In Space, No One Can Hear Your Screaming Orgasm

Even as an avowed skeptic, there are a few things in life I have not questioned: the sky is blue, water is wet, Donald Trump will never be the Republican nominee for President, and astronauts have had sex in space.

For years and years and years, I’ve assumed astronauts have had sex in space. Of course they have! It’s probably one of the first things they did, as soon as they heard the word “Liftoff!” and right after they switched the jet propulsion rockets to autopilot, or whatever. (Please don’t leave a message explaining space travel to me in the comments, it will just make my head hurt, and this blog is about sex, a topic about which I’m just marginally more informed.)

Granted, the astronauts may have only had that solo sort of sex, you know, the kind where you fantasize that James Franco is your boyfriend, and that probably got interrupted by another astronaut banging on the toilet compartment door, asking, “What are you doing in there for so long? You’re supposed to be on a space walk!”

I remained convinced that the astronauts (or the cosmonauts, or whoever) had sex in space until I watched the documentary A Year in Space Wednesday night, which chronicles American astronaut Scott Kelly’s year-long mission aboard the International Space Station. The film is streaming online at PBS.org through April 2, so if you missed the original broadcast, you can still catch it there.

 

If you watch the documentary, which I recommend that you do, because it’s fascinating, and beautiful, and quite literally marvelous, the first thing you might notice is that the members of the crew on the International Space Station never have a good hair day. Their hair stands up and away from their scalp all the time, as though they’re forever receiving the most horrible scare of their life, or a constant electric shock.

Needless to say, it’s not a flattering look.

As we’ve all known at least as far back as Farrah Fawcett, a good hairstyle improves your chances of getting laid. And as I’ve known ever since I received a very unfortunate The Rachel back in the ’90s, a bad haircut dooms you to at least six weeks alone with only fantasies of James Franco (or whoever) to keep you warm.

I’m thinking this hair thing is the reason why Scott Kelly shaves his head bald, a style I’d recommend for the entire crew, even the women, if they want to have sex.

As it turns out, they may not even want to, as hard difficult as some of my readers may find that to believe. There’s this thing called “space sickness” which is a kind of constant nausea caused by a disruption to the vestibular system due to weightlessness. Fortunately, the nausea only lasts for a few days, and the human body eventually (and amazingly!) adapts to the environment.

I’m figuring around day three or thereabout, the astronauts stop throwing up and their thoughts return to sex.

Once you get beyond the dizziness and nausea, you still might face other difficulties in joining the 278 Kilometers High Club. Microgravity allows our internal fluids to flow from the lower half of our bodies, where on Earth they tend to settle, and where our sexy parts are situated, into the upper half of our bodies. If you watch A Year in Space you’ll notice how puffy and bloated everyone’s face is, as though they’re all retaining way too much water during a particularly difficult menstrual cycle.

So even if the desire to have sex is there, the ability to have sex may be gone. And I’m not just talking about boners here–blood flow is integral to the sexual experience of women, as well, and it makes a lot of good stuff happen down there for us.

If you research this topic further (I know you’re probably Googling already), you’ll find the answer to whether human beings have had sex in space is unclear. At least, no one is saying whether they have or not. If I were a betting woman, I’d gamble on the fact that they have conducted experiments involving human sexuality. I mean, they’ve studied the effects of the gravity on maintenance of muscle mass in zebrafish and I want to believe someone up there is at least having a bit of fun.

 

 

All the Reasons Why You’re Not Giving (or Getting) a BJ Tonight

Perhaps you, like my husband, are wondering why you didn’t get a BJ last night. Or perhaps you’re wondering why you didn’t give a BJ last night.

Oh, what’s that you say? You haven’t been wondering? Instead, you were thinking about what you’ll order for lunch, or what’s happened to Chaz Bono’s career now that Caitlyn Jenner showed up, but now I’ve put this image in your head that’s playing over and over on a loop in your brain like that clip of the gazelle getting taken down by a lion that you clicked on by accident that one time? It took the arrival of a certified letter from the IRS to get those images out of your head, who knows what it will take this time!

Anyway, keeping with the long-standing tradition of revealing uncomfortable details about my sex life here on Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please, I’m letting you know I haven’t been meeting my quota in the Blow Job Department.

Slide1

As you can see, we’ve been trending down for a long while and even slipped into negative territory recently as I promised to give a blow job on a couple of occasions ( March 20th, The International Day of Happiness and then again on that night the kids slept over a friend’s house) only to renege at the last minute.

Now, if you’ve been reading Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please for, let’s say, longer than two minutes, you’ve probably already realized that I am not a woman who is averse to putting a penis in my mouth.

So why have I (mostly) stopped?

Georgia Platts, over on Broadblogs, in the post Why Do Women Stop Being Pornstars? offers one explanation. She suggests that it’s the cultural repression of female sexuality that makes us, eventually, (mostly) stop. Platts’s argument begins with the assertion that, because we’ve learned to repress our natural sexual feelings, women need a lot of stimulus in order to become sexually aroused, and this stimulation is easy to find when a relationship is fresh and new and exciting. As a relationship develops, that stimulation is harder to come by so there isn’t enough to overcome the internalized behavior to repress our sexual desire.

In all seriousness here for a moment, I hope I have captured Platts’s argument accurately, and if not, I hope she will weigh in to correct me.

OK, back to my nonsense: I read Platts’s post and I immediately thought, “Oh, this is a bunch of hooey!” I can tell you now, some days later, as I’ve been thinking about nothing but BJs as I’ve struggled to compose this post, that I’ve decided Platts’s explanation makes a lot of sense. Long time readers of this blog know that I’ve written at nauseating length about sexual desire in too many posts, and while I don’t think I’ve ever explicitly expressed my thoughts, I think I’ve just always assumed that there is probably some socio-biological explanation for desire.

Platts’s post got me thinking I may be wrong about that.

Still, I would more readily accept female sexual repression as the explanation for the lack of BJs in my marriage if it weren’t for my own experience (that’s called confirmation bias, people) that includes the following:

  1. My husband shows a corresponding decline–perhaps not as drastic, but it’s there all the same–in the frequency of other romantic activities, including (but not limited to) twiddling, canoodling, mug-wumping and East Yurkanian kissing.
  2. While I’m not discounting the experience of other women,  I never thought sex was dirty or disgusting or horrible and (here I go with another uncomfortable detail about my personal life) I remember having sexual thoughts from a pretty early age (And I do mean early. Let’s say five or six. And I had crushes on some boy or another all through elementary school). I developed this attitude toward sex even though the message I received from my mother was that sex is awful and dirty and disgusting and to be endured by women only because we want babies.

So it’s hard for me to accept that the reason I’m not having much oral lately is due to repressed sexual desire, as I don’t think I’ve ever repressed a sexual desire in my life (behavior is another story). Let me say here that I have absolutely no doubt that’s the reason for many women out there, and I don’t mean to diminish or invalidate or pathologize their experience of their own sexuality just because it isn’t identical to mine. If their sex life is causing them unhappiness, I wish them every tool in the box to correct it to their satisfaction, including working through repressed feelings.

Instead, for me, I have to think that the way I feel about blow jobs today is sort of the way I feel about Major League Lacrosse. Let me explain: last week, when my husband suggested we go see a game (or is it called a match? Hmmm. I don’t think I really care), I responded, “I think I’ll pass.”

This is a lacrosse stick. Yeah, I wasn't sure, either.

I won’t be blowing this, either.

But if he had asked me to suck his cock go to a Major League Lacrosse game back when we were dating, I would have jumped at the chance.

What has happened in the intervening dozen years? Have those feelings that Major League Lacrosse is icky and disgusting and I’d be a dirty whore if I wanted to go see a game match game re-emerged, after being held at bay for a number of years by the initial thrill and excitement of discovering there was, indeed, such a sport as Major League Lacrosse?

Have I sworn off Major League Lacrosse fellatio forever now that I’m in an old, dull relationship?

I hope not. We shall see as my marriage lurches through its second decade.

As this post winds down, I’d be remiss if I didn’t raise this issue: I have to question if establishing a standard of what Ms. Platts calls “pornstar sex” is setting just one more unattainable goal for many women, like squeezing into 24 inch waist jeans and filling out double D bra cups.

Maybe “pornstar sex” shouldn’t be the expectation (aspiration?).

Ok, so I promised to give you the reasons why you’re not giving/getting BJs. How the hell do you expect me to know? All I can tell you is why I’m not giving one tonight.

  • I’m too familiar with my husband’s penis. I already know what it’s like to give my husband a BJ. As a species, I think humans desire novelty, new experiences, and we’re curious. It’s the reason why we’ve ventured into outer space and also the reason why I blew that guy Ryan, freshman year, even though he was kind of a jerk. We needed to know what it was like to walk on the moon and also what it’s like to give a BJ to a jerk, I guess.

    A Sister of the Or Something.

    A Sister of the Or Something.

  • I’m old. Oh, God, it kills me to say it, but I’m old and those sex hormones that seemed like they would rage through my bloodstream forever now need a cane and a walker to get around. Before this is all over and I’m lying cold and dead in the ground, who knows how I’ll feel about blow jobs? I’ve always imagined myself as a surprisingly spry, and incredibly horny, 80-year old but now I may turn into one of those women who decides late in life to join a religious order, the Sisters of the Sexually Inactive (or something).

So there you have it, the latest in my ongoing series of “Posts That Will Get You To Unfollow My Blog.”

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at freeimages.comI made that crappy line chart myself.

There Needs to Be More Disagreement on the Internet

I’ve had it up to here (FYI: I’m holding my hand up to my chin) with all you people agreeing with one another on the Internet.

Doesn’t anyone like to fight anymore?

Maybe not, and maybe we never did. According to this article, “The Science of Protecting People’s Feelings,” there’s some research that shows human beings want to treat all opinions, even objectively proven false ones, as equally valid. They’ve named it “equality bias.” This research might explain why human beings give credence to the anti-vaxxers, climate change-deniers and flat-earthers.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that I disagree with the study’s conclusion, as I’ve been known to disagree. Instead of believing that humans strive for “equality,” I think the experiment shows that humans naturally work towards consensus or accommodation, even with idiots, and especially when we are working/living in close quarters with them, as opposed to across a natural boundary like a river or a mountain range. When idiots live on the other side of the mountain, the idiots on one side gather sticks and stones and mountain climbing gear and then head over to take what they can.

Anyway, I’m not going to weigh in on the import of this new research. Long time readers of this blog already know my opinion: lots of supposedly “scientific” research just confirms the existing biases of the researchers. In a few months, there will be a new study that contradicts this one, and confirms the biases of a whole new set of researchers. Still, I won’t dismiss this research entirely, and I like to think of it as a starting point for argument debate discussion.

So let’s argue debate discuss.

I’m intrigued by what this new research might mean for something that has long puzzled me: why do people leave comments on blogs such as, “You are so right! Great post!” and “Is it ok if I re-blog this? You put the words to my thoughts exactly!” I mean, they leave those sorts of comments on your blog posts. I don’t get those sorts of comments on my blog posts, because no one reads my blog who wants to be seen endorsing porn, or admit they were Googling the best places to have sex in public or reading about, um, Miley Cyrus?

I'm terrific at everything!

Dunning-Kruger effect, unskilled version: Yes,  I am terrific at this!

Now let’s see what “The Science of Protecting People’s Feelings” has to tell us about why people leave those comments. If you didn’t click on the linky-link to the article, don’t worry, I’ll catch you up: The article reports on an experiment examining the Dunning-Kruger effect. From the Wikipedia entry (despite what your teachers told you, Wikipedia is a great source of information on all things), here’s the definition, because I know you slept through Intro to Psych, on account of that was the semester you were dating the guy in a band who played a bunch of gigs out of town and what were you thinking when you signed up for an eight am class, anyway?

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude. Conversely, highly skilled individuals tend to underestimate their relative competence, erroneously assuming that tasks which are easy for them are also easy for others.

The Dunning-Kruger effect: I'm pretty good at this. Other people must be good at it, too, like that goofy guy over there holding his finger in the air.

The Dunning-Kruger effect, highly skilled version: I’m pretty good at this. Other people must be good at it, too, like that goofy guy over there holding his finger in the air.

So that’s the Dunning-Kruger effect. This new experiment looked at the behavior of those high-skilled individuals when they encountered the unskilled. To the surprise of perhaps no one except the researchers, the highly skilled folks worked toward consensus with the unskilled, even after the incompetence of the unskilled was exposed, time and time again. Instead of being discounted, the view of the unskilled was treated as being just as good.

Ok, I can’t be the only one who was reminded by this experiment of the various “teams” I’ve participated on in the workplace: the goal of the workgroup isn’t so much to come up with some great new idea or process (Yay, synergy!), it’s to control the PITAs. It’s not that we believe their ideas are “equal”; we just want to go home at 5 o’clock.

By now you’re probably thinking, What the hell does this have do with comments on blogs? Am I suggesting that you, or your readers, are idiots incompetents unskilled? No, I’m suggesting this explains why you got 274 comments (of which, 137 were your reply of “Thanks!”) on your last post, all of which said, essentially, “Great post! I agree with you so, so, so much!” and not one “You could not be more fantastically, historically, gargantuanly wrong!” There seems to be a human need to reach agreement, or at least the appearance of agreement, and the evolutionary benefits are obvious: if we didn’t mostly agree with one another, we’d rip each other’s throats out, and long ago the earth would have been over run by amoebas, who don’t have enough brain cells to form an opinion, let alone a cohesive argument. (I wonder what amoebas would argue about if they could. Perhaps whether  phagocytosis or  pinocytosis is a superior method of absorbing nutrients. Again, Wikipedia comes in handy!)

Except, every once in awhile, a reader (like me) comes along and says, “Hold on a minute. I don’t agree with your blog post and here’s why.”

As a person who enjoys arguing debating discussing things, and, as the writer of a blog that occasionally veers from its stated goals of humor and sex to discuss the way we behave on the Internet, I often wonder why people bother to express their agreement in comments on posts.  If all I have to say is “Right on!” or “Word!” or “IKR” (depending on your generation), why bother? The blogger has already said what I wanted to say in the post, apparently, and better than I could have said it. Do I really need to give him/her a thumbs up in the comments?  Isn’t that why we have a  “Like” button? (Oh, man, don’t get me started on the “Like” button). Does what I will call a “cheer-leading comment” really add to the discussion?

Or maybe I’m thinking about it all wrong. Maybe it’s not a discussion. Maybe the comments section of a blog are just a bunch of human beings milling around, trying to convey a more primal message: “I’m not dangerous. Please don’t attack me. See? I agree with you. Now let’s go off and hunt a mammoth together.”

Of course, that doesn’t explain why I don’t want to go off and hunt a mammoth agree with you.

I’m sure if I were born out on the tundra somewhere 2 million years ago, I would have slowly starved to death because I pissed off the rest of my tribe.

ZogetteCro-Magnon Me: Do you think this makes sense, what we’re doing? I mean, there’s an awful lot of walking.

My Cro-Magnon Colleague: What else would we do all day? It’s not like there’s TV to watch.

ZogetteCro-Magnon Me: I don’t know. Maybe we should sit down on those rocks over here and we can brainstorm some ideas.

My Cro-Magnon Colleague:  That’s a waste of time! We only have eight hours of daylight to hunt this mammoth!

ZogetteCro-Magnon Me: Is it a waste of time? Can you give me just five seconds to let me explain how it’s not a waste of time?

My Cro-Magnon Colleague: That’s it! No fucking mammoth for you. I’m tired of your bullshit arguing all the time about everything!

Anyway, don’t worry. Despite what this research says about me (I’m an anomaly? A weirdo? A jerk?) I’m still going to wander over to your blog to argue debate discuss. You’ll write some nice post about the dinner you had at Applebee’s, and then you’ll see my little gravatar show up in your comments and you’ll  think, “Oh, no, not this asshole again.”

Royalty-free stock photos, including the images in this post, can be found at freeimages.com

Even Our Beavers Are Different

I’m a fan of a bunch of ex-patriate blogs here on WordPress (check out Ellen Hawley’s blogroll on Notes from the UK for a great list of bloggers straddling cultures), and after years months of reading these blogs study, I think I’ve stumbled across the difference between Americans and Europeans: it’s all about beaver.

See, there are only two varieties of beaver in this world, the European Beaver which looks like this:

677480_44997684and the North American beaver, which looks like this:

677480_44997684
As you can see*, they’re a lot alike, and, according to the scientific journal Mammal Research, both European beavers and their American cousins inhabit similar ecosystems and lead similar lives, dividing their time between chewing down trees and building up dams.

Except there’s this one perhaps not inconsequential difference: European beavers are monogamous, while American beavers sleep around.

I’m an American who writes about science law Dr. Ruth Westheimer beavers sex, so this bit of information absolutely delights me, because of course American beavers are out there slutting it up. I’m sure there’s a few whole bunch of Europeans who read this blog and are nodding their heads right along with me, but for different reasons.

“Isn’t that just like an American?” I imagine them saying. “Even their beavers are vulgar.”

Since my knowledge of Europeans comes mostly from watching Masterpiece Theater, I could be wrong about what they might think. Perhaps when they hear about our sexy beavers they’ll think something like “How wonderful!” or “Isn’t that interesting?” rather than express disgust at our aquatic mammals who are unable to resist their baser instincts.

I guess I’ll never know for sure what Europeans think unless I travel outside the US. As readers of this blog know, I’ve been contemplating a trip to Great Britain where I could observe the inhabitants up close in their natural surroundings, just like the scientists who researched the mating habits of beavers, rather than long distance, via an episode of Downton Abbey.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading all these ex-patriate blogs, trying to prepare myself, and I’ve come away with the distinct impression that the rest of the world has a few problems with Americans. And South Americans have a problem with us even calling ourselves “Americans” because aren’t they Americans, too? What’s with these self-centered, self-absorbed, conceited, narcissistic  norteamericanos thinking they’re the only Americans that matter in the whole entire world?

Anyway, if you Google the phrase “American stereotype” you’ll find out what much of the world thinks of us. To them, Americans exist as a dazzling array of unpleasant characteristics.

  • We’re violent. We all carry guns and shoot one another at random.
  • We’re loud. We talk loud, we laugh loud, we breathe loud, we just have to announce our presence everywhere with noise.
  • We’re obnoxious/rude/uncouth/arrogant. Take your pick. Or all of the above.
  • We’re ignorant about the world, and most everything else.
  • We’re obsessed with money.

And maybe we are all of those things. All I know is that when I travel to Europe, I want to make sure that no one ever says after I leave a room, “Of course, she’s American.” Instead, I want to absolutely explode the stereotype of Americans in the minds of the Europeans I encounter. When I leave the room, I want them to say, “Can you believe she’s American?”

I'll even eat French food.

In my effort to prove that not all Americans are provincial, I’ll even eat French food.

I haven’t yet figured out how I’ll do this. Maybe I’ll wear a beret. Maybe I’ll chain smoke cigarettes out of a skinny cigarette holder. Maybe I’ll drop the names of world capitals into conversation. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to lose my accent, which sounds like I’m from New York to people who have never been to New York (I’m actually from Connecticut originally), but I’m thinking I might have to pretend to be mute, which would at least solve that “Americans are loud” thing, too.

So I’m prepared to do all that, and explain our lecherous beavers to them.

*The actual title of this photo, and I swear I am not making this up, is “Wet Beaver.”

Royalty-free stock photos, including the images in this post, can be found at freeimages.com.

My Mission to Mars

Mars needs women. And men. And quirky musicians and nerdy physicians.

These are the sorts of folks who have applied for the Mars One project. You may have read about the project before. It’s a private, not-for-profit endeavor that plans to send normal, average, everyday people to the red planet on a one-way ticket (that’s cheaper than a round-trip fare, natch). Anyway, the Washington Post profiled some of the applicants in a recent piece titled,”Would you leave your family behind to be the first human to set foot on Mars?

With a decade until takeoff, Mars One founders reasoned that they don’t need the most experienced, educated or credentialed astronauts. They need people — four for the first trip, and four every two years after that — who can psychologically handle spending the rest of their lives with only each other on a planet no human has ever set foot upon.

I’ll admit, yes, there are days I would leave my family behind to set foot anywhere other than the  Philadelphia suburb where we reside, including Mars. Like the other day when my daughter shared some information (“The toilets in our house clog all the time.”) with a playmate’s mother.

That was one day where I wished I could hop a rocket to Mars.

Or when my husband moved the sofa in the living room so that when he lies down on it, he can still see the TV.

“You’re upsetting the conversational arrangement of the furniture,” I said. “Now when guests come over, there will be a lot of awkward silences, due to the position of the couch.”

“When do we ever have guests?” he asked.

“Just put the damn sofa back where it was.”

And while we argued, I again wished I could book a ticket to Mars.

But upon further research, I’m thinking I might prefer a tropical island here on Earth a bit more than the foreboding surface of the fourth planet from the sun. Mars has a thin atmosphere that’s full of huge dusty, rusty sandstorms stirred up from its iron surface. It’s mostly really cold, even colder than this interminable 2015 winter. The surface cannot support life as we know it, but some scientists believe there may be something going on below ground: perhaps there’s water, and maybe some one-celled amoebas or something floating around there.

As the planet is uninhabitable, the successful applicants to the program wouldn’t actually be living “on” Mars. They’ll be living in a space station camped on the surface, sort of like how some RVers park in the lots of different Walmart SuperCenters as they travel around the country. I guess technically they’re seeing the whole United States, but doesn’t one WalMart SuperCenter pretty much look like any other? My point is, if I can’t actually go out and experience WalMart Mars, why not just stay home? Oh, sure, I guess I can look out the window and see WalMart Mars, or put on some insulated suit that protects me against WalMart Mars*, but what’s the point? It seems like a lot of work to live your life as a shut-in with only occasional excursions out dressed like the Michelin Man for only as long as your oxygen tank holds out.

I’m sure I could never “psychologically handle” a trip to Mars. I suffer from all sorts of anxieties (mix some acrophobia, agoraphobia, and claustrophobia with a healthy dose of misanthropy and you’ll wind up with the cocktail that is me) that would make me the world’s worst Mars One Martian. I doubt if I would be able to survive the lift-off, let alone the 34 million mile journey.

Mars-onauts.

Mars-onauts.

Me, on the spaceship to Mars: You don’t think this spaceship is going to crash, do you? Never mind worrying about surviving on the surface of Mars, we could die right here, on the launchpad, in a fiery explosion. And did you get a good look at the pilot? He looks like a drinker to me. I hope he’s sober today. And could they make this spaceship any smaller, do you think? I feel like a sardine in a can. Is that how you feel? What a way to die, trapped like a sardine in a can. Oh, God, I don’t want to die! Not like this, not like a sardine in a can!

In the unlikely event that I survived the flight to Mars without one of the other passengers cutting off my oxygen supply, the worst part of the ordeal was to come: I’d have to live with the same three people for two whole years until the next mission arrived.

See, I already live with the same three people: my two kids and my husband. And I don’t much like being with them a lot of the time. Imagine if I were trapped with people I hadn’t carried in my womb for nine months, or the guy who I still (occasionally) want to be with naked.

I just don’t see it ending well.

Me, on Mars: Who the fuck left the top off the toothpaste again? Now it’s all floated off to God knows where. What, did you forget that we’re living in an environment with only a third of the gravitational pull as Earth? Next time, before you pull a dumbass move like this, take a look out the window. See all that red dust blowing up a shitstorm out there? That’s because we’re on fucking Mars, you assholes! Now put the fucking top back on the toothpaste!

Besides fighting with each other, just what are “average” people supposed to do all day on Mars, which is 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth? I guess they won’t be conducting experiments because they aren’t scientists, or else the experiments they conduct will have to be like the ones from my eighth grade science fair where half the class stuck copper wires into a potato and called it a day. But even I must admit that extra forty minutes would come in handy, and, at the very least, no one will have an excuse for not completing the Amazing 37-Minute Workout.

For most people, I imagine the deal breaker with the Mars One project is that you can’t come back. Still, there seem to be an awful lot of people who aren’t bothered by this requirement. According to yesterday’s news release, there were 202,586 applicants, and that number has now been winnowed down to a crazy lucky 100.

*Wouldn’t it be great if there really were suits you could wear to protect yourself against Walmart?

Royalty-free stock photos, including the images in this post, can be found at freeimages.com.

London Calling

crop_443e3f43-6589-4a1e-ba42-91160327ff67_0_400_3048_3432_420_473

Let’s hope he got paid a whole lot of money for this picture.

If you wander into my office, you may notice a blank US passport application lying on my desk. Up until now, the application has mainly provided me with the opportunity to engage in fantasy: when I get stressed, I take a look at the application and imagine myself jetting off to some damp and dreary exotic locale where the natives speak British English an indecipherable language and eat Marmite curious foods. Usually, I’m shaken out of the fantasy by the realization that I’ll have to get a photo taken for the passport and I’m waiting for a good hair day.

But my hand (and my hair) may have been forced by a new exhibit at the Wellcome Collection in London. The exhibit is called The Institute of Sexology: Undress Your Mind and it promises to combine several of the things I love most in life: a musty museum, scientific research, and sex. From the Wellcome Collection’s website:

‘The Institute of Sexology’ is a candid exploration of the most publicly discussed of private acts. Undress your mind and join us to investigate human sexuality at ‘The Institute’, the first of our longer exhibitions. Featuring over 200 objects spanning art, rare archival material, erotica, film and photography, this is the first UK exhibition to bring together the pioneers of the study of sex.

How could I not go?

Free baby-sitting boxes.

Free baby-sitting while you enjoy the exhibit.

The problem, of course, is my very Irish, very Catholic husband. I’m afraid he might run out of places to avert his eyes at an exhibit full of carved ivory penises and ersatz vaginas (from the Kraftt-Ebing display, naturally).

If you knew my husband, you’d know that he would insist, against all evidence to the contrary, that he would have no problem with the exhibit, but what about our two school-aged children? Surely this exhibit would not be appropriate for them. 

But he would be wrong.

You see, the good people over at the Wellcome Collection have provided an entire “learning resource for teachers” over on their website to accompany the Institute of Sexology exhibit and it’s full of lots of fun pre- and post- visit activities, such as

 Divide your class into three groups (A, B, C) and give each a flipchart and pens. Get each group to write down all the words they can think of for A) male genitalia, B) female genitalia and C) having sex. Have the groups then swap papers and circle in different colours the words they think it is OK to say  1) in the classroom, 2) round the dinner table, 3) in the playground, 4) in the bedroom, 5) in the sexual health clinic and 6) in a research questionnaire.

As I read this, I’m trying to think of what sort of sexual words would be appropriate to say “round the dinner table” and I’m coming up short. (Breast, maybe, if I’m serving Chicken Kiev?)

(On a side note, early in my professional life I worked as a corporate trainer, and I am horribly familiar with the disasters that can unfold when you give a group of people free access to flip charts and pens, even when you’re just brainstorming ideas to support the “strategic plan” and not talking about sex.)

So maybe my family isn’t ready for a trip to London, if they’re busy herding schoolchildren into museums full of wangs (not appropriate over the dinner table) and hoohas (appropriate anywhere, from this blog to the State of the Union address) over there.

There are still plenty of wangs and hoohas I haven’t seen yet here in the good ol’ USA.

The Institute of Sexology exhibit at the Wellcome Collection runs through September 20, 2015.

 

The black and white photo appears under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence (attribution the Wellcome Library). Royalty-free stock photos, including the other image in this post, can be found at freeimages.com

Fewer Sexual Partners. Bigger Weddings. Happier Marriages?

This many.

This many.

If you ask me how many sexual partners I had before I married, I’ll probably awkwardly casually put my hand up to my mouth and mumble through my fingers some number between “three” and “thirty-three” depending on how good your hearing is.

And if you ask me about my wedding, I’ll tell you I got married on a Friday afternoon (I left work early) at the county courthouse in front of the district judge. The judge’s secretary was called away from her desk to act as witness. Her phone rang in the middle of the ceremony and she whispered, “I’ll just let that go to voicemail.” Afterward, my new husband and I went to dinner and then he went off to work a 16 hour shift and I went off home to bed.

Those two factors (the number of sexual partners prior to marriage and the small size of the wedding) have destined my marriage for eventual failure, at least according to the researchers at the University of Virginia and their study, “Before I Do: What do premarital experiences have to do with marital quality among young adults?”

“We’re doomed!” I told my husband.

“You’re right,” he agreed after scanning the research findings. “If only we’d known about this earlier, we could have already divorced.”

I nodded. “Instead, we’ve hung on to this sham of a marriage for years!”

“Look here.” He pointed out a paragraph in the study he found particularly interesting.

In our sample, only 23 percent of the individuals who got married over the course of the study had had sex solely with the person they married. That minority of men and women reported higher marital quality than those who had had sex with other partners prior to marriage. We further found that the more sexual partners a woman had had before marriage, the less happy she reported her marriage to be. This association was not statistically significant for men. [emphasis added]

Or maybe this many,

Or maybe this many.

“So now you know the reason why I’m always bitching about you not replacing the toilet paper roll,” I said. “It’s because of all those guys I slept with before I met you.”

He shook his head. “No, you missed the other part from their research.” He quoted from the article. “‘This association was not statistically significant for men.’ Don’t you see? I could have slept with a different girl every night, and still we would have a happy marriage.”

“So my slutting around before we got married is what will cause our children to come from a broken home?”

“I’m afraid so.”

After positing these outrageous (and headline grabbing) claims in the first few sentences, this study, like so many of these studies, then takes it all back in the next few sentences.

It could be that these underlying traits or experiences, rather than the behaviors we analyzed, explain the associations reported here. This objection applies to most research that is not based on randomized experiments. We cannot prove causal associations between the personal and couple factors we explore and marital quality. [emphasis added]

Let me explain what they’re saying here: We had a hypothesis (Big Weddings and Fewer Sexual Partners Lead to Happier Marriages!) that our research did not prove (We Don’t Have a Clue Why Some Marriages are Happier Than Others!), and yet we published this paper anyway.

Given the fact that the researchers with the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia admit their study didn’t prove much of anything, I guess I’ll just ignore it and go on focusing on the number of sexual partners I’ve had after I married, rather than before.

Royalty free images, including the ones in this post, can be found at freeimages.com.

The Future Includes Butt-Wiping Robots Who Provide Sparkling Dinner Conversation

The future is full of toilet paper.

The future is full of toilet paper.

 

If ever there was an article in the newspaper that made me want to die young and leave a good looking corpse, it’s got to be this one: “The Future of Robot Caregivers.” It’s a piece from the New York Times in which the author, Louise Aronson, a professor of geriatrics at the University of California, argues for the creation and manufacture of robot overlords caregivers because taking care of old people is, um, hard and gross.

 

Caregiving is hard work. More often than not, it is tedious, awkwardly intimate and physically and emotionally exhausting. Sometimes it is dangerous or disgusting. Almost always it is 24/7 and unpaid or low wage, and has profound adverse health consequences for those who do it. It is women’s work and immigrants’ work, and it is work that many people either can’t or simply won’t do.

Aronson’s solution to the problem is to pay higher wages to elderly care workers create and manufacture robots to care for and interact with the elderly until the old people drop dead.  It’s kind of an interesting future the author envisions, and one that I imagine would appeal not only to the old and infirm, but to a 33 year old mother of two who blogs (that’s me):

Imagine this: Since the robot caregiver wouldn’t require sleep, it would always be alert and available in case of crisis. While my patient slept, the robot could do laundry and other household tasks. When she woke, the robot could greet her with a kind, humanlike voice, help her get out of bed safely and make sure she was clean after she used the toilet. It — she? he? — would ensure that my patient took the right medications in the right doses. At breakfast, the robot could chat with her about the weather or news.

want someone to do my laundry while I’m sleeping.  want someone to chat pleasantly with me without rolling their eyes or turning up the volume on the television. Not sure why the old people get to have all the good stuff.

What the author fails to recognize is that science is a long way off from creating a machine that can approximate human behavior, if it’s even possible. Oh, it seems like we’re close, because every so often we hear about a “breakthrough”–remember when that IBM computer, Watson, beat the human contestants at the television game show Jeopardy!? (I remember: I blogged about it in “Watson, Come Here, I Need You”) At the time, there was much hullaballoo until people realized Watson wasn’t anything more than a souped-up version of Google.

1284131526936308632foto_terland ter zee en in de lucht-th

I’m too advanced to assist with your disgusting bodily functions.

Then a few weeks ago, researchers announced that a computer had finally passed the Turing Test: a chatbot program tricked a few people into thinking it was actually human. The researchers contended this met the standard for artificial intelligence set out by the British scientist Alan Turing (I’ve also blogged about Turing and his test for artificial intelligence before in this post, “More Human Than Human”). That was all well and good until you examine the details of the experiment: while 30% of the participants thought the computer was human, a whopping 70% correctly identified it as a computer.  Further, the interaction between humans and the computer lasted for only five minutes. I could probably convince 30%  of you all that I’m the Queen of England (and that the Queen has a thick American accent) in a five minute convo.

So while it may not even be possible to create machines that are this sophisticated, let’s try to imagine a society capable of that sort of technology: wouldn’t it have already solved problems like failing eyesight and decreased mobility? In my lifetime, we’ve mapped the human genome, created a vaccine for cancer, a pill for HIV, laparoscopic surgery, and we routinely replace hips and knees. It seems much more likely that we’ll make advances in the treatment of the diseases of old age before we figure out how to manufacture humanoids.

In conclusion, I think we’ll be wiping our own butts in the future.

Royalty free images, including the ones in this post, can be found at freeimages.com.

It’s 3am, I Must Be Up Reading Your Blog

Daily Post at WordPress.com

The Daily Prompt from the Daily Post for February 26:

What is the best dream you’ve ever had? Recount it for us in all its ethereal glory. If no dream stands out in your memory, recount your worst nightmare. Leave no frightening detail out.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us IMAGINARY.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

I’m one of those people who not only remembers my dreams, but I’m also annoying enough to tell you about them, in excruciating detail, over breakfast.

“. . . and then all my teeth started to fall out,” I’ll say to you while you’re waiting for your cup of coffee to cool enough to drink.

“And they felt like shards of broken glass in my mouth,” I’ll continue even though you’re not even listening anymore, you’re thinking about how your period is late and maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to hook up with Brad after all.  Or else you’re thinking about how the dog’s breath has been smelling funny lately and you should make an appointment with the vet for her after work.

But there I am, my voice droning on, still detailing my dream to you as though I haven’t even noticed your eyes glazing over.  Sometimes I’ll even add dramatic hand gestures to my story-telling, pantomiming the dream sequence.

“So I had to spit them out of my mouth and into my hand, one by one, like this.” I hold my hands before my mouth and make several loud “Ptooey!” noises.

“And then I held my hands out for everyone to see.” I hold out my palms to you. With only a slight hesitation, you lean forward to check to see if there are any teeth there.  There are not.  It was only a dream.

"Mmmm, of course I'll be your girlfriend, James Franco."

“Mmmm, of course I’ll be your girlfriend, James Franco.”

My husband is one of those people who never remembers his dreams.

“Not even the sex ones?” I asked.

“No, not even the sex ones, ” he said.

“Ok, well, then let me tell you about this sex dream I had last night . . .” Fortunately, this particular sex dream co-starred my husband (they don’t always).

Anyway, I’ve always assumed that people like my husband who don’t remember their dreams are rational and no-nonsense.  Meanwhile, people who do remember their dreams like me are creative and maybe a little bit dippy.

Now along comes this study, “Resting Brain Activity Varies with Dream Recall Frequency Between Subjects,” that says that I’m all wrong.  Dream recall has nothing to do with being creative!  It’s merely a matter of how soundly one sleeps.  From the Washington Post article on the research:

In general, dream recall is thought to require some amount of wakefulness during the night for the vision to be encoded in longer-term memory. But it is not known what causes some people to wake up more than others.

So people who wake up a lot at night have the opportunity to remember their dreams and store them in long term memory so they can recall them later, while people who sleep through until the alarm clock goes off never get that chance.

This makes perfect sense to me because I remember my dreams and I never sleep through the night! In fact, you may have noticed the odd time stamps on the comments I leave on your blog and you’ve been scratching your head wondering what time zone I live in.  Is it Brunei Darussalam Time? How about Hawaii-Aleutian Daylight Time?  No, it’s Eastern Standard Time and it really is 3am and I’m up reading your blog.

Royalty free stock photos including the image in this post can be found at Stock.XCHNG.

I Could Be Blogging About Sex Among the Demented in Nursing Homes

At the risk of turning this blog into something that is read only by science nerds who have absolutely no chance of ever getting laid, I’m going to write again about some interesting (at least to me) scientific studies that were recently published trying to explain how monogamy evolved in mammals, even though monogamy is not widely practiced among mammals (only 3% of species) but is ostensibly the goal of humans, or at least that’s what we claim in our Facebook profiles.

I can hear you whining right now, “Oh, no, not more science!  Where are the dick jokes?” so just let me say this: Consider yourself lucky to be reading about monogamy and primates because I was this close to writing about sex among the demented in nursing homes.

Plus, I'm always talking about monkeys fucking.

Maybe I never get laid because I smell like chemicals all the time.

So why did marginal minuscule inconsequential some mammals decide to practice monogamy? Two theories are proposed. The first, outlined in the paper, Male Infanticide Leads to Social Monogamy in Primates, published this past week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (how’s that for a magazine title?) argues that monogamy developed in some primates because a male would impregnate a female and then go off to impregnate more females and while he was gone, his progeny would be born and promptly murdered by another male, who then hoped to mate with the single and newly unencumbered female. Eventually, the first male realizes, “Hey, my babies keep getting killed when I wander away.  Maybe if I stay here I can fight off these motherfuckers and put a stop to that shit.”

Thus we have monogamy.

If only I could get her to engage in a little dirty chatter!

Sure, she won’t go down on me anymore, but the dragonfruit here is so tasty!

The other theory, put forth by researchers at Cambridge in the article The Evolution of Social Monogamy in Mammals and published this month in the journal Science (a less intimidating title I’m much more likely to read, because while I am a science nerd, I do hope to get laid) focuses not on the violent behavior of horny males, but on hostile and solitary behavior of females, who may or may not be horny, but who are definitely hungry, and work to keep other females away from the most desirable feeding locations, usually by chasing and biting and making horrible, scary noises that encourage the other females to go a ways down the road to eat.  So this angry, solitary female is out there guarding her good food and the horny male wanders into her territory to mate and thinks, “Hey, the food is pretty good here, and the other female I’d like to screw is way, way over there down the road, so maybe I should just stay here and eat the good food and wait around for this female here to screw again rather than expend the effort to screw that other female, where the food may not be as good.”

And thus we have monogamy.

These two competing theories were rattling around my brain the other day as I’m standing in my kitchen cooking dinner.  At the exact same moment, my husband is sitting at the dining room table, scrolling through his iPhone.  A generation ago, he would have been sitting there, a knife clutched in one hand, a fork in the other, and  a napkin tucked in his collar.  A millenium ago, he would have wandered into my territory and thought, “Hey, the food is pretty good here.”

Royalty free stock photos including the images in this post can be found at Stock.XCHNG