Posts Tagged ‘sex’

What your genitals say about you

Thursday, April 14th, 2016 | Religion & Politics

Last week, this picture appeared in my Facebook feed:


For making a political point, it’s quite clever. However, in this case it is rather unhelpful. That is because astrology genuinely is a load of nonsense. And your child’s genitals genuinely do predict their toy preferences.

The debate regarding nature and nurture has been going on for a long time. Like so many things though, it is not a black and white solution, but probably somewhere in between. We are all products of our DNA, and our environment.

In the case of children’s toys, it’s obvious to anyone at a quick glance that boys tend to play with trucks and girls tend to play with dolls. The question has always been why. Is it that boys and girls have predetermined generic interests, or is it a result of social conditioning?

It is almost certainly the former, at least in part. As the New Scientist reports, a study on monkeys showed that male monkeys prefered trucks and female monkeys prefered dolls. It’s difficult to to argue that monkey society conditions their young to have a preference one way or the other.

That is not to say that sex is the only factor, or that social conditioning does not play a part. Some boys like to play with dolls and some girls like to play with trucks. It is merely that the statistical average, when looking at a large enough group, with tend to fall onto one side or the other. Your child’s genitals do in fact predict what toys they most likely have a preference for: it just isn’t 100% accurate.

This is where the importance of understanding equality really comes in. I think we can draw a parallel with car insurance. I wrote about this in 2011. It is unfair to charge male drivers more than female drivers. This has traditionally been the case because male drivers are more likely to have serious accidents. However, the EU banned it later that year (what has the EU ever done for us?!?). The reason why this is unfair is because although statistically over a large group, male drivers are more likely to have a serious accident, does not mean that one specific male driver is not a very safe driver. The specific driver getting insurance may be a very safe driver, so it would be unfair to tarnish him with the same brush.

This is also true of children’s toys. Just because boys tend to prefer trucks and girls tend to prefer dolls, does not mean you should force that toy on them: let them choose for themselves. They may choose a different toy to what society might expect them to. However, if your child does in fact choose the toy society expects them to, don’t worry that you have been a victim of social conditioning: they are statistically likely to pick that toy regardless.

A Billion Wicked Thoughts

Friday, November 13th, 2015 | Books

A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships is a book by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam looking at sexuality.

This has been a subject that has traditionally been difficult to study. Sex, especially kinky sex, is a taboo to some extent in most cultures, and so people do not discuss it openly. You cannot see what porn people are purchasing by looking at the supermarket. Even on questionnaires, people might not believe it is really as anonymous as it claims to be, and will lie.

Luckily though, the past few decade have seen the triumphant rise of the internet. Now people can search for whatever they like in the privacy of their own home. They are no longer constrained by social taboos because they can turn their browser to porn mode and happily search for Vietnamese midgets shitting in a bucket without it leaving an traceable history.

So what do billions of internet logs tell us about sexuality?

Mostly that people conform to gender stereotypes.

At this point, let me say that I am going to lay out what the books says in broad terms. The caveat is that any stereotype has some outliers, possibly many. Women can like porn. Men can like romance. We are dealing with statistics only and to tar one individual with any one giant brush would be silly. Please insert this thought into the start of every sentence. Onwards…

Men like porn. For them the goal is the organum as once they have shot their seed, their job is done. They are willing to pay for it. 98% of online porn purchasers are men. In fact women buy porn so rarely that if some payment processors automatically flag any card with a woman’s name as fraud.

Women on the other hand like romance. Their brain functions as a detective agency as the book describes it. Carefully considering men because they have to deal with the consequences of getting pregnant. They want to imagine a tough alpha male who falls for them, and only for them, so they can live happily ever after.

Men experience high corrolation between mental and physical arousal. If our junk is excite, we feel excited. But women don’t have this. You can stimulate a woman’s body, but unless you stimulate her mind as well, she isn’t into it. A deeply serious example of this is rape. Women’s bodies can become aroused during being raped and some wrongly assume this implies a level of consent. It does not.

Another example is viagra. This works for men because if you can get the blood flowing through your member, you get aroused. But for women, with the decoupled physical and emotional states, it does not have the same effect.

Gay men on the whole have a male brain. It likes the same thing straight men like – watching porn, aiming for the ejaculation. It is no more interested in romance than the straight’s man brain. The only difference is that gay men are attracted to masculinity rather than femininity. Ironically this leads many gay men to be attracted to straight men, gay for pay porn stars, because shagging women is associated with being masculine.

Whether you are gay or straight could be influenced by testosterone. Interestingly, it is gay men who seem to have more of it. The average length of a straight guy’s penis is 5.99 inches, for a gay man it is 6.32 – a third of an inch longer.

Men’s sexual cues are probably imprinted during their teenage years and cannot be changed easily. So if you get off on being tied up, you’re going to feel that way your whole life. Men get aroused by unconditioned responses such as looking at breasts, but it is difficult to condition a response into them. Pavlov might be able to make a man salivate, but he can’t trigger a full erection.

This brings up interesting points for equality. For example, it has long been believed that society conditions the idea that promiscuous men are “players” whereas promiscuous women are “sluts”. But the evidence suggests this is wrong. We are naturally wired to feel this way because the most successful males (in terms of reproduction, the only scoresheet nature uses) are the ones that sleep with the most women whereas the most successfully women are those that only sleep with, and therefore get pregnant by, the most successfully socially-dominant males.

Nowadays we do not have to worry about this, of course, thanks to the wide availability of contraception. But we are hard wired to feel this way. If anything, society reduces the objectification and shaming of women by socially conditioning us away from our baser instincts. Much like how society actually reduces rape and violence, as Steven Pinker points out.

As Noreena Hertz points out in Eyes Wide Open we’re all wired to be a bit racist, and it is up to us as intelligent people to battle our biases. Similarly, we’re all a bit sexist, so we shouldn’t feel guilty for how we are made. We should still strive for a fair and equal society though, knowing we have biases to overcome.

In summary, human sexuality is incredibly complex on an individual level. Statistically, though, a lot of us are wired to like similar things, and so long may the internet be filled with porn, and romance stories. Browse whichever makes you happy.

A Billion Wicked Thoughts

Sex, Love & Marketing

Friday, July 31st, 2015 | Events, Humanism

Leeds Skeptics recently invited David Frank to present a talk entitled “sex, love & marketing”. It looked at how people market themselves on online dating and what interesting information we can gather from large scale data releases by major online dating networks.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Online dating is rapidly becoming a mature industry with wide social acceptance – most people think it is a good way to meet people and 11% of Americans have used it
  • It is predominantly used by middle-class urban dwellers with some university education
  • “Do you like horror movies?” turns out to be a really good predictor of compatibility

And some tips for using online dating:

  • Get your friends to pick your photos as you will instinctivly try and pick mirror images of yourself rather than the best photos
  • Get your friends to peer-review your profile, just like you would a CV
  • Use an interesting username that is neither boring nor contains words with negative connotations
  • Use pictures taken on DSLRs – whether it is the skill of the user, the higher quality camera or extra care taken, the produce much more liked photos than camera phones
  • If you must use a camera phone, turn the flash off
  • People love some depth of field on profile pictures too
  • Selfies are good for women, but bad for men
  • Smile with teeth is best, followed by no smile, smile without teeth. A smirk is the worst thing you can do.
  • T-shirts or casual shirts are the way to go for men – tank tops and topless are the worst ways to go
  • Showing cleavage works for women, and this becomes even more successful as they age
  • Do not talk about god in your profile
  • Basically everyone hates misspellings, grammar, and short replies

Overall a really interesting talk. There was also a section on sex and fetishes. The entire thing was well supported by stats and evidence. You can find the full slides on David’s website.

Dr Brooke Magnanti – The Sex Myth

Monday, May 6th, 2013 | Foundation, Humanism

At April, Dr Brooke Magnanti presented a talk on her book, The Sex Myth.

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Intoxication and consensual sex

Monday, December 24th, 2012 | Religion & Politics

Last week, I was showering, while thinking about how silly it would be for someone to mount the argument that any level of intoxication removed a person’s ability to consent to sexual activity. Then, by coincidence, the next day I saw some tweet that exact argument.

Of course it wasn’t a very good argument, because you only have 144 characters, and therefore no space to actually make an argument to back up the claim you have stated. But even with more space, it would seem difficult to make such an argument.

Before we dive into the politics here, let us first remember that under British law, any gender can rape any other gender (or indeed the same gender), so there is no split down gender lines here.

Under British law, you are still responsible for your actions, if you get drunk. it’s called voluntary intoxication, and it is no defence to a crime. If you knew that you would become intoxicated when you took the substance, and with alcohol you do know, then the law deems it your own fault if you do something stupid.

Presuming we want to live in a fair society with only a single standard that applies to everyone, you would therefore assume the opposite was true – if you get drunk and do something you later reget, but did it all voluntarily, you can’t then blame someone else for what you did. We all have to take responsibility for our actions.

But some advocates would have you believe that once someone has consumed so much of a drop of alcohol, they are no longer responsible for their own actions, and can later change their mind, and decide they were raped instead.

This is nonsense. What we’re talking about here is completely consensual sex – ie, a boy gets drunk, explicitly agrees to come back to my place and have sex, then wakes up next morning, changes his mind and says he was raped because he was unable to consent due to intoxication.

This brings up a whole new round of rational dilemmas – most notably, if we’re not going to hold people responsible for their own actions while intoxicated, then surely if the alleged rapist is also intoxicated, how can you hold them responsible, given you have taken up a position that states people are not responsible for such behaviour?

To differentiate between them creates a double standard.

I hate freedom

Sunday, October 7th, 2012 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

When I was at school, we once read a short story about a world that made everyone equal by giving everyone a disability.

For example, if you were intelligent, you had to wear a buzzer in your ear that stopped you from thinking about something too much, if you were strong and athletic, you had to wear weights to drag you down – everyone was equally beaten down.

Of course, this was a story about a ridiculous society, that none of us would want to live in. Or so you would think. But more and more recently, it seems people are arguing for such a society.

There is a lot of inequality in this world. But some people seem to think the answer is restricting more people’s freedoms, rather than granting further freedoms to others.

I came across an example of this on Twitter recently. It wasn’t an ideal example, but will suffice.

The author of said point correctly points out that there is a double standard here. Women have the freedom to appear topless in The Sun’s Page 3, but a man who wanted to get his penis out, would not be allowed to go to print.

It’s a classic case of discrimination against men.

But clearly, the solution is to increase the amount of freedom in our society by allowing a newspaper to publish a penis on its third page. Not to place equal restrictions on everyone on what we’re not allowed to publish.

Unfortunately, such attitudes, from people who would presumably like to think of themselves as progressive (though I could be entirely wrong there) actually play directly into the traditional political-religious structure that aims to control society though the suppression of human sexuality.

After all, rationally, there is nothing wrong with putting a picture of a penis in a newspaper. Almost half the world has one, it’s perfectly natural and maybe if we did it more, we wouldn’t have so many ridiculous taboos around sex and sexuality (and everyone would benefit from this, though especially the LGBT community).

So, if we’re actually trying to push a progressive agenda, do you think we could be progressive with our freedoms, rather than regressive?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The story was “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut.

Rape conviction rates

Thursday, August 16th, 2012 | Religion & Politics

I’m currently reading “The Sex Myth: Why Everything We’re Told is Wrong” by Brooke Magnanti, also known as Belle de Jour. So far it’s a fascinating reading, including a section on how the idea that strip clubs in Camden have increased the rape rate is complete nonsense.

In general, rape is an area of law that suffers a lot of misconceptions.

For example, the conviction rate for rape is 58%. As Amanda Bancroft points out in The Guardian, the conviction rate across all crimes is only 57%. That means not only is the idea that rape convictions are low a myth, but that rape convictions are actually slightly higher than you would expect. That’s good news.

But the perpetuation of the stereotype that rape conviction rates are low is a real problem. As Bancroft also points out, 68% of women are concerned by the low conviction rates (that don’t really exist), potentially putting off victims from coming forward. This disinformation is something we really need to crack down on, to ensure victims aren’t afraid to report incidents.

Guilt tripping

Friday, July 27th, 2012 | Thoughts

A few months ago, I wrote about how one of religion’s most insidious evils is the way it controls its own members through guilt. Since then, I’ve referred to what I call guilt culture in several blog posts. However, I can’t remember where I wrote the original post. It doesn’t seem to be on my blog. Or on my computer. I just don’t know where it is. So I’ve decided to re-write my thoughts again, albeit it in a shorter form.

The most successful religions maintain an absolute grip on their adherent’s lives. A believers whole existent revolves around the faith they follow. This is often associated with cults but can equally be observed in the practising mainstream followers as well.

To maintain this grip, they really have to get you over a barrel. Luckily (for them, not for us), they found an extremely effective way to do this – buy attacking us for just being who we are. There are lots of examples of this, but the best one is the way they try to control our sex lives.

We’re biologically wired to want to have sex. That is just who we are. It’s not just us – all animals are. We couldn’t survive through evolution by natural selection by any other means. We are attracted to other human beings and natural driven to procreate so that our genes can further their own selfish ends.

But the Church says no! You shall not be free to go to bed with whoever you want. You must only do it in accordance with our rules. These rules are as follows: 1. No sex before marriage (our special concept of marriage that is, in our Church). 2. No sex with members of the same sex, even if you’re attracted to them. 3. No enjoying sex, it’s only for creating children to further the religion.

So lets recap. We’re expected to deny ourselves our basic, biological urges and if we should fail to fight human nature, then we’re guilty of sin. That seems quite hard to avoid.

But it gets better (I use the term better very loosely). It turns out that just having the thought, it just as bad as doing the act itself! Not only are you not allowed to go to bed with who you please, when you please, just thinking about doing something naughty with someone else you find incredibly attractive is a sin too!

Inevitably, the believer commits a sin they don’t have a choice about it, they’re a human, they find other humans attractive, they’re biologically wired to want to procreate. They sin.

At this point, the Church is on hand to remind them that they are a bad person and should feel guilty for letting God down. You know, the all-knowing God that made them and knew they were going to do exactly that. Luckily, there is a way to redeem yourself. You can buy your way out of sin – and of course, there is only place in town selling it…

So the Church keeps its followers in a state of perpetual guilt, feeling that they have left a non-existent man in the sky down for just being who they are, and that the only way to redeem themselves is to band over thousands of pounds a year to the Church.

If anyone other than a religion tried to enforce such torture on a person, the United Nations Human Rights Council would be screaming from the rooftops.

Firing with both barrels

Friday, July 13th, 2012 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

In a recent interview with the Australian radio show Salt & Pepper, Major Andrew Craibe explained that homosexuals deserve death.

Of course, the Salvation Army has always been a strange organisation. For a start, they call themselves an army. They don’t have members, they have soldiers. Their organisational hierarchy is based around military ranks, hence the title Major. Now, armies normally go around killing people. So, maybe Craibe’s comments make sense after all.

Of course, these days you would expect an organisation, particularly a religious one (because they’re almost always bigoted and therefore always have something to hide) to be a bit more media savvy when it comes to hiding their abominable beliefs and outrage prejudice. Apparently, they aren’t.

But in terms of holding such unbelievable views, we shouldn’t be surprised. It isn’t just homosexuals they are targeting here, it’s part of the wider attempt by religion to take control of our sex lives.

This has always been an important part of organised religion. I wrote about this extensively recently (though I can’t remember where- so there is a new post about in coming in a few weeks), one of the best ways to control people is to make them feel guilty about perfectly natural feelings and urges – hence the church tells you that having sex with someone outside of marriage is a sin, and in fact just thinking about it is as bad as doing it, and once you’ve sinned there is only one place in town selling redemption – the Church. It’s a vital part of their stranglehold on their congregation.

So when it comes to homosexuality, of course, they’re telling us who we can and can’t go to bed with, and trying to make us feel guilty for perfectly natural feelings – the sad fact is, they’ve been doing this all along.

Age of consent

Friday, December 23rd, 2011 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

Recently, I wrote about a theory that had been put to me, suggesting that we should align the age of sexual consent and the age of voting. I founded it difficult to come up with arguments to refute it.

But there is a problem. If you just put the age of sexual consent up to 18, kids will probably just have sex anyway. It’s not like people really pay that much attention to the law as it is. Indeed, some people make the argument that the age of sexual consent should be lowered.

Of course, that isn’t necessarily an issue. Maybe you just lower the age of voting to 14 as well, but then we would probably all agree that that would be pretty crazy. Still, once you agree that people can do more harm with sexual activity than they can with voting, how can you argue that the age of consent should be lower than the age of voting?

So, what are we do to then? Do we just live with the contradiction that it doesn’t make sense to have a higher age of voting than sexual consent, except it doesn’t make sense and settle with a logically inconsistent but ultimately pragmatic approach? Maybe that in itself is logical justification? I’ll throw it open to the floor…