Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex?

Marriages in the US are more egalitarian these days when it comes to work, household chores, and even extramarital affairs, but that may not be good for married people’s sex lives, writes Lori Gottlieb at the New York Times Magazine. She took a year of marital-therapy training and learned what experts are already saying—that people are often happy in egalitarian marriages, but have less sexual chemistry because there isn’t much gender-role difference when men are doing the dishes and taking care of the kids. Among Gottlieb’s findings:

  • Power complicates sex: Now that women have more power, they feel more comfortable voicing their submissive sex fantasies—but husbands committed to the “50/50 marriage” don’t necessarily want to play the bad boy in bed. They’re more likely to see that stuff online, which leaves wives feeling rejected.
  • The culture doesn’t help by telling us marital sex lives should be steamy. Consider that people are now older when they get married (50-year-olds used to begrandparents), and women have sexual histories on par with men’s, so both partners have hard-to-fulfill expectations.
  • More women are prioritizing career goals, and a new study shows that when the wife earns more than the husband, unhappiness and divorce rates are higher. “And that discomfort, more often than not, leads to less sexual desire—on both sides,” writes Gottlieb. According to the study, the lowest divorce rate comes with wives earning 40% of the income and husbands doing 40% of the housework.
  • Many people want a partner who’s similar in interests and background, but a study of women smelling unwashed male T-shirts showed they really wanted guys with genes different from their own. Scary detail: Women on the pill desire men with similar genes, so when they get off the pill to have a child, they may lose interest in their husbands.

Are there ways around these dilemmas? An informal online poll showed that 60% of married people have resorted to scheduling sex with their partners, the Telegraph reports. But maybe all sexual eras are unhappy in their own way, and we should just accept more sibling-like marriages. “You deal with that loss,” says couples therapist Esther Perel. “It’s a paradox to be lived with, not solved.” Click for the full article.

Four Reasons Why People Settle for Unsatisfying Relationships

Ever know anyone who clearly settled for a less than an optimal relationship, or even a painful one?

It happens all the time. Why do we do it?

In fact, in one survey of 6,000 men, 31% of them openly confessed that they would be willing to settle for someone they didn’t love. And 21% even claimed they’d partner up with someone they found unattractive. These are they who were willing to admit it.

How many other people are willing to settle, but wouldn’t admit it? Even more interestingly, how many people knew they were with the wrong person even as they walked down the aisle? You may even know someone who has done this.

Addressing this question takes us straight down the path toward the deeper issues in life, so let’s get to it.

Here are four reasons why some people settle, according to experience and research

1. Fear of being alone

recently published study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has found that fear of being single is a major predictor for settling. According to lead author Stephanie Spielmann, people who have strong fears about being single tend to be willing to settle for less in their relationships. This may encourage them to stay in unhappy long-term relationships. They may also date people who do not treat them well.

The study found that both men and women experience fears of being alone and that these feelings create similar tendencies in relationship behavior. This directly contradicts the popular stereotype that only women experience a fear of being single.

The guys are coming out with their fears now, which is probably a good thing in and of itself.

2. Many people simply do not know how to create healthy, happy relationships

Psychotherapist Jake Eagle, co-author of the Dating, Relating and Mating online education program, claims that most people get the dating, relating and mating process all wrong.

According to Eagle, we:

• Don’t date enough people before committing to “the one.”

• Share intimate information too early in the dating process, often on the first or second date (missing the chance to just have fun together and establish a friendship).

• Have sex too soon.

• Get married first, then attempt to solve the problems in the relationship.

• Don’t measure compatibility in terms of values, dreams of the good life, communication styles and chemistry.

• Are often not willing to end a relationship that clearly doesn’t work because we are driven by unresolved psychological issues.

When you don’t date around much, get involved sexually before you know the character of the other person, get married before you learn to solve problems, then you are primed for pain and failure.

Given that so few people were never taught the rigors of creating a relationship intentionally, many settle because – well – they simply give up trying to figure out how it is all supposed to work.

3. Outside pressure wins the day

• Mom and dad expect you to marry and have their grandchildren. They approve of the person you are with, so….you just do it.

• Mom and dad HATE the person you are with and this appeals to your rebelliousness, so you just do it!

• You need a way to support yourself and your partner makes good money.

• All your friends are getting married and you want to attend the barbecues.

• And so on. Outside pressures often win over reason and your honest feelings.

4. Falling prey to the ubiquity of self-sabotage

Self-sabotage is rarely discussed in relation to choosing a spouse or life partner. Yet, once you really understand self-sabotage, it is impossible to ignore.

It is fair to say that people regularly engage in relationships in which they feel chronically rejected, controlled or deprived of their needs. It is also fair to say (in many cases) that people consistently experience the rejection, control and deprivation before they show up at the altar or get themselves in too deep.

But, why would anyone commit to another person in this case? According to psychiatrist Edmund Bergler, MD, a colleague of Freud’s, it is because long ago we developed a familiarity or even subconscious pleasure in these painful experiences. So, we unwittingly seek them out, and find ourselves repeating the same old pattern, experience the same old pain.

The psychological community was shocked when Bergler claimed that at some level we are seeking a familiar pain when making ill-fated decisions, but Freud agreed with Bergler and began to write aboutpsychic masochism prior to his death.

Is it possible that you are unconsciously seeking an old, familiar pain through your romantic relationships? A bad relationship certainly can deliver.

Absurd! Sperm Donor to Lesbian Couple Ordered to Pay Child Support

A Kansas court has ordered a man who volunteered to act as a sperm donor to a lesbian couple to pay child support, despite a contract he and the couple signed absolving him of any parental obligations.

In March 2009, William Marotta answered a Craigslist ad from a lesbian couple seeking donated sperm. Marotta replied and eventually donated three cupfuls. He and the mothers signed a contract in which Marotta waived any parental rights and was correspondingly absolved of any parental responsibilities.

“I donated genetic material, and that was it for me,” he said.

Many women take a “do it yourself” approach to artificial insemination in order to avoid the costs associated with going through a doctor or sperm bank. Each artificial insemination attempt through official channels costs about $3,000, and it can take several such attempts before a pregnancy results.

“It’s a lot cheaper to get someone to come on over with their donation, and then do it yourself at home,” CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen said.

State seeks payments

One of the women, Jennifer Schreiner, became pregnant from Marotta’s sperm and gave birth to a daughter in December 2009. When she appealed for public assistance in 2012, the Kansas Department for Children and Families launched an investigation and declared that Marotta was the child’s father and was therefore responsible for the costs. It ordered him to reimburse the state for $4,000 in public assistance payments, and to make back-payments on child support.

In the resulting lawsuit, Marotta’s attorney, Ben Swinnen, argued that Marotta was a sperm donor and therefore not liable for child support. But Shawnee County District Judge Mary Mattivi ruled against him, saying that Marotta and Schreiner had failed to follow a 1994 law mandating that all artificial insemination be performed by a licensed physician.

According to the law, Mattivi said, no artificial insemination took place, and therefore Marotta is the child’s father, contract notwithstanding.

“In this case, quite simply, the parties failed to perform to statutory requirement of the Kansas Parentage Act in not enlisting a licensed physician at some point in the artificial insemination process, and the parties’ self-designation of [Marotta] as a sperm donor is insufficient to relieve [Marotta] of parental right and responsibilities to the child,” Mattivi wrote.

‘Important social implications’

Swinnen condemned the court’s ruling and its implication that his client is a deadbeat dad.

“We stand by that contract,” Swinnen said. “The insinuation [that the contract is faked] is offensive, and we are responding vigorously to that. … There was no personal relationship whatsoever between my client and the mother, or the partner of the mother, or the child. Anything the state insinuates is vilifying my client, and I will address it.”

Swinnen accused the state of prosecuting the case for political motives, noting that the state has spent more money on the case than it has ordered Marotta to pay.

“The cost to the state to bring this case far outweighs any benefit the state would get,” Swinnen said.

He accused the state of hiding behind a narrow interpretation of the statute in order to sidestep the issues actually at play in the case.

“From a very narrowly crafted statute, the court has made a very broad rule – that is the issue,” Swinnen said.

He warned that the case has “important social implications” and could affect “many other families.”

Marotta is planning to appeal the decision, and expects the case to reach the Kansas Supreme Court.

“If enough noise gets made about it, at this point, maybe things will change for the better,” he said.

Sources for this article include:

Why a Creepy New Porn App Isn’t Bad News for Google Glass

The porn industry has a pretty good track record as an early adopter
The possibilities are endless with Glass.
The possibilities are endless with Glass. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

oogle promises that Glass, its new augmented reality eyepiece, will open up a new world of hands-free computing — a way to search, translate, record video, and take photographs without having to press buttons or rummage through pockets to retrieve a smartphone or tablet.

There are lots of potential applications. To start things off, Google lists cooking, cycling, skiing, golf, and firefighting — physical activities where holding a device is impractical if not impossible. But really, it was only a matter of time before people began using it for sex.

The first attempt, an app called Tits and Glass, allowed Glass users to stream pornographic images to their headset. The app was promptly banned from Google’s app store, but was recently reinstated.

Now a new app for Glass developed by Lebanese product design student Sherif Maktabi and called Sex with Google Glass lets couples use the wearable technology to record their intimate activities, and — if both partners are wearing a headset — even see sex through their partner’s eyes by streaming the view from their respective devices.

The app is controlled through groan-worthy voice commands. For example, saying “Ok Glass, it’s time” begins the recording process. Once sex is over, recording is ended by the voice command “Ok Glass, pull out.” Video can be replayed for up to five hours before being automatically deleted from the app.

Frankly, I think the idea of having sex while watching a stream from the perspective of your partner sounds narcissistic at best, and mildly disturbing at worst, so I highly doubt that this feature will become immensely popular. And putting a barrier of technology between partners may prove a turnoff and intimacy killer for many.

But Glass as a tool to easily record or stream homemade porn? There is probably a big market for this kind of thing.

Concerns about morals or privacy aside, it’s important to remember that porn is a big driver of technology adoption. The adult film industry has been at the forefront of technology for years, at least since it picked VHS over Betamax. Technological innovations pioneered by the porn industry include online payment systems, streaming video and video chat, DVD, and HD video formats.

It’s hard to say at this point if augmented reality computing will usurp smartphones, tablets, and laptops, or if it will remain a niche activity. But if augmented reality computing like Google Glass is really going to take off and become a market leader, it should be expected that sex and porn will be a key driver of adoption. The fact that some people are already using Google Glass for sex paints a rosy picture for the technology in the longer term.

Is Sex Addiction Real?

You’ve probably heard of sex addiction, but you might be surprised to know that there’s debate about whether it’s truly an addiction, and that it’s not even all about sex.

“That’s a common misconception,” says Rory Reid, PhD, LCSW, a research psychologist at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. “It is no more about sex than an eating disorder is about food or pathological gambling is about money.”

Sex addicts, in other words, are not simply people who crave lots of sex. Instead, they have underlying problems — stress, anxiety, depression, shame — that drive their often risky sexual behavior.

“Those are some of the core issues that you start to see when you treat someone with sex addiction,” says John O’Neill, LCSW, LCDC, CAS, CART, a certified addiction counselor at the Menninger Clinic in Houston. “You can’t miss those pieces.”

What Is Sex Addiction?

Sex addiction won’t be in the upcoming edition of the DSM-5, which is used to diagnose mental disorders.

That doesn’t mean that it’s not a very real problem.

 “People are going to seek help, and there doesn’t need to be diagnosable condition for them to get help,” Reid says. “If they are suffering, we want to help them.”

Reid and many other experts prefer the term “hypersexual disorder,” rather than “sex addiction.”

By either name, it’s about people who keep engaging in sexual behaviors that are damaging them and/or their families.

As examples, Reid cites men who spend half their income on prostitutes, and office workers who surf the web for porn despite warnings that they’ll lose their job if they keep it up.

“Who does that? Somebody with a problem,” Reid says.

That problem puts so much at risk: their personal lives, their social lives, their jobs, and, with the threat of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, their health.

Despite the danger, they return to the same behaviors over and over, whether it’s Internet porn, soliciting sex workers, ceaselessly seeking affairs, masturbating or exposing themselves in public, or any number of other acts.

“I see in them an inability to stop what they’re doing,” O’Neill says. “They’re preoccupied; their brain just keeps going back to it. It often leads to loneliness and isolation. There’s such intense shame and pain.”

Frequently, a crisis convinces them to seek treatment, Reid says. They’re caught in the act by a spouse, fired from their job, or arrested for soliciting sex from prostitutes. For some people, the crisis brings relief from distress caused by their behavior and constant fear of being discovered. “The world comes crashing down,” says Reid, “and some say, ‘I’m glad that I got caught.'”

Addiction or Not?

There are no reliable estimates of how many people have the disorder. Some studies suggest that it’s more common in men, and gay men in particular, than women.

Addiction or Not? continued…

The causes are also unknown, or how similar it is to other addictions. That’s one reason that Reid prefers the term hypersexual disorder (HD).

“We don’t know if the [brain] mechanisms associated with HD behavior operate the same ways as a substance disorder or pathological gambling,” Reid says.

Reid says HD behavior can appear similar to those associated with obsessive compulsive disorder. It also could be tied to abnormal levels of the brain chemical dopamine or serotonin. Or, problems related to attention, impulse control, or emotional regulation could also be involved.

“There are so many models or theories that we can look at to help us understand HD,” Reid says. “An addiction model is just one of them.”

Treating Hypersexual Disorder

There isn’t much research on what treatments work best. Reid encourages his patients to challenge the thoughts that lead to their risky behavior.

“If a patient says he has a craving and he can’t control it, I confront the ‘can’t,'” Reid says. “I ask, ‘What’s going to happen if you don’t satisfy that craving? Is your penis going to fall off? No.’ I try to get the patient to see things more realistically.”

One-on-one counseling, support groups, and having a plan are key.

“You want to make connections with other people who are also struggling, and you have to know who you are going to call, what you are going to do, and how you are going to attend to your feelings,” O’Neill says. “If they’re willing to really follow through, work with their families and their support networks, in my experience, people can get significantly better and stay in recovery.”

In some cases, medications used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder or impulse control disorders may be used to curb the compulsive nature of the sex addiction.

Myths About Sex After 40

Learn why good sex can come with age

Forty may be the new 30, but considering the misconceptions about women’s sexuality and desirability after a “certain age,” you’d think 40 was the new 80! Whether you blame advertising portrayals of what’s “sexy” (Victoria’s Secret models, anyone?), or the fact that leading TV and movie roles turn more to the matronly than the hot as actresses age, myths about a more mature women’s sexuality abound. “We silently believe that only young people have sex,” says Maureen McGrath, RN, a sex-health educator and radio host. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Here, eight myths we’re happy to dispel for you.

Myth 1: You don’t need sex as you get older.

Truth: It’s hard to redefine what the need for sex is after you’re done baby-making. And sure, you won’t die without sex; it’s not food or water. But that doesn’t mean you need it any less than other things that bring joy, satisfaction and better emotional and physical health. “Sex gets blood flowing, which brings nutrients to all parts of your body and eliminates waste. Heart pumping, deep breathing—it’s all good for you,” says Carmella Sebastian, MD, a women’s wellness and sexuality expert.

Myth 2: Those extra pounds make you undesirable.

Truth: Repeat after us: Enjoying sex isn’t about how you look, but how you feel. “You can have inner confidence at any weight,” says McGrath. That said, if you’re not feeling your best, go for a brisk, 30-minute walk with your partner rather than have another helping of pasta at dinner. And try to quash that inner monologue that’s telling you men don’t find less-than-perfect bodies sexy. Ask any guy: If the woman who shares his bed gets naked, he’s not seeing a muffin top and cellulite. He’s seeing naked. If you’re single now and worried that a new lover won’t find you desirable, forget that too. “Your lumps, bumps and wrinkles mean nothing to 99% of men over 40,” says Bobbi Palmer, founder and CEO of Date Like a Grownup. “What you lack in firmness you more than make up in humor, compassion and experience. Plus, you know your body better than you ever did in your 20s.” All those years living in your skin has taught you what turns you on that you just didn’t know two decades ago. And what’s sexier to a man than a woman who knows what she wants in bed?

Myth 3: Your body isn’t sexual once you enter perimenopause.

Truth: The changes that occur in the (sometimes) years before menopause, such as irregular periods, mood changes and lack of vaginal lubrication will affect your sex life. But a changing body is still a sexual body, says Dr. Sebastian, and recognizing that is important. Avoiding sexual activity may only worsen things. Take dryness: Using a lubricant such as KY Jelly helps, but so does the act of having sex: “When blood goes to the genitals, the tissues remain healthy,” encouraging natural lubrication. Hot flashes and fatigue associated with perimenopause can wreak havoc on your energy levels, says McGrath, so talk to your doctor about possible hormonal remedies. And look on the bright side: This can be a time of experimentation and freedom with sex that you didn’t have when young kids were underfoot. “Introduce a vibrator, experiment with self-stimulation, try new positions,” suggests McGrath.

Myth 4: You’re too tired for sex.

Truth: This one persists for good reason—it makes sense that you’d be more worn-out now than you were 20 years ago. But it’s more likely that “I’m too tired” is an excuse to avoid sex. Being chronically out of energy can trigger a sex drive dip, so ask your doctor to check your thyroid levels and test you for anemia, says McGrath. And look at your lifestyle: Maybe you need to pare down your commitments and get better sleep by regulating your bedtime and removing un-sexy (and rest-interfering) TVs and computers from your bedroom. Other than that, “don’t wait to have sex until the end of the day when you’re exhausted,” says Dr. Sebastian. If you’re a morning person, try a little wake-up nookie, or if possible, a bit of afternoon delight.

Myth 5: You don’t have to worry about birth control.

Truth: Tell that to the legion of late-life moms toting their beloved “oops” babies! “It’s hard to know exactly when you’ll stop ovulating, even if you’re in the middle of perimenopause,” says Dr. Sebastian. “To check when you can skip protection, your doctor can do a blood test.” The level of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in your blood can reveal whether you’re still fertile, but levels fluctuate during perimenopause, so even a low FSH level may be misleading. That’s why it’s better to be safe than sorry. Menopause isn’t official until you’ve gone a full year without a period, says McGrath. In a new relationship? You still have to protect against sexually transmitted diseases, so use condoms until you’re sure about your partner’s past.

Myth 6: It’s normal for sex drive to drop as you age.

Truth: Actually, it may be the opposite. “It’s more likely for younger women to experience dips in libido,” says McGrath, probably thanks to the hormonal upheavals of pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and dealing with young children. So if you have little or no desire for any kind of sex—even with George Clooney in your fantasies—see your doctor to be sure you don’t have a medical condition, such as thyroid issues or certain cancers, says Dr. Sebastian. Beyond that, libido has a lot to do with how easily you can talk to your partner, and how bothered either of you is by how often you have sex. For one couple, once a month feels fine, whereas for others three times a week is practically nothing. “Figure out how much sex is enough before you decide you have a libido problem,” says McGrath.

Myth 7: Things that once turned you on no longer work because of your age.

Truth: “This is more a fact of a long relationship than aging,” says McGrath. You might be bored or in a rut (and so might your man), so address it as soon as possible, advises Dr. Sebastian. Get a video, buy a book, shake things up. Have a whole range of moves in your sexual arsenal because different things turn you on not just in different stages of life but on different days!

Myth 8: If I’ve never had great orgasms, it’s too late now.

Truth: This is easy to debunk, says Dr. Sebastian, who admits, “I was never multi-orgasmic until after I had my second child.” She attributes the change to a newfound sense of self-confidence, an ability to start asking for what she wanted in bed. Are you stressed? Did you have a fight with your spouse? Did you recently get a promotion at work and are feeling good about yourself? These all can affect your ability to climax. It’s never too late to explore what turns you on, says McGrath. “People think they’re born knowing how to be a great lover, but it has to be learned.”

How Advertisers Use Sex to Sell Products to Women

By Carmel Lobello
It's no secret: Sex sells.
It’s no secret: Sex sells. (Facebook/Victoria’s Secret)
It’s no secret that sex sells. But a lot of studies show that it sells a lot better to men than women.

In 2006, researchers from the University of Florida showed a group of women print ads of beautiful, sexy models from VogueAllure, and other women’s magazines. They found that the “hotter” the model’s attire or look, the lustier the model’s expression, the colder it left the female subjects. And a similar 2010 study from the University College of London found that sexual imagery in advertising not only bored women, it actually repelled them.

And yet… if women are immune to sexual advertising, why are women’s magazines filled with sexy images, and why does Victoria’s Secret, which advertises with sex almost exclusively, make $5 billion in revenue each year? The fact that more photographers and advertisers are men is not the answer. Recent studies show that women are much more tolerant of certain types of sexual ads. Here, three lessons in selling sex to women:

Make sure the product is expensive

Recently, Kathleen D. Vohs from University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management studied whether “sexual economics theory,” which posits that women want sex to be rare and valuable, might apply to marketing.

“We were working from a theory that women have a vested interest in seeing sex portrayed in a certain manner, including advertising, because sex is much costlier for them from a biological perspective and socio-cultural perspective,” Vohs explained to Harvard Business Review.

“In society, women can get into a whole lot of trouble if they behave sexually in a manner that’s not going to lead them to good long-term consequences,” she says. “Biologically, they could have to carry a child. Socio-culturally, they could become stigmatized. There are a whole host of things in between.”

So women may yawn when asked to buy beer from a bikini-clad model, but if the product is rare and valuable, the way women supposedly want sex to be, would they be more susceptible to the ad?

For the study, Vohs asked men and women to view different advertisements for wristwatches. One watch cost only $10, the other cost $1,250. Each were viewed in two settings — one, a simple mountain backdrop, the other, “a sexually explicit scene.”

Researchers then asked women to rate how happy, energized, interested, upset, angry, and disgusted, the ads made them feel.

If you’re wondering how they controlled for sexual taste, here’s Vohs in Harvard Business Review:

In our study, we pilot tested a scene that’s highly sexual. It’s a woman who’s naked and pressed up against a wall, and then a man, also naked, pressing into her. His body is between her thighs. Her breast is showing, but he’s covering her other breast and her pubic region, and you see his buttocks. And her face shows an unmistakably erotic expression.

We pre-tested it so that men and women both think it’s super sexy, but nobody thinks that he’s dominating her. Nobody thinks she’s dominating him. And nobody really reports feeling like someone is being objectified. It’s just sexy. [Harvard Business Review]

What they found: Women have strong negative reactions to cheap, sexy watches, but more neutral reactions to expensive sexy watches. The price did not impact their perception, however, when the watch was placed against mountain backdrops.

Make sure the sex looks committed

A separate study from 2009 angled at another stereotype of women and sex. Also using images of wristwatches, researchers tried to assess whether a signal of commitment would make sexual ads more palatable to women.

For this study, subjects once again looked at a non-sexual ad, as well as two types of sexual ads that were identical, except that one showed the watch with a red ribbon tied around it and this statement: “This watch is positioned as a gift from a man to the special woman in his life.”

To examine if this is just a matter of people liking gifts, regardless of sex and commitment, the researchers asked a different group of women to view a non-sexual ad in both gift and non-gift positioning. They found that the gift positioning was effective only in the sexual ads.

Interestingly, men’s attitudes for the watches actually declined with the gift positioning.

And most importantly, make sure the product is sexual, too

If women are immune to sexual advertising unless it makes sex seem rare, or somehow connected to commitment, how do you explain the 1994 Wonderbra billboard showing Eva Herzigova in a black lace wonder bra, a $30 item, sans any signal of commitment form a man, with the words “Hello, Boys” in bold? Wonderbra’s sales quadrupled the year the ad came out, and a recent public vote by Outdoor Media Center found it the most “iconic” advertising image of all time.

Madwomen, a marketing blog, explains:

When the brand is “sexy” then women in the survey accepted this. One brand that is overtly about sex and uses sex to sell in clever, intriguing ways is Coco de Mer. Their launch campaign focused on the benefits of their products (high-class sex toys) and instead of using images of women’s airbrushed bodies, it showed faces. Faces of women and men having an orgasm. How relevant and clever is that? [Madwomen]

This also explains Victoria’s Secret, another brand that’s overtly sexy and uses overtly sexual advertising to prop up that image.

So, sex sells to women when it overtly makes sense for the product, and not so much in the case of sex and watches, where it seems like a non-sequitur.