Category Archives: Sex

A look at the biology, psychology, and sociology of human mating and sexuality in America. Blogs include sexual orientation, gender differences in sexuality and culture-bound practices.

A Conversation About Sexual Consent

Married couple having an intimate discussionA national conversation about sexual consent has begun. In recent decades the concept of sexual consent has bogged down courts and left campus officials scratching their heads as lawmakers struggle to define the line between unlawful sex and “buyer’s remorse,” (as too many police officer’s, sadly, define date rape.) We all clearly recognize a rape when it occurs in a dark alley with a stranger and a weapon. But far more often, rape happens with someone we know. In fact, it can happen with someone we really like. When unlawful sex is preceded by consensual touching causing aroused bodies or the consensual sharing of alcohol or drugs, that line between sexual assault and permissive sex becomes terribly blurry.

But the good news is this. Sexual consent now has a clear definition and laws are finally catching up. A new law in California, for instance, states that in order to have sex on any California college campus that receives State funding, both sexual partners must give verbal or written consent. Lawmakers hope that if people talk about sex — their boundaries and their expectations — before they have sex, we’ll see a reduction in reports of date rape. I’ve always been one to vote for honest words before coitus. I mean, if you two aren’t intimate enough to talk about sex, you probably shouldn’t expose your eggs or your bloodstream to that partner.

As we continue this public conversation about what constitutes legal or illegal sex, let me outline the five rules for sexual consent:

1. YES MEANS YES. In fact “yes” is the only word that means yes. Silence isn’t consent. Moaning and smiling isn’t consent. “I think so” isn’t consent. “Maybe” isn’t consent. The words, “Yes, I want to have sex with you” are the only thing that counts in a court of law. And “NO” really does mean no. It should never be used as foreplay to help preserve a woman’s reputation.

2. BOTH PARTNERS MUST GIVE CONSENT. Ladies and gay men, listen up. Just because a guy has a throbbing flag pole does not mean that he wants to have full on intercourse with you at that very moment. An erection is not consent. Both partners, no matter their gender or orientation must give verbal consent.

3. YOU CANNOT GIVE CONSENT IF YOU ARE UNDER THE INFLUENCE of drugs or alcohol. All these conversations about sex have to take place before the first drink is poured.

4. CONSENT FOR ONE ACT DOESN’T MEAN CONSENT FOR ANOTHER ACT. I know. It gets a bit awkward here. Just because someone consents to kissing, petting or even oral sex, does not mean they are consenting to intercourse. It’s important to get verbal consent at every stage, even if that means a little coitus interruptus along the way. One solution is to have a spicy conversation about expectations at the onset.

5.  IT’S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO KNOW YOU HAVE CONSENT. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Just like you can’t tell a traffic cop you didn’t know there was a speed limit, you can’t tell a jury that you didn’t know she had to verbally say yes.

The best solution of all? Establish emotional intimacy and trust long before you hit the hay. And have a sexy conversation when you are fully clear headed. Then enjoy some great consensual sex.


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Five Sexual Myths That Keep Women Single

Women gossipingFor my book The 30-Day Love Detox, I interviewed some of the brightest minds in the country who focus on sexuality, mating strategies, and attachment. Even I had to take a deep breath and let go of some of my cherished arguments for sexual equality when I saw how solid the research ran contrary to my beliefs. Sigh. These are the sexual myths that will keep you single if you continue to believe them.

1. The Sexual Myth of The Hook Up Culture

As I mentioned earlier, the hook-up culture is more urban legend than reality. A recent National Survey of Family Growth study with over thirteen-thousand participants showed that fully one quarter of college students are virgins.

Yet, most people assume that college campuses are a hotbed of non-committed sex. And they believe this uncommitted sex happens earlier than it does. In fact, young adults who do not attend college have more sexual partners.

But, since the perceptions exist, many women feel subtly pressured to have sex before they are ready. One study showed that the vast majority of college students talked about hook-ups yet reported very few actual sexual scores. But the talk was the damaging part for women. It has the effect of “normalizing” the practice and creating more approval for hook-ups. That new false norm causes many women to engage in risky sexual behavior.4

The truth is there are two, distinct dating markets. One sells bulk sex at a low price, perhaps the price of one drink, and the other sells a select variety to a narrow market. Women who want a healthy relationship “charge” a high price for sex: attention, love, care, commitment, and social status. In today’s times, social status may not mean marriage if you don’t need it, but it can certainly mean that he changes his Facebook status to indicate he’s in a relationship with you.

2. The Myth that Sexual Chemistry Helps Relationships

Many women believe that jumping into bed in the early stages of a relationship is a way to test sexual compatibility, a way to audition a man, if you will. Someone – probably a man – created the myth that “sexual chemistry” is necessary before couples can move to a committed relationship.  If this theory were true then people who do not test out sexual chemistry before commitment should have shorter, more unhappy, relationships. But psychology professor Dean Busby and his colleagues at Brigham Young University were unable to make this connection is a study of more than 2,000 couples. People with good sexual chemistry early on did not stay together longer. He explained his results to me this way. “The mechanics of good sex are not particularly difficult or beyond the reach of most couples, but the emotions, the vulnerability, the meaning of sex and whether it brings couples closer together are much more complicated to figure out.” (Dean Busby, personal communication, 2012).

“Sexual chemistry isn’t made by some effortless match, as if the couple won a lottery,” says University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus and author of Pre-Marital Sex in America. “I think sexual chemistry is the title we give to the erotic novelty often found in early sexual relationships: if they’re “hot,” then chemistry must exist. But all relationships settle down into more sustainable patterns of romance, and THAT is when sexual chemistry is fashioned.”

3. The Myth That People Have Sexual “Needs”

Sex researchers have long known that women have different kinds of sexual “needs” than men. Women’s sexuality tends to be responsive, meaning that we respond to sexual opportunity, rather than seek it out to fulfill some kind of necessary quota.

When women meet someone they are attracted to, their sexual responses turn on. When they break up from a sexual relationship, they aren’t as likely as men to replace that relationship with daily masturbation or pornography. When single women feel “horny” it is often an extension of their emotional need for companionship. Some researchers have found that women often desire to be desired.

That’s a whole lot different than a biological desire for sex, any sex, with almost anyone. Men are more like that. This model of female sexuality is supported by the fact that drug companies can’t come up with a drug that enhances female libido. Women’s sexuality is a complicated mix of psychology, social conditioning and biology. Men’s sexuality is closer to basic plumbing.

But in this high-supply sexual economy where women have adopted everything male, I often hear women say, “But what about my sexual needs? I have to put my needs aside?”

I believe the bodies of those women could be responding to our highly sexualized culture, including provocative advertising, half-naked men on Facebook and sexual invitations at every turn, making women believe that sex is urgent. Rather than having a sexual response to a single suitor whom they are attracted to, women could be having a sexual response to our crazy sexualized environment. Or, they could simply be parroting men. Worse, they could be giving in to the power wielded by the shrinking supply of good men, and bowing to their requests out of fear.

These women believe the myth that sex is, in fact a human need. Granted, psychologist Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of human needs puts sex at the base of the pyramid right alongside pooping, but he isn’t referring to sex as a commodity.

He was referring to sexual competition as a motivating factor for people’s behaviors. And I think it’s clear that we have enough sexual competition these days.

Can both genders control their sexuality? Of course we can! Sex is no more a need than a trip to Saks Fifth Avenue. For our human survival we need, air, food, water, shelter and companionship. Ask any priest, nun, military person stationed abroad, prisoner, or elderly widow. Is sex necessary for their survival? Nope. But it’s a nice perk that comes with freedom, prosperity and good health.

I think the important question women need to ask themselves is this: Does more sex make a woman feel liberated or trapped? I vote for trapped. By adopting a male model of sexuality we have imprisoned ourselves in a hook-up culture that trained a generation of men to avoid marriage and parental responsibilities. Is this getting our “needs” met?

4. The Sexual Myth That Sex Leads to Love

While slightly more than half of college women believe that a sexual hook-up can be a stepping-stone to a relationship, the research points to a more ominous outcome. According to the author of Pre-Marital Sex In America, “It’s a race to the bottom. By having sex early in a relationship  — or worse, before it even starts — is a guaranteed failure. It’s just a matter of time. Men won’t sacrifice for someone who’s easy. They don’t work that way.”

Or, how about this little jewel of research? Renowned evolutionary psychology professor David Buss at the University of Texas at Austin and Martie G. Haselton at the University of California, Los Angeles found that the more previous sexual partners a man has, the more likely he is to quickly perceive diminished attractiveness in a woman after first intercourse.

Diminished attractiveness. Sex doesn’t lead to love for men. If the guy is a player, sex more often leads to distain for you.

My Facebook page, like yours, is crammed with visually wired men who click on any cute photo that might mean a sexual opportunity, thus the majority of my Facebook “friends” are men. When I posted the Buss & Haselton study on my Facebook page, one guy summed it up perfectly. “Sure…. It’s a test. We see how quick we can get you in bed. The quicker you are, the less wifey material you are.” Sigh. Feminism has yet to reprogram men’s brains in the area of sexuality.

5. The Myth that Promiscuity Can be Turned Off

Plenty of people believe that sex is a behavior that is very malleable, that sexuality can be turned on and off, like a light switch. Many of the women I spoke with told me that they are hooking up as a way to audition mates, but they are quite sure they can be faithful when they decide to be. But research doesn’t support this. More likely is the scenario that these women are training their body to be a future cheater. We can train ourselves for most anything. And the only way to train for monogamy is to either abstain or to be monogamous.

“Many will say, ‘when I get ready to settle down I’m going to take things more slowly,” says Dean Busby, Ph.D., whose work studying thousands of singles and couples has produced relevant and timely data.  “Unfortunately, some of our more recent research seems to suggest that the patterns that develop in young adulthood, and their relational consequences, can’t just be turned off or avoided once a person decides it is time to marry.  Every relationship we have, however brief and insignificant, influences every other relationship we have, and the patterns that we repeat across relationships become very difficult to change.”

Exiting the High-Supply Sexual Marketplace

I hope by now you’ve gotten the message that you have mating control but you are in a race against your fertility clock and an ever-increasing competition for a narrowing market of good mates. I hope that those fears will out weigh any fears you may have of dealing with the after shock of pulling yourself off the high supply sexual market. Think of it this way. Even in a tomato bumper crop year, when high supply forces the price of tomatoes down to a nickel a head, there will still be a market for an artisan grown, organic, heirloom tomato that sells for a dollar a head. So which are you? A mass market, low “priced” date? Or, a woman who sets the price of intimacy with her? And the price should be love, care, commitment and financial partnership if you plan to become a mother. It’s time to purge low-criteria relationships.


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For Couples: Dealing with Mismatched Libidos

iStock_000023453813LargeOne of the most consistent challenges of marriage and long-term monogamous relationships are mismatched libidos. Research psychologist, Robert Epstein, Ph.D., estimates that in many couples the issue is so extreme, that approximately 40 million Americans face the challenge of a sexless marriage.

For most people, sexual pleasure is a highly individualized experience. Because of that individualized experience, it’s not realistic that a couple is going to be in sync with each other 100% of the time. But beyond basic differences in the sexual needs of each partner, external pressures can negatively impact a couple’s ability to maintain a healthy sex life over a long period of time. Stress, anxiety, children, and even boredom can all impact a couple’s sex life.

The first step to addressing the problem of mismatched libidos is developing and showing empathy toward your partner’s side. Getting a sexual needs met by someone you are angry isn’t exactly a turn on. Understand that there is frustration on both sides of a mismatch, and talking respectfully about the experiences of each partner can take some pressure off. Acknowledging the problem in a non-judgmental manner is crucial to resolving it.

Next, create a space for non-sexual intimacy in the relationship. Sometimes it is difficult for one partner to engage physically because they fear that any physicality will have to lead to sex. In fact, most sex therapists prescript a strict “no sex!” rule for the first six weeks of sex therapy in order to get couples in a sex rut to explode others forms of touch and other erogenous zones. Don’t rush through things, and remember that intimacy doesn’t have to be sex! Feeling comfortable with physical intimacy is essential for a healthy sex life, and can jumpstart a transition back into a sexual relationship.

One company that understands this is Hello Cheri. A new brand of adult accessories for your love life, Hello Cheri believes that intimacy and physicality come in all styles. They want to help you to improve your romantic life, whatever form it might take.

Hello Cheri provides an entire line of scented massage oils and handmade massage stones. For those not ready to rush back into sex, these are a wonderful place to start, and a low-pressure way to be physical with a partner. Massaging builds intimacy and, importantly, sexual tension, and can help reduce stress surrounding physical engagement. Adding small touches like a scented candle can easily change the mood of a room, and help your partner relax and engage.

Communication and physicality are two large steps towards reconciling mismatched libidos, but sometimes couples do need professional advice. The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists is a phenomenal resource for locating trained therapists with the knowledge to help you develop a sexy health life. Meanwhile, don’t be afraid to discuss intimacy with your partner and find ways to explore physicality that make you both comfortable!


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FOR SINGLES: Is His Interest Genuine, or Just a Way to “Get Some”

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Is he really into you, or is he just there to GET SOME? This is the oldest question in the history of the human species, because, as women know too well, often men are happy to just have sex– without all the hard work of developing a lasting long-term relationship.

There is only one surefire way to tell if he’s truly into you or if he’s just leading you on for sex, and that’s to delay the onset of sex. If he’s just looking for a one-night-stand (or week, or month-long), he’s going to move on and find a woman who he can just have sex with. If he’s looking for more than that, he’ll stick around to prove it to you. The good news is that we’ve actually EVOLVED to test men to see if they are going to stick around to raise a baby, or if they are just looking to pollinate (so to speak). So trust your instincts, and watch the video below to learn more.

Great Sex, Bad Relationship. Here’s Why.

stockvault-grunge-warning-sign---less-hate-more-lov133326She texts too much. He disappears sometimes. Why does he/she freak out when I just need space? It’s the most common relationship mis-match, the partner who feels squeamish with too much closeness is attracted to the contact junkie. And the strange thing is, the sex is always hot, hot, hot.

Attachment style is one of the most misunderstood, and easily managed relationship problems. But before you can change the uncomfortable pattern, you need to understand your own role in the chase/retreat pattern.

First of all, we all have a unique attachment style. It is part biological and part early childhood experience. Some people are more worried and anxious about relationships and fear abandonment, thus most of their behaviors are designed to vigilantly watch for signs of a break up and to try to elicit attention from their partner. Their behaviors might include:

• Too many texts, calls, and emails.
• The silent treatment – pretending to ignore calls to try to get the partner to pursue more.
• Clock watching. Counting the minutes and hours between contact.
• Unexplained anger – Threatening a break up or breaking up and getting back together a lot.
• Invoking Jealousy – Flirting with other people.

Other people easily feel smothered. Too much closeness makes them activate behaviors designed to create some distance:

• Creating a Stale Mate – Staying together without moving to the next level of commitment.
• Looking at Deal Breakers – Rationalizing your lack of commitment by focusing on your partner’s small flaws.
• Keeping a back up mate
• Being a Houdini with a great disappearing act when things are going well (especially after great sex)
• Dating unavailable partners – people who are married or long distance
• Being vague and foggy in conversations. Leaving out important details. Keeping secrets.

Here’s the good news: When people who are “anxious” mate with someone who is “avoidant,” the sex is usually off the charts.In fact, great sex is the thing that often keeps them coming back. That’s because, under it all, they both crave the intimacy that they can’t tolerate. So, it’s this fear mixed with excitement that causes the sexual passion.

Here’s the bad news: If left unchecked, these kind of relationships are filled with all kinds of pain. Interestingly, anxious/avoidant pairs can last for many years and decades, super glued by the unhealthy cycle of intensity followed by loss. They stay bonded but they don’t stay happy. In the next few blogs, I’ll give you some tips for how to manage this kind of painful roller coaster relationship.

WATCH: What To Do if Your Date Disappears