Does Misogyny Lead to Unhealthy Sexuality?

February 18th, 2016

February 16, 2016 by  

To best understand the relationship between misogyny and sexual health I’ll begin this piece with a comprehensive definition for each term.

Misogyny: “[M]isogyny is primarily a property of social systems or environments as a whole, in which women will tend to face hostility of various kinds because they are women in a man’s world  (i.e., a patriarchy), who are held to be failing to live up to men‘s standards (i.e., tenets of patriarchal ideology which have some purchase in this environment)” (Manne, p.2). In other words, misogyny is systemic oppression of women, within patriarchal societies in which women are expected to adhere to patriarchal expectations, otherwise face punishment.

Sexual health: Sexual health “is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled” (World Health Organization, 2006).

We all are aware that sexual health is not something which is explicitly discussed in Muslim communities. However, subtle messages and lessons regarding sexuality and sexual health are being relayed to women constantly and these messages place a heavy burden on them.

  • “Wear a long shirt when you go to the mosque. You don’t want the men to see your curves.”
  • “Don’t get too comfortable/friendly with the boys in your class.”
  • “Keep your voice down in the mosque. The men shouldn’t be able to hear you.”
  • “If a man sees your hair your wudu is invalidated.” (Yes, I was told this once.)
  • “Don’t stay out past dark. People will talk.”
  • “You don’t need to know those things until you get married. And then, your husband will teach you.” (Though this message may not be explicitly stated, there are ways in which this message is relayed.)

None of these statements mention sex or sexuality explicitly, but they all send a clear message. “You, woman, are a sexual being whose curves and voice will sexually excite and distract men, who, upon seeing your hair, will have thoughts so dirty YOUR wudu will be invalidated. Also, getting friendly with the boys in your class will inevitably lead to sexual relations and if you stay out past dark people will assume you’re out there having sex with men. Oh, and if you know about sex before you get married then your husband will assume you were out having sex with men and he won’t respect you. So just let him teach you because he knows from all the sex he was out having with women, like most guys do.”

Women’s sexuality, in Muslim communities, is too often defined in relation to men. The attitudes, views, opinions, and thoughts of men are given priority over the reality of women’s lives. Women’s behaviour is strictly regulated to the meet the patriarchal expectations laid out by men. And, as a result, women’s behaviour is often viewed in sexual terms such that women are policed to behave in ways that do not “force” men to behave in sexually “haram” ways or that ensure people know you are not engaging in “unlawful” sex. When women do not adhere to these expectations, or are assumed to not be adhering to them, they are faced with derision, disrespect, and sometimes ostracization and isolation.

This is misogyny. And enacting this misogyny in the name of religious duty or obligation is a form of spiritual violence, in which women are denied access to religious and spiritual attainment because they fail to meet patriarchal expectations of women’s behaviour.

So how is this misogyny harmful to women’s sexual health? Because it denies women bodily autonomy, having a detrimental impact on the physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality. It denies women the choice to decide what is and isn’t sexual, safe, coercive, pleasurable, violence. It conflates non-sexual behaviours (how long our shirts are) with sexual ones and disguises sexually violent ones (coercion) as sexually healthy (sexual education) or natural (men can’t control themselves).

It places the burden of modesty and honour on the shoulders of women,consequently victim-blaming women for any sexual disrespect and sexual violence they may endure.

It assumes women to be recipients of sex placing them in danger of being abused and manipulated, or in a situation of unpleasurable and uncomfortable sex. It shames women regarding their own sexuality and their bodies, a shame which can have an impact on their self-image, including their sexual self-image, and confidence.

So how do we address this? The answer is simple, yet one that meets a lot of resistance. Stop being misogynistic. Obviously, this is much, much easier said than done. We have had centuries of misogyny built into not only our culture, but also our interpretations of religion. This will take a lot of work and will require that we challenge those very patriarchal notions that so many of our values and beliefs are premised upon. But this needs to be done, one little action, one little step at a time, if we want healthy communities.


A few steps to begin this process:

Stop sending girls and women these harmful messages and start sending boys and men messages that instill the unconditional respect of women.

Educate girls and women on sexual health and give them the tools to make their own decisions on what is and isn’t healthy for them.

Stop defining women’s sexuality in relation to men. Women do not exist to sexually please men. It seems like it should not need to be said, but women are whole and holistic people, and sexuality only one part of our being. Let women, and girls, define and decide what we want.

Recognize women’s right to bodily autonomy. A woman can choose to do with her body what she wishes. No one else has the right to decide for her nor to infringe upon her autonomy.

This is just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg. However, if we, as a community, begin with these few basic steps, we will be on the road to a sexually healthier community.

Sobia Ali-Faisal received her PhD in Applied Psychology from the University of Windsor in 2014. She currently resides in Canada.

Young Men’s Sexual Behavior May Predict Teen Pregnancy Risk, The Kind Of Dad They’ll Be

February 18th, 2016


For years, researchers have investigated young women’s views on motherhood in an effort to reduce teen pregnancies. But in a new study from Northwestern University, they shift their attention to young men and their behavioral patterns, which can shed light not only on their chances of becoming fathers, but also the kind of fathers they’d be.

Past research into young men and sex had primarily focused on the link between risky behaviors and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). But co-author Dr. Craig Garfield and his team were more interested in seeing how attitudes toward risky sex, pregnancy, and birth control related to their future parental outcomes. They found teens and young men with more nonchalant attitudes toward sex were more likely to be nonresident fathers — men who didn’t live with their children.

“I was very surprised that, based on what adolescent males tell us in their teenage years, we could predict whether they would later become a teen father or a nonresident father,” said Garfield, an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern, in a press release. “We’re expanding male reproductive health across the lifespan and beginning to see how early beliefs relate to later outcomes and health, including fatherhood.”


The research team interviewed 10,253 male teenagers and young adults. Participants were asked to respond to statements, like “If you had sexual intercourse, your friends would respect you more;” “it wouldn’t be all that bad if you got someone pregnant at this time in your life;” and “using birth control interferes with sexual enjoyment.” Then 20 years later, they followed up with the participants to compare their responses from the initial interview to whether they had a child, if they lived with the child, and their age when they impregnated the mother.

Those who practiced riskier sexual behavior “significantly increased” their odds of becoming a nonresident father, especially when it was an unintended pregnancy, the researchers found. Specifically, young men who were less concerned about risky sex were 30 percent more likely to become a father who did not live with his child. Teens who felt it “wouldn’t be that bad” if they impregnated a girl were 20 percent more likely to become nonresident fathers.

These findings served as a way to predict the likelihood of young men becoming fathers in their teenage years. But they also show a correlation between boys’ attitudes about sex and the type of fathers they’d grow up to be 14 years later. While it’s unclear what causes this correlation, research shows teen fathers are less likely to finish school, and more likely to rely on public assistance and have lower-income jobs throughout their lives.

The researchers also found teenage boys who understood the pros and cons of using birth control were 28 percent less likely to become nonresident fathers, suggesting sex education may help as an intervention. According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, young people who receive comprehensive sex education are 50 percent less likely to become pregnant or get a woman pregnant, and significantly more likely to delay a pregnancy and invest time in a planned pregnancy.

But first, Garfield says we must get teen boys to change their views on pregnancy. He says interventions that focus on this will reduce the number of teens who go on to become fathers and reduce their chances of becoming nonresident fathers. “That’s a role the school system and health care workers can play when seeing young men for physicals,” he said. “Together we can help young men think about their futures.”

Source: Garfield C, Duncan G, Peters S, et al. Adolescent Reproductive Knowledge, Attitudes and Beliefs and Future Fatherhood. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2016.

Testosterone helps older men with low sexual desire, study shows

February 18th, 2016

By Lynne Terry | The Oregonian/OregonLive 
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When it comes to treating older men with testosterone therapy, physicians have largely been on their own. There just haven’t been any good studies.

That changed Wednesday.

Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that testosterone therapy boosted the sexual activity and desire in older men with low levels and no health issues.

But the hormone replacement therapy did little to increase their physical ability or energy level.

The study included nearly 800 men aged 65 and older at dozens of academic medical centers, health care institutions and Veterans Affairs facilities from Seattle to Boston. All of them had low testosterone levels and symptoms such as low sexual desire. They also had no health issues that would mean they shouldn’t get testosterone, such as cardiovascular problems or high levels of a protein produced by the prostate.

Over a year, one group received a testosterone gel that raised their levels to that of a 19 -to 40-year-old. The others got a placebo. The men participated in trials that measured sexual function, physical ability and vitality, or energy level.

They took a quiz every three months. The questionnaires showed that men in the testosterone replacement group experienced an increase in sexual activity, desire and erectile function compared with the placebo group. They also reported an improved mood but the results were minimal, said Dr. Eric Orwoll, an endocrinologist at Oregon Health & Science University.

“It’s not like they went from sad to overwhelmingly happy,” said Orwoll, who wrote an accompanying editorial about the study.

Men reported enjoying exercise more, but the testosterone group didn’t fare better in a six-minute walking test compared to the placebo group. The testosterone therapy didn’t affect their energy level, either.

Though the results weren’t dramatic, the study did break new ground, Orwoll said.

“This is the first really well done study,” Orwoll said. “That in and of itself is really important.”

He said it will give physicians solid data to help them guide a discussion with patients about whether testosterone therapy is the right choice for them.

He cautioned that the results only apply to men who have the same characteristics as the study group. It doesn’t apply to men with normal testosterone levels.

The likely benefactors: men with low testosterone levels who have complaints about sexual function, Orwoll said.

“We know that testosterone therapy is safe for a year,” Orwoll said.

There were four cases of prostate cancer diagnosed during the study. But the group wasn’t large enough to conclude an association with the testosterone therapy, the study said. Researchers also noted that men with a high risk of developing prostate cancer were excluded along with those with moderately severe urinary tract symptoms.

More studies are needed to determine any potential long-term risks and effects, Orwoll said.

“There are a lot of other things that testosterone might have an effect on like anemia or bone strength,” Orwoll said. “There are a lot of still unanswered questions out there.”

New Drug Combo Wakes HIV in Order to Kill It

February 18th, 2016

esearchers at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) in La Jolla, Calif., have made a fascinating discovery which may help finally cure HIV. When the virus enters the body, it hides in certain cells where it may lie dormant for months, years, even decades. Today, antiretroviral therapy (ART) can eliminate the virus’s ability to replicate itself. But it cannot eliminate hidden viruses lying dormant in host cells—safe from the immune system. Now researchers may have found a way to wake up these latent viruses in order to kill them and eliminate the disease from the body. Though this shock and kill strategy is not new, previous attempts either have either been too weak or have caused the immune system to become overactive, which can be dangerous to the patient. This study published the journal Cell Host & Microbe, surrounds two classes of drugs. The first is called smac mimetics.

A previous class, latency reversing agents (LRAs) were thought to be effective. But according to the lead author of this latest study Lars Pache, PhD, LRAs are either not strong enough to cause an immune response, or trigger over-activity. SBP investigators first examined the genes within host cells. They isolated one gene called BIRC2. Smac mimetics block BIRC2 and all molecules associated with it. Researchers wanted to see if by eliminating this gene the virus would once again become activated, and in doing so allow the immune system to recognize and eliminate it.

Another reason HIV is hard for the immune system to spot is because it contains “tightly wound DNA.” The SBP team suggested the use of another class of drugs called histone deacetylase inhibitors. These can unwind DNA, which reveals the virus underneath for the immune system to recognize and eliminate. Researchers at SBP believe that using these two classes of drugs together could help the immune system identify and erase HIV from an infected person’s body. When testing their theory, they found that the drug combination reawakened HIV without causing the immune system to go into overdrive. The next step is for the team to work together with a drug company and bring the drug combination to clinical trials. There are still a few hurdles ahead. In the meantime, every sexually active adult should get tested for HIV at least once per year, according to the CDC. Those in at-risk groups should be tested more often. Visit a clinic, physician, or urologist if it is time to do so.shutterstock_236439424

Flagging sex life? How watching reality TV or wearing high heels may be to blame

February 9th, 2016
  • Maintaining your libido can be a delicate balance of health and desire
  • Numerous things – from everyday foods to gadgets – may interfere 
  • Good Health looks at surprising reasons your love life could be off-kilter

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When your relationship has gone beyond the first flush of passion, maintaining your libido can be a delicate balance of health and desire.

And it doesn’t help that numerous things – from everyday foods to gadgets – may interfere with your sexual performance.

Here, Good Health looks at some of the more surprising reasons your love life could be off-kilter…




Smell plays an important role in our recognition of pheromones – the scents given off by a partner’s body through sweat – and affects sexual behaviour.


A 2012 study at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that men with no sense of smell had significantly fewer sexual partners than those with a normal nasal function, and women with no sense of smell felt less secure in their relationships.


Psychologist Dr Ilona Croy, who led the study, says having impaired smell will give you a disadvantage in the mating game.


‘A lot of social signals are transported through the olfactory channel (the nose lining and associated nerves) and a depleted sense of smell makes it likely that you might miss them,’ she says.

Simply having a cold could also affect the sex drive of both men and women, adds Dr David Edwards, an Oxfordshire GP and sexual health specialist.

‘Viral infections can temporarily reduce testosterone levels,’ he explains.


If you’re trying to slim down, it could have an unwanted side-effect.

Losing weight too quickly puts stress on the body – even if you are a healthy weight – which can trigger the release of a hormone called prolactin, a powerful suppressor of sex drive.

‘Stress like this can also mean a reduction in oestrogen and testosterone levels, which is why a woman’s menstrual cycle can become irregular,’ says Dr Sarah Brewer, a GP and the author of Overcoming Low Sex Drive.

Losing more than 10 per cent of your body weight too quickly can make the body think it’s starving, which can cause sexual interest to fall, she adds.


They may look sexy, but high heels could make sex less enjoyable for some women.

Dr Eden Fromberg, a New York-based gynaecologist, says that because heeled shoes tip the body forwards, this forces the postural muscles to contract as the body works to maintain an upright posture.

‘If the pelvic floor muscles are chronically contracted, they can become tight and therefore restrict the passage of nerve impulses going through them to the reproductive organs and arousal tissue,’ she says.

‘Wearing high heels all day can affect a woman’s orgasm – there is a reported improvement in female patients who retire their heels or use them only rarely.’


A sedentary job is just as bad for a woman’s potential to orgasm, warns Dr Fromberg.

‘If you sit with rounded shoulders and your tail tucked under for hours, the muscles of your pelvic floor and the psoas muscle (which runs diagonally from the lower back through to the groin) remain chronically at “half mast” – not stretched or contracted,’ she says.

This can affect the signals passing along important nerves leading to the reproductive organs. ‘Bucket chairs and recliners are the worst for exacerbating the sorts of postural problems that can lead to compromised sexual pleasure,’ she adds.

The body is designed to move constantly, so the more active you are, the more effectively blood supply and nerve signalling can work.


People who have a TV in their bedroom have sex half as often as those who don’t, according to a 2006 study of 523 Italian couples.

The effect is more marked for the over-50s, with the average of seven couplings a month falling to just 1.5 on average.

The study found certain programmes – violent films and reality shows – impede passion.

According to Dr Edwards, good sexual relations depend on couples communicating with each other, not sitting side by side watching television.

‘If whatever you are watching makes you sad or grumpy, it is more likely to affect your libido,’ he says.

Technology can affect your love life in other ways, too. Sitting and spending more than seven hours a day on an electronic gadget (such as a phone or tablet) can trigger back pain, according to the British Chiropractic Association, and a recent survey of 2,000 people by found that 25 per cent had avoided sex because of back pain.

Men who carry a mobile phone switched on for at least four hours a day are at greater risk of erectile dysfunction than men who use phones intermittently, reported a study last year in the Central European Journal of Urology.

One suggestion is that heat could be to blame.


As well as triggering energy slumps, excess sugar in the diet is laid down as fat, which can raise oestrogen levels, reducing the effect of testosterone in women and men.

‘The more body fat you have, the more chance the testosterone in your system will be bound into the fat, which means less “free testosterone”,’ says Dr Edwards.

‘Not only will this reduce libido, it makes you more likely to gather fat in your abdomen, which binds to any remaining testosterone, so diminishing your available supply.’

Fat around the middle is a particular problem, because it can lead to a reduction in a sex hormone-binding protein called globulin, which is produced by your liver, explains Dr Mark Vanderpump, a consultant endocrinologist at the Royal Free Hospital, London.

This protein attaches itself to testosterone, transporting it around the body. ‘Men with lower levels tend to have a lower concentration of testosterone,’ he says.


Men who exercise regularly have a 70 per cent reduced risk of erectile dysfunction compared with men who do none – but serious cyclists are more likely to suffer impotence.

It seems the firm, angular saddles can put pressure on nerves and arteries around the groin, reducing blood flow to the penis.

‘If there is bruising to the pudendal nerve (a major nerve in the groin that runs from the genitals to the base of the spine), erectile dysfunction can last for up to two years,’ says Dr Edwards.

But it’s more typically seen on Mondays or Tuesdays after a weekend in the saddle, he adds.

He recommends saddles with a deep groove down the middle – to relieve pressure on the nerve – or putting a cushioned gel pad on top. ‘If cycling leaves you with a numbness or tingling in your groin, it’s time to adjust your seating arrangements.’


Women need warm feet for orgasm, suggested a Dutch study published in 2005. Researchers revealed that 80 per cent of women were able to achieve orgasm when they wore socks, compared with 50 per cent when barefoot.

According to Professor Gert Holstege, a neuroscientist at the University of Groningen who led the stud: ‘The feet play a significant role in maintaining body temperature, and by regulating internal climate the mind and body can come into a relaxed state needed for an orgasmic release.’


The popular perception is that beer puts a downer on a man’s love life. However, Dr Kat Van Kirk, a sex therapist and associate professor at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in Los Angeles, says that beer can actually make men better in bed because the plant chemicals (phytoestrogens) it contains may help to delay orgasm.

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