Does Romance Kill Men’s Sex Drive?

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November 26th, 2014

Romance primes her body for the bedroom. But for men, it may have the opposite effect. (Dylan & Sara/Stocksy)

Turns out, there may be a scientific reason why movies based on Nicholas Sparks novels are called “chick flicks.” Watching romantic movies revs women’s sex drives — but it also dampens men’s desire to hit the sheets, according to a new study in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

In the world of sex research, there’s a theory about sexual desire called the “incentive motivation model.” That’s a technical way of saying arousal starts with a rewarding stimuli (for example, seeing your partner naked), which automatically leads to a boost in below-the-belt blood flow. Once you realize your body is responding, your mind joins the arousal process, which only heightens your physical response, compelling you to seek sex.

As simple as that sounds, the first step — the sexual stimuli that kicks off the whole arousal process — can vary dramatically between men and women. Take porn, for example. “In a lot of research, when women watch porn movies, their body reacts — they’re genitally aroused — but they don’t feel anything,” lead study author Marieke Dewitte, an assistant professor of clinical psychological science at Maastricht University, told Yahoo Health. However, “we know that if you let women watch porn that is more female-oriented, embedded in a story, they respond with more sexual arousal.”

This suggests that, for women, it’s not just what the sexual stimuli is that matters, but also the context in which they encounter it. “Their sexuality is more dependent on the relationship context,” Dewitte explained.

That’s what inspired the design of her study: 86 men and 78 women watched three video clips — shots of a couple having sex; the scene from Titanic when Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet share their first smooch, along with a romantic clip from Indecent Proposal; and snippets of a documentary about English history. After watching each clip, the study participants rated how turned on they felt, both mentally and physically. They also completed a survey that measured how much they wanted and liked sex.

Women reported a greater desire for sex after watching theTitanic and Indecent Proposal clips, compared to the sex scenes. Men, on the other hand, were most inclined to do the deed after watching the explicit clips. And, surprisingly, they felt more desire after seeing the boring English documentary than after watching the romantic movies.

romancing

What’s going on? Simple: Women may use romantic scenes as a jumping-off point to conjure their own sexual fantasies — say, imagining being seduced by someone like Jack Dawson in Titanic. By contrast, “men need more visual information,” said Dewitte. As a result, guys tend to favor explicit sexual stimuli (like pornography), possibly because they’re wired to reproduce with lots of partners, rather than nurturing a romantic bond with one woman. “For women, the attachment system is more important, so the partner stays with them and raises the child,” she said. “So it makes sense that sexuality is much more related to the relationship.”

We’ve all heard the “men are more visual” spiel before. But, more importantly, this study helps debunk the long-held theory that men are simply more sexual than women. Dewitte found that in a test designed to measure “implicit” feelings — that is, automatic responses, rather than thought-out replies — women liked sex just as much as men. “If you put women in the right context, they experience as much — or even more — sexual desire than men,” she said. “They don’t always like sex the way men like it. They like kissing, they like intimacy.”

So how can couples overcome this mismatch in cues for sexual desire?

Men: Invest in the relationship

You’ve heard it before: Foreplay starts outside the bedroom — and we don’t necessarily mean fooling around on the couch. “Invest in the relationship during the day,” Dewitte said, which can including sending a lovely message, bringing her a gift or telling her she’s beautiful. These little acts of romance help kick her arousal system into high gear: When a woman senses her partner is emotionally invested, she’s more likely to be primed for fun in the bedroom later. “Men, if you want to have sex with your partner, don’t wait until you’re in the bedroom, and then quickly caress her,” she said.

Women: Pay attention to your body

Learn to listen to your body: Can you feel your heart beating faster? Your arousal building? Make sure to do the same for your partner, too — if you try to detect when he’s aroused, you might just find your own body responding.

Women: Figure out what excites you

As a sex therapist, Dewitte often asks her female patients this question: In order to become sexually aroused, what do you need? “A lot of women don’t know what they need,” she said. “So I ask them to go on the Internet, read books, learn for yourself, ‘What turns me on?’” In her experience, erotic stories often do the trick for women since, unlike porn, naughty reading material allows them to conjure up their own visuals. “Men have to watch — they have to see a breast or an explicit visual cue,” she said. “For women, it’s much more about fantasy.”

Women: Take time to fantasize

If you feel awkward fantasizing, that’s totally normal — it actually can take practice. “Sometimes, in the beginning, it’s not spontaneous at all,” Dewitte said. Her advice: Set aside five minutes a day, and try to script your own sexual fantasies in your head. You may find it tough at first, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it. “You can learn to fantasize,” she said.

Sexual function: relationships, well-being a significant influence in menopausal women

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November 26th, 2014

Past relationships and emotional health may have a much greater influence on menopausal women’s sexual function than hormones. This is according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The research team, including Dr. John F. Randolph of the University of Michigan Medical School, says that when a woman goes through menopause, both sexual function and reproductive hormones are subject to changes.

Past studies have assessed how hormonal changes affect sexual function – defined as incidence of desire, arousal, orgasm and pain during intercourse – among menopausal women.

Some of these studies have indicated that hormones such as testosterone - the primary sex hormone in men, although women produce it in small amounts – and estradiol play a role in sexual function among this population, but Dr. Randolph and colleagues say the results have been mixed.

Analyzing sexual function, hormone levels of more than 3,300 women

As such, the team set out with the aim of answering this question: “Are baseline or concurrent serum levels, or changes in levels, of measured reproductive hormones related to domains of sexual function in midlife women as they transition through the menopause?”

To reach their findings, the researchers analyzed data from 3,302 women aged 42-52 years who took part in the Study of Women’s Health around the Nation (SWAN).

At study baseline and during annual follow-up visits throughout the 10-year study, the women were required to complete a questionnaire that asked about their frequency of masturbation, sexual desire, sexual arousal, orgasm and any pain experienced during sexual intercourse.

In addition, blood samples were taken from the women and assessed to measure levels of a number of reproductive hormones – including testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) – which the body can convert into either testosterone or estradiol – and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), levels of which naturally increase during menopause.

Relationships, emotional health ‘tremendously important’ to women’s sexual function

Results of the analysis revealed that women who had high levels of testosterone or DHEAS experienced sexual desire more frequently and masturbated more often than women who had low levels of these hormones.

Women who had high levels of FSH, however, masturbated less frequently than those who had low levels of the hormone.

But perhaps the most interesting finding was that hormone levels appeared to have only a subtle influence on women’s overall sexual function. In fact, the team found that having fewer sad moods and higher relationship satisfaction was more strongly associated with better sexual function.

woman-and-man-holding-hands

Commenting on these findings, Dr. Randolph says:

“While levels of testosterone and other reproductive hormones were linked to women’s feelings of desire and frequency of masturbation, our large-scale study suggests psychosocial factors influence many aspects of sexual function.

A woman’s emotional well-being and quality of her intimate relationship are tremendously important contributors to sexual health.”

In addition, the researchers say that menopausal women should consider whether emotional well-being or relationship satisfaction may be playing a role in diminished sexual function before undergoing hormone treatment, such as testosterone therapy, of which the long-term health effects are unclear.

In August, Medical News Today reported on a study investigating how gender and sexual orientation influence orgasms. The researchers, from Indiana University, found that single women are less likely to experience an orgasm than single men.

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Improper Masturbation Techniques can Cost you

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November 24th, 2014

We’ve seen a big turnaround in the subject. Adults just a few short generations ago would tell young men that they’d go blind if they touched themselves. Now psychologists and medical professionals believe it is perfectly healthy and natural, and may even be a way to make sure sperm stays in tip-top condition. But when is masturbation too frequent? The simple answer is, when it interferes with your love life. If you cannot finish with your partner, or take so long that it becomes a burden, it is time to roll the frequency back, or even take a break altogether. Improper techniques can cost you as well.Unorthodox masturbatory practices were recently the topic of an article in the peer-reviewed Journal of Sexual Medicine. The most dangerous to a man’s sex life were those acts that do not mimic sexual relations with a partner, for example using a vacuum hose or a hot tub jet in order to reach orgasm. These men had less sensation within the penis, lower libidos, and less response when it came time to have sex with a partner.techniques

Over masturbation due to easy access to internet pornography is another big problem for men today. Climaxing to these videos is fine. When it happens so often a man cannot reach orgasm with a partner, it becomes an issue. Also, some men get really specific about what kind of porn they like. These specifics may creep into the psyche. Now, he needs that particular kind of sex, position or scenario in order to reach orgasm, making bedroom activities much more narrow and confined. If this is the case, drop internet porn for a while, do not masturbate for two weeks, and spend ample time on foreplay with a partner after the two weeks are up, getting both of you highly aroused, before engaging in intercourse. Lastly, don’t engage in any masturbation that is too rigorousor can be dangerous. The more rigorously you handle the penis, the more desensitized it becomes, and the harder it is to reach orgasm. Just like with anything else, moderation is key.

How Sex is Good for You

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November 19th, 2014

A recent study out of the University of Montreal claims that regular ejaculation lowers the risk of prostate cancer. But there are many other ways that sex is good for you, too. For instance, a 1999 study found that those who have sex twice per week helped protect their body against colds. Men who engaged in intercourse at this frequency had 20% more immunoglobulin in their bloodstream, which helps fight off sickness promoting bacteria and viruses. De-stress with sex, and if your partner doesn’t believe you, point them to a study in the journal Biological Psychology. Touching, kissing, holding one another, and other physical closeness lowers cortisol—the stress hormone. It also boosts oxytocin, a powerful, depression fighting hormone that helps us bond and feel connected. Want to look younger?  Getting some one-on-one time with your partner could mean preserving the impish rogue in the mirror, instead of seeing him turn into an old devil too soon. According to a study out of Royal Edinburgh University, those who had sex four times per week or more released higher levels of the hormones norepinephrine, dopamine, and adrenaline. This relaxes muscles and preserves skin cells, staving off wrinkles. Players beware. For this benefit “loving intercourse” was found more beneficial than simple promiscuity.Young lovers in bed kissing.

Want to protect your ticker? Spend more time between the sheets. Those men who had sex twice per week had a 45% less chance of having a serious heart attack, according to the New England Research Institute in Massachusetts. 1,000 men participated in the study. These results are now prompting doctors to ask patients about their sex lives. Looking to get a little more physical fitness in your life? Twenty four minutes in bed with a lover burns 104 calories, so say researchers at the University of Montreal. You should plan for a longer session to receive the full benefit. A quickie burns only 20 calories.  As we age, weakened bones become a serious concern for both sexes. Luckily, testosterone helps to strengthen them. Sex boosts testosterone which can in turn protect your bones. Trouble sleeping? A roll in the hay puts most guy’s right to sleep. French medical institute Inserm confirmed this. The release of the neurotransmitter serotonin makes you both happy and relaxed post-coitus. So the next time you are putting the moves on your partner, let them know your motives aren’t selfish, merely health-related.

Vitamin-D and Prostate Cancer

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November 19th, 2014

A new study out of the University of Colorado Cancer Center in Denver finds that vitamin-D and prostate cancer are inexorably linked. The essential nutrient regulates the gene GDF-15. But in cases of prostate cancer driven by inflammation, when vitamin-D is absent so is the gene. The peer-reviewed journal Prostate published the study. Lead author James R. Lambert, PhD. said, “When you take vitamin D and put it on prostate cancer cells, it inhibits their growth. But it hasn’t been proven as an anti-cancer agent. We wanted to understand what genes vitamin-D is turning on or off in prostate cancer to offer new targets.” The group proved that vitamin-D regulates the gene, and wanted to further prove that this particular gene was how vitamin-D affected prostate cancer. Dr. Lambert wrote in the press release, “We thought there might be high levels of GDF-15 in normal tissue and low levels in prostate cancer, but we found that in a large cohort of human prostate tissue samples, expression of GDF-15 did not track with either normal or cancerous prostate tissue.” But then they noticed something else.

Sunshine Vitamin D

The presence of GDF-15 was low in human prostate cancer tissue samples where inflammation was present. Dr. Lambert said, “Inflammation is thought to drive many cancers, including prostate, gastric, and colon. Therefore, GDF-15 may be a good thing in keeping prostate tissue healthy; it suppresses inflammation, which is a bad actor potentially driving prostate cancer.” Researchers utilized a sophisticated new technique in this study, using computer algorithms to analyze biochemical data. Gene GDF-15 was shown to inhibit NFkB, a biochemical compound which was shown to contribute to cancer growth and inflammation in previous studies. Dr. Lambert said, “There’s been a lot of work on inhibiting NFkB.” He added, “Now from this starting point of vitamin D in prostate cancer, we’ve come a long way toward understanding how we might use GDF-15 to target NFkB, which may have implications in cancer types far beyond prostate.”