Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Study: Couples who delay having sex get benefits later

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While there are still couples who wait for a deep level of commitment before having sex, today it's far more common for two people to explore their sexual compatibility before making long-term plans together.

So does either method lead to better marriages?

A new study in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Family Psychology sides with a delayed approach.

The study involves 2,035 married individuals who participated in a popular online marital assessment called "RELATE." From the assessment's database, researchers selected a sample designed to match the demographics of the married American population. The extensive questionnaire includes the question "When did you become sexual in this relationship?"

A statistical analysis showed the following benefits enjoyed by couples who waited until marriage compared to those who started having sex in the early part of their relationship:

Relationship stability was rated 22 percent higher
Relationship satisfaction was rated 20 percent higher
Sexual quality of the relationship was rated 15 percent better
Communication was rated 12 percent better
For couples in between – those that became sexually involved later in the relationship but prior to marriage – the benefits were about half as strong.

"Most research on the topic is focused on individuals' experiences and not the timing within a relationship," said lead study author Dean Busby, a professor in Brigham Young University's School of Family Life.

"There's more to a relationship than sex, but we did find that those who waited longer were happier with the sexual aspect of their relationship," Busby added. "I think it's because they've learned to talk and have the skills to work with issues that come up."

Sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin, who was not involved with this research, read the study and shared his take on the findings.

"Couples who hit the honeymoon too early – that is, prioritize sex promptly at the outset of a relationship – often find their relationships underdeveloped when it comes to the qualities that make relationships stable and spouses reliable and trustworthy," said Regnerus, author of Premarital Sex in America, a book forthcoming from Oxford University Press.

Because religious belief often plays a role for couples who choose to wait, Busby and his co-authors controlled for the influence of religious involvement in their analysis.

"Regardless of religiosity, waiting helps the relationship form better communication processes, and these help improve long-term stability and relationship satisfaction," Busby said.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Study Explores How Partners Perceive Each Other’s Emotion During A Relationship Fight

Some of the most intense emotions people feel occur during a conflict in a romantic relationship. Now, new research from Baylor University psychologists shows that how each person perceives the other partner’s emotion during a conflict greatly influences different types of thoughts, feelings and reactions in themselves.

Dr. Keith Sanford, a clinical psychologist and an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor, College of Arts and Sciences, and his research team studied 105 college students in romantic relationships as they communicated through different arguments over an eight-week period. Sanford focused on how emotion changed within each person across episodes of relationship conflict. They found demonstrated links between different types of emotion, different types of underlying concern, and different types of perceived partner emotion.

Sanford distinguished between two types of negative emotion as "hard" and "soft." "Hard" emotion is associated with asserting power, whereas "soft" emotion is associated with expressing vulnerability. Sanford’s research also identified a type of underlying concern as “perceived threat,” which involves a perception that one’s partner is being hostile, critical, blaming or controlling. Another type of concern is called “perceived neglect,” which involves a perception that one’s partner is failing to make a desired contribution or failing to demonstrate an ideal level of commitment or investment in the relationship.

Sanford said the results show that people perceive a threat to their control, power and status in the relationship when they observe an increase in partner hard emotion and they perceive partner neglect when they observe an increase in partner flat emotion or a decrease in partner soft emotion. Both perceived threat and perceived neglect, in turn, are associated with increases in one’s own hard and soft emotions, with the effects for perceived neglect being stronger than the effects for perceived threat.

“In other words, what you perceive your partner to be feeling influences different types of thoughts, feelings and reactions in yourself, whether what you perceive is actually correct,” Sanford said. “In a lot of ways, this study confirms scientifically what we would have expected. Previously, we did not actually know that these specific linkages existed, but they are clearly theoretically expected. If a person perceives the other as angry, they will perceive a threat so they will respond with a hard emotion like anger or blame. Likewise, if a person is perceived to be sad or vulnerable, they will perceive a neglect and will respond either flat or soft.”

The study appeared in the journal Personal Relationships.

Sanford said some of the most interesting results in the study pertain to a complex pattern of associations observed for soft emotion. As expected, partner soft emotion was associated with decreased concerns over neglect, whereas self soft emotion was associated with increased concerns over neglect. Sanford said this is consistent with the idea that soft emotion is a socially focused emotion, often triggered by attachment-related concerns, and that expressions of soft emotion signal one’s own desire and willingness to invest in a relationship.



Thursday, December 9, 2010

Study examines effect of water-based and silicon-based lubricant

A new study by sexual health researchers at Indiana University found that women who used lubricant during sex reported significantly higher levels of satisfaction and pleasure.

The study, involving 2,453 women, is the largest systematic study of this kind, despite the widespread commercial availability of lubricant and the gaps in knowledge concerning its role in alleviating pain or contributing to other health issues.

"In spite of the widespread availability of lubricants in stores and on the Internet, it is striking how little research addresses basic questions of how personal lubricants contribute to the sexual experience," said Debby Herbenick, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion. "These data clearly show that use of the lubricants in our study was associated with higher ratings of sexual pleasure and satisfaction and low rates of genital symptoms."

While these findings, reported in the November issue of the "Journal of Sexual Medicine," involve the use of water-based and silicone-based lubricant, researchers also found that study participants reported fewer genital symptoms -- and, in particular, fewer reports of genital pain -- when they used a water-based lubricant.

Michael Reece, director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion and co-author of the study, said public health professionals have long recommended the use of lubricants as an important safer sex tool, particularly when used with latex condoms.

"These findings help us to reinforce to sexually active individuals that not only are lubricants important to safer sex but that they also contribute to the overall quality of one's sexual experiences," he said.

Here are some of the findings:

More than 70 percent of the time that lubricant was used for vaginal or anal intercourse, study participants indicated that they did so in order to make sex more pleasurable; more than 60 percent of women indicated this was the case during masturbation.
More than one third of the time that lubricant was used for vaginal sex, anal sex or masturbation, women indicated that they used lubricant because it was fun to do so.
Sizable proportions of women also indicated that they chose to use lubricant in order to reduce the risk of tearing, particularly for anal intercourse.
For the study, "Association of Lubricant Use with Women's Sexual Pleasure, Sexual Satisfaction, and Genital Symptoms: A Prospective Daily Diary Study," 2,453 women ages 18-68 participated in an Internet-based, double-blind assessment of the use of six lubricants during solo masturbation and partnered sexual activities. Women were randomly assigned to use one of six lubricants, four of which were water-based lubricants and two of which were silicone-based lubricants, during two weeks of a five-week study period.

Analyses of more than 10,000 acts of penile-vaginal intercourse, and more than 3,000 masturbation experiences, showed that participants' ratings of sexual pleasure and sexual satisfaction were significantly higher when a water-based lubricant or silicone-based lubricant was used compared to sex without a lubricant. Far fewer penile-anal intercourse events occurred; however, ratings of sexual pleasure and satisfaction were significantly higher when water-based lubricant was used during anal intercourse as compared to sex without a lubricant.

For all types of sex, genital symptoms were rarely reported and were generally less likely to occur when lubricant was used. More than half of the time that women used lubricant, they applied it to their own or their partner's genitals, or directly to their fingers and in about 10 percent of instances of vaginal intercourse, lubricant was applied directly to a sex toy.

"These findings demonstrate how lubricant can be used during foreplay or sex play with a partner, and incorporated into a couple's sexual experience," Herbenick said.

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The water-based lubricants were, in alphabetical order, Astroglide® (Biolm, Inc.), Just Like Me® (Pure Romance), K-Y Liquid® (Johnson & Johnson) and Sweet Seduction® (Pure Romance). The silicone-based lubricants were Pure Pleasure® (Pure Romance) and Wet Platinum® (Trigg Laboratories).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Frequent sex protects marital happiness for neurotic newlyweds

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People who are neurotic often have more difficulty with relationships and marriage. But if neurotic newlyweds have frequent sexual relations, their marital satisfaction is every bit as high as their less neurotic counterparts, according to a study in the current Social Psychological and Personality Science (published by SAGE).

Neuroticism is the tendency to experience negative emotion, and people who are high in it get upset and irritated easily, change their mood often, and worry frequently. People who score high in neuroticism are less satisfied in romance and relationships, and when they get married they are more likely to divorce. "High levels of neuroticism are more strongly associated with bad marital outcomes than any other personality factor," said Michelle Russell and James McNulty of the University of Tennessee, authors of the study.

But sex in marriage seems to make people happy—other research has shown that sexual interactions improved the next day's mood. Russell and McNulty wanted to know if frequent sexual activity would erase the negative effects of neuroticism. They followed 72 newlywed couples over the first four years of their marriage; both spouses reported—separately and privately—on their marital satisfaction and sexual frequency every six months.

On average, couples reported sexual intercourse about once a week during the first six months of marriage, and about 3 times a month by the fourth year of marriage. Couples were considered satisfied when they agreed that they "have a good marriage" and "My relationship with my partner makes me happy."

Marital satisfaction was not associated with sexual frequency—not at the start of the marriage, or four years later. Highly satisfied marriages sometimes had high levels of sexual activity, and sometimes low levels—sexual contact alone was not a good indicator of marital satisfaction.

But Russell and McNulty found one important exception. For spouses with high levels of neuroticism, frequent sexual intercourse improved their marital satisfaction. The effect of frequent sexual activity was enough to completely wipe away the "happiness deficit" that neurotic spouses usually have. "Frequent sex is one way that some neurotic people are able to maintain satisfy relationships," the authors write. The newlywed period is a time when sexual relations are particularly important, and for some—but not all—frequent sex improves their happiness with the marriage. This happiness-by–sex effect occurred regardless of how strong or happy the marriage was at the beginning of the study—frequent sex protects marital happiness for neurotic newlyweds.

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The article "Frequent Sex Protects Intimates from the Negative Implications of Their Neuroticism" in Social Psychological and Personality Science is available free for a limited time at http://spp.sagepub.com/content/early/2010/10/09/1948550610387162.full.pdf+htm

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Study Suggests That a Propensity for One-Night Stands, Uncommitted Sex Could be Genetic

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So, he or she has cheated on you for the umpteenth time and their only excuse is: “I just can’t help it.” According to researchers at Binghamton University, they may be right. The propensity for infidelity could very well be in their DNA.

In a first-of-its-kind study, a team of investigators led by Justin Garcia, a SUNY Doctoral Diversity Fellow in the laboratory of evolutionary anthropology and health at Binghamton University, State University of New York, has taken a broad look at sexual behavior, matching choices with genes and has come up with a new theory on what makes humans ‘tick’ when it comes to sexual activity. The biggest culprit seems to be the dopamine receptor D4 polymorphism, or DRD4 gene. Already linked to sensation-seeking behavior such as alcohol use and gambling, DRD4 is known to influence the brain’s chemistry and subsequently, an individual’s behavior.

“We already know that while many people experience sexual activity, the circumstances, meaning and behavior is different for each person,” said Garcia. “Some will experience sex with committed romantic partners, others in uncommitted one-night stands. Many will experience multiple types of sexual relationships, some even occurring at the same time, while others will exchange sex for resources or money. What we didn’t know was how we are motivated to engage in one form and not another, particularly when it comes to promiscuity and infidelity.”

Gathering a detailed history of the sexual behavior and intimate relationships of 181 young adults along with samples of their DNA, Garcia and his team of investigators were able to determine that individual differences in sexual behavior could indeed be influenced by individual genetic variation.

“What we found was that individuals with a certain variant of the DRD4 gene were more likely to have a history of uncommitted sex, including one-night stands and acts of infidelity,” said Garcia. “The motivation seems to stem from a system of pleasure and reward, which is where the release of dopamine comes in. In cases of uncommitted sex, the risks are high, the rewards substantial and the motivation variable – all elements that ensure a dopamine ‘rush.’”

According to Garcia, these results provide some of the first biological evidence that at first glance, seems to be somewhat of a contradiction: that individuals could be looking for a serious committed long-term relationship, but have a history of one-night stands. At the same time, the data also suggests it is also reasonable that someone could be wildly in love with their partner, commit infidelity, and yet still be deeply attached and care for their partner. It all came back to a DRD4 variation in these individuals. Individual differences in the internal drive for a dopamine ‘rush’ can function independently from the drive for commitment.

“The study doesn’t let transgressors off the hook,” said Garcia. “These relationships are associative, which means that not everyone with this genotype will have one-night stands or commit infidelity. Indeed, many people without this genotype still have one-night stands and commit infidelity. The study merely suggests that a much higher proportion of those with this genetic type are likely to engage in these behaviors.”

Garcia also cautions that the consequences of risky sexual behavior can indeed be extreme.

“One-night stands can be risky, both physically and psychologically,” said Garcia. “And betrayal can be one of the most devastating things to happen to a couple. These genes do not give anyone an excuse, but they do provide a window into how our biology shapes our propensities for a wide variety of behaviors.”

At this point, very little is known about how genetics and neurobiology influence one’s sexuality propensities and tendencies but Garcia is hopeful that this study will add to the growing base of knowledge - in particular, how genes might predispose individuals to pursue sensation seeking across all sorts of domains – from substance use to sexuality. This study also provides further support for the notion that the biological foundations for sexual desire may often operate independently from, although absolutely linked to, deep feelings of romantic attachment.

As Garcia points out, he and his team of study co-authors have only just begun to explore the issue and plan on conducting a series of follow-up and related studies.

”We want to run a larger sample of men and women to replicate these findings and check for several other possible genetic markers,” said Garcia. “We will also be conducting a number of behavioral and biological studies to better understand what kinds of associated factors motivate uncommitted sexual behavior. Most importantly, we want to explore the receiving end of infidelity by looking at how people respond to cases of uncommitted sex and infidelity.“

A detailed report can be found in the current issue of Public Library of Science’s PLoS ONE journal. The article, “Associations between Dopamine D4 Receptor Gene Variation with Both Infidelity and Sexual Promiscuity,” can be found at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0014162

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New study highlights sexual behavior, condom use by US individuals ages 14 to 94

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Findings from the largest nationally representative study of sexual and sexual-health behaviors ever fielded, conducted by Indiana University sexual health researchers, provides an updated and much needed snapshot of contemporary Americans' sexual behaviors, including a description of more than 40 combinations of sexual acts that people perform during sexual events, patterns of condom use by adolescents and adults, and the percentage of Americans participating in same-sex encounters.

The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB) was conducted by researchers from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion (CSHP) in Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER).

The NSSHB is one of the most comprehensive studies on these topics in almost two decades and documents the sexual experiences and condom-use behaviors of 5,865 adolescents and adults ages 14 to 94.

Initial findings from the survey, presented in nine separate research articles, were published on Oct. 1 in a special issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, a leading peer-reviewed journal in the area of urology and sexual health. The issue also includes commentaries offering perspectives on the study from leading U.S. sexual health authorities, including former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Lynn Barclay, President and CEO of the American Social Health Association.

"This survey is one of the most expansive nationally representative studies of sexual behavior and condom use ever conducted, given the 80-year span of ages," said Michael Reece, director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion. "These data about sexual behaviors and condom use in contemporary America are critically needed by medical and public health professionals who are on the front lines addressing issues such as HIV, sexually transmissible infections and unintended pregnancy."

According to the study's findings, one of four acts of vaginal intercourse are condom protected in the U.S. (one in three among singles).

"These data, when compared to other studies in the recent past, suggest that although condom use has increased among some groups, efforts to promote the use of condoms to sexually active individuals should remain a public health priority," Reece said.

Researchers believe the findings will be of interest to the general public, as well as to health professionals.

"People are often curious about others' sex lives," said Debby Herbenick, associate director of the CSHP. "They want to know how often men and women in different age groups have sex, the types of sex they engage in, and whether they are enjoying it or experiencing sexual difficulties. Our data provide answers to these common sex questions and demonstrate how sex has changed in the nearly 20 years since the last study of its kind."

Herbenick said the study helps both the public and professionals to understand how condom use patterns vary across these different stages in people's relationships and across ages, adding that "findings show that condoms are used twice as often with casual sexual partners as with relationship partners, a trend that is consistent for both men and women across age groups that span 50 years."

The survey indicates that there is enormous variability in the sexual repertoires of U.S. adults now, and adult men and women rarely engage in just one sex act when they have sex. While vaginal intercourse is still the most common sexual behavior reported by adults, many sexual events do not involve intercourse and include only partnered masturbation or oral sex. When it comes to responsible sexual behaviors, condom use is higher among black and Hispanic Americans than among white Americans and those from other racial groups.

A unique feature of the study was the inclusion of adolescent men and women. Dennis Fortenberry, M.D., professor of pediatrics in the IU School of Medicine, led the adolescent aspects of the study.

"Many surveys of adolescent sexual behavior create an impression that adolescents are becoming sexually active at younger ages, and that most teens are sexually active," Fortenberry said. "Our data show that partnered sexual behaviors are important but by no means pervasive aspects of adolescents' lives. In fact, many contemporary adolescents are being responsible by abstaining or by using condoms when having sex."
Additional key findings highlighted in the collection of papers include:

• There is enormous variability in the sexual repertoires of U.S. adults, with more than 40 combinations of sexual activity described at adults' most recent sexual event.

• Many older adults continue to have active pleasurable sex lives, reporting a range of different behaviors and partner types, however adults over the age of 40 have the lowest rates of condom use. Although these individuals may not be as concerned about pregnancy, this suggests the need to enhance education efforts for older individuals regarding STI risks and prevention.

• About 85 percent of men report that their partner had an orgasm at the most recent sexual event; this compares to the 64 percent of women who report having had an orgasm at their most recent sexual event. (A difference that is too large to be accounted for by some of the men having had male partners at their most recent event.)

• Men are more likely to orgasm when sex includes vaginal intercourse; women are more likely to orgasm when they engage in a variety of sex acts and when oral sex or vaginal intercourse is included.

• While about 7 percent of adult women and 8 percent of men identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, the proportion of individuals in the U.S. who have had same-gender sexual interactions at some point in their lives is higher.

• At any given point in time, most U.S. adolescents are not engaging in partnered sexual behavior. While 40 percent of 17 year-old males reported vaginal intercourse in the past year, only 27 percent reported the same in the past 90 days.

• Adults using a condom for intercourse were just as likely to rate the sexual extent positively in terms of arousal, pleasure and orgasm than when having intercourse without one.

The papers from the special issue and additional information about the study are available at www.nationalsexstudy.indiana.edu.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Study Offers Evolutionary Perspective on After-Sex Behaviors

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There’s evolution at work when she wants to cuddle after sex (and he, well, doesn’t).

That’s the conclusion of a new study, “Sex Differences in Post-Coital Behaviors in Long- and Short-Term Mating: An Evolutionary Perspective,” appearing in an upcoming issue of The Journal of Sex Research.

“The vast majority of the research on the evolutionary psychology of human reproduction focuses on what’s before and leading up to sexual intercourse,” says Susan Hughes, associate professor of psychology at Albright College in Reading, Pa. and author of the study. “But reproductive strategies don’t end with intercourse; they may influence specific behaviors directly following sex.”

There are a number of elements of reproduction happening after the act itself, she points out, including bonding, future relationship intentions (and possible continued sexual activities), sperm retention and competition, mate guarding and the possibility of fertilization.

“We predicted that post-coital considerations are experienced quite differently by men and women due to divergent adaptive reproductive strategies,” she says.

The study, which examined the responses to an online questionnaire given to 170 people, found that women were more likely than men to initiate and place greater importance on behaviors linked to intimacy and bonding with both long and short-term partners. Men were more likely to engage in behaviors that were “extrinsically rewarding” or increased the likelihood of further coital acts.

“Females placed an overall great importance than did males on all five items measured: intimate talking, kissing, cuddling and caressing, professing their love for their partner and talking about the relationship after sex,” says Hughes. “In contrast, men placed more importance on gaining extrinsic rewards after sex (e.g. drinking or smoking, eating, or asking partner for favors). Men also placed more importance on continuing sexual activity than did females.”

Some other highlights of the study:

• Men were more likely to initiate kissing before sex, while women were more likely to initiate kissing after sex. “Kissing is used for both bonding and to increase sexual arousal,” says Hughes. “Men may initiate kissing before intercourse to guarantee sexual access, whereas women may use kissing after sex to help secure the relationship.”

• Sanitary practices after sex (showering, for example) were far more likely to occur with short-term partners than long-term ones. “In terms of evolutionary theory, it’s possible that these are attempts on the part of the female to not retain the sperm for a short-term mate,” she says.

• Females thought intimate talking and discussing the relationship was more important before sex than after. Men’s opinions remained constant for both before and after sex. “This may be a woman’s attempt to assure commitment and investment from her partner before consenting to sex.”

One thing both men and women could agree on? The importance of saying “I love you” to a long-term partner after sex.

“Of all the items measured, it was the only one that didn’t yield any significant sex differences,” says Hughes. “It makes sense that if both a man and a woman want a long-term relationship, they both understand that after sex may be a time of bonding and expressing their love for each other. Men who are in love might realize it’s especially important to their partner that they show their devotion.”

Predicting divorce: U-M study shows how fight styles affect marriage

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It's common knowledge that newlyweds who yell or call each other names have a higher chance of getting divorced. But a new University of Michigan study shows that other conflict patterns also predict divorce.

A particularly toxic pattern is when one spouse deals with conflict constructively, by calmly discussing the situation, listening to their partner's point of view, or trying hard to find out what their partner is feeling, for example—and the other spouse withdraws.

"This pattern seems to have a damaging effect on the longevity of marriage," said U-M researcher Kira Birditt, first author of a study on marital conflict behaviors and implications for divorce published in the current issue (October 2010) of the Journal of Marriage and Family. "Spouses who deal with conflicts constructively may view their partners' habit of withdrawing as a lack of investment in the relationship rather than an attempt to cool down."

Couples in which both spouses used constructive strategies had lower divorce rates, Birditt found.

The data are from the Early Years of Marriage Study, supported by funding from the National Institute of Aging and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. It is one of the largest and longest research projects to look at patterns of marital conflict, with 373 couples interviewed four times over a 16-year period, starting the first year of their marriages. The study is also one of just a few to include a high enough proportion of Black couples that researchers can assess racial differences in conflict strategies and their effects.

The researchers looked at how both individual behaviors and patterns of behavior between partners affected the likelihood of divorce. They also examined whether behavior changed over time, and whether there were racial or gender differences in behavior patterns and outcomes.

Astonishingly, the researchers found that 29 percent of husband and 21 percent of wives reported having no conflicts at all in the first year of their marriage—1986. Nonetheless, 46 percent of the couples had divorced by Year 16 of the study—2002. Interestingly, whether or not couples reported any conflict during the first year of marriage did not affect whether they had divorced by the last year studied.

Overall, husbands reported using more constructive behaviors and fewer destructive behaviors than wives. But over time, wives were less likely to use destructive strategies or withdraw, while husbands' use of these behaviors stayed the same through the years.

"The problems that cause wives to withdraw or use destructive behaviors early in a marriage may be resolved over time," Birditt said. "Or, relationships and the quality of relationships may be more central to women's lives than they are to men. As a result, over the course of marriage, women may be more likely to recognize that withdrawing from conflict or using destructive strategies is neither effective nor beneficial to the overall well-being and stability of their marriages."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Placebo Effect Significantly Improves Women's Sexual Satisfaction,

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Many women with low sex drives reported greater sexual satisfaction after taking a placebo, according to new psychology research from The University of Texas at Austin and Baylor College of Medicine.

The study was conducted by Cindy Meston, a clinical psychology professor at The University of Texas at Austin, and Andrea Bradford, a 2009 University of Texas at Austin graduate and postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. They found that opening a new line of communication about sex can have a positive effect in many women with low libidos.

The researchers examined data from a previous clinical trial that followed 200 women over a 12-week period. Fifty of those women, ages 35-55, were randomly chosen to receive a placebo instead of a drug treatment for low sexual arousal. None of the participants knew which treatment they were given. To measure the effect of the treatment, women were asked to rate symptoms of sexual dysfunction such as low sexual desire, low sexual arousal and problems with orgasm.

The findings, available online in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, show that on average, one in three of the women who took a placebo showed an overall improvement. Most of that improvement seemed to happen during the first four weeks.

Symptom changes were measured by the frequency of satisfying sexual encounters that the women reported during the treatment. Many women reported they received more stimulation during sexual activity while they participated in the trial, even though their partners were not given any special instructions.

All women taking the placebo talked to a health provider about their difficulties and monitored their sexual behaviors and feelings regularly.

"The findings from our study show how a woman's expectations to improve sexually can have a substantial positive effect on her sexual well-being without any actual drug treatment," Meston says. "Expecting to get better and trying to find a solution to a sexual problem by participating in a study seems to make couples feel closer, communicate more and even act differently towards each other during sexual encounters."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Romantic partner may play role in reducing vulvovaginal pain

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An investigation published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine has found that male partners who express greater support, attention and sympathy to women's chronic vulvovaginal pain may trigger more pain, but also increase sexual satisfaction in female partners. Women who took part in the study, conducted by the University of Montreal and University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre, suffer from a condition called provoked vestibulodynia (PVD). A condition that affects 12 percent of premenopausal women, PVD can impair sexual functioning as well as diminish sexual desire, arousal, sexual satisfaction, orgasmic capacity and frequency of intercourse.

“An overly concerned partner may lead a woman to avoid sexual intercourse or exacerbate her pain by increasing her anxiety, hyper-vigilance and negative thoughts about the pain, which can in turn increase her pain during intercourse,” says lead author, Dr. Natalie O. Rosen, a University of Montreal post-doctoral fellow in psychology. “If a man avoids sexual intercourse with a partner with PVD, then he may also reinforce her negative pain appraisals and that can lead to increased pain during intercourse.”

At the same time, the researchers found that a more concerned attitude in partners was linked to greater sexual satisfaction in women with PVD. “It's likely that women interpret the attention from their partner as a greater sensitivity and understanding of her pain during sexual activity and that results in greater sexual satisfaction,” says Rosen.

For couples affected by PVD, the key to decreasing pain and bolstering sexual satisfaction may be to shift the focus away from vaginal intercourse without avoiding sexual activity altogether. “Couples can focus on pleasurable sexual activities other than penetration, or on the emotional benefits of sexual activity such as intimacy and closeness,” says Rosen.

As part of the study, 191 heterosexual couples affected by PVD completed questionnaires about the condition. Following their participation, couples received a 30-minute telephone psychological consultation about PVD.

“This study furthers our understanding of the importance of how couples communicate about PVD in predicting pain and sexual satisfaction in women,” says Sophie Bergeron, a University of Montreal psychology professor. “The more the partner is overly concerned, from the perspective of the woman and her partner, the more her pain intensity may increase during intercourse. Results of our study can help in the development of targeted psychological interventions to assist couples in coping with PVD.”

About provoked vestibulodynia:

Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD) results in significant sexual dysfunction, psychological distress and reduced quality of life. PVD, for which there are no relevant visible findings or clinically identifiable neurologic disorder, is characterized by discomfort or a burning pain specific to the vestibule. The chronic and recurrent condition causes vulvovaginal pain that is triggered mainly through sexual contact, but also via tampon insertion and gynecological examination.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hookups Can Turn Into Meaningful Relationships

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Relationships that start with a spark and not much else aren't necessarily doomed from the get-go, new University of Iowa research suggests.

In an analysis of relationship surveys, UI sociologist Anthony Paik found that average relationship quality was higher for individuals who waited until things were serious to have sex compared to those who became sexually involved in "hookups," "friends with benefits," or casual dating relationships.

But having sex early on wasn't to blame for the disparity. When Paik factored out people who weren't interested in getting serious, he found no real difference in relationship quality. That is, couples who became sexually involved as friends or acquaintances and were open to a serious relationship ended up just as happy as those who dated and waited.

"We didn't see much evidence that relationships were lower quality because they started off as hookups," said Paik, an assistant professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "The study suggests that rewarding relationships are possible for those who delay sex. But it's also possible for true love to emerge if things start off with a more 'Sex and the City' approach, when people spot each other across the room, become sexually involved and then build a relationship."

Published this month in the journal Social Science Research, the study analyzed surveys of 642 heterosexual adults in the Chicago area. Relationship quality was measured by asking about the extent to which each person loved their partner, the relationship's future, level of satisfaction with intimacy, and how their lives would be different if the relationship ended. The survey also asked when participants became sexually involved with their partners.

So if not the context of sexual involvement, what is behind the lower quality scores for relationships initiated as hookups? Paik points to selection: Certain people are prone to finding relationships unrewarding, and those individuals are more likely to form hookups.

"The question is whether it's the type of relationship that causes lower quality or whether it's the people," he said. "The finding is that it's something about the people."

People with higher numbers of past sexual partners were more likely to form hookups, and to report lower relationship quality. Through the acquisition of partners, Paik said, they begin to favor short-term relationships and find the long-term ones less rewarding.

It's also likely that people who are predisposed to short-term relationships are screened out of serious ones because they don't invest the time and energy to develop long-term ties, Paik said.

The research showed that plenty of people date even if they aren't interested in a long-term relationship. It's a bit surprising, Paik said, since dating falls under the romance category, while "friends with benefits" and hookups do not.

"While hookups or friends with benefits can turn into true love, both parties typically enter the relationship for sex and the expectations are fairly low," Paik said. "In the casual dating category, some people think they're headed for a long-term relationship, but there are also people who are only in it for sex. It basically brings 'players' and 'non-players' together. As a consequence, it raises the question of whether casual dating is a useful institution. This paper would suggest not really, because it doesn't screen out the non-romantic types."

In conducting the study, Paik controlled for several factors known to influence relationship quality, such as marital status, children and social embeddedness. Consistent with prior research, he found that unmarried couples and those with children had lower relationship quality, but couples with positive ties to each other's relatives had higher relationship quality.

While this study found that nonromantic sexual relationships can become something special, they can also be risky. Paik's earlier studies indicate that people involved in hookups are more likely to have concurrent sexual partners, which can increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

In a study of Chicago-area adults published earlier this year, Paik reported that being involved with a friend increased the likelihood of non-monogamy by 44 percent for women and 25 percent for men. Involvement with an acquaintance or stranger increased the odds by 30 percent for women and 43 percent for men.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Men more likely to cheat if they are economically dependent on their female partners

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Economic dependency has the opposite effect on women


The more economically dependent a man is on his female partner, the more likely he is to cheat on her, according to research to be presented at the 105th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

"But for women, economic dependency seems to have the opposite effect: the more dependent they are on their male partners, the less likely they are to engage in infidelity," said Christin Munsch, a sociology Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University, and author of the study, "The Effect of Relative Income Disparity on Infidelity for Men and Women."

According to the study, which examined 18- to 28-year-old married and cohabitating respondents who were in the same relationship for more than a year, men who were completely dependent on their female partner's income were five times more likely to cheat than men who contributed an equal amount of money to the partnership. The relationship between economic dependence and infidelity disappeared when age, education level, income, religious attendance, and relationship satisfaction were taken into account.

"One or more of these variables is impacting the relationship," Munsch said. "For example, it may be that men who make less money than their partners are more unhappy and cheat because they are unhappy, not necessarily because they make less money."

Ironically, men who make significantly more than their female partners were also more likely to cheat. "At one end of the spectrum, making less money than a female partner may threaten men's gender identity by calling into question the traditional notion of men as breadwinners," Munsch said. "At the other end of the spectrum, men who make a lot more money than their partners may be in jobs that offer more opportunities for cheating like long work hours, travel, and higher incomes that make cheating easier to conceal."

Men were the least likely to cheat when their partners made approximately 75% of their incomes.

Putting all of these numbers in context, Munsch said that very few people cheat on their partners (or report doing so in a survey). An average of approximately 3.8% of male partners and 1.4% of female partners cheated in any given year during the six-year period studied.

The study also found that women who were financially dependent on their male partners were less likely to cheat than women who made the same as or more than their male partners. For example, women who were completely dependent on their male partner's income were 50% less likely to cheat than women who made the same amount of money as their partner, and 75% less likely than women who contributed most or all of the household income. This relationship holds true even when taking into account age, education level, income, religious attendance, and relationship satisfaction.

"For women, making less money than a male partner is not threatening, it is the status quo," said Munsch. "More importantly, economically dependent women may encounter fewer opportunities to cheat, and they may make a calculated decision that cheating just isn't worth it. If they get caught, their livelihood is at risk."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Study shows behaviors and attitudes towards oral sex are changing

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University of Alberta researcher Brea Malacad says results from a study on oral sex indicate there is little doubt that oral sex is becoming a more common activity for young women. Study results show the act has become a fundamental part of what Malacad calls the "sexual revolution of the 21st century". And she concludes that researchers, sex educators and marketers of safer-sex paraphernalia need to catch up with the trend.

"From my study, all of the women who had engaged in sexual intercourse had also engaged in oral sex as well," said Malacad, who recently published the findings in the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care. "This data tells us that oral sex is becoming very much a part of most young people's sexual repertoire."

Viral urban myths such as rainbow parties (an alleged group-sex event where women, all wearing different colored lipstick, perform oral sex on men) and media reports of the "exploitation and over-sexualization of young women," as Malacad explains it, was part of the decision to undertake the study to understand what young women are really doing and what it means for the teens, parents and for sex education in general.

Malacad's findings reveal that behaviours and attitudes towards oral sex are changing. Her research shows that while 50 per cent of respondents viewed oral sex as a less intimate activity than intercourse, 41 per cent believe oral sex to be as intimate an act as intercourse and the remaining nine per cent view it as more intimate than intercourse. And while Malacad's findings indicate that certainly oral sex has become more accepted, she says the act is hardly the "new goodnight kiss" among young people as has been suggested in some media reports.

The participants' emotional response to oral sex was also something that surprised her.

"Both intercourse and oral sex were associated with mostly positive emotions overall, which suggests that most young women are engaging in these activities because they enjoy them," said Malacad. "Based on the results of my study, there is a percentage of women (just over 30 per cent) who feel powerful when performing fellatio. Apparently some women find it empowering and believe that it can wield a lot of power."

There is an air of caution, she notes, before parents start locking up their daughters to protect them from rampant sexual behaviour. Of a sample of the 181 participants of Malacard's study who were aged 18 to 25, many had only one sexual partner after becoming sexually active. And 25 per cent of participants had not engaged in any sexual activity at all.

Malacad says that the media sends mixed messages to teenage girls about sexuality. On the one hand, young women are criticized for being oversexualized, and on the other, they are encouraged to freely express their sexuality. She refers to Kim Catrall's character Samantha in the Sex and the City television series, a woman who was strong, independent, empowered and who very sexually aggressive, as being a role model for women to be accepted as sexual beings.

"I guess, depending on the perspective, young women's sexuality can be seen as a positive, empowering thing for women or a very negative thing," she said.

This mainstreaming of oral sex is a change in the tide of sexual behaviour; it also means that sex educators need to catch up to the trends, noted Malacad. With many young people still ignorant to the fact that sexually transmitted infections can just as easily be passed orally, a whole new topic of discussion needs to appear in the safer sex curriculum delivered to students. The results of her study also show that there is a seemingly untapped market for makers of safe-sex products, too.

"Eighty-two per cent of respondents said that they never used protection when engaging in oral sex, compared to only seven per cent for intercourse; it's almost like it didn't occur to them to protect themselves when having oral sex," said Malacad, who teaches the sex-ed teacher delivery course in the Faculty of Education. "I don't think young people are aware that infections can be spread this way and there are options in terms of protecting oneself."

Malacad says that while parents should be a child's first sex educators, not all are comfortable talking about it with their kids, or are ill-informed about the current realities of teens and sex. She says Alberta still leads many provinces in having a mandatory sex education program, and she would like to see a parent component of the program to educate them as well. First, however, that requires educating teachers and pre-service teachers about how—and what—to teach the teens. That talk, she says, goes far beyond basic anatomy.

"In order to provide relevant sex education, we need to get into these difficult topics that have to be talked about: the uncomfortable things that teens really need to know about—sexually transmitted infections and transmission of disease, particularly through oral sex, as well as the social and emotional implications of sexual activity," said Malacad. "We need to be giving them (the most) honest and reliable information in the classroom (possible)."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Women more attracted to men in red

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Effect replicated across cultures, new research finds

It's a symbol of courage and sacrifice, of sin and sexuality, of power and passion – and now new research demonstrates that the color red makes men more alluring to women.

In the United States, England, Germany and China, women found men more appealing when they were either pictured wearing red or framed in red, compared with other colors. The finding is reported in the August issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, published by the American Psychological Association.

"Red is typically thought of as a sexy color for women only," said Andrew Elliot, PhD, of the University of Rochester and University of Munich. "Our findings suggest that the link between red and sex also applies to men."

Twenty-five men and 32 women briefly viewed a black-and-white photo of a Caucasian man in a polo shirt, surrounded by a red or white matte. Using a nine-point scale, they answered three questions: "How attractive do you think this person is?" "How pleasant is this person to look at?" and "If I were to meet the person in this picture face to face, I would think he is attractive."

Red warmed up women only. Women who looked at a man surrounded by red or white rated the man surrounded by red a little over one point higher on a nine-point scale of attractiveness, a statistically significant bump.

Another experiment featured a man in a color photo, dressed in either a red or a green shirt. A pool of 55 women rated the man in red as significantly more attractive -- on average, nearly one point higher on the same nine-point scale. They also thought he was more desirable, according to a second, five-item measure that asked viewers to rate, for example, the likelihood that they'd want to have sex with him.

Although red means different things in different cultures, the finding of women (but not men) drawn to men in red was consistent across countries.

And it's true about red power ties: Women in a follow-up study perceived men wearing red T-shirts to be significantly more likely to be high in status than men wearing blue T-shirts, in addition to the men in red seeming more generally and sexually attractive. Five smaller studies (20-38 participants) comparing women's responses to men in red or gray, including their sense of the men's status, established a chain of evidence that red may enhance sexual attractiveness because red is a status symbol, according to the authors.

The power of red holds throughout the primate world. Female primates (including women) are "extremely adept at detecting and decoding blood flow changes in the face," the authors wrote, "and women have been shown to be more sensitive to the perception of red stimuli than are men."

Are men aware that red may work in the bedroom as well as the boardroom? The authors suggest red might make men more likely to strut their stuff. "A man who wears red may feel dominant," they added, "which influences his self-confidence and behavior and in turn may impress women."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

63 percent of women report sexual problems with orgasm proving biggest issue in teens and 20s

Almost two-thirds of females attending a general urology practice reported that they suffered from sexual dysfunction, according to a paper in the August issue of BJUI.

Dysfunction rose with age in all categories except orgasm, with more than half of women aged from 18 to 30 reporting orgasm problems, significantly higher than women aged 31 to 54.

Researchers asked 587 women aged from 18 to 95, who attended a urology clinic in New Jersey, about six key areas of female sexual dysfunction (FSD): lack of desire, arousal issues, lack of lubrication, problems achieving orgasm, lack of satisfaction and pain during intercourse.

"We found that 63% of the women suffered from FSD and that there were significant links between FSD and age, menopausal status and use of selective antidepressants" says co-author Dr Debra Fromer, head of the Center for Bladder, Prostate and Pelvic Floor Health at Hackensack University Medical Center, New Jersey.

Twelve per cent of the women who took part in the study were aged 18-30, 27% were 31-45, 25% were 46-54, 24% were 55-70 and 12% were 70 plus. They attended a typical American metropolitan urology practice caring for conditions such as urinary incontinence, urinary tract infections, pelvic floor problems and kidney stones.

Key findings of the survey included:

The most sexually active age groups were 31-45 year-olds (87%), 18-30 year-olds (85%) and 46-54 year-olds (74%). It then fell sharply in 55-70 year-olds (45%) and in women who were over 70 (15%).
The top overall problem was lack of desire (47%), followed by orgasm problems (45%), arousal issues (40%), lack of satisfaction (39%), lack of lubrication (37%) and pain (36%).
Five of the six categories increased as the women got older: desire from 36 to 96%, arousal from 27 to 54%, lubrication from 26 to 45%, satisfaction from 28 to 88% and pain from 10 to 56%.
The only category that bucked the trend was orgasm, with problems higher in the 18-30 age group (54%) than in the 31-45 (43%) and 46-54 (48%) age groups. It then rose to 66% at 55-70 and 87% when women were over 70.
The top three problems by age group were:

18-30: orgasm (54%), desire (36%) and satisfaction (28%)
31-45: desire (48%), orgasm (43%) and satisfaction (40%)
46-54: desire (65%), satisfaction (53%) and orgasm (48%)
55-70: desire (77%), orgasm (66%), satisfaction (65%)
Over 70: desire (96%), satisfaction (88%) and orgasm (87%).
"FSD can have a major effect on women's quality of life" says Dr Fromer. "Self-esteem, sense of wholeness and relationships can be seriously and adversely affected, exacting a heavy emotional toll.

"Researchers have found significant associations between major categories of sexual dysfunction, reduced physical and emotional satisfaction and general well-being.

"That is why it is so important to ensure that problems are identified and tackled wherever possible. For example a number of hormone and other drug treatments have been shown to benefit women with FSD."

Known risk factors for FSD include age, a history of sexual abuse or sexually transmitted infections, depression, lower socioeconomic status, lifestyle, overall physical health and sexual experience.

"Interestingly, our study found very similar levels of dysfunction to an age-matched Turkish study" adds Dr Fromer. "This suggests a biological cause for FSD rather than societal or cultural factors, although they make some contribution to certain psychological aspects of the disorder."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Predicting Relationship Breakups With a Word-Association Task

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Here's a way to tell a romantic relationship is going to fall apart: find out what people really think about their partners. The researchers in a new study used a so-called implicit task, which shows how people automatically respond to words – in this case, whether they find it easier to link words referring to their partner to words with pleasant or unpleasant meanings.

Most research on relationship success has focused on how the people in the relationship feel about each other. And this is usually done by the obvious route: asking them. "But the difficulty with that is, that assumes that they know themselves how happy they are, and that's not always the case," says Ronald D. Rogge, of the University of Rochester. "To make things worse, a lot of people don't want to tell you if they're starting to feel less happy in their relationship." So he and his colleagues Soonhee Lee and Harry T. Reis turned to a technique often used to assess racism and bias, other feelings people have trouble admitting to themselves and to researchers.

The 222 volunteers in their study were all involved in a romantic relationship. Each volunteer supplied the partner's first name and two other words that related to the partner, like a pet name or a distinctive characteristic. Then they watched a monitor as three types of words were presented one at a time – good words (like peace, vacation, or sharing), bad words (such as death, tragedy, and criticizing), and partner-related words (names or traits). There were two different kinds of tests: one where the volunteer was supposed to press the space bar whenever they saw either good words or partner-related words, and one where the combination was bad words and partner words. The idea is to get at people's automatic reactions to the words – if they have generally good associations with their partners, they should be able to do the first task more easily than the second.

The researchers found that volunteers who found it easy to associate their partner with bad things and difficult to associate the partner with good things were more likely to separate over the next year. The researchers also asked volunteers to report on the strength of their relationships at the start of the study – and found that the new test did a much better job of predicting breakup. "It really is giving us a unique glimpse into how people were feeling about their partners – giving us information that they were unable or unwilling to report," says Rogge. The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Partner's Self-Revelation Affects Men and Women Differently in Romance

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Having a partner reveal his true self is much more important to women in romantic relationships than it is for men in dating the opposite sex, a newly published University of Florida study finds.

A woman is likely to report greater happiness when the man in her life presents himself as he really is rather than engage in "false" behaviors to try to please her, said Gregory Webster, a UF psychology professor and one of the study's researchers. For men, female authenticity had little bearing on their satisfaction, he said.

"We're not entirely sure why there are gender differences other than there is a tendency for women to base more of how they're doing in a relationship on how happy their partner is," Webster said. "Since women are frequently the ones 'in charge' of intimacy in the relationship, when men strive for openness and honesty the women's job of regulating intimacy is made easier."

While other studies have examined the effects of self-honesty on individual well-being, there has been little research on how it influences couples' satisfaction, he said.

"In the past, research on authenticity has focused on how being our authentic 'true-selves' is important for our own happiness and well-being," said Amy Canevello, a psychologist at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. "This paper is important because it suggests that the benefits of authenticity actually reach further, affecting the experiences and well-being of those close to us."

The study, which is published in the June issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences, involved 62 heterosexual couples who had been in an exclusive relationship for at least three months, with most having dated an average of nearly 18 months. They were asked a series of questions about self-disclosure and how their partner's authenticity affected the quality of their relationship and personal well-being.

Authentic behavior is acting according to one's values, preferences and needs rather than engaging in "false" behaviors to please others, get rewards or avoid punishments, Webster said. It means striving for openness and sincerity in one's intimate relationships by allowing those close to you to see "the real you," he said.

The higher participants' scores on the Authenticity Inventory measurement used in the study the more likely they were to behave in more intimate and less destructive ways in the relationship, which in turn meant having a more fulfilling relationship and greater personal well-being, he said.

How authentically women presented themselves did not affect men's happiness, although revealing their real selves tended to make women function better in the relationship, which in turn improved their partner's satisfaction, Webster said.

The age of the couples may have been a factor in why men and women reacted differently to partners not displaying their true selves, he said.

"The sample was of undergraduate college students who generally have less relationship experience than adults, and I think at that stage women are more mature in their relationship styles than men," he said. "It could be that women at that age pay more attention to a partner's authenticity than the other way around."

Because "true self" behaviors can influence one's satisfaction in a relationship, the study's findings have important consequences over the long term, Webster said.

"It would be interesting to do this research with adults and follow them over a series of years to see which couples divorce and which ones stay together," he said. "I would suspect that couples who are more authentic with each other are less likely to divorce, which has implications not only for the partners themselves but also if there are children involved."

To some extent, people who misrepresent themselves may be able to repress or suppress it for a short time, but the truth is bound to come out eventually, Webster said. After finding out their partner is someone different than they thought, some people may simply find it too costly to dissolve the relationship, having invested so much time in it, even if it doesn't meet their needs, he said.

"The take home message is 'to thine own self be true,'" he said. "If you're starting a romance where you're trying to be someone you're not in order to impress your partner, it might work for awhile, but it may ultimately hurt the relationship in the long run."

Combining Sex and Drugs Reduces Sexual Performance

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Sharing a bottle of red wine may seem like the best recipe for a romantic interlude. However, the evening may not turn out as planned according to a Concordia University study, which evaluated the effect of a wide range of drugs, including alcohol, on sexual behaviour. The findings, published in the journal Hormones and Behavior, definitively show that despite our preconceived notions, use of many recreational drugs can cause a loss in that lovin' feeling.

"We reviewed data from more than 100 different studies, including original data from our own studies, to systematically examine the effects of drugs on sexual performance," says Concordia psychology researcher, Dr. James Pfaus. "In addition, we evaluated the aphrodisiac claims of some of these pharmaceuticals. In this broad-based and wide-reaching study, it appears that drugs and sex don't mix well and there is no global love-potion."

Animal models provide the best information

Dr. Pfaus and his colleagues at Concordia's Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology have been studying the effects of aphrodisiacs on sexual behaviour for many years and narrowed their research to those studies involving animal models. "Only animal model studies can provide direct cause and effect data and physiological information," says Dr. Pfaus.

A few interesting results

They characterized the effect of two classes of drugs: stimulants, such as caffeine and cocaine, and depressants, such as morphine and alcohol. Although the majority of these drugs decreased sexual performance, there were a few interesting results including:

- Acute administration of cocaine facilitated penile erection in male rats

- Acute caffeine consumption facilitated sexual behaviour in both male and female rats

- Low levels of alcohol removed inhibitory tendencies

- Although a high level of alcohol disrupted sexual performance, this effect wore off with time.

"Sex and drugs may enhance one another under some circumstances, but it is clear from the data that drug use debilitates sexual responding in the majority of situations," says Dr. Pfaus.

Ticking biological clock increases women's libido, new research shows

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As more women wait until their 30s and 40s to have children, they are more willing to engage in a variety of sexual activities to capitalize on their remaining childbearing years, according to new research by psychologists at The University of Texas at Austin.

Such "reproduction expediting" includes one-night stands and adventurous bedroom behavior, the research shows.

In a paper published in the July edition of Personality and Individual Differences, psychology graduate students Judith Easton, Jaime Confer and Cari Goetz, and David Buss, professor of psychology, found that women age 27-45 have a heightened sex drive in response to their dwindling fertility.

In the study the researchers split 827 women into three groups: high fertility (ages18-26), low fertility (ages 27-45), and menopausal (ages 46 and up). The respondents answered an online questionnaire about their sexual attitudes and behavior.

Compared with the other groups, women with low fertility were more likely to experience:

- Frequent sexual fantasies
- Thoughts about sexual activities
- More intense sexual fantasies than their younger counterparts
- A more active sex life and willingness to have a one-night stand
- A willingness to have casual sex

Contrary to their predictions, the researchers found that when comparing low and high fertility women who were in relationships, the older, less fertile group did not fantasize more about someone other than their current romantic partners. Instead they fantasized equally about their significant others and other romantic partners.

According to a 2010 report from the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends, mothers of newborns in all race and ethnic groups are now older than their counterparts 20 years ago. Fourteen percent of births in 2008 were to women ages 35 and older, and 10 percent were to teens. With more women having children past their peak childbearing years, Easton says she believes the research will have implications on reproductive and sexual health issues, such as fertility, sexual dysfunction and marital development.

"Our findings suggest that women don't need to necessarily go 'baby crazy' in their 30s or go around thinking they're supposed to be having a 'sexual peak,'" Easton said. "Our results suggest there is nothing special about the 30s, but that instead these behaviors manifest in all women with declining fertility. It may be more difficult to conceive past the age of 35, but our research suggests women's psychology will continue to motivate them to try until menopause."

The study outlines for the first time the changes in women's reproductive behavior across the life cycle from an evolutionary standpoint. The researchers attribute these differences to ingrained psychological mechanisms rooted in each gender's adaptive responses over millennia of human evolution.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Quantity may determine quality when choosing romantic partners

The context in which humans meet potential mates has a hidden influence on who they decide to pursue. In particular, when people have a large number of potential dating partners to select among, they respond by paying attention to different types of characteristics – discarding attributes such as education, smoking status, and occupation in favor of physical characteristics such as height and weight.

A number of studies in recent years have looked at what happens to humans when faced with extensive choice – too many kinds of chocolate, or too many detergents to choose from at the grocery store. Under such circumstances, consumer psychologists believe that the brain may become "overwhelmed," potentially leading to poorer quality choice or choice deferral. Psychological scientist Alison Lenton, of the University of Edinburgh, and economist Marco Francesconi, of the University of Essex, wanted to know if the same was true of mate choice, given that humans have been practicing this particular choice for millennia. "Is having too many mate options really like having too many jams?" they ask. The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

To find out how people respond to relatively limited versus extensive mate choice, Lenton and Francesconi analyzed data from 84 speed dating events, which is where people meet with a series of potential dates for three minutes each. Afterward, the men and women report their choices (a "yes" or "no" for each person). It should surprise no one that choosers generally preferred people who were taller, younger, and well-educated. Women also preferred partners who weren't too skinny, and men preferred women who weren't overweight. Beyond that, though, the attributes that speed daters paid attention to depended on how many opposite-sex speed daters attended the event.

At bigger speed dating events, with 24 or more dates, both male and female choosers were more likely to decide based on attributes that could be judged quickly, such as their dates' height, and whether they were underweight, normal weight, or overweight. At smaller events, choosers were more likely to make decisions based on attributes that take longer to identify and evaluate, such as their dates' level of education, their type of job, and whether or not the person smokes.

"Obviously, I think we look for different attributes in partners than what we look for in a chocolate, a jam or a 401(k) plan," says Lenton. "But one of the points we're trying to make in this article is it's the same brain we're carrying around. There are constraints on what our brains can do - they're quite powerful, but they can't pay attention to everything at once." And if the brain is faced with abundant choice, even about who to go out with, it may make decisions based on what it can evaluate most quickly. As a result, this previously invisible aspect of the choice environment has the potential to determine one's romantic fate.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hooking up or dating: Who benefits?

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Women still want a relationship while men value independence, whether they’re dating or hooking up




As hooking up takes over from dating as a means of heterosexual interaction on university campuses, more women than men continue to prefer dating whereas more men than women rate hooking up above dating. Both genders however perceive similar benefits and risks to dating and hooking up. Carolyn Bradshaw from James Madison University in Virginia, US, and colleagues explored the reasons that motivate college men and women to hook up or to date, as well as the perceived relative benefits and costs of the two practices. Their findings are published online in Springer’s journal Sex Roles.

Typically, dating follows a predictable pattern whereby the man is active - he asks the woman to go out with him, organizes the date and at the end of it may initiate sexual activity; whereas the woman is reactive - she waits to be asked out on a date and accepts or rejects the man’s sexual overtures. They know each other or want to get to know one another and there is the prospect of a future relationship. In contrast, a hook up is a casual sexual encounter, which usually occurs between people who are strangers or brief acquaintances. For instance, two people meet at a party where they have been drinking; they flirt and engage in sexual behaviors from kissing to sexual intercourse, with no commitment to a future relationship.

Bradshaw and team exposed 150 female and 71 male college students from a southern, public American university to a variety of dating and/or hooking up situations, such as when there was potential for a relationship, when their partner had a great personality and when drinking was involved. They asked the students the extent to which they would prefer dating or hooking up in each situation. The participants were also asked to pick the top three benefits and top three risks associated with dating and hooking up from a checklist, as well as provide details of their dating and hooking up activities over the past two years.

Even though men initiated significantly more first dates than women, there was no gender difference in the number of first dates or number of hook-ups. For both men and women, the number of hook ups was nearly double the number of first dates.

Overall, both genders showed a preference for traditional dating over hooking up. However, of those students who strongly preferred traditional dating, there were significantly more women than men (41 percent versus 20 percent). Of those who showed a strong preference for hooking up, there were far fewer women than men (2 percent versus 17 percent). However, context mattered: when considering the possibility of a long-term relationship, both women and men preferred dating over hooking up; however, when the possibility of a relationship was not mentioned, men preferred hooking up and women preferred dating.

On the whole, men and women agreed on the benefits and risks of dating and hooking up. However, there were some notable differences:

• Women more than men seem to want a relationship. They fear, both in dating and hooking up, that they will become emotionally attached to a partner who is not interested in them.

• Men more than women seem to value independence. They fear that even in hooking up relationships, which are supposed to be free of commitments, a woman might seek to establish a relationship.


Reference



1. Bradshaw C, Kahn AS, Saville BK (2010). To hook up or date: which gender benefits? Sex Roles; DOI 10.1007/s11199-010-9765-7

Monday, April 5, 2010

Nonromantic Sexual Relationships

A University of Iowa study has found that one-third of sexual relationships in the Chicago area lack exclusivity. One in 10 men and women reported that both they and their partner had slept with other people.

Lovers in "friends with benefits" situations or those "hooking up" with a stranger or acquaintance proved much more likely to have multiple partners, according to the survey of 783 heterosexual adults.

Researchers are interested in the topic because concurrent partnerships speed up the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, said Anthony Paik, a sociologist in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and author of the study published in the latest issue of the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

"The United States has seen a major shift toward nonromantic sexual partnerships -- people becoming sexually involved when they are just casually dating or not dating at all," Paik said. "A quarter of the respondents became sexually involved while casually dating and a fifth did so as friends or acquaintances."

Respondents, ranging in age from 18 to 60, were asked how many people they had been with during their most recent relationship. They also estimated how many partners their partner had during that time. Sexual involvement was defined as genital contact.

Overall, 17 percent of men and 5 percent of women acknowledged that they had been with someone else. Another group -- 17 percent of women and 8 percent of men -- said they'd been exclusive but their partner had not. Twelve percent of women and 10 percent of men said neither of them had been monogamous.

Being involved with a friend increased the likelihood of non-monogamy by 44 percent for women and 25 percent for men. Involvement with an acquaintance or stranger increased the odds by 30 percent for women and 43 percent for men.

The study also found that respondents who got along with each other's parents were less likely to have multiple sex partners. Paik said people are less likely to risk a relationship when they take family stakeholders into consideration.

Paik said the research does not lead to the conclusion that efforts should be made to revive dating.

"People can make their own choices, but we hope this information will be useful as they weigh the risks and rewards of nonromantic sexual relationships," he said. "We encourage people be aware of the potential for sexual concurrency and take appropriate precautions to avoid sexually transmitted infections."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Be true to yourself, and better romantic relationships will follow

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Be true to yourself, and better romantic relationships will follow, research suggests.

A new study examined how dating relationships were affected by the ability of people to see themselves clearly and objectively, act in ways consistent with their beliefs, and interact honestly and truthfully with others.

In other words, the ability to follow the words of William Shakespeare: “to thine own self be true,” said Amy Brunell, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Newark campus.

Findings showed that college students who reported being more true to themselves also reported more positive dating relationships.

“If you’re true to yourself, it is easier to act in ways that build intimacy in relationships, and that’s going to make your relationship more fulfilling,” Brunell said.

The study appears online in the journal Personality and Individual Differences and will be published in an upcoming print edition.

Participating in the study were 62 heterosexual couples, all of whom were college students. The participants completed a long list of questionnaires in three separate sessions that took place about two weeks apart.

The first set of questionnaires probed how true participants were to themselves, a characteristic that psychologists call “dispositional authenticity.” This was measured through the answers to questions like “For better or for worse, I am aware of who I truly am.

Overall, the study found that both men and women who reported being more true to themselves also behaved in more intimate and less destructive ways with their partner, and that led to them feeling their relationship was more positive. In addition, they also reported greater personal well-being.

In the second phase, participants answered questions examining various aspects of their relationship functioning, including their willingness to discuss their emotions with their partner, and whether they kept secrets.

The third phase involved measures of relationship satisfaction and personal well-being.

Overall, the study found that both men and women who reported being more true to themselves also behaved in more intimate and less destructive ways with their partner, and that led to them feeling their relationship was more positive. In addition, they also reported greater personal well-being.

But the study revealed an interesting gender difference in how authenticity in men and women affected their partners, Brunell said.

Men who were more true to themselves had partners who showed more healthy relationship behaviors. However, there was no significant relationship between women being true to themselves and men’s relationship behaviors.

That finding may be the result of relationship gender roles in our society, she said.

“Typically in dating and marital relationships, the women tend to be ‘in charge’ of intimacy in the relationship,” Brunell explained.

“So when men have this dispositional authenticity, and want to have an open, honest relationship, it makes women’s job easier – they can more easily regulate intimacy,” she said.

But since men have less of a role in developing relationship intimacy, they were not affected as much by whether their partners were true to themselves or not.

The study also confirmed findings from other studies that show that when men or women act in constructive, healthy ways in a relationship, it increases their partners’ satisfaction with the relationship.

Brunell said being true to yourself doesn’t mean that you should accept all of your flaws and not try to make positive changes in your life. But you should be aware of both your limitations and areas where you can improve. One payoff could be better romantic relationships.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise, but being true to yourself is linked to having healthier and happier relationships for both men and women,” she said.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Life Is Shorter for Men, but Sexually Active Life Expectancy Is Longer

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At age 55, men can expect another 15 years of sexual activity, but women that age should expect less than 11 years, according to a study by University of Chicago researchers published early online March 10 by the British Medical Journal. Men in good or excellent health at 55 can add 5 to 7 years to that number. Equally healthy women gain slightly less, 3 to 6 years.

One consolation for women is that many of them seem not to miss it. Men tend to marry younger women, die sooner and care more about sex, the study confirmed. Although 72 percent of men aged 75 to 85 have partners, fewer than 40 percent of women that age do. Only half of women 75-85 who remained sexually active rated their sex lives as "good," and only 11 percent of all women that age report regularly thinking about or being interested in sex. Among those age 57 to 85 not living with a partner, 57 percent of men were interested in sex, compared to only 11 percent of women.

"Interest in sex, participation in sex and even the quality of sexual activity were higher for men than women, and this gender gap widened with age," said lead author Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago. But the study also "affirms a positive association between later-life health, sexual partnership and sexual activity," she said.

Lindau and co-author Natalia Gavrilova focused on two large surveys, the National Survey of Midlife Development, involving about 3,000 adults aged 25 to 74 and completed in 1996, and the National Social Life Health and Aging Project, involving another 3,000 adults aged 57 to 85, completed in 2006. Participants provided information about their relationship status and rated the quality of their sex lives and how often they had sex. They also rated the level of their general health as poor, fair, good, very good or excellent.

The results showed that men are more likely to be sexually active, report a good sex life and be interested in sex than women. This difference was most stark among the 75 to 85-year-old group, where almost 40 percent of men, compared to 17 percent of women, were sexually active.

The study also introduced a new health measure, "sexually active life expectancy," or SALE, the average remaining years of sexually active life. For men, SALE was about ten years lower than total life expectance. For women it was 20 years lower.

Men at the age of 30, for example, have a sexually active life expectancy of nearly 35 years, but they can, on average, expect to remain alive for 45 years, including a sexless final decade. For 30-year-old women, SALE is almost 31 years but total life expectancy is more than 50. So men that age can anticipate remaining sexually active for 78 percent of their remaining lifespan, while women at 30 can expect to remain sexually active for only 61 percent of the remaining years.

The authors conclude that "sexually active life expectancy estimation is a new life expectancy tool than can be used for projecting public health and patient needs in the arena of sexual health," and that "projecting the population patterns of later life sexual activity is useful for anticipating need for public health resources, expertise and medical services."

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Patricia Goodson from Texas University says Lindau and Gavrilova's research is both refreshing and hopeful. She says: "the study bears good news in the form of hope ... the news that adults in the US can enjoy many years of sexual activity beyond age 55 is promising."

Goodson adds that many unanswered questions remain in the field of older people and sexuality, such as problems with measurement and silence regarding the sexual health of ageing homosexual, bisexual or intersexed people. "They stand as dim reminders of the limitations inherent in applying science to the study of complex human realities, and the cultural values shaping the topics we choose to study," she concludes.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The truth about online dating and the link between depression and relational uncertainty

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There's no doubt that meeting partners on the Internet is a growing trend. But can we trust the information that people provide about themselves via online dating services? And why is depression so dissatisfying in relationships? These two questions are explored in articles appearing in the latest issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, published by SAGE. The authors also discuss their findings in a new podcast series: Relationship Matters.

Jeffrey Hall of the University of Kansas is lead author of the paper on internet dating, which shows that people looking for romance online actually behave very much as they do in face to face dating and relationships. "Our findings dispel the myth that people using online dating are that different than any one else who might find a relationship through friends, school or work," Hall explains.

His team investigated over 5000 individuals dating online in search of long-term partners, from all walks of life and over a wide age range (18 to over 60). The survey included questions on personality traits such as openness, extroversion, education and income. "We also asked a series of questions on an important trait that we call self monitoring," Hall says. "Self monitoring is about how we try to present ourselves in a favourable light to others, to make people like us." Someone who scores as 'low' on self monitoring is extremely authentic when describing themselves in all circumstances, and those who score 'high' are more prone to so-called white lies.

Self-monitoring scores turned out to be a major factor in the likelihood of people changing their presentation to others across all dating indicators (topics such as previous relationships, likes, dislikes, appearance, etc).

Whether a person is likely to lie about themselves online also depends on what kind of person they are: Someone who is very open to new experiences (e.g. foreign travel) is highly unlikely to misrepresent themselves about their experiences – because they are naturally interesting people. On the other hand extroverts are more likely to misrepresent themselves when describing past relationships. Extroverts tend to have many past relationships because they meet new people easily, but may play this down when looking for a new relationship.

The good news, according to Hall, is that the likelihood of people misrepresenting themselves overall is actually very low. The research also showed that not all men are from Mars and Women from Venus – the differences between individuals was far greater than any difference between the sexes. However women were somewhat more likely to fib about their weight, whereas men were more prone to tell white lies on other subjects, such as how many previous partners they had had, or how serious they were about finding a long-term relationship. "Men and women aren't as different from one another as we might believe," Hall says. Next up - Hall and his team are developing an inventory of flirting styles, which they aim to publish later this year.

Meanwhile twin sisters Leanne Knobloch of the University of Illinois, US and Lynne Knobloch-Fedders from The Family Institute at Northwestern University, US put their heads together to look at a longstanding question about what explains the association between depressive symptoms and relationship quality.

Over three decades of research have shown that people with depression are less satisfied in their romantic relationships. But questions remain about exactly why these go together. Now the sisters' research shows that relational uncertainty could be one explanation.

Relational uncertainty is how sure individuals are about their perceptions of involvement in a relationship. It has three sources. Self uncertainty is the questions people have about their own relationship involvement, such as, "how certain am I about my view of this relationship?" Partner uncertainty involves questions about a partner's relationship involvement, such as, "how certain am I about where my partner wants this to go?" Finally relationship uncertainty involves questions about the relationship status, such as "How certain am I about the future of this relationship?"

There were three main findings from the study of couples experiencing depressive symptoms or relationship problems: Those with more severe depressive symptoms reported more relationship distress; people experiencing more relational uncertainty were less satisfied with their relationship; and finally, women's depressive symptoms predicted all three sources of their relational uncertainty, which in turn predicted both men's and women's relationship quality. For men, only the self source of relational uncertainty acted as a mediator.

This finding could suggest treatment options. For example, working through relational uncertainty issues in psychotherapy may help alleviate depressive symptoms. Alternatively treating depression might help individuals achieve more relational certainty, leading to more satisfying relationships.

"People suffering from depressive symptoms may wrestle with more questions about their romantic relationship, which may be dissatisfying," says Knobloch. "If we find ways to help people address their uncertainty about their relationship, then their depressive symptoms might not be so debilitating for their romantic relationships."



Strategic misrepresentation in online dating: The effects of gender, self-monitoring, and personality traits by Jeffrey A. Hall, Namkee Park, Hayeon Song and Michael J. Cody; and The role of relational uncertainty in depressive symptoms and relationship quality: An actor–partner interdependence model by Leanne K. Knobloch and Lynne M. Knobloch-Fedders are published in the February 2010 issue of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. Both articles will be free to download for a limited period from http://spr.sagepub.com/current.dtl

Friday, March 5, 2010

Study finds no consensus in definitions of 'had sex"

When people say they "had sex," what transpired is anyone's guess. A new study from the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University found that no uniform consensus existed when a representative sample of 18- to 96-year-olds was asked what the term meant to them.

Is oral sex considered sex? It wasn't to around 30 percent of the study participants. How about anal sex? For around 20 percent of the participants, no. A surprising number of older men did not consider penile-vaginal intercourse to be sex. More than idle gossip, the answers to questions about sex can inform -- or misinform -- research, medical advice and health education efforts.

"Researchers, doctors, parents, sex educators should all be very careful and not assume that their own definition of sex is shared by the person they're talking to, be it a patient, a student, a child or study participant," said Brandon Hill, research associate at the Kinsey Institute.

The study, conducted in conjunction with the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, delves deeper into a question first examined in 1999 -- in the midst of a presidential sex scandal where the definition of sex was an issue. Researchers from The Kinsey Institute asked college students what "had sex" meant to them, taking the approach, which was unique then, of polling the students on specific behaviors.

No consensus was found then, either. The new study, published in the international health journal "Sexual Health" in February, examined whether more information helped clarify matters -- study participants were asked about specific sexual behaviors and such qualifiers as whether orgasm was reached -- and researchers also wanted to involve a more representative audience, not just college students.

"Throwing the net wider, with a more representative sample, only made it more confusing and complicated," Hill said. "People were even less consistent across the board."

The study involved responses from 486 Indiana residents who took part in a telephone survey conducted by the Center for Survey Research at IU. Participants, mostly heterosexual, were asked, "Would you say you 'had sex' with someone if the most intimate behavior you engaged in was ...," followed by 14 behaviorally specific items.

Here are some of the results:

• Responses did not differ significantly overall for men and women. The study involved 204 men and 282 women.
• 95 percent of respondents would consider penile-vaginal intercourse (PVI) having had sex, but this rate drops to 89 percent if there is no ejaculation.
• 81 percent considered penile-anal intercourse having had sex, with the rate dropping to 77 percent for men in the youngest age group (18-29), 50 percent for men in the oldest age group (65 and up) and 67 percent for women in the oldest age group.
• 71 percent and 73 percent considered oral contact with a partner's genitals (OG), either performing or receiving, as having had sex.
• Men in the youngest and oldest age groups were less likely to answer "yes" compared with the middle two age groups for when they performed OG.
• Significantly fewer men in the oldest age group answered "yes" for PVI (77 percent).

Hill said it is common for a doctor, when seeing a patient with symptoms of sexually transmitted infections, to ask how many sexual partners the patient has or has had. The number will differ according to the patients' definitions of sex.

William L. Yarber, RCAP's senior director and co-author of the study, said its findings reaffirm the need to be specific about behaviors when talking about sex

"There's a vagueness of what sex is in our culture and media," Yarber said. "If people don't consider certain behaviors sex, they might not think sexual health messages about risk pertain to them. The AIDS epidemic has forced us to be much more specific about behaviors, as far as identifying specific behaviors that put people at risk instead of just sex in general. But there's still room for improvement."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Coital Conservatism Ended Before Birth Control Pill Arrived

The pill did not give birth to the sexual revolution despite the widespread belief in its libidinously liberating effects that persists to this day, says a University of Florida professor.

Rates of premarital sex and single motherhood rose much more dramatically between the 1940s and 1960, when the oral contraceptive was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, than during the "free love" era of the 1960s, said Alan Petigny, a UF history professor.

The loosening of sexual constraints coincided with more liberal attitudes toward women, which took hold before the 1960s, he said.

"The explosion of premarital sex during the '40s and '50s as evidenced by higher levels of illegitimacy has not yet and I would argue cannot ever be explained by the standard historical interpretation," he said. "The proposition that the 1950s was a stable period when it came to sex is a great fiction that the empirical evidence simply does not sustain."

The author of the 2009 book "The Permissive Society: America 1945-1965," Petigny will be the featured speaker at a forum at Georgetown University on Tuesday.

The historic announcement in May 1960 of the approval of an oral contraceptive was credited with unleashing sweeping changes in the sexual behavior of single women, he said.

"By the time the birth control pill became available to the masses of American women, the proverbial horse was already out of the barn," he said.

Using vital statistics, Petigny said he found that between 1940 and 1960 rates of illegitimacy rose by more than 250 percent for white women and by more than 300 percent for all women. Specifically, the frequency of single motherhood increased from 3.6 to 9.2 newborns per 1,000 unmarried white women and from 7.1 to 21.6 newborns per 1,000 among all women, he said.

Even among women who married there was a sharp increase in premarital pregnancies, which would later develop into shotgun marriages, according to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. The census asked women a series of questions including the date they were married and the date their first child was born, he said.

Petigny's research shows that for single white women between the ages of 20 and 24, for example, the frequency of premarital pregnancies more than doubled from the mid-1940s -- between 1943 and 1946 -- and the mid-1950s, between 1955 and 1958. "Here we have two different sources of data collected through two very different methods pointing to the same conclusion: the sexual revolution was well under way during the 1950s," he said.

The pill had little influence on the sexual behavior of single women in the 1960s because it was overwhelmingly used by married women, Petigny said. "Most doctors would simply have refused to prescribe the birth control pill to a woman who wasn't married," he said.

By 1965 the pill had become the most common form of contraception among married women, but single women did not begin to use it in large numbers until the 1970s, he said.

According to the first teenage survey of birth control in 1971, only about 10 percent of sexually active girls were on the pill, Petigny said. Condoms were far more common, he said.

Changes in sexual behavior resulted from a liberalization of attitudes during the post-war period that occurred as more men and women attended college and as religion's influence waned in favor of psychology, particularly in its humanistic form, Petigny said. "People were coming to look at themselves and the world in a markedly more secular way," he said.

Ideas about women became more progressive and the status of women improved, long before the arrival of the feminist movement, Petigny said. For example, more than 300 women served in state legislatures during the 1950s, and by the end of the decade slightly more women held these seats than at the end of the 1960s, he said.

Political attitudes began to shift, as shown in a Gallup poll asking whether voters would cast their votes for a woman for president if their party nominated one, Petigny said. In 1940, only about 20 percent of the public expressed their willingness to do so, compared with nearly 60 percent by 1960, he said.

And at home a quiet revolution was taking place with families becoming more democratic and less patriarchal, Petigny said. Even though men and women still performed different tasks, they exercised roughly equal power in the marriage, he said.