There’s a lot of conflicting information about sex out there. Ask one person if they agree that 'size matters', and then ask another, and you could well get two very different answers. There’s just so much opinion contaminating the facts that it’s difficult to get a handle on what is and isn’t true. Luckily, there are ways around that subjectivity.
Fans of Showtime’s Masters of Sex know that sexology has been an active field for quite some time, and there’s never been a time as open to that field of study as the present. With the further normalization of casual sexual relationships, a culture of openness surrounding sexual experimentation, and the digital world making it relatively easy to find like-minded individuals who share your tastes, the sexual landscape is changing in profound ways. Of course, plenty of researchers are eager to document exactly how.
There are still unique challenges. Many studies are heteronormative - focusing on cisgender heterosexual relations - meaning information about other sexual identities, including transsexuality and homosexuality, is in comparatively short supply. Still, all research has its growing pains, and it’s likely we’ll see this issue correct itself in time.
That said, there’s still a lot of useful and fascinating research out there that we should really all be familiar with. The following are just a few things you might not know about sexuality, pulled from a goldmine of real scientific research conducted by real scientists.
6 There’s Probably No Such Thing As 'Sex Addiction'
Yes, a lot of people cry addiction when they're caught with their pants down. It’s not their fault that they’re ill, right? Actually, it’s likely that it is their fault...
Withdrawal symptoms aren’t pretty – just take a look at an alcoholic who hasn’t had a drink in a while, or a person who has just recently quit smoking. That’s part of what a study published in Socioaffective Neuroscience and Psychology looked at, and the findings, according to Slate, were that “Hypersexual brains don’t react in the same way as other addicts’ brains — in fact, the neural responses to pornography only varied based on levels of sexual libido, rather than on measures of sexual compulsivity.”
That’s not to say that people with high libidos and low self-control might not have difficulty abstaining from taking care of their urges – just that physical addiction is likely not the correct term for what is going on. In other words, unlike a traditional addict, they do act with intent and have control over their actions.
5 Men and Women Have The Same Erogenous Zones
Erogenous zones are those little landmarks on a person’s body that, if teased, can arouse the subject of the attention, often without the contact between sexual organs – and men and women share the same ones. That’s a pretty surprising finding; according to study leader Professor Oliver Turnbull of Bangor University, as quoted by the Guardian, “A lot of people assume that women’s bodies are just full of erogenous zones and that men have only one, the obvious one.”
And what are these little zones that can send a shiver up your spine? Aside from the sexual organs, the Guardian lists “lips, ears, and inner thighs, followed closely by shoulder blades.”
4 Sex Can Give You Temporary Amnesia
“Mind-blowing” is a phrase often used to describe good sex, but did you know sex can actually cause amnesia? A report from The Journal of Emergency Medicine describes the condition as being “transient global amnesia,” a type of amnesia that suddenly blocks your memory, but only for a little while.
It’s typically not dangerous, though scientists aren't quite sure how this condition happens. According to LiveScience, the best guess for how sex might cause the amnesia is that tensing of certain muscles in the abdomen might increase pressure and cause “deoxygenated blood to push back up the neck” and into the brain. The lack of oxygen would then temporarily affect brain function in the affected region. However, as neurologist Sebastian Ameriso said to LiveScience, that doesn't quite explain “why most people with transient global amnesia experience it only once.”
So if ever you or a partner lose you memory after sex, don’t panic – and don’t brag. No, you’re not that good.
3 S&M Makes For Closer Couples
Flowers, candy, a bit of emotional support. These are a few of the thoughtful ways you can show a loved one how much you care, bringing the two of you a little bit closer. You could also tie them down, grab a paddle, and set about flogging them - with their permission, of course.
Yes, a study by Northern Illinois University found that there’s a link between the closeness a couple feels and engaging in S&M. The person receiving the stimulation experiences a sharp rise in stress hormones, but that quickly regulates after the act.
The idea that this is a benefit to a relationship is actually nothing surprising. It’s long been known that a slight level of danger can help in creating romantic attachment, which is why seeing a scary movie with your crush is typically a good idea. This is just the grown-up version: Mind you don’t forget your safe word.
2 Your First Time Colours Future Encounters
Despite (or maybe because of) the hoopla around “losing your virginity,” there’s a common experience shared by most of us the first time: Disappointment. Yes, the first time usually isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but that typically improves over time. But, did you know that your first experience can have a permanent effect on your outlook on sex?
The Atlantic reports that a study by the University of Tennessee and University of Mississippi saw a strong link between a “positive first-time experience” and “emotional satisfaction in later sexual interactions”, whereas “Anxiety and negativity experienced when losing one's virginity was associated with lower overall sexual functioning.”
That’s not to say that you’re forever doomed to bad sex if you had a particularly bad first time. It just means you might need to do a bit more work with your partner to get your bedroom comfort and confidence up.
1 Orgasms Aren’t That Important
It’s no secret that many women have more difficulty arriving at an orgasm than men, although some men do experience the same issue. In both cases, this can be a source of stress – often for the partner of the person having difficulty. The way we talk about sex assumes that orgasm is the end goal, and it may not need to be - or at least, that's what a study published in The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality suggests...
Reuniting.info lists some of the elements of said study, with “Being present,” connection, sexual intimacy, communication, authenticity, peace, exploration, and vulnerability listed as being among the most important elements to great sex. Among the least important was, you guessed it, “intense physical sensation and orgasm.”
Now, that’s not to say that the study is suggesting people don’t have sex because it feels good, or that orgasms aren’t desirable. It’s just that the average person apparently doesn’t put those at the top of their list when thinking about what makes sex satisfying.