Sex in Cyberspace

The students who ran SkepTech are astounding overachievers. They already have a bunch of talks and panels available for viewing.

This was how the conference started its Saturday morning. Very smart programming, that.

I think we even all managed to be fairly coherent. I love getting placed on panels with smart, thoughtful people, and everyone up there with me qualified.

A “Deep Human History” of Polyandry

Many evolutionary psychologists like to talk about polygyny. Some say it’s a good thing for the individuals involved. Some say it’s a bad thing. But they tend to agree that this is just how we evolved. Polyandry, if it’s discussed at all, is generally dismissed as being insignificant.

A new study just out suggests we shouldn’t dismiss polyandry so quickly, particularly not if we want to talk about evolved behavior. Last year, Katherine Starkweather and Raymond Hames published “A Survey of Non-Classical Polyandry” (pdf) in Human Nature.

Terms first. What do Starkweather and Hames mean by “polyandry”?

In general, we define polyandrous unions as a bond of one woman to more than one man in which the woman has relatively restricted sexual rights toward the men, and the men toward the women, as well as economic responsibilities toward each other and toward any children that may result from the union.

They note that this arrangement may be formal, in which the family created becomes a household, or informal, in which the sexual relationships and responsibilities are recognized but the family does not all live together. For a polygynous equivalent to informal polyandry, consider the old (at least) royal practice of a king who maintained mistresses and their children on estates away from the royal palace.

“Non-classical” has largely meant “ignored” up to this point for reasons pointed out in the Atlantic article that drew my attention to the survey. [Read more...]

Nothing Changes When You Add Sex

This post is an answer to Libby Anne and Dan’s question, “What would you tell teenagers about sex?” This is part of their Forward Thinking project. Answers are being collected in the comments on Libby Anne’s post and on Dan’s blog a week from next Monday.

While the title of this post is the short form of my answer, I should note that it’s more aspirational than descriptive currently. As a society, we (speaking from a U.S. perspective here) tend to treat sex as this thing that is completely outside normal life. The fact that most of us have sex with the rest of the world on the other side of a door means we act like sex happens in another world with rules of its own.

That’s a problem because we act as though all the things we knew on the other side of that door are useless when it comes to sex. They aren’t, of course. Sex is a number of things: (frequently) a social interaction, bodily mechanics, pleasure, risk. We already deal with all of those in the rest of our lives, and we already know plenty about how to deal with them.

[Read more...]

Pat Robertson? I Don’t Even….

I really try not to be judgmental about other people’s consensual sex lives, but

But you didn’t come here for a geography lesson, you came here for some good, old-fashioned Craigslist pervertedness and boy do we have a doozie for you today. Normally, I’d expect this kind of post in the Casual Encounters section, but I just assume that this couple’s request was meant to be offered out to the more open-minded people of the “Activity Partners” community. Especially those who love to dress up and watch people get it on.

Middle aged bored couple (Kempsville)

Both male and female late 40′s seek adventurous couple for fun times. We seek another couple for a night of fun so we can check off another on our bucket list. We would like the man to dress up and play the part of Pat Robertson and the female to wear a tight blue dress and act like she is a sales spokesperson on Home Shopping channel. My husband I would be naked and making love in our bed all the while Pat Robertson will be constantly attempting to save our souls and the female to have ongoing dialogue trying to sell us an Ab Rocket in 3 easy payments.

I don’t actually know that I fail at being judgmental about this one either, because I simply don’t get it. I can’t even wrap my brain around this long enough to be squicked out.

Religious People Cheat

This week is full of commitments and deadlines. Rather than try to meet all my blogging commitments with new work and failing, I’m pulling out some old posts. Given how my audience has grown, most of you won’t have read them at the time. This post was originally published here.

Jesse Bering has an article up at Slate this morning on whether nonbelievers should marry believers. His argument in favor?

On the one hand, I’d no doubt be irritated by my very religious wife’s supernatural beliefs. On the other hand, the very fact that she believes strongly in some divinely imposed morality should influence her behavior behind my back. She may well be suffering a very bad case of the dreaded God delusion, but perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing for her atheist husband. After all, my faithful, imaginary wife would then be operating under the assumption that cheating on me would not only hurt her family if the affair ever came to light, but would result in eternal damnation or perhaps an unhappy plague of this-worldly misfortunes even if it didn’t. Never mind if she’s crazy. I’m a pragmatist, so what she believes to be true is all that matters.

[Evo psych argument for why this should be important elided.]

Now, now, Dawkinsian atheists, I know what you’re thinking: You certainly don’t have to believe in God to be faithful to your spouse; marriages are built on mutual trust; religious people cheat, too; and so on. Of course you’re right about these things, but we’re still in the emotionless realm of the hypothetical, remember, and all else being equal, if you’re simply trying to minimize the chances of landing an adulterous partner, you might as well stack the deck in your favor by marrying the woman who “knows” that God would get really mad at her if she misappropriated her genitalia. This isn’t just my being a contrarian, either. There really is evidence from controlled experiments showing that religious thinking and church attendance leads to moral behavior.

For the record, he does recognize this as a bit of cold calculus, done for the purposes of writing the article. That’s not my problem with it. My problem is that the research he cites (the “controlled experiments” link) doesn’t say what he seems to think it says about cheating.

[Read more...]

Humor Study Is Funny Peculiar

This week is full of commitments and deadlines. Rather than try to meet all my blogging commitments with new work and failing, I’m pulling out some old posts. Given how my audience has grown, most of you won’t have read them at the time. This post was originally published here.

This week, Scicurious and I are tandem blogging her Friday Weird Science paper. This one just had a bit too much weird for one person.

Child pointing at the camera and laughing.

Heh. Heh. Heh.

A summer school theater teacher of mine from way back claimed to long for a unique career. He wanted to be a stand-up comedian for preschoolers. There were just one or two little problems. The kids don’t have a lot of disposable income to spend on entertainment, and the parents weren’t going to pony up for a grown man standing in front of a bunch of kids saying, “Pee-pee. Caca,” no matter how much the kids were, well, peeing themselves with laughter.

ResearchBlogging.org iconMy teacher understood humor at its most basic, and he would laugh his ass off if he were to read a recent evolutionary psychology paper on the topic, “Humor ability reveals intelligence, predicts mating success, and is higher in males.” If he didn’t have one of those common names that makes a person impossible to catch up with, I’d send it to him. It’s the sort of evo psych paper that ignores everything we know about inheritance, almost everything we know about the topic being studied, and much of what we know about sex to say, “Look! Correlation! Thus…selection!”

[Read more...]

Naked in Print

There is something deeply personal in writing about sex, even in an academic sense. You can’t do it with your clothes on, not your metaphorical clothes anyway.

You don’t necessarily have to reveal your own desires, but you do reveal your prejudices. They are right there in what you chooe to write about sex. What do you take for granted? What is unusual enough to need an explanation? What is weird enough that a cause must be discovered and shared?

Sex and the 405 has a lovely essay up about Alain de Botton’s new book, How to Think More About Sex that tells us more about how de Botton thinks about sex than I ever wanted to know. I had heard the book wasn’t very good, mainly in that it assumed sex all happened from a male perspective, but the problems appear to run far deeper. The essay is appropriately titled “Alain de Botton Tries Hand at Sex, Fails“. [Read more...]

Flirting Is Easy*

A few days ago, JT put up a post, “Flirting, sex, and lines“, on sorting through the signals of con mating rituals with someone you don’t know well. The discussion will inevitably turn that direction when the subject of harassment comes up, and I’m happy to say his post served at least one of its purposes. The discussion on my posts did not get derailed, even briefly, by the “awkward flirting” discussion.

JT and I chatted a little before he wrote his post, both about keeping the topics separate and about whether it’s hard to tell when someone is flirting with you. I maintained then, and maintain now that it’s not. If you think it is, that’s probably because you’re unclear on exactly what flirting is.

[Read more...]

Does the G-Spot Exist?

According to Dr Petra, that’s the wrong question to be asking. She makes a good case for her position, too.

Each time studies on the g-spot have been published the media has reacted as though
- these are groundbreaking studies
- the do they/don’t they have g-spots issue is the most pressing topic in sex research
- these studies require no critical attention

And in all these cases journalists – including health and science correspondents – have responded to these studies in one simple way. To frame their stories with the question ‘does the g-spot exist?’ [Read more...]