Science of Sex: Pheromones

September 9th, 2017

Welcome to the sixth installment in a new feature on Of Sex and Love: Science of Sex. In this feature, I plan to discuss the science of sexuality in an easy-to-digest format that’s accessible to the casual reader. I will also follow up with some extended reading material for people who want to know more about the subject of each post.

Enjoy!

science of sex pheromones

You probably think of pheromones as sex chemicals. Many animals produce pheromones, chemicals that help attract mates among other things. But plants and bacteria also produce pheromones that serve various purposes. These chemicals are emitted through sweat, saliva, and other glands.

Human infants, for example, may detect pheromones that lead them to their mothers’ breasts, which is necessary for nursing. One type of moth releases a pheromone-filled mucus cocktail to attract potential suitors. Pheromones may signal whether another member of the same species is healthy and thus a good potential mate. Queen bees attract drones with pheromones (and unappealing pheromones may even serve as a pest repellant). Nature has plenty of examples of pheromones.

It’s the nose that detects pheromones in animals like humans and mice, but detection of these chemicals is unconscious. You wouldn’t realize when pheromones are at play, and animals certainly don’t.

Scientists believe pheromones in a man’s sweat can attract a woman to a man, even if the idea of smelling someone’s sweat isn’t appealing. Since the 1970s, researchers have found ties between body odor and attraction. You may already be familiar with the experiment in which women were asked to smell t-shirts covered in a man’s sweat and rate attractiveness. More recently, a study has shown that a man’s testosterone may rise when in the presence of pheromones of menstruating women.

Even exposure to pheromones from the same gender can elicit an effect as is the case with women and their menstrual cycles (and sweat from any gender can impact the menstrual cycle when applied near the nose). However, the case for pheromones in humans isn’t a strong one, and no specific chemicals have been extracted to reproduce that effect artificially.

Researchers once thought that the vomeronasal organ (VNO) is the pheromone receptor in animals. But humans have a particularly small VNO — and some have none at all. The genes that turn on the VNO aren’t active in every person, either. The VNO may be only part of the picture, too. One study showed that pigs could still detect pheromones even when the VNO duct was plugged, leading scientists to suggest that more than the VNO is necessary to detect pheromones.

The terminal nerve in the brain has been proposed as a pheromone detection, and hamsters with terminal nerve damage do not reproduce. This all makes it hard to make a solid case for human pheromones.

That doesn’t stop companies from promising you can attract a mate and make them obsessed with you with a little help from pheromones. But it does mean that the chemicals, if any, contained in these products are not human pheromones. They come from other animals, usually pigs, and there isn’t proof that they will work for you, a human person.

Even if researchers could prove that human pheromones exist and identify those chemical compounds, a true human pheromone product may not improve your sex life as much as you’d hope. For starters, you’d still produce your own pheromones. Pheromones also have to battle with all the bath and body products we use on a daily basis, which is one reason why researchers haven’t found a strong connection between pheromones and attraction in humans. Finally, humans have a host of other senses that come into play when it comes to attraction.

There’s enough evidence of pheromones in humans to warrant further investigation, but we cannot make a conclusive case for human pheromones.. yet.

Further Reading

Comment


Science of Sex: Dual Control Model

August 13th, 2017

Welcome to the fifth installment in a new feature on Of Sex and Love: Science of Sex. In this feature, I plan to discuss the science of sexuality in an easy-to-digest format that’s accessible to the casual reader. I will also follow up with some extended reading material for people who want to know more about the subject of each post.

Enjoy!

dual control model of sexual desire

I’ve been interested in the dual control model since I first read about it in Emily Nagoski’s book Come As You Are, which I highly recommend but apparently never got around to reviewing. The dual control model was first proposed by Bancroft and Janssen in the early 2000s. This theory is relatively new, but it’s become accepted because it explains desire for many people.

The dual control model explains why desire is more complicated than we’ve been led to believe. It’s not just about what turns us on (our Sexual Excitation System (SES)). Turn offs (Sexual Inhibition System (SIS)) are also as important, and things that arouse you and detract from your desire happen at the same time. Whether you want to have sex is the result of this equation.

SESes (accelerators) can include being attracted to someone, sexy books, music or movies, someone who smells good and, in a few people, stress. SISes that put the kibosh on your arousal might be needing to shower or brush teeth (or needing the same from your partner), having kids or roommates home in the house, dissatisfaction with a relationship, being self-conscious about your body, or any kind of stress. Mood can be a brake, and women are more sensitive to mood when it comes to desire.

The original surveys were given to men and focused on issues with erectile dysfunction. Bancroft and Janssen divided inhibitors into type types for men: SIS1 refers to performance anxiety while SIS2 is inhibition due to possible consequences of sex. Since then, a survey with modified questions has been given to women.  Results indicated that feelings about relationships are especially important to a woman’s desire.

Nagoski’s book is geared toward women, and the dual control model is especially helpful for women who can’t figure out why they don’t want sex more — or even if that means something is wrong with them (hint: there’s not). The dual control model specifically explains why pressing down the gas pedal isn’t enough for many people to want more sex. They must let up on the brakes (inhibitors/turn offs).

I found this explanation especially intriguing because it affects everyone. Dr. Nagoski does discuss this in Come As You Are, mentioning that men tend to have more sensitive accelerators and less sensitive breaks than women. The things that want to make them have sex are many and powerful while the things that make them hesitate are fewer and weaker.

I was eager to apply the dual control model to myself. As best as I can tell, I have more sensitive accelerators than many women but more sensitive brakes than most men. I think many people will benefit from analyzing their desire though the filter of the dual control model.

Interestingly, bisexual women tend to have higher levels of desire than straight women according to the dual control model. I’d like to see how different demographics stack up to straight men and women.

Further Reading

Comment


Science of Sex: Genetic Sexual Attraction

July 15th, 2017

Welcome to the fifth installment in a new feature on Of Sex and LoveScience of Sex. In this feature, I plan to discuss the science of sexuality in an easy-to-digest format that’s accessible to the casual reader. I will also follow up with some extended reading material for people who want to know more about the subject of each post.

Enjoy!

science of sex genetic sexual attraction

Genetical sexual attraction is the phenomenon where two people who are biologically related but first meet in their adulthood as strangers and experience sexual attraction to one another. Genital sexual attraction, or GSA, can occur between siblings or a child and a parent.

Adoption is the main environment of GSA, and changing laws allowed many adopted people seek out their biological families, which can lead to one or both parties experiencing genetic sexual attraction. The attraction comes on suddenly and strongly and the senses of hearing, touch and smell play a significant role. To many, the term “attraction” isn’t strong enough. It’s an obsession or an addiction with the accompanying compulsions and inability to stop thinking about their attraction.

Cause of Genetic Sexual Attraction

Part of the draw might be meeting someone who shares similar personality traits and appearance, a result of genetics. This can lead people to a frenzied state much like new relationship energy — except they’re related. There is also an argument for an attraction based on similar genes, specifically having similar phenotypes (traits an individual of a species has based on gene and environmental interaction), which would obviously be the case for two people who are related.

People who experience genetic sexual attraction often feel confused and shame as they grapple attraction for their family members. People who try to deny their thoughts and feelings may wind up even more entrenched due to the ironic process theory (your brain must keep thinking about any subject you’re trying to avoid to monitor whether it’s thinking about it). In some instances, attraction occurs for only one of the people, and that person may pursue the object of their desire compulsively.

When the attraction is equal, the parties may engage in sexual activities or intercourse. GSA sex seems to occur most frequently between siblings. Some couples have been arrested and tried for incestuous relationships. These laws strive to reduce offspring from an incestuous relationship because those children are likely to suffer severe birth defects or mental disabilities.

Some people who have developed romantic relationships with their biological family members are fighting for the right to marry the people that they have only known as an adult – and never as a family member.

There are reported cases of GSA among adults who only discovered that they were related to their romantic/sexual partners after developing a romantic/sexual relationship.

Incest Taboo

It might be more telling to understand where the taboo incest comes one. It may be due to the Westermarck effect,  also known as reverse sexual imprinting, which endeavors to explain the incest taboo by showing that people develop a sort of sexual immunity to their family members after living with or near them during their developing years.

Dr. Maurice Greenberg performed a study in 1992 and discovered that many people who experienced genetic sexual attraction to a biological family member shared typical disgust toward incestuous relationships with their adopted families, which led him to differentiate between incest and GSA.

However, we also know that sexual imprinting (in which someone chooses a mate similar to a parent) exists and can occur in adoptive families as well as biological ones.

Frequency of GSA

One study suggests that it happens in as many of half of those instances of adult family members meeting for the first time while another study found that every informant had experienced genetic sexual attraction and one-third of those people had engaged in sex with a bio family member.

A few professionals and communities have developed to provide support to those people who might be struggling, either because they’re experiencing unwanted GSA or because they’ve chosen a relationship with a biological family member.

One notable name is Barbara Gonyo, the woman who first coined the term genetic sexual attraction after herself experiencing it toward her son. While he didn’t return the attract and Gonyo eventually moved on from her obsession and now provides counseling services to others like her.

Like any attraction, the flame can wither and die. Barbara has been able to overcome the feelings of attraction to her son, who is now married.

Further Reading

Comment


A Toy A Day #5: Form 6

July 5th, 2017

A Toy a Day is a feature wherein I get reacquainted with toys in my collection and post (brief) reviews with updates to my thoughts or, in some cases, thoughts that I’ve never before posted. 

I’ve always been a fan of Jimmyjane’s Form 6, and it’s seemed like I was the only one. The sleek design attracted my eye years before I finally got my hands on it. Jimmyjane was really ahead of the curve when it came to designing a sleek toy. I discovered the form 6 long before I knew what Lelo was.

When I finally did get the Form 6, I didn’t review it, but I’ve been pretty vocal about my general like for it. But was it just that I finally had it in my hands (and vagina?). It wasn’t a toy that I reached for on the regular, and it’s been perhaps a year since I’ve used it. So I decided to give it a whirl and write about it.

Jimmyjane has dual motors, one for each end, and they can work in tandem or solo. Form 6 is a bit louder than I recall, and the motor in the longer shaft has an annoying whine. The vibrations are moderately deep and strong but not earth-shattering. The smaller end produces a more focused sensation while the vibrations seem to be absorbed by the larger shaft. A layer of silicone sheaths the rigid shaft, and it’s plusher in the larger side. This may contribute to the vibrations feeling dulled in this end.

One of the biggest complaints about the Form 6 is the button location — on the shaft. There are three buttons that are embossed in the silicone. This makes them a little difficult to find and press and super difficult to use when the toy or your hands are covered in lubes and sexual fluids.

They might also become completely inaccessible if you insert the shaft far enough. The Form 6 isn’t a toy I want to start out with, though. It’s 1.7″ at its widest, but remember that the shaft is rigid. The way the shaft is designed doesn’t taper much. In fact, it gets narrow further down, which doesn’t quite make sense.

The shaft is straight-ish, so it’s best for general vaginal stimulation and not G-spot stimulation. I’m not sure this is really a good G-spotter for most people; although, I can use it for one if I used the other side. The slight hook works pretty well for G-spot stim if you don’t need a drastic curve or a lot of length. But it’s not going to work that way for everyone.

I’m able to use the Form 6 for clitoral orgasms, but they’re not the best. I have toys that are a bit more versatile, which is odd because Jimmyjane touts this toy specifically as one that is versatile.

It’s a shame because one of the things I really like about the Form 6 is how it charges. It rests on a base, and it’s not particularly picky about position. When you lift it off the charger, it flashes to indicate how charged it is.

I don’t plan on swapping my Form 6 any time soon but neither do I plan on keeping it in heavy rotation.

If you’re interested in the Form 6, it’s on sale from SheVibe right now ($129.99).

Comment


Satisfyer (Pro 2, 2, Pro Penguin) Comparison Review

June 27th, 2017

I’m a little late on this whole pulsating-air-clitoral-stimulator craze. To be honest, I wasn’t super interested. I’m not typically a direct clit stim girl, usually preferring a broader/rounder sort of stimulation on my entire vulva. And the toy that came out first, well, it has a terrible name (Womanizer).

But when the Satisfyer company contacted me about a review, I said “Sure.” I didn’t expect much, to be honest. So when three different models (Satisfyer Pro 2, Satisfyer Penguin and Satisfyer 2) showed up, I was pretty excited at having the chance to compare them. And when I realized that I didn’t really know how they worked, so I quickly stuck my fingers in the holes to see.

Oh.em.gee.

The sucking mechanism (or pressure wave, if you will) of the Satisfyer toys immediately seemed like something that would feel good. Amazing. God-like.

And maybe it is — just not for me. In order to enjoy any of the Satisfyer toys, you should probably enjoy direct clitoral stimulation. As I mentioned above and in a plethora of reviews, I am not that sort of person. Ultimately, I wound up feeling aroused, adjusting to the suction, turning each toy all the way up and.. waiting. Before awkwardly grinding against the body of the toy to get off.

Suction alone just isn’t enough to get me off. I don’t think this concept marries well with my style of masturbating.

But let’s back up.

All the Satisfiers are devices with hard plastic shells. There’s something of a nozzle on the head, into which a silicone piece slips. This leaves a hole that you place over your clitoris, or potentially nipple, and suction comes from within the device in steady pulses. This direct stimulation is going to be too much for some people to handle, and there’s not really a way to dial it back like you might by using a vibratnig through underwear or clothing. All three toys are waterproof, but I don’t use toys in water.

Satisfyer 2

Satisfyer 2, cousin to a thermometer?

The Satisfyer 2 is, by far, the most medicinal-looking of the models. Someone might easily mistake one of these toys for an ear thermometer if they saw it sitting in your bathroom and didn’t actually handle it. You might think this makes it the least sexy of all the Satisfyer devices, but I actually think this title should be left to the Satisfyer Pro Penguin because its animal shape make me feel.. weird.

satisfyer pro penguin

Never before have animal shapes bothered me on a sex toy

This model is definitely longer and wider (at the head) than either the Pro Penguin or Satisfyer Pro 2. The Pro 2 is definitely the newer, streamlined option. It’s less boxy and more ergonomic – and the gold-and-white color scheme is inverted. A note on the Satisyer Pro 2: there are two different versions available under the same name. If yours has the embossed name on the handle, it’s the newer model that also happens to be quieter than the old version.

If you use either the Satisfyer 2 or Pro 2, you can aim the handle toward your belly button to reach the buttons, which are on top. However, that placement feels awkward for me. I’ve rarely had a clitoral toy where this wasn’t the case, though. The Penguin is curvy and smaller, nearly fitting in my hand. If I turn it handle-up, I can use my thumb to reach the buttons that are technically on the underside of the toy, and this is the most comfortable usage for me. I might be alone in this.

Satisfyer 2 alone has three buttons: power, plus, and minus. The others simply have two, which I prefer, one for on/off and one for cycling through the settings. The Satysfier Pro 2’s buttons make quite the loud clicking noise in use.

satisfyer pro 2

Satisfyer Pro 2 has a curvier design and more plush nozzle

Each has a removable silicone head for ease of cleaning (you’re still going to want to wipe down the exterior and inner hole of the plastic, however). The silicone nozzle on the Satisfyer 2 is in between the Penguin and Satisfyer Pro 2 in terms of which. The Pro 2 is quite thick and wide like a donut. The Penguin has the thinnest and smallest nozzle. But the inner tubes are actually sized opposite, with the Penguin having the largest circumference, the Satisfyer 2 in the middle, and the Satisfier Pro 2 having the snuggest fit.

Nozzles of the Satisfyer Pro 2, 2 and Pro Penguins

Nozzles of the Satisfyer Pro 2, 2 and Pro Penguins

The last way that the older Satisfyer model differs is in noise. It’s much louder than the other two, sounding akin to a small kitchen appliance. I think the Penguin is the quietest of the two, but the difference between it and the Satisfyer Pro 2 is less than the difference between either of those two and the Satisfyer 2.

The Satisfyer 2 is the only model that I received to try that ran on batteries — 2 AAAs. So it took a while for me to try it out because, apparently, it’s too much work to grab my already-charged batteries and insert them. Fortunately, the Satisfyer 2 works with rechargeables.

While I am not usually a fan of something that runs on AAAs, it seems like the suction mechanism of the Satisfyer toys isn’t decreased nearly as much vibrations do on a battery-operated toy. In fact, I think the Satisfyer 2 might be stronger than the Satisfyer Pro Penguin, and the motor does have the highest decibel rating of all the Satisfyer models, but it’s harder for me to discern power level between the toys and even between the levels on a single toy.

The Satisfyer comes with 11 levels, but I can’t really tell the difference. I can only confirm this by turning it all the way up and then backing down level by level. But to my clit or nipple, it’s not a huge difference. Once I get past the fourth level or so, they all feel pretty much the same. I think this is because the frequency of the suction has increased so much that it’s hard to differentiate between each pulse. As you can guess, I’m not thoroughly impressed by the different levels on the Satisfyer toys, and that’s how I feel about vibrators, too. 3-5 more distinct levels would be the better option here.

Although telling apart the toys via suction levels is difficult, it’s easier based on the way the size and shape of the silicone compartment feels. The silicone head of the Satisfyer Pro 2 is squishier, but the tube is also a tighter fit, making it easy to tell when it’s in place. The thinner silicone of the Penguin means you can more easily feel the rigid plastic behind it, but you can definitely feel that the inner chamber is wider. I think I like the shape and size of the silicone head of the Satisfyer 2 the best because it lands squarely in the middle in terms of squishiness and snugness.

But even having tried these three toys leaves me somewhat at a loss for words when it comes to recommending them. If you’ve never tried anything like the Satisfyer, I’m not sure how to compare it. I know you should like direct clitoral stimulation.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to recommend one of the specific models. The Satisfyer 2 and Penguin feel pretty similar suction-wise. If you were really opposed to batteries, I’d recommend the Penguin. It also feels the best in my hand.

It’s pretty difficult to recommend a toy based on head size/shape/angle, though. I think you just need to try them (I did, and I’m not sure if there’s one that I prefer). Unfortunately, Satisfyer doesn’t make their toys with multiple-sized heads like the competition, so I’d advise checking them out if you’re curious about size.

Satisfyer models are cheaper than the Womanizer, so it might be a safer bet if you’re not sure about the concept.

Dangerous Lilly has a fantastic comparison chart and write-up of the different Satisfyer and Womanizer models (which I have yet to try) on her blog. She also has photos of the various heads, which you’ll find helpful. We both seem to enjoy the Satisfyer 2 for what it’s worth.

I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a toy that was so difficult to recommend based on either experience or specs. That’s probably why so many people seem to have tried these or similar toys.

If you want to try any of the Satisfyers, you probably won’t find them from the same retailer. The Satisfyer Pro 2 is on sale for $69.99 from Shevibe. Otherwise, you can pick up the Satisfyer 2 and Satisfyer Pro Penguin from the Of Sex and Love Store for $49 and $66, respectively.

4 Comments


Lovehoney Fresh Biodegradable Sex Toy & Body Wipes

June 23rd, 2017

I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I just really like Lovehoney Fresh Biodegradable Sex Toy & Body Wipes. They’re not unlike most toy wipes, packaged in plastic and resealable.  Perhaps it’s the scent that seems fresh and clean albeit subtle; although, I understand that many people might prefer a product with no smell at all.

I definitely enjoy that they’re strong enough to use. A while back I used another store brand’s toy wipes, and they ripped as I tried to take them out of the package let alone use them. I usually have nails (okay, one long nail because they break so easily), so this is a deal-breaker.

I typically use wipes for quick cleanup of toys and myself (and once to clean up some honey that had dripped from my sandwich onto my bed skirt but don’t judge me!). But since silicone picks up lint/fur/hair/etc so easily, I’ll do a full soap-and-water cleanse before using them again. These wipes are good enough for removing large debris and lube, which can accumulate. I prefer wipes better to spray because you still need to wipe or rinse it off, and wipes mean I can skip a step.t

I didn’t find these wipes to be irritating, and one of the ingredients included is Aloe so you might find them especially soothing. The rest of the ingredients list includes:

  • Aqua
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Benzoic Acid
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Hamamelis Virginiana Leaf Extract
  • Sodium Citrate
  • Citric Acid

Phenoxyethanol, as you might guess, is the ingredient that kills germs. I’m not super familiar with it, but there’s no triclosan in this.

Now, when you read that these wipes are biodegradable, you shouldn’t think this means “flushable.” Actually, even flushable wipes that you might buy really shouldn’t be flushed down your toilet and neither should tampons! It took me over a decade to learn this. Those things are described as flushable only because they fit, but doing so creates a bunch of problems at the end of the (sewer) lines.

But being biodegradable means that when they go out with your trash, they will eventually break down, unlike so much of our trash. I am sure the process is slow, but that’s better than nothing!

With that said, these wipes aren’t as affordable as some. Lovehoney carries wipes by Aneros, which cost about $4 less for the same count. I was surprised to find this was the case for a store brand. Swipes are one of the few brands that are still available (where did they all go??), and those are cheaper, too. If you want the best bet and aren’t as lazy as I am, a toy cleaning wipe is even more cost effective.

And even though I like these Lovehoney wipes, I am too cheap to be loyal, so I would opt for something cheaper if I wanted to replace them. Sorrynotsorry.

Free US delivery on sex toys, lingerie, gifts & accessories

1 Comment


Science of Sex: HPV and the HPV Vaccines

June 17th, 2017

Welcome to the fourth installment in a new feature on Of Sex and Love: Science of Sex. In this feature, I plan to discuss the science of sexuality in an easy-to-digest format that’s accessible to the casual reader. I will also follow up with some extended reading material for people who want to know more about the subject of each post.

Enjoy!

Science of Sex HPV

Human Papilloma Virus in a Nutshell

HPV is the virus that causes genital warts, but just because you don’t have any symptoms doesn’t mean you don’t have HPV. It’s one of the most common sexually-transmitted infections with over 200 strains (strains 16 and 18 cause over two-thirds of all cervical cancer while low-risk strains 6 and 11 cause most warts). Over 80 million people or about 1 in 4 people have it. It’s easy to transmit through skin-to-skin contact, so even using condoms may not prevent HPV. The CDC advises that ‘nearly all’ men and women will contract HPV in your life, and it’s likely that many people don’t even know they have it.

HPV doesn’t just cause warts. It can lead to irregular PAP smear results for women and cause cervical cancer (HPV can also be the culprit for other cancers, including that of the throat and anus). Those results can lead to a woman getting tested for HPV, but there is currently no test for HPV in men who have an asymptomatic strain (some sources indicate that a test does exist but it’s expensive and invasive).

Treatment of HPV may mean doing nothing at all. Most cases clear up within two years, but this isn’t always the case.

The HPV Vaccine

A vaccine for several of the most common strains of HPV, including some that cause cervical cancer, Gardasil, became available about 10 years ago. There are now three different vaccines for HPV available (Cervarix, quadrivalent Gardasil, and 9-valent Gardasil-9), the latter of which cover more strains of HPV than the original. One study concludes that HPV vaccines can prevent “most” invasive cervical cancers (around 70% of cervical cancer for the 9-valent vaccine and 66% for original Gardasil) as well as some oral cavity, penile, laryngeal and vulvar cancers. These vaccines are at least 90% effective at blocking those strains.

The vaccines consist of three doses that you can take between ages of  11 and 27 (for women) or 21 (for men). Younger patients may only need two doses. Even if you can’t take all shots within this time frame, you’ll still benefit from at least one dose. Similarly, the vaccine is still beneficial if you’ve already become sexually active, but it’s more beneficial if administered before sexual activity. In this case, the younger the better.

Although at first recommended for girls, HPV vaccines are beneficial for boys who can contract and transmit HPV. But it’s less likely that a male will no if he’s HPV-positive, which means he’s more likely to transmit it to a partner.

Still, fewer boys than girls are being vaccinated (12% of boys had received all three doses compared to 36% of girls in 2013), and vaccination occurs at a later age. Fortunately, vaccination rates have increased through the years, perhaps as no serious side effects have arisen over the years and the efficacy of the vaccines have been proven. For girls, infections by strains of HPV that the vaccine prevents has dropped 64% since 2006.

Let’s hope that vaccination rates rise, gaps close and strides can be made to cover more strains of HPV in future vaccines!

Further Reading

2 Comments