers—which would favor walking on two legs. Females would come to prefer good, steady providers with smaller canines over the big fierce-toothed ones who left as soon as they spot another fertile female. The results, says Lovejoy, are visible in Ardipithecus, which had small canines even in males and walked upright.

Lovejoy's explanation for the origin of bipedalism thus comes down to the monogamous pair bond. Far from being a recent evolutionary innovation, as many people assume, he believes the behavior goes back all the way to near the beginning of our lineage some six million years ago.

But there is one other, essential piece to this puzzle that leaves no trace in the fossil record. If the female knew when she was fertile, she could basically cheat the system by taking all the food offered by her milquetoast of a provider, then cuckold him with a dominant male when she was ovulating, scoring the best of both worlds. The food-for-sex contract thus depends on what Lovejoy calls "the most unique human character"—ovulation that not only goes unannounced to the males of the group, but is concealed even from the female herself.

Regular meals, monogamy, and discretion—who would have thought our origins were so sedate?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Orgasms and attitudes about female genitals

An Indiana University study published in the September issue of the International Journal of Sexual Health found that women who feel more positively about women's genitals find it easier to orgasm and are more likely to engage in sexual health promoting behaviors, such as having regular gynecological exams or performing vulvar self-examinations.

"These are important findings about body image," said Debby Herbenick, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. "Our culture often portrays women's genitals as dirty and in need of cleaning and grooming. Some women may have had greater exposure to such negative messages or may be more susceptible to their impact."

Herbenick's study created a scale for measuring men's and women's attitudes toward women's genitals. Such a scale, she wrote in the study, could be useful in sex therapy, in medical settings to help better understand decision-making that goes into gynecological care and treatment, and in health education settings involving women and their sexual health. The study also found that men had more positive attitudes about women's genitals than women.

"Women are often more critical about their own bodies -- and other women's bodies -- than men are," Herbenick said. "What we found in this study is that men generally feel positive about a variety of aspects of women's genitals including how they look, smell, taste and feel."

Herbenick, also a sexual health educator for The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, offers the following suggestions regarding the findings:

Body image. Parents might consider how they can help their daughters to feel more positively about their bodies, such as by teaching them accurate names for their body parts, including their genitals (e.g., "vulva" rather than "down there") and responding in supportive ways to their self-exploration. "Rather than saying, 'don't touch down there -- it's dirty,' parents might let their children know that it's OK for them to touch their genitals, but in private spaces such as their own bedroom or the bathroom," Herbenick said.

Advertisements and marketing. Health educators might consider ways that they can teach women and men about their bodies in positive, sex-positive ways by openly discussing how some products or marketing campaigns make people feel about their bodies.
The survey component of the study involved 362 women and 241 men, most of whom were white/Caucasian and between the ages of 18 and 23.

"Our study builds on previous research that demonstrates that the mind and body are highly connected in regard to sex," said Herbenick. "When women feel more positively about female genitals, they likely feel more relaxed in their own skin, more able to let go and thus more likely to experience pleasure and orgasm."

Sexually satisfied women have more vitality

Older women have higher well-being scores than younger women

Pre- and post-menopausal women who self-rated themselves as being sexually satisfied had a higher overall psychological well-being score and scores for "positive well-being" and "vitality," compared with sexually dissatisfied women in a study of 295 women sexually active more than twice a month. The study, published today in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, also uncovered a positive association between age and well-being, but a negative association for general health.

The most commonly reported sexual problems in the area of consensual sexuality in women relate to sexual desire and interest, pleasure and satisfaction, and for most women these are part of the overall sexual experience, and are inextricably related. In contrast to studies of interventions for male erectile dysfunction, benefit of treatment in women with sexual dysfunction cannot be measured simply by the frequency of sexual events, as women frequently continue to be sexually active despite a high level of sexual dissatisfaction. Thus the frequency of self-reported satisfactory sexual events has been used as the primary outcome in recent studies.

To assess whether there was a correlation between sexual satisfaction and well-being, the team of Australian researchers recruited women from the community aged 20-65 who self-identified as being satisfied or dissatisfied with their sexual function. Participants were also asked questions which identified whether they were pre- or post menopausal, with recruitment closed when there was an equal number of women in each of the four subgroups.

"We wanted to explore the links between sexual satisfaction and wellbeing in women from the community, and to see if there was any difference between pre- and postmenopausal women," said lead author Dr Sonia Davison, of the Women's Health Program at Monash University, Australia. "We found that women who were sexually dissatisfied had lower well-being and lower vitality. This finding highlights the importance of addressing these areas as an essential part of women's healthcare, because women may be uncomfortable discussing these issues with their doctor."

"The problem with interpreting this finding is that it is impossible to determine if dissatisfied women had lower well-being because they were sexually dissatisfied, or if the reverse is true, such that women who started with lower well-being tended to secondarily have sexual dissatisfaction," added Davison. "As such, pharmacotherapies aimed to treat sexual dysfunction may have secondary effects on well-being, and the reverse may be true."

As over 90% of women in this study reported their sexual activity involved a partner, and was initiated by the partner at least 50% of the time, the sexual activity of the women may have been affected by partner presence (or absence), partner health, and sexual function, which were not addressed in this study. "The fact that women who self-identified as being dissatisfied maintained the level of sexual activity reported most likely represents established behaviour and partner expectation," said Professor Susan Davis, senior author of this study, also based at the Women's Health Program at Monash University, Australia. "It also reinforces the fact that frequency of sexual activity in women cannot be employed as a reliable indicator of sexual well-being."

"We are proud to publish this extremely important study in women's sexual health" said Dr. Irwin Goldstein, Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine. "This large study performed in the community emphasizes the role and importance of women's sexual health in women's overall health and well-being. Previous criticism equated physicians' efforts to improve a woman's satisfaction with her sexual life as medicalization. Dr. Davison's and co-workers' research will help health care professionals appreciate the need for overall women's healthcare to include women's sexual health care."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Men will go to bed with anyone, women choosier

Men are far more interested in casual sex than women. While men need to be exceptionally attractive to tempt women to consider casual sex, men are far less choosy. These findings1 by Dr Achim Schützwohl, from the Department of Psychology at Brunel University in the UK, and his team are published online in Springer’s journal Human Nature.

The research shows that men are more likely than women to report having had casual sex and they express a greater desire for it than do women. It is also thought that women but not men raise their standards of attractiveness for a casual sex partner.

Dr Schützwohl and his colleagues looked at the influence of an imagined requestor’s physical attractiveness on men’s and women’s willingness to accept three distinct offers: go out, go to their apartment and go to bed with them. A total of 427 male and 433 female students from the US, Germany and Italy answered a questionnaire. They were asked to imagine being approached by a member of the opposite sex, described as either “slightly unattractive”, “moderately attractive” or “exceptionally attractive”. They then rated how likely they would be to accept each of the three offers.

The authors found that the requestor’s looks affected men and women differently. Across all three levels of requestor attractiveness, men were more likely to go out, go to their apartment and go to bed with them than were women. German men were less likely to go out with the requestor and go to their apartment than American and Italian men. Italian men were more likely to go to bed with the requestor than were American men. German men were even less likely than American men to go to bed with the requestor. These differences highlight cultural differences in sexual morals and preferences.

For each of the three offers, men were more likely to accept when the hypothetical woman was moderately or exceptionally attractive than when she was slightly unattractive, but whether she was moderately or exceptionally attractive made no difference. Women however placed more importance on the requestor’s good looks. They were more likely to accept the apartment and bed requests from an exceptionally attractive man than from either a moderately attractive or slightly unattractive man.

The authors conclude: “While men are not entirely insensitive to their requestor’s attractiveness, women have higher standards and are more likely to engage in casual sex with an exceptionally attractive man than with a less attractive man.”

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How cost affects decisions to marry

"Money can't buy me love" the Beattles famously sang. And now a new paper by University of Notre Dame economist Kasey Buckles and colleagues suggests "money" or more precisely the price of marriage, can significantly affect the decision to marry.

Buckles and coauthors Melanie Guldi of Mount Holyoke College and Joseph Price of Bringham Young University point out that economists have long been interested in how individuals respond to changes in the cost of marriage. In their paper, they examine the decision to marry in response to a policy that has that has not been previously studied — blood test requirements for obtaining a marriage license.

Up until the 1980s, most states required a blood test in order to obtain a wedding license. The law required the test to screen for certain conditions, such as rubella or syphilis, and hopefully, reduce the spread of communicable disease and prevent birth defects.

By 2006, however, the requirement had been phased out in all but two states: Mississippi and the District of Columbia (the researchers treated the District as a state for the purposes of the study). The repeals came about because penicillin became a cheap and effective treatment for syphilis and vaccines were developed for rubella and other diseases and pre-marital screenings were no longer considered cost-effective.

Using data on state marriage rates between 1980 and 2006, Buckles and her colleagues found that when blood test requirements are in place, states issue 5.7 percent fewer marriage licenses. Roughly half the difference is due to couples going out of state for marriage licensees, while the rest was due to couples deciding not to marry at all.

The researchers also found that blood test requirements increase the number of out-of-wedlock, first-time mothers, especially among the young, African-Americans and those without a high-school degree. The finding suggests that the financial burden of blood tests may be higher for low-income individuals.

The study also suggests that premarital blood tests may have a heavy psychological "cost" in that some individuals avoid them due to fear of the sight of blood or the burden of discovering a positive test result that has to be revealed to a partner.

Buckles and her fellow researchers hope that their results may be of use to policy makers considering other policies that directly (required premarital counseling, waiting periods and license fees) and indirectly (tax and transfer programs) affect the cost of getting married.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Failure of oral contraceptives with obese women

Researchers have identified a potential biological mechanism that could explain why oral contraceptives may be less effective at preventing pregnancy in obese women, as some epidemiological studies have indicated.

Although conventional oral contraceptives appear to eventually reach the effective blood concentrations needed in the body to prevent conception in obese women, it appears to take twice as long, leaving a "window of opportunity" every month where the contraceptive may not be at a high enough level to prevent a pregnancy.

The findings are of particular importance, researchers noted in their study, because about 30 percent of all adults in the U.S. are obese and the birth control pill is one of the most popular forms of contraception in the nation.

"We don't have enough data yet to recommend that physicians change their clinical practice for use of oral contraceptives with patients who are very overweight," said Ganesh Cherala, an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University. "However, until more studies are done, women may wish to consult with their physicians about this issue and consider a backup method of contraception at some times of the month."

The study was just published in the journal Contraception, by scientists from OSU, Oregon Health and Science University, University of Colorado at Denver, Oregon National Primate Research Center, and the University of Southern California. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The underlying problem, Cherala said, is that oral contraceptives, like most drugs, are initially tested in "healthy" people, which rarely includes people who are more than 130 percent of their ideal body weight.

"When we first test drugs for safety and efficacy, we generally do not include people with a high body mass index," Cherala said. "But body weight and amounts of fat can seriously change the pharmacokinetics, or way drugs act and are processed in the body. There's a growing awareness that we need to more carefully consider obesity and other factors that affect drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and other factors."

Conventional oral contraceptives, Cherala said, are thought to be relatively "lipophilic," or tend to concentrate in fat tissue. However, the researchers in this study said they were somewhat surprised to find that the affinity of these drugs for fat tissue was not significantly different between obese and normal body weight subjects.

Rather, the researchers found that contraceptive drug levels in both obese women and those of normal weight eventually were about the same, but it took longer to achieve that level in very overweight women.

The study showed it took an average of about five days for the drugs to achieve their maximum concentration in women of normal weight, an average of 10 days for obese women, and even longer than that for some individuals. One woman in the study took more than 20 days to reach a "steady state" drug concentration. Women of normal weight who follow their oral contraceptive directions should have appropriate protection against pregnancy. But the delay in reaching a steady state drug concentration raises questions about how well oral contraceptives may work for obese women.

Increasing the drug dosage might help address this issue, Cherala said, but also adds other health concerns.

In fact, the researchers noted in their report that many clinicians actually prescribe lower-dose oral contraceptives to obese patients in an effort to decrease their risk of venous thrombosis. These are blood clots in the legs or elsewhere that can increase the risk of stroke and heart attacks.

The study was done with 20 women of ages 18 to 35, all of them healthy and seeking contraception, 10 of whom were of normal weight and 10 with a "body mass index" of more than 30 – a common measure of obesity.

According to Dr. Alison Edelman, lead author of the study and assistant director of the Family Planning Fellowship at Oregon Health and Science University, the participants in this study were purposely selected for obesity in order to explore this issue. But several demographic studies have shown that even women just considered "overweight," with a body mass index of 25-30, may also be at increased risk of contraceptive failure.

"Although our research has found this interaction between obese women and oral contraceptives, we don't have enough information yet to recommend changes in clinical practice, other than choosing a contraceptive option that works better for both normal weight and obese women, like an intrauterine device," Edelman said.

For future work, she said, studies of contraception would be more useful if they included participants that reflect the general population, including women with different body mass indexes. The biological underpinnings of how oral contraceptives work, their effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, has only been studied in women of normal weight, the researchers noted in their study.

At present, Cherala said, there is no readily available test that would tell a woman how long it would take for her to reach an effective concentration level of a particular contraceptive, and this does vary with the individual. However, scientists are continuing research on that issue, and they may ultimately develop tests or methods that would improve drug efficacy for women who wish to use oral contraceptives.

#This study can be found on the web at this URL: http://tr.im/saIr

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cohabit before engagement, divorce more likely

Couples who cohabit before engagement are more likely to struggle

Two DU studies look at why couples live together and the results when they do

University of Denver (DU) researchers find that couples who live together before they are engaged have a higher chance of getting divorced than those who wait until they are married to live together, or at least wait until they are engaged. In addition, couples who lived together before engagement and then married, reported a lower satisfaction in their marriages.

The research, which appears in the "Journal of Family Psychology," was conducted by Galena Rhoades, senior researcher, Scott Stanley, research professor, and Howard Markman, professor of psychology.

"We think that some couples who move in together without a clear commitment to marriage may wind up sliding into marriage partly because they are already cohabiting," Rhoades says.

"It seems wise to talk about commitment and what living together might mean for the future of the relationship before moving in together, especially because cohabiting likely makes it harder to break up compared to dating," Stanley says.

The three researchers also studied the reasons why couples decide to live together. That study, which appeared in the "Journal of Family Issues," shows that most couples chose to live together in order to spend more time together. The second most popular reason is convenience, followed by testing the relationship. This is different than previous research that found most people cohabit to test the relationship.

"Cohabiting to test a relationship turns out to be associated with the most problems in relationships," Rhoades says. "Perhaps if a person is feeling a need to test the relationship, he or she already knows some important information about how a relationship may go over time."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Daily sex improves sperm quality

Daily sex helps to reduce sperm DNA damage and improve fertility

Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Daily sex (or ejaculating daily) for seven days improves men's sperm quality by reducing the amount of DNA damage, according to an Australian study presented today (Tuesday) to the 25th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Amsterdam.

Until now there has been no evidence-based consensus amongst fertility specialists as to whether or not men should refrain from sex for a few days before attempting to conceive with their partner, either spontaneously or via assisted reproduction.

Dr David Greening, an obstetrician and gynaecologist with sub specialist training in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Sydney IVF, Wollongong, Australia, said: "All that we knew was that intercourse on the day of ovulation offered the highest chance of pregnancy, but we did not know what was the best advice for the period leading up to ovulation or egg retrieval for IVF.

"I thought that frequent ejaculation might be a physiological mechanism to improve sperm DNA damage, while maintaining semen levels within the normal, fertile range."

To investigate this hypothesis, Dr Greening studied 118 men who had higher than normal sperm DNA damage as indicated by a DNA Fragmentation Index (DFI). Men who had a more than 15% of their sperm (DFI >15%) damaged were eligible for the trial. At Sydney IVF, sperm DNA damage is defined as less than 15% DFI for excellent quality sperm, 15-24% DFI for good, 25-29% DFI for fair and more than 29% DFI for poor quality; but other laboratories can have slightly different ranges.

The men were instructed to ejaculate daily for seven days, and no other treatment or lifestyle changes were suggested. Before they started, levels of DNA damage ranged between 15% and 98% DFI, with an average 34% DFI when measured after three days' abstinence. When the men's sperm was re-assessed on the seventh day, Dr Greening found that 96 men (81%) had an average 12% decrease in their sperm DNA damage, while 22 men (19%) and an average increase in damage of nearly 10%. The average for the whole group dropped to 26% DFI.

Dr Greening said: "Although the mean average was 26% which is in the 'fair' range for sperm quality, this included 18% of men whose sperm DNA damage increased as well as those whose DNA damage decreased. Amongst the men whose damage decreased, their average dropped by 12% to just under 23% DFI, which puts them in the 'good' range. Also, more men moved into the 'good' range and out of the 'poor' or 'fair' range. These changes were substantial and statistically highly significant.

"In addition, we found that although frequent ejaculation decreased semen volume and sperm concentrations, it did not compromise sperm motility and, in fact, this rose slightly but significantly.

"Further research is required to see whether the improvement in these men's sperm quality translates into better pregnancy rates, but other, previous studies have shown the relationship between sperm DNA damage and pregnancy rates.

"The optimal number of days of ejaculation might be more or less than seven days, but a week appears manageable and favourable. It seems safe to conclude that couples with relatively normal semen parameters should have sex daily for up to a week before the ovulation date. In the context of assisted reproduction, this simple treatment may assist in improving sperm quality and ultimately achieving a pregnancy. In addition, these results may mean that men play a greater role in infertility than previously suspected, and that ejaculatory frequency is important for improving sperm quality, especially as men age and during assisted reproduction cycles."

Dr Greening said he thought the reason why sperm quality improved with frequent ejaculation was because the sperm had a shorter exposure in the testicular ducts and epididymis to reactive oxygen species – very small molecules, high levels of which can damage cells. "The remainder of the men who had an increase in DFI might have a different explanation for their sperm DNA damage," he concluded.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Vibrator use is common, linked to sexual health

Two Indiana University studies conducted among nationally representative samples of adult American men and women show that vibrator use during sexual interactions is common, with use being reported by approximately 53 percent of women and 45 percent of men ages 18 to 60. Not only is vibrator use common, but the two studies also show that vibrator use is associated with more positive sexual function and being more proactive in caring for one's sexual health.

The studies, led by researchers at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, are the first to publish data about vibrator use from nationally representative samples of the U.S. population. This lack of data has existed despite a longstanding practice by many physicians and therapists to recommend vibrator use to help treat sexual dysfunctions or to improve sexual enjoyment.

One study surveyed women. The other surveyed men. Both were published this week by the "Journal of Sexual Medicine," a leading peer-reviewed journal in the area of urology and sexual health.

"The study about women's vibrator use affirms what many doctors and therapists have known for decades -- that vibrator use is common, it's linked to positive sexual function such as desire and ease of orgasm, and it's rarely associated with any side effects," said Debby Herbenick, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion.

Michael Reece, director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, said the studies are important for the contributions they make to an understanding of the sexual behaviors and sexual health of adults in today's society.

"The study about male vibrator use is additionally important because it shows that vibrator use is also common among men, something that has not been documented before," Reece said. "Also, both studies help us to further understand the way in which American consumers are turning to the marketplace for products that promote their sexual health, and that has important economic implications."

The studies are the first to document insights into how and why people use vibrators, examine side effects and to explore associations with sexual health behaviors, sexual enjoyment and quality of life measures.

The studies were funded by Church & Dwight Co. Inc., maker of Trojan® brand sexual health products. Here are some of the findings from the studies, which involve survey responses from 2,056 women and 1,047 men ages 18-60.

For women:

More than half of the women (52.5 percent) had used a vibrator with nearly one in four having done so in the past month.

Vibrator users were significantly more likely to have had a gynecological exam during the past year and to have performed genital self-examination during the previous month.
Vibrator use was positively related to several aspects of sexual function (desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, pain and overall function) with recent vibrator users scoring themselves higher on most sexual function domains, suggesting more positive sexual function.

Most women (71.5 percent) reported having never experienced any side effects associated with vibrator use. Those side effects that were reported were typically rare and of a short duration.

For men:

The prevalence of men who had incorporated a vibrator into sexual activities during their lives was 44.8 percent, with no statistical differences between the rates of vibrator use between men who identified as heterosexual and those who identified as gay or bisexual.

Heterosexual men most commonly reported having used vibrators during foreplay or intercourse with a female partner, with 91 percent of those who had used a vibrator reporting that they had done so during such activities with women.

Of men who have used vibrators, 10 percent had done so in the past month, 14.2 percent in the past year and 20.5 percent more than one year ago.

Men who reported having used vibrators, particularly those with more recent use, were more likely to report participation in sexual health promoting behaviors, such as testicular self-exam.

Men who had used vibrators recently also scored themselves higher on four of the five domains of sexual function, as measured by the International Index of Erectile Function (erectile function, intercourse satisfaction, orgasmic function and sexual desire).

The study specifically sought to establish nationally representative rates of vibrator use among men and women in the United States. Vibrators are electrical devices that produce pulses of variable amplitude and frequency to enhance sexual arousal in men and women by stimulating the genitals. Marketed widely to women through the Internet, women's magazines, boutiques and in-home sex toy parties, they also are available in drug stores and other mainstream retailers.

Hot or not? Men agree. Women don't.

Rating attractiveness: Study finds consensus among men, not women

There is much more consensus among men about whom they find attractive than there is among women, according to a new study by Wake Forest University psychologist Dustin Wood.

The study, co-authored by Claudia Brumbaugh of Queens College, appears in the June issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"Men agree a lot more about who they find attractive and unattractive than women agree about who they find attractive and unattractive," says Wood, assistant professor of psychology. "This study shows we can quantify the extent to which men agree about which women are attractive and vice versa."

More than 4,000 participants in the study rated photographs of men and women (ages 18-25) for attractiveness on a 10-point scale ranging from "not at all" to "very." In exchange for their participation, raters were told what characteristics they found attractive compared with the average person. The raters ranged in age from 18 to more than 70.

Before the participants judged the photographs for attractiveness, the members of the research team rated the images for how seductive, confident, thin, sensitive, stylish, curvaceous (women), muscular (men), traditional, masculine/feminine, classy, well-groomed, or upbeat the people looked.

Breaking out these factors helped the researchers figure out what common characteristics appealed most to women and men.

Men's judgments of women's attractiveness were based primarily around physical features and they rated highly those who looked thin and seductive. Most of the men in the study also rated photographs of women who looked confident as more attractive.

As a group, the women rating men showed some preference for thin, muscular subjects, but disagreed on how attractive many men in the study were. Some women gave high attractiveness ratings to the men other women said were not attractive at all.

"As far as we know, this is the first study to investigate whether there are differences in the level of consensus male and female raters have in their attractiveness judgments," Wood says. "These differences have implications for the different experiences and strategies that could be expected for men and women in the dating marketplace."

For example, women may encounter less competition from other women for the men they find attractive, he says. Men may need to invest more time and energy in attracting and then guarding their mates from other potential suitors, given that the mates they judge attractive are likely to be found attractive by many other men.

Wood says the study results have implications for eating disorders and how expectations regarding attractiveness affect behavior.

"The study helps explain why women experience stronger norms than men to obtain or maintain certain physical characteristics," he says. "Women who are trying to impress men are likely to be found much more attractive if they meet certain physical standards, and much less if they don't. Although men are rated as more attractive by women when they meet these physical appearance standards too, their overall judged attractiveness isn't as tightly linked to their physical features."

The age of the participants also played a role in attractiveness ratings. Older participants were more likely to find people attractive if they were smiling.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Young men scarce, are more likely to play the field

In places where young women outnumber young men, research shows the hemlines rise but the marriage rates don't because the young men feel less pressure to settle down as more women compete for their affections.

But when those men reach their 30s, the reverse is true and proportionately more older men are married in areas where women outnumber men.

Daniel Kruger, a University of Michigan researcher who studies evolution and how it relates to contemporary behavior, looked at the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States to test his hypothesis on how the balance between women and men affects marital patterns. Results showed that men aged 20-24 are more likely to cruise than to commit if they live in an area with more women than men.

One would think that rationally, fewer young men than women would naturally lead to proportionately more young men getting married, but that's not the case.

"Marriage patterns aren't rational because men and women have somewhat different reproductive strategies," Kruger said. "Men have a greater reproductive benefit than women from having a greater quantity of relationships. If they can leverage their scarcity into attracting multiple short-term partners, they will not have as much of an incentive to settle down."

There are about nine unmarried men for every 10 unmarried women in Birmingham, Memphis, New Orleans, and Richmond-Petersburg, Virginia, Kruger says. Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Baltimore, and New York metropolitan areas are tied for the next region where women are relatively most plentiful. In these areas, about 84 percent of the men aged 20-24 are unmarried. In Las Vegas, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Austin, and Phoenix, there are about nine unmarried women for every 10 unmarried men. In these areas, about 77 percent of the men aged 20-24 are unmarried.

Once those young men hit their 30s, they tend to shift from seeking short-term relationships to entering into committed relationships. That's because when women evaluate partners for short-term relationships they value physical features signaling the kind of genes that would be passed on to potential offspring, which may be the only legacy of men who don't stick around for child rearing. These physical features decline as men age, making it more difficult to lure women into uncommitted relationships.

"You see a complete reversal in the pattern," Kruger said, and thus, proportionately more older men are married when women outnumber men.

So, does this mean that middle aged women in these cities get a break? Not really, Kruger says. The higher marital rates for older men likely benefit women who are substantially younger than their husbands, because older men still prefer partners with higher reproductive potential.

The ratio of men to women has other aspects, as well. For instance, studies have shown that when women outnumber men, hemlines actually rise, overall, as women to do more to physically attract men. Also, the rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births are higher, and interests in women's rights increases. Surpluses of men tend to be associated with more conservative social norms and restricted roles for women.

The paper "When Men are Scarce, Good Men are Even Harder to Find: Life History, the Sex Ratio, and the Proportion of Men Married," appears in the current issue of the Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology (http://jsecjournal.com/krugerproof.pdf) and the paper "Male scarcity is differentially related to male marital likelihood across the life course" appears in the current issue of the journal Evolutionary Psychology (http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP07280287.pdf). Kruger is a researcher in the U-M School of Public Health.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Women may not be so picky after all

Women may not be so picky after all about choosing a mate

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Men and women may not be from two different planets after all when it comes to choosiness in mate selection, according to new research from Northwestern University.

When women were assigned to the traditionally male role of approaching potential romantic partners, they were not any pickier than men in choosing that special someone to date, according to the speed dating study.

That finding, of course, is contrary to well established evolutionary explanations about mate selection. An abundance of such research suggests that women are influenced by higher reproductive costs (bearing and raising children) than men and thus are much choosier when it comes to love interests.

The new study is the latest research of two Northwestern psychologists whose well-reported work on speed dating offers unparalleled opportunities for studying romantic attraction in action.

Deviating from standard speed-dating experiments – and from the typical conventions at professional speed-dating events -- women in the study were required to go from man to man during their four-minute speed dates half the time, rather than always staying put. In most speed-dating events, the women stay in one place as the men circulate.

"The mere act of physically approaching a potential partner, versus being approached, seemed to increase desire for that partner," said Eli Finkel, associate professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern and co-investigator of the study.

Regardless of gender, those who rotated experienced greater romantic desire for their partners, compared to those who sat throughout the event. The rotators, compared to the sitters, tended to have a greater interest in seeing their speed-dating partners again.

"Given that men generally are expected -- and sometimes required – to approach a potential love interest, the implications are intriguing," Finkel said.

"Let's face it, even today, there is a huge difference in terms of who is expected to walk across the bar to say 'hi,'" added Northwestern's Paul Eastwick, the study's other co-investigator.

The study is forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Three hundred fifty undergraduates were recruited for the study's speed-dating events. In half of the events, the men rotated while the women sat. In the remaining events, the women rotated. Following each four-minute "date," the participants indicated their romantic desire in that partner and how self-confident they felt. Following the event, the students indicated on a Website whether they would or would not be interested in seeing each partner again.

When the men rotated, the results supported the long-held notion of men being less selective. When the women rotated, this robust sex difference disappeared.

The study draws upon embodiment research that suggests that physical actions alter perception. In one such study, for example, participants who were told to pull an unrelated object toward themselves while evaluating Chinese ideographs rated them as prettier than participants who pushed an unrelated object away from themselves while viewing the symbols.

"The embodiment research shows that our physical activity and psychological processes interface in ways that are outside our conscious awareness," Finkel said. "In conjunction with this previous embodiment research, our speed-dating results strongly suggest that the mere act of approaching a potential love interest can boost desire."

The researchers suggest that confidence also may have affected the results. Approaching a potential date increases confidence, which in turn makes the approacher less selective.

The study presents a clear example of how inconspicuous gender norms (having men rotate and women sit) can not only affect the outcome of a study, but also skew the chances of a speed dater walking away with a potential match.

"Our society is structured in gendered ways that can be subtle but very powerful," Eastwick concluded. The study has implications both for companies that capitalize on the business of dating and for researchers concerned with how social norms may affect research.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Male impotence drugs may help women

Male impotence drugs may deserve a second look in women

New studies indicate the three drugs used to treat male impotence also appear to work in females, albeit a little differently, and should give the scientific community pause to take a second look at their potential in the 40 percent of women who report sexual dysfunction, researchers say.

In one of the first studies of the effect of phosphodiesterase Type 5 inhibitors - Viagra®, Levitra® and Cialis® - on the pudendal arteries that supply the penis, vagina and clitoris the blood needed to produce a satisfying sexual experience, Medical College of Georgia researchers showed the drugs relax the artery in male and female rats.

"It shows the drugs need to be investigated more for women and small alterations could make these compounds more effective for women living with these disorders," says Dr. Kyan J. Allahdadi, postdoctoral fellow in physiology at MCG. He's presenting the findings during the 122nd Annual Meeting of the American Physiological Society held in New Orleans April 18-22 as part of the Experimental Biology 2009 scientific conference.

Although there was talk years ago of a pink pill for women to parallel the blue Viagra for men, early clinical trials found essentially no response in women.

MCG researchers decided to look again, first giving a drug to constrict the internal pudendal arteries in male and female rats – as they would be in a non-erect state – then giving doses of each impotency drug to see the impact. The arteries from male rats displayed a relatively standard concentration-dependent relaxation – the more drug they got, the more they relaxed - while in females arteries, there was an initial relaxation then an odd oscillation between relaxation and contraction with subsequent dosing.

While they don't fully understand the swing, the unique female response likely provides more evidence that sexual function is more complex in females, says Dr. R. Clinton Webb, chair of the MCG Department of Physiology and a study author. Scientists define female sexual dysfunction as a multifaceted disorder that includes anatomical, psychological, physiological and social-interpersonal aspects.

MCG researchers have shown part of that complexity may be the smooth muscle cells in the internal pudendal arteries of females communicate, agreeing to contract and relax, while male smooth muscle cells make independent decisions to just relax.

They found one other distinction: females were more sensitive to Viagra®, or sildenafil, while males were most sensitive to Levitra®, or vardenafil.

Previous studies on the effectiveness of these drugs focused on the cavernosal tissue, or penis. The internal pudendal artery actually feeds the penile artery which is buried deep in the penis where numerous caverns enable it to be flaccid when not engorged with blood. Physical stimulation of the area causes the tissue, endothelial cells and nerves to release nitric oxide, a powerful dilator of blood vessels. The system works pretty much the same way in the vagina and clitoris.

"If you have too much constriction or not enough relaxation to allow blood to go through the internal pudendal artery, you are not going to get the net effect of an erection," Dr. Allahdadi says. "That is why we wanted to begin to characterize what was going on in this blood vessel."

Perhaps as importantly, the MCG scientists and others are beginning to believe sexual dysfunction provides an early, or at least visible, clue of vascular disease. Vascular problems, that can result from diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and the like, are a major cause of sexual dysfunction in men and women. "You don't feel atherosclerosis but you know darn well if you are not getting an erection," Dr. Webb says. In fact, the MCG scientists are beginning to look at animal models of disease states, such as diabetes, to see what it does to these internal pudendal arteries.

"What we have seen preliminarily is there is big difference in responsiveness in these arteries. The diabetic pudendal arteries are much more sensitive to contraction," Dr. Allahdadi says. They will look at how drugs like Viagra impact that contraction in the days ahead.

In fact MCG scientists suspect one reason that many of the women participants in previous studies of Viagra did not seem to respond is because they did not have vascular problems that could have been circumvented by a drug that relaxes arteries so blood can enter. In men with a healthy vasculature, the drugs likely would still produce a longer erection.

Dr. Rita C. Tostes, associate professor in the MCG Department of Physiology, is a co-author who contributed to the design and analysis of the study.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Premature ejaculation spray

Premature ejaculation spray enables men to last 6 times longer after penetration

Average orgasm delayed from 0.6 minutes to 3.8 minutes

Men with premature ejaculation who used a topical spray five minutes before intercourse were able to delay their orgasm six times longer than normal, according to a study in the April issue of BJU International.

Three hundred men with clinically diagnosed lifelong premature ejaculation (PE) from 31 centres in the UK, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, were randomised into two groups. Two hundred used the PSD502 spray, which contains 7.5mg of lidocaine and 2.5mg of prilocaine, and 100 used a placebo spray with no active ingredients.

Every time they had intercourse during the three-month study period, each couple measured the time from vaginal penetration to ejaculation with a stopwatch. The men were asked to abstain from sexual activity or masturbation for 24 hours before each recorded encounter.

The time from penetration to ejaculation increased from an average of 0.6 minutes to 3.8 minutes in the medicated group and to just 1.1 minutes in the placebo group.

When these figures were adjusted to take account of any variations between the two groups, these showed that the treatment group were able to last 6.3 times longer after penetration when they used the spray. The placebo group lasted 1.7 times longer.

"Premature ejaculation can be a very distressing condition for men and can cause distress, frustration and make them avoid sexual intimacy" says lead researcher Professor W Wallace Dinsmore from the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, UK.

The research team used the evidence-based definition of lifelong PE developed by the International Society for Sexual Medicine to select their study subjects. This states that ejaculation occurs within about one minute of vaginal penetration in the majority of encounters.

"Because this definition was only launched in 2008, studies have yet to determine the prevalence of lifelong PE in the male population" says Professor Dinsmore. "But previous research suggests that as many as 40% of men will experience premature ejaculation at some time in their lives."

The 300 men who took part in the phase three, multicentre, double-blind, randomised study had an average age of 35. The majority had used other treatments before, the most common being oral antidepressants.

After three months of treatment the researchers reported that:

90% of the men in the treatment group were able to delay ejaculation for more than one minute following vaginal penetration, compared with 54% in the placebo group.
74% of men in the treatment group managed to last more than two minutes before ejaculation, compared with 22% in the placebo group.
62% of men in the treatment group said their orgasms were 'good' or 'very good' after three months, compared with 20% before the study started. The figures for the placebo group were slightly lower at the end (19%) than at the start (21%).
66% of men in the treatment group said the medication was 'good' or 'excellent' compared with 15% in the placebo group.

A significantly higher percentage of the patients and partners in the treatment group reported improvements when it came to perceived control, personal distress, satisfaction with sexual intercourse and interpersonal difficulties.

There were no serious adverse events reported during the study. Adverse treatment-related reactions were reported by five men and six women from the treatment group and one man from the placebo group. The most common problems were loss of erection and a burning sensation in the vagina.

"Our study shows that when the PSD502 spray was applied to the man's penis five minutes before intercourse it improved both sexual performance and sexual satisfaction, which are key factors in treating premature ejaculation" says Professor Dinsmore.

"It was well tolerated by both patients and their partners, with no systemic side effects and a low incidence of localised effects and was rated favourably by the majority of users.

"We believe that this shows that PSD502 offers significant advantages over other therapies being developed for the treatment of premature ejaculation."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fear or romance

Fear or romance could make you change your mind, U of Minnesota study finds

People's primal emotions alter effectiveness of persuasion tactics

Each day people are confronted with innumerable pieces of information and hundreds of decisions. Not surprisingly, people seldom process each piece of information deeply, instead relying on quick mental shortcuts to guide their behaviors. For example, people often use the conformity-based mental shortcut of following the crowd. This hasn't gone unnoticed by advertisers, who often tout that specific products are best-sellers or are particularly popular. But new research from Vladas Griskevicius, professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, suggests that the effectiveness of such common persuasion tactics can be dramatically altered by two primal emotions - fear and romantic desire.

In the forthcoming paper "Fear and Loving in Las Vegas: Evolution, Emotion, and Persuasion," Griskevicius and his co-authors find that the emotion we are currently feeling has a strong effect on whether we decide to conform or to go against the grain "Being afraid especially leads people to go along with the crowd, activating a 'safety-in-numbers' psychology," said Griskevicius. "A feeling of lust, however, motivates people to go it alone, activating a desire to be seen as unique. Feeling scared or amorous can greatly change the way people make decisions."

To test the idea, the researchers had people watch a short clip from a frightening or a romantic film. Afterward, people viewed ads for Las Vegas that contained commonly used persuasive appeals either rooted in conformity ("over a million sold") or rooted in uniqueness ("stand out from the crowd"). After watching a scary film, people were especially persuaded by conformity-based appeals that presented the trip as a popular option. In contrast, after people watched a romantic film clip, they were not only less persuaded by the same conformity-based appeal, but such appeals were counter-persuasive. The romantically minded individuals especially did not want to visit Las Vegas if they knew that many others are already going. Instead, people in a romantic state were much more persuaded by appeals that presented the trip as a unique, unusual, or exotic choice that others might not make.

The fact that emotions can dramatically influence people's tendency to go with or go against the group should not be overlooked by marketers. For example, advertisements often use persuasive appeals depicting products or ideas as being particularly popular or top sellers. The well-established tendency to conform makes such appeals generally quite effective. But when people view such ads on television, advertisers rarely consider that these viewers have often just been taken on an emotional roller coaster by the program they are currently watching. Indeed, Griskevicius and colleagues find that different types of commonly used persuasion appeals are differentially effective depending on the emotion that a viewer is feeling.

"The effects of this study extend to everyday activities like watching the nightly news," Griskevicius said. "Much of the news is full of fear invoking material. Advertising during that news show should focus on collective, 'everyone's doing it' messages rather than individual or unique messages that might work better during a romantically themed show like 'Sex and the City'."

Middle and High School Predicts Sexual Behavior

Peer Victimization in Middle and High School Predicts Sexual Behavior School Predicts Sexual Behavior Among Adolescents

Peer victimization during middle and high school may be an important indicator of an individual's sexual behavior later in life. These are the findings of Binghamton University researchers Andrew C. Gallup, Daniel T. O'Brien and David Sloan Wilson, and University at Albany researcher Daniel D. White. The study will be published in an upcoming issue of Personality and Individual Differences, the official journal of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences (ISSID).

According to Gallup, peer aggression and victimization during adolescence is a form of competition for reproductive opportunities. Female college students who were frequently victimized during middle and high school reported having sex at earlier ages and more sexual partners than their peers, while males reported just the opposite.

In a sample of over 100 college students, surveys showed that over 85 percent of all victimization occurred between members of the same sex, and that indirect victimization (e.g., teasing, demeaning, isolating) predicted sexual behavior, while physical aggression did not.

According to the researchers, the relevance of victimization and sexual behavior may be embedded in our evolutionary past. "Aggression may resolve intrasexual competition for the same resources, often including members of the opposite sex" said Gallup. "Adolescence serves as a premier age in which to study competition for reproductive access. As the life span of our ancestors was greatly diminished, those who began having children at younger ages would have been selected over those who postponed their sexual behavior."

Competition among peers for a boyfriend or girlfriend may be influenced by these socially aggressive behaviors. Interestingly, study results indicate different effects for males and females.

"Nearly inverse outcomes were observed between the sexes in terms of victimization and sexual behaviors," said Gallup. "And according to evolutionary theory, these types of aggressive and socially dominant strategies operate by different means between males and females. For instance, females preferentially seek status when choosing mates, while males place a larger emphasis on physical attractiveness."

The researchers believe that victimization acts to lower social status in males, and thus females find these males less attractive. It is also proposed that limited physical prowess or physical immaturity may be contributing to this effect, by promoting both an increased likelihood of being victimized and reduced sexual opportunity.

The study presents multiple explanations for females as well. One interpretation is that females who are highly victimized by other girls may have lower self-esteem and could be more susceptible to male sexual pressure. Therefore, the heightened sexual activity of female victims could be an artifact of male coercion.

Another possibility is that attractive girls may simply be the target of aggression by other girls out of envy and resentment over male attention. For instance, research has shown that females often try to slander good-looking girls in front of men in an attempt to make them less desirable. As males focus on physical appearance and not status, attractive female victims do not suffer reduced sexual opportunities. It is important to note however, that this study did not measure physical attractiveness.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Romance can last in long-term relationships

Contrary to widely held beliefs, romance can last in long-term relationships, say researchers

Romance does not have to fizzle out in long-term relationships and progress into a companionship/friendship-type love, a new study has found. Romantic love can last a lifetime and lead to happier, healthier relationships.

"Many believe that romantic love is the same as passionate love," said lead researcher Bianca P. Acevedo, PhD, then at Stony Brook University (currently at University of California, Santa Barbara). "It isn't. Romantic love has the intensity, engagement and sexual chemistry that passionate love has, minus the obsessive component. Passionate or obsessive love includes feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. This kind of love helps drive the shorter relationships but not the longer ones."

These findings appear in the March issue of Review of General Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association.

Acevedo and co-researcher Arthur Aron, PhD, reviewed 25 studies with 6,070 individuals in short- and long-term relationships to find out whether romantic love is associated with more satisfaction. To determine this, they classified the relationships in each of the studies as romantic, passionate (romantic with obsession) or friendship-like love and categorized them as long- or short-term.

The researchers looked at 17 short-term relationship studies, which included 18- to 23-year-old college students who were single, dating or married, with the average relationship lasting less than four years. They also looked at 10 long-term relationship studies comprising middle-aged couples who were typically married 10 years or more. Two of the studies included both long- and short-term relationships in which it was possible to distinguish the two samples.

The review found that those who reported greater romantic love were more satisfied in both the short- and long-term relationships. Companion-like love was only moderately associated with satisfaction in both short- and long-term relationships. And those who reported greater passionate love in their relationships were more satisfied in the short term compared to the long term.

Couples who reported more satisfaction in their relationships also reported being happier and having higher self-esteem.

Feeling that a partner is "there for you" makes for a good relationship, Acevedo said, and facilitates feelings of romantic love. On the other hand, "feelings of insecurity are generally associated with lower satisfaction, and in some cases may spark conflict in the relationship. This can manifest into obsessive love," she said.

This discovery may change people's expectations of what they want in long-term relationships. According to the authors, companionship love, which is what many couples see as the natural progression of a successful relationship, may be an unnecessary compromise. "Couples should strive for love with all the trimmings," Acevedo said. "And couples who've been together a long time and wish to get back their romantic edge should know it is an attainable goal that, like most good things in life, requires energy and devotion."

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Article: "Does a Long-Term Relationship Kill Romantic Love?" Bianca P. Acevedo, PhD, and Arthur Aron, PhD, Stony Brook University; Review of General Psychology, Vol. 13, No. 1.

(Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/gpr13159.pdf.)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sex is in the brain

Sex is in the brain, says new research from Stanford

More than 40 percent of women ages 18-59 experience sexual dysfunction, with lack of sexual interest — hypoactive sexual desire disorder, or HSDD — being the most commonly reported complaint, according to medical researchers. While some question the validity of this diagnosis, a multidisciplinary team from the Stanford University School of Medicine is devoted to objective investigation of such problems.

Here is a quick briefing on new research on this problem from Bruce Arnow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and Leah Millheiser, MD, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford Hospital & Clinics.

The question: What role does the brain play in some women's lack of sexual desire?

Background: Studies of factors affecting sexual performance have largely focused on men, and on physiology of the body rather than the brain. But the brain, rather than peripheral organs, may play the key role in female sexual dysfunction.

The study: The trial is the first to compare brain-activation patterns of females who have HSDD with those who don't. Sixteen women diagnosed with HSDD, along with 20 normal control subjects, took part in the study. All subjects identified themselves as heterosexual.

The experiment: Subjects were shown erotic video segments interspersed among footage of female sporting events. These segments were separated by intervening tranquil sequences of such subjects as flowers, mountains or ocean waves to bring the women's brains to a resting state between more-active segments. Their brain activity was monitored by functional magnetic-resonance imaging, which allows the activity of different brain regions to be assessed in real time. The women also reported their subjective levels of sexual arousal throughout the viewing. Meanwhile, the researchers also collected objective measurements of the women's level of genital arousal.

The findings: Activity patterns throughout most of the brain were more or less identical among the HSDD and normal groups, but with a few notable exceptions. There was a bigger jump in relative activity in three brain areas of HSDD women — the medial frontal gyrus, right inferior frontal gyrus and bilateral putamen — compared with the control subjects when shown the erotic clips. In another brain area — the bilateral entorhinal cortex — the opposite effect occurred. This finding establishes specific locations in the brain where activity in women with HSDD is altered in comparison with women not reporting this problem.

Discussion: Two of the brain areas where the HSDD women had increased activity (the medial frontal gyrus and right inferior frontal gyrus) have been previously associated with, respectively, heightened attention to one's own and others' mental states, and suppression of one's emotional response. The research suggests that increased attention to one's own responses to erotic stimuli plays some part in the sexual dysfunction. The increased activation in the entorhinal cortex observed in the control subjects may correlate with an improved ability among women with no sexual dysfunction, compared with HSDD women, to lay down emotional memories related to sexual events.

Caveats: Correlation is not cause and effect. The study could be showing how paying too much attention causes inhibition of sexual desire — or how the lack of desire in a sexually charged situation causes heightened self-consciousness.

Bottom line: "The results of this study provide yet another valuable tool for understanding the complexity of female sexual function as it relates to desire," Millheiser said. "The next step is to translate this information into the clinical realm, specifically as it relates to cognitive and pharmacotherapeutic approaches."

Published: The results appeared in the Jan. 23 issue of the journal Neuroscience.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Smile Is “Most Attractive” Physical Feature

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and what do people find most attractive in others? The smile. A national survey from the American Dental Association and Crest® and Oral B® finds that the smile outranked eyes, hair and the body as the most attractive physical feature.

Yet men and women differ when it comes to taking care of their teeth and gums. The nationally representative survey of 1,000 Americans ages 18 and older found 86 percent of women brush their teeth twice or more a day, yet only 66 percent of men do so.

The survey also found that women say they change their toothbrush or power toothbrush head every 3-4 months on average, yet men hang on to theirs an average of 5 months. The ADA recommends replacing toothbrushes every 3-4 months or when the bristles become frayed since frayed and worn bristles decrease cleaning effectiveness.

Sadly, all Americans need to do a better job of flossing their teeth. Only half of those surveyed (49 percent) say they floss their teeth once a day or more often. And 1 out of 3 people surveyed think a little blood in the sink after brushing their teeth is normal, yet it’s not—it could signal gum disease or another health problem.

Oral health is an important part of overall health. Regular dental check-ups are important not only to diagnose and treat gum disease and tooth decay, but also because some diseases or medical conditions, such as oral cancer, have symptoms that can appear in the mouth.

Growing research indicates there may be an association between oral health and serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, underscoring the importance of good oral hygiene habits.

“We need to constantly get the word out how important it is to stay on top of your oral health,” says Dr. Ada Cooper, an ADA consumer advisor and practicing dentist in New York City. “Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, eating a balanced diet, and visiting your dentist regularly can help keep your smile healthy.”

For more information on the survey findings and other oral health information, visit the American Dental Association’s Web site at: www.ada.org

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Education and Money Attract, Chastity Not Important

This Valentine's Day, researchers at the University of Iowa have some new answers to the perennial question of what men and women want in a partner.

Men are increasingly interested in an educated woman who is a good financial prospect and less interested in chastity. Women are increasingly interested in a man who wants a family and less picky about whether he's always Mr. Nice Guy.

That's according to a study by University of Iowa sociologists Christine Whelan and Christie Boxer. They analyzed results of a 2008 survey of more than 1,100 undergraduates at the UI, the University of Washington, the University of Virginia and Penn State University, comparing the results to past mate-preference studies.

Since the 1930s, researchers have been asking college students to rank a list of 18 characteristics they'd prefer in a mate from "irrelevant" (0) to "essential" (3), allowing for a comparison of mate preferences dating back three generations. And my, how times have changed: Today's young adults rank love and attraction as most important; a few generations ago it didn't even make the top three.

"Marriage used to be a practical arrangement. Getting married for love or attraction was considered foolish and perhaps even dangerous," said Whelan, author of "Marry Smart: The Intelligent Woman's Guide to True Love" and a visiting assistant professor of sociology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In the 1930s male respondents were seeking a dependable, kind lady who had skills in the kitchen. Chastity was more important than intelligence.

Now, guys look for love, brains and beauty -- and a sizable salary certainly sweetens the deal. Men ranked "good financial prospect" No. 12 in 2008, a significant climb from No. 17 in 1939 and No. 18 in 1967.

"These results are consistent with the rise in educational and career opportunities for women, and men's increasing desire to share the financial burdens with a future spouse," Whelan said.

Chastity -- which men ranked at No. 10 in 1939 -- fell to dead last in 2008.

"When we administered the survey, several female students snickered at the idea that we even included the chastity item," Whelan said. "This is consistent with the widespread hook-up culture on college campuses."

For women of the 1930s, emotional stability, dependable character and ambition ranked as the top three characteristics they wanted in a man. Attraction and love didn't come in until No. 5. Today, women, like men, put love at the top of the list, with dependability and emotional stability rounding out the top three characteristics in Mr. Right.

Women rate desire for home and children much higher in importance than men do. In 2008, women rated desire for home and children fourth men ranked it ninth.

Women ranked "pleasing disposition" as significantly less important in 2008 than they have ever before. Pleasing disposition -- presumably interpreted to mean being a nice guy -- fell from a steady ranking of No. 4 throughout the second half of the 20th Century to a significantly lower rank of No. 7 in 2008.

"Perhaps this means women will be more forgiving if the guy forgets chocolates and flowers on Saturday, as long as he meets the other requirements," quipped Whelan. "But this might also point to a change in vocabulary. 'Pleasing disposition' is a very old-fashioned phrase that might not be the most accurate measure of the modern preferences."

Whelan and Boxer, a UI graduate student, clustered their findings into rough categories of essential, important, desirable and unimportant characteristics. Groupings were compiled using the natural breakpoints in the value continuum for the statistical means. (For more on Whelan's relationship research, visit http://www.readmarrysmart.com.)

What Men Want

Essential characteristics:
--Mutual attraction and love.
--Dependable character.
--Emotional stability.

Important characteristics:
--Education and intelligence.
--Good looks.
--Ambition.

Desirable characteristics:
--Good financial prospect.
--Good cook and housekeeper.

Unimportant characteristics:
--Similar political background.
--Chastity.

What Women Want

Essential characteristics:
--Mutual attraction and love.
--Dependable character.
--Emotional stability.

Important characteristics:
--Education and intelligence.
--Desire for home and children.
--Ambition.

Desirable characteristics:
--Good looks.
--Refinement.

Unimportant characteristics:
--Similar political background.
--Chastity.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sex hormone oestradiol = opportunistic mating

Women with high levels of the sex hormone oestradiol may engage in opportunistic mating, according to a new study by psychology researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.

Doctoral candidate Kristina Durante and Assistant Professor of Psychology Norm Li published their findings in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Biology Letters.

"The study offers further evidence that physiological mechanisms continue to play a major role in guiding women's sexual motivations and behavior," Durante said.

Durante and Li investigated the relationship between oestradiol, an ovarian hormone linked to fertility, and sexual motivation in a study of 52 female undergraduates not using contraception. Participants' ages ranged from 17 to 30 years old.
The researchers measured the participants' hormone levels at two points during each woman's ovulatory cycle and then asked them to rate their own physical attractiveness. Independent observers also rated the participants' physical attractiveness.
Participants also answered survey questions that measured their propensity to cheat on a partner.

The researchers found that a woman's oestradiol level was positively associated with self-perceived physical attractiveness. Women with a higher oestradiol level also reported a greater likelihood of flirting, kissing and having a serious affair (but not a one-night stand) with a new partner.

Oestradiol levels were negatively associated with a woman's satisfaction with her primary partner.

"Our findings show that highly fertile women are not easily satisfied by their long-term partners and are motivated to seek out more desirable partners," Durante explained. "However, that doesn't mean they're more likely to engage in casual sex. Instead, they adopt a strategy of serial monogamy."