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Monday, January 12, 2009

American Sexuality blog has moved

We have moved the American Sexuality blog to a new platform. The new blog is hosted on the NSRC website at the following address: http://nsrc.sfsu.edu/dialogues/communicate

Please update your bookmarks and we hope to see you on the new website.


Welcome to the new NSRC

Dear friends and fellow travelers on the road to sexual literacy:

We are very excited to welcome you to our completely redesigned website--we've brought you better functionality and new features so that together we can redefine the way people understand healthy sexuality. This new electronic platform has been in the making for more than a year and has involved the incredible talents of many people, both here at our Center in San Francisco, and around the country as well. All of us are thrilled to be launching this new site in the spirit of promoting truly comprehensive sexuality education and in the larger effort of promoting public awareness around holistic and enjoyable lifelong sexuality, which we think of as the sexual literacy movement.

The features of this exciting new website are truly amazing: now you can browse the content of American Sexuality, Sexualidades Latinas and the Sexuality Research and Social Policy journal, blog and connect in our Dialogues network, and Map the Movement to capture sexuality resources across the country. As the NSRC website builds toward its 6th anniversary in February 2009, we are proud to have become one of the top sources for reliable, up-to-date and comprehensive understanding of sexuality in all of its myriad elements and rainbow colors in the US. Please sign up and log in today!

This year, 2008, was extraordinarily challenging to our country; we elected a new President, Barack Obama, breaking with many trends and even with tradition. His leadership carries the hopes and dreams of millions of people around the world. We are going to need all of that good will, as we face the most difficult economic downturn in half a century or more. What are the implications of these trends for sexual literacy?

With the huge spike in unemployment and the downward spiral of the markets around the world, it is going to be a gloomy holiday for retailers, and is already proving to be a fatal or life-threatening experience for the automobile industry, once the backbone of the American economy. The loss of jobs, the uncertain outlook, and the bleak picture can be a time in which people's hopes decline. This is the kind of context that can really test individuals' sense of taking changes, and test the resilience of relationships in general. Being sexually literate right now means applying what we know about sexual health and being safe when entering into sexual relations for the first time; believing that there will be a tomorrow. Committed relationships as well are going to be strained economically and sometimes emotionally through these intense and trying times. Commitment and love and affection go a long way in extending our support for others, including the couples who surround us every day, and who are trying to make a go of life amidst all the change. Understanding the role of this social and personal support is thus part of the sexual literacy movement needed right now.

Take a look around. We welcome your feedback. And if you like what you see, come join us in promoting healthy and pleasurable sexualities.

For updates, information and cutting-edge content, sign up for the NSRC Newsletter.

From the National Sexuality Resource Center to you and yours, family and friends and partners, we wish each and every one of you a most wonderful holiday and a happy and safe New Year.

All the best,

Gil Herdt

Executive Director,

National Sexuality Resource Center


Friday, December 12, 2008

Large Percentage of Young Adults Posting Nude Pictures

A new survey by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has found that 22% of teen girls have posted nude or semi-nude pictures online. Most important findings from the survey are below.

Also check out research that was published in our own Sexuality Research and Social Policy Journal - Journalist or Panderer? Framing Underage Webcam Sites - which talks about new technologies changing social relationships and view of teen's sexuality.

Survey Findings:(Full survey summary is here).
  • One in five teen girls (22%)—and 11% of teen girls ages 13-16 years old—say they have electronically sent, or posted online, nude or semi-nude images of themselves.
  • One-third (33%) of teen boys and one-quarter (25%) of teen girls say they have had nude/semi-nude images—originally meant to be private—shared with them.
  • The survey of 1,280 teens and young adults indicates that 15% of teens who have sent sexually suggestive content such as text messages, email, photographs or video say they have done so with someone they only know online.
  • Teen girls are not the only ones sharing sexually explicit content. Almost one in five teen boys (18%) say they have sent or posted nude/semi nude images of themselves. One-third (33%) of young adults—36% of women and 31% of men ages 20-26—say they have sent or posted such images.
  • What teens and young adults are doing electronically seems to have an effect on what they do in real life: Nearly one-quarter of teens (22%) admit that technology makes them personally more forward and aggressive. More than one-third of teens (38%) say exchanging sexy content makes dating or hooking up with others more likely and nearly one-third of teens (29%) believe those exchanging sexy content are “expected” to date or hook up.
  • Sending sexually suggestive messages is even more prevalent than sending nude/semi-nude images. Nearly half of young people (49% total, 39% of teens, 59% of young adults) have sent sexually suggestive text messages or email messages to someone.
  • Even more have received sexually suggestive messages: 48% of teens and 64% of young adults (56% total). Fully one-third of young teen girls (ages 13-16) have received sexually suggestive messages.
  • Teen girls who have sent or posted sexually suggestive content provide a number of reasons why: Two-thirds (66%) say they did so to be “fun or flirtatious,” half (52%) did so as a “sexy present” for their boyfriend, and 40% as a “joke.”
  • Even though nearly three-quarters of young people (73% total, 75% of teens, 71% of young adults) say that sending sexually suggestive content “can have serious negative consequences,” nearly one-quarter (22% total, 19% of teens and 26% of young adults) say sending sexually suggestive content is “no big deal.”
For effects of this sexualization, especially on girls, please see the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls: http://www.apa.org/pi/wpo/sexualizationsum.html

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Premature Ejaculation on SNL

From the creators of "Dick in a Box" comes another hit music video: "Jizz in my Pants". It might not be the most positive approach to premature ejaculation, but at least it gets people talking (or singing) about it.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

A bit too late but still funny: Prop 8 Musical


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

i'm having a sexual problem

I believe in sexual pleasure—yours and mine. From hawking sex toys to telling teens about the clitoris, I have spent my adult years proselytizing on the subject of pleasure. And no wonder; desire and pleasure--especially for women--are the stepping stones to sexual knowledge, rights and justice. For teen women, as Deb Tolman revealed in Dilemmas of Desire, knowing when you want to have sex is the pre-cursor to knowing when you don’t, and helps women assume self-protective behaviors. For adult women, desire and pleasure allow for a more equitable and satisfying relationship with self and others.

So let me say it again. I want you to get off, I encourage you to get off. In fact, go get off right now and get back to me.

Hi. Feels good, right? Which is why it might come as a surprise that I am so angry about a recent study looking at sexual dysfunction in women. Decreased libido=decreased pleasure=not so good, right? Sometimes, but that’s not where the real problem lies.

The study, published in the November 2008 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, aimed to examine self-reported sexual ‘problems,’ such as decreased desire, arousal and orgasm, in US women (nothing that in my house wouldn’t get fixed by SOMEONE finally taking their turn with the dishes). The results, as trumpeted by the Washington Post, “Almost half of women have sexual problems.” 40%, to be precise.

Sounds like a problem to me. But wait—only 12% of women actually reported having a problem with their problem. If an orgasm doesn’t fall in the forest and there’s no one around to not hear it, did it really not fall? As any budding psych student can tell you, self-reported distress is one of the key components to actually having a problem. And these women didn’t think they did. At least not yet. Wanna hear the questions they were asked?

Response of “never” or “rarely” to questions:

  • “How often do you desire to engage in sexual activity?”
  • “How often do you become sexually aroused?”
  • “Are you easily aroused?”
  • “Do you have adequate vaginal lubrication during sexual activity?”
  • “How often do you experience an orgasm?”
  • “Are you able to have an orgasm when you want to?”

And response of “no enjoyment or pleasure” or “little enjoyment or pleasure” to the question,

  • “How much pleasure do you get from your orgasms?

Who has the problem? 40% answered rarely or never to any of those questions—not being easily aroused, not lubricating enough—but they didn’t see it as an issue. I wouldn't mind having an orgasm right now...but I wouldn't say it's a problem that I'm not having one. And easily aroused? Compared to what--or whom? Those measures--in the sexual information vacuum in which virtually all of us exist--mean nothing without desperately needed context.

Meanwhile, the 12% who did report some concern over their ‘dysfunction’ were much more likely to be in poor health, exhibiting true problems such as depression, anxiety, irritable bowel system and urinary incontinence. Making not being able to lubricate seem like a drop in the bucket. I can imagine that, with a touch of urinary incontinence, I might not get a lot of pleasure from my orgasm—and I don’t think that it is the orgasm part that needs fixing. So who’s having the problem, again?

Maybe it’s their partners. Perhaps their partner—particularly if they’re all hopped up on Viagra—wants to hit it all night. But that isn’t any one person’s problem, per se—in sex therapy talk it’s called a desire discrepancy, and seen as a couple’s issue. Kind of like cinematic discrepancy, where he wants to watch Dark Knight and she wants to see The Notebook. You don’t blame anyone, you just work it out. Christ, no one wants to see The Notebook All Night Long.

If it’s not her, and it’s not her partner, who could it be? Surely not study author Dr. Jan Shifren—she’s an associate professor at Harvard Medical School (I’ve heard of it), so she’s gotta be objective. That’s good enough for me. But wait, what’s that fine print on the front page of the study?

“Dr. Shifren has received research support from Proctor & Gamble (Cincinnati, OH) and consulting fees from Proctor & Gamble, Boehringer Ingelheim (Ingelheim, Germany), and Eli Lilly & Co. (Indianapolis, IN).”

That would be P&G Pharmaceuticals. Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals. And yup, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals.

I don’t want to go out on a limb here, or some other appendage, but it makes me wonder just a little bit. Could it be possible that someone was looking for problems—even, creating them? After all, there are incredibly easy ways to deal with decreased lubrication. Babelube, a little more sex warm-up, even just some info about how vag lubrication fluctuates according to menstrual cycle and peri- and menopause transition. Could it be that big Pharma has a stake in turning normal sexual variation into a problem, just so they can create a little pill to fix it? Could it be that they are actually playing on the lack of sexual knowledge and resources that exist in order to create shame, embarrassment and perceived dysfunction just so they can get a little more bang for their buck?

The real problem I’m having is with how sexuality is increasingly being framed as problematic, and the people who are having—or not having—sex are being labeled as inadequate. The real solutions, those that build communication, intimacy, trust and pleasure, are being submerged behind a wave of medical interventions (women can boost their flagging libido with this testosterone patch, but oops, watch out for the breast cancer!) that are, at best, expensive and inadequate bandaids for the complexities of sexual expression.

I’m not buying it, and neither should you.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

When Assuming Makes an Ass Out of You and Me

Proposition 8 protests. She was thinking about going to the “Join the Impact” protest in San Francisco; I couldn’t go because I have an interview. As she sat with a sad look in her eyes, Why don’t you ever want to go to these things?, she began thinking about whether protesting in San Francisco really made sense.

“I mean, it’s San Francisco,” she said, clicking away at her Mac. “I should be protesting in Hayward or something....Walnut Creek….”

“Yeah,” I said. “Totally. I mean, the mayor has already denounced the decision and everything. People will come around.”

I went back to watching Square Pegs on Hulu.com; thought nothing more of it. Until today, when I got of BART and saw a front page article in the Chronicle about same-sex marriage. Low and behold, it didn’t confirm my beliefs or my roommate’s. In fact, it proved us wrong, and I hate when that happens.

As it turns out, voters in 54 of the city’s 508 precincts voted in favor of the ban; that’s one in four San Franciscans. Though this seems like a relatively low number, the pro-8 supporters were clustered in districts with large populations- Chinatown, the Marina, Excelsior- with a high of 65 percent in the South of Market neighborhood (Surprised? I was) and Chinatown. It’s shockers like these that make me re-think some of the things I’ve said. I, like many others, sometimes forget about the conservative people that live in our flamboyantly liberal city. I forget that they are often times pocketed in the same areas I love (the Marina is one of my all-time favorite places to hang out and read in the city) and are often times are quite large in number.

Perhaps it’s attitudes like mine that helped Prop 8 pass. Many opponents interviewed in articles and stories for television and radio claim that people didn’t try hard enough. Many opponents interviewed by the press claim that people didn’t try hard enough. Many, like Steve Gibson, a gay activist in the Castro, don’t think of San Francisco as a place that necessarily needs protesting. After all, aren’t we all a part of the California liberal mindset? Apparently not. Even while growing up in the Bay Area, I assumed that certain areas were immune from more conservative thought. When family from out of town would automatically associate San Francisco with gay culture, I would often smile and laugh, “Yeah, it is kind of like that.”

What this really boils down to is making assumptions about the general composition of any city or town. It’s sad that it takes things like a ban on gay marriage to open my eyes to the different ideologies that actually exist within the supposed bubble that is the San Francisco Bay Area. But sometimes, you just need a kick in the pants to realize that you still need to fight for things, even in a liberal locale.

I wonder how effective protests actually are in changing minds, attitudes, and policies. If Prop 8 were put to a re-vote, would people in San Francisco change their tune? In all honesty, I think not. Still, that doesn’t make it any less important to show support for a cause and prove that the City is actually a dynamic political ground, and that we don’t all think as one. Maybe then more of my relatives would come to visit.

Neither my roommate nor I ended up going to the protests. We figured our thoughts would be better served by a booze-fueled discussion in our living room while “Wet Hot American Summer” chuckled along in the background. I guess that’s protest enough.


Exposing Politician's Sex Lives

I have a tendency to lose myself in the drama-filled lives of celebrities like Madonna, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan. In fact, I would consider it an all consuming urge…at least while at the grocery store. In my head, I want these people to be adulterous and caught in the throes of passion or a sexual identity crisis. God forbid one of my blessed rags were to skimp on the love lives of my favorite star, I might be forced to go to the supermarket for food. And yet, when I see articles on Barak Obama’s family and Sarah Palin’s $150,000 wardrobe, my cravings for baby daddy drama get muddled and I feel, well, wrong. Since the Kennedy era, it has been more commonplace to report on the sexual appetites and goings-on of our country’s public figures. As a journalist, and curiously nosy one at that, I find myself in a quandary of sorts when it comes to the ethical soundness of a public outing. In a time where the line between entertainment and news is constantly being blurred, I wonder how the general public and news media will discern politicians from other celebrities.

Ask any other journalist whether it is appropriate to cover a sex “scandal” before it fully develops and they too would have a serious doubts about the story’s ethical content. How, they might ask, can a journalist truly seek the truth and report it while abiding by the Journalist’s Code of Ethics? More to the point, is it ethical to expose the private lives of politicians because they have thrust themselves upon the public rostrum and thus relinquished their rights? Or are they still entitled to privacy, no matter how morally ambiguous their actions may be? When racy headlines combine with the public’s desire for gossip and thrills, how does a journalist hold true to ethical standards while doing their duty of informing the public? Simply put, how does a journalist avoid sensationalizing; where does responsible reporting meet the public’s right to know?

Public outings can be traced back to the Nixon days, and while his scandal was not sexually motivated, it opened the floodgates for publishing private presidential matters. Perhaps, before Watergate, Presidents were revered in an idealistic fashion in that they could do no wrong. And if they did, we didn’t want to know about it. John F. Kennedy, for example, was considered to be one of America’s saviors in the early sixties. Impossibly good looking and improbably young, he was shrouded in rumors of affairs with numerous women. Still, his activities didn’t make headlines.

Today, regardless of a mostly sex-positive attitude, the media and the public still tend to abhor public figures whose sexual exploits are of moral question. Whether they bear any resemblance to their own sex lives is another story. Why then, is it ok for to brush Kennedy’s voracious sexual appetite and womanizing ways under the rug while we publically demonize Bill Clinton for “not having sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky? True, Clinton purgered. True, we know that JFK was involved with several women, including the less-than-inconspicuous Marilyn Monroe. The only difference is the energy with which the media devoted to the subject. Without a doubt, the general attitude toward sex in America has become more relaxed and generally open to discussion; but does this doesn’t justify prying into private matters. What if President Elect Barak Obama was the one having an extramarital affair?

And therein lies the dilemma: when is it appropriate to expose the sexual habits of a public figure? When it affects the public or proves hypocrisy within the system- e.g. former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s involvement with a prostitution ring- or when societal mores deem the action immoral ala the infamous Lewinsky blowjob? I wonder what would happen if a journalist received a tip that President Elect Barack Obama had had an extramarital affair. Would the journalist hide it in order to uphold the image of the New Kennedy (a questionably ethical action) or would they publish it and possibly ruin the image of a politician who demonstrates a strong relationship with his partner (also questionably ethical)?

I vote the latter. I’m not advocating special treatment for our new president, nor am I suggesting that we remove sex from the public dialogue. It is nearly impossible to avoid sensationalizing a sex scandal concerning someone in power- I’ll admit, it makes for great drama in US Weekly. But, for God’s sake, you wouldn’t want the entire U.S. population to know that you had anonymous sex in an airport bathroom, would you?


Tit for Tat

Something I never understood: nipples. And not just nipples in general- I have them, you have them, I learned early on what they do and why they do it- but nipples in movies and television. You can see them in movies, more often than not it’s the only “private part” you will see in an R-rated film, they’re blurred on television, and when I went on IMDB last night to look up a movie, nipples was the first topic on the board.

So this all leads me to wonder why female nipple is the obscenity and indecency standard for television and movies. I’ve always thought this was silly and incredibly sexist. Is it because showing the nipple and nothing more brings the viewer to the titillating (pun intended) edge without allowing them to fall over? This assumes, of course, that the viewer in question is one who is attracted to women. Still, if the nipple is the most one can show on a woman in a non-pornographic film and must be hidden in television, what is the male equivalent? More importantly, why isn’t there one?

I guess we are to assume that women (or gay men), in general, don’t want to see naked men the way men (or gay women) want to see naked females. This is bullshit; absolutely bogus. If I want to watch a porno, I’ll watch a porno, but I get so sick of seeing so many nipples (and nothing more; I wouldn’t complain as much if I weren’t stuck on second base) in movies that I need another “private part” to dull the pain. As is such, I wonder what exactly makes the nipple a sacred place? And, in the same vein, what makes it less holy than the scrotum or penis? And why can’t I see it?

This nipplehemia can be traced back to Janet Jackson’s infamous Superbowl performance in 2004 where a pierced nipple escaped from its hiding place to exclaim to the world “I exist!” (Four years later, “Wardrobe Malfunction” is the second Google suggestion when you type her name in a search.) I remember an almost immediate crackdown in swear words, nudity, and other sexual content on television and radio, as well as the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005. And I wonder: was the public so completely enchanted with this one left nipple that it became so obsessed and made it an industry-wide standard?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want boobies plastered all over Nickelodeon and Saturday morning cartoons- although it seems to work in England- I’m all for having a boob barrier until a respectable age. But if this barrier exists, there needs to be a standard for showing the male half. Yes. Penises galore. For every pair of nipples, there should be a pair of balls. For every flash of female public hair, there should be a man’s bush. Everything in the name of equality, and a feast of flesh I can enjoy too.

Still, some confusion exists. I have seen Nips on television. I have seen a flash of male genetalia in a movie, though it’s never as focused as that of females. Adam Sandler’s 2000 movie, Little Nicky, features a dream-like sequence where Sandler and his love interest, Patricia Arquette, fly over a field of animated boobs; nipples and everything. And when on television, the nipples are still there in all their glory. The Sex and the City movie shows a few seconds of a penis, a first for the creators, which was hyped and inevitably disappointing. But I need to give credit to them for breaking the rules, even a little bit (and it was little) in some form of backwards female empowerment.

And now the question remains: if Adam Sandler and Kim Cattrall can see these things, why can’t everyone see them? I mean, why aren’t they getting in trouble by the Powers That Be for showing everything you’re not supposed to show. And the answer is, at least I think it is, because they can’t get in trouble. As saddening as it sounds, movie makers, television folk, producers and writers all subscribe to these notions of decency. Whether because of their personal beliefs or because they are being put upon, we are all suffering.

The solution? Take out the tits and pull out the penis! Well, maybe not quite. Until more movies like Zach and Miri Make a Porno come out, we’re just going to have to keep writing letters to Comedy Central asking them to air Little Nicky. After all, how often are you going to see that many boobs at once?

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Australia Dominating Sex News

An in-depth review of weird sexuality news has uncovered a trend - Australia is dominating sex news. Below are just three most recent examples:

A nude-only party that lasts a month, to combat economic downturn (!?). The tourism industry hopes that the party will re-ignite tourists' interest in Australia. Apparently, kangaroos are just not enough.

Mayor of this picturesque Australian town, Mount Isa, has attempted to be the most misogynistic, judgmental, insensitive, and sexist public official. He succeeded. His basic premise: in a town where men vastly outnumber women, ugly women ("beauty-disadvantaged") have a great chance to live "normal" lives. Apparently, the mayor quite often sees an unattrative female walking down the street either remembering the previous night's sexual adventures or anticipating next night's success.

Millions of people are customers of the sex industry, yet this industry is highly underrepresented in politics. The Australian Sex industry decided to correct that. Meet the Australian Sex Party. Their slogan - help us fight for your adult business and bedroom rights (plus get a copy of the EROS magazine and twice weekly eNews!). The party predicts that the economic crisis will stimulate the demand for the industry's services, as "we're a cheap luxury that can make you feel good." And that demand needs to be represented on the national level! The party is "serious about sex and serious about the Sex Party." Please do not confuse the Australian Sex party with the month-long nude party listed above.

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