Tag: Polls and Surveys

Nocturnal orgasms — women have them too

Posted in news, Polls and Surveys by jenapincott on June 25, 2009

For the 40 percent of women who’ve had one, an orgasm in a dream is often more intense that one in real life. And it’s not just a dream — a nocturnal orgasm is a real physiological phenomenon. The dreamer awakens to the same pulsing sensations she’d have during an orgasm from masturbation or sex. Her heart rate surges, her breathing deepens, her vaginal blood flow increases. Her orgasm might even be so fierce that she cramps up as she transitions from dream to reality.

Why?

A few studies shed some light:

1. During REM, the relative pulse pressure in the vagina increases. This also happens to a man’s penis, resulting in nocturnal emissions and morning erections. The content of the dream doesn’t appear to affect genital pulse — after all, it increases every time you sleep — but the physical sensation may influence your dreams (no one knows for sure). At the same time, the parts of the brain that inhibit orgasm, particularity the prefrontal cortex and amygdala, are offline when you’re asleep. (Readers of BLONDES might recall that the left amygdala, associated with anxiety, and the prefrontal correct are quiet during orgasm.)

2. Female orgasm can result from brain activity alone — “no hands.” Evidence of this comes from the research of Beverley Whipple, who studied women who reach orgasm via “self-induced imagery” (i.e. fantasy) alone. Volunteers’ blood pressure, heart rate, pupil size, pain threshold, and so on increase as they reach climax, their hands nowhere near their genitals.

As speculated by Whipple ( see also her research on paralyzed women), a “hands-off” orgasm may channel the vagus nerve, which is like a livewire that extends from the brain to the cervix via the heart, lungs, and other organs. Not every orgasm strums it — but, like hitting the right chord, a vagus nerve climax is said to be richer and more fulfilling. Some women think they can even feel it surge through their bodies from their brainstems. (See previous blog about asphyxiophiliacs.) It’s interesting: Vagus nerve activity might be one reason why so many women say their nocturnal orgasms are so much stronger than their diurnal ones.

Only in their dreams….

POLL: PMSbuddy — insult or asset?

Posted in news, Polls and Surveys by jenapincott on February 1, 2009

I’m amused by all the attention lavished on PMSbuddy, a free online service for men to keep track of their [wife’s, girlfriend’s, mother’s, sister’s, daughter’s] menstrual cycles. Advertised as a way of giving guys a “heads-up” at “that time of month,” the site tracks a woman’s cycle and predicts when she might be her “most irritable…when things can get intense for what may seem to be no reason at all.”

A few reactions:

1. From a reproductive standpoint, it’s actually in a gal’s best interest to keep her partner in the dark about her fertility cycles. As described in BLONDES, there are reasons why women evolved to have concealed ovulation. If your partner knows when you’re fertile, he knows when to guard you. (Of course, we inadvertently advertise our fertility anyway, albeit subtly.) And if he knows when you’re not fertile, he might go out and sleep with someone who is. Evolutionarily speaking, of course.

2. Women’s tolerance for the PMSbuddy proves that we live in a post-feminist era. Many women are genuinely OK with the concept. Yes, our moods fluctuate with our hormones — so what? However, judging from reactions online, some women are shouting sexism — and I wonder if there is a generational difference. These women are offended by the idea that their moods are predicted by hormones, at least to the degree that anyone else would notice. It suggests we have less control over our bodies and behavior than we’d like. Worse, some think PMSbuddy’s premise is that women are unstable and irrational in ways that men are not.

3. But the latter just isn’t true — that is, men are also hormonally volatile — and acknowledging this makes all the difference. As I discuss in the book, men’s testosterone levels rise and fall dramatically depending on their situation or context. Sometimes men have their own predictable cycles. Want proof? Take SuperBowl Sunday. Is your man a Steelers or Cardinals fan? How his team fares may predict whether his testosterone rises or plummets, which in turn could affect his mood for the next day or two.

Perhaps it’s time for TBuddy: a service to predict your man’s testosterone-based mood swings at “that time of season,” based on the game schedule and sports forecasting services. (A daily TBuddy may predict mood by taking into account the Dow and NASDAQ market predictions.)

POLL: Love blockers –would you take them?

Posted in news, Polls and Surveys by jenapincott on January 14, 2009


Is this the end of love as we know it — exasperating, unpredictable, uncontrollable, and full of rogue potential? Does the future offer sex without emotional mayhem? Fuss-free breakups?

“Love is dead.” “Anti-love drug may be ticket to bliss.” Such are today’s headlines trumpeting the research of neuroscientist Larry Young. Dr Young and his team at Yerkes Research Center are best known for their studies on the love lives of more-or-less monogamous prairie voles. (In BLONDES I describe their fascinating views on the genetic and hormonal basis of bonding and what it might mean for humans. On a related topic, check out my cheating gene post.) The first question inspired by this research is “Can a drug make you fall in love?” The flip side of this coin is just as rich: “Can a drug prevent you from falling in love?”

For now it’s all speculation, but many researchers, including Dr Young, believe the latter is possible. (Fewer care to speculate on the former. Given how difficult love is to define, it’s easier to say you can prevent it than invoke it.) The gist of the idea is that a drug could short-circuit the biochemical pathways that flood the “emotional bonding regions” of the brain with neurohormones such as oxytocin and vasopressin. Just as morning-after pills work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting, so the “anti-love drug” — oxytocin or vasopressin blockers — would prevent emotional seeds from taking root. Female voles who are given anti-love drugs can mate with a male dozens of times and fail to exhibit any of their usual bonding tendencies, no matter how affectionate the males.

What good is an anti-love drug? The possibilities abound. A few nasal puffs and a woman may more easily have “sex like a man,” feeling pleasure but free of the morning-after anxiety of whether he’s “all that into her.” People in addictive, abusive relationships could just pick up and carry on. Couples may have open marriages without emotional messiness. There may be fewer midlife crises involving trophy wives and umbrella boys. Sex would be only sex. The anti-love drug could be a temporary fix of sanity.

But would you dare take it — even on a short-term basis? At risk of throwing the poll above, my vote is no. What sort of human beings would we be without a range and depth of emotional experience? The angst and anguish of lost love. The self-mending. Even the melancholic savor. What would we learn about ourselves without it? Even in the twenty-first century I’d say it’s better to love and lose than never to love at all.

POLL: Would you take a drug to stay madly in love?

Posted in news, Polls and Surveys by jenapincott on November 19, 2008

The truth about romantic outliers. At last, a preliminary report on the brain scans of couples who have been passionately in love for decades! I was particularly excited about this research because it promised to give us insights into why some people are able to preserve the intensity of their initial love, while for most couples passion fades or becomes something more like a comfortable companionship. The researchers — Bianca Acevedo, Lucy Brown, and Helen Fisher — found that these outliers, madly in love for more than twenty years, have something in common with people who have just recently fallen in love: an active ventral tegmental area (VTA), a “reward region” of the brain. The VTA releases dopamine, the hormone of pleasure and addiction (also activated by cocaine and chocolate).

While a super-stimulated VTA defines most early-stage love affairs, it’s exceptional in twenty-year marriages. But what separates these late-stage lovers from early-stage lovers is calm in the the brain regions associated with anxiety and compulsion. They get passion without obsession.

The results inspire further questions: Love is expressed in so many different ways; how to measure its intensity? What makes some people romantic outliers in the first place — good genes or the right partner, or both? What are the other characteristics of romantic outliers — are they Panglossian iby nature? When, exactly, does the VTA dim in most relationships, and why, and how to prevent it?

We know from other studies (detailed in BLONDES) that there are certain hormone receptors in the VTA that influence pair-bonds in romantic relationships, and genes for these receptors vary among individuals. Some people have receptor genes that have been associated with commitment problems. Other genes that have yet to be identified might do the opposite — facilitate long-term love and bonding.

To be madly in love with one person for decades! Too many couples are nostalgic about the first years of their relationship, wishing they still felt that old fervor and zeal. If you could take a gene-altering drug to help sustain intense passion for your partner — to maintain the flame that burned so brightly in the beginning — would you do it?

POLL (women only): Are you sexier mid-cycle?

Posted in news, Polls and Surveys by jenapincott on October 13, 2008

One radio host said “ewwww” when I mentioned on her show that a woman’s menstrual cycle has a significant (yet largely subconscious) impact on her appearance and taste in men, but I’m going to press on because I think it’s fascinating. And how lovely it is that findings that I discuss in BLONDES have been supported by a spate of recent, related studies:

1. German researchers added to the pile of evidence that suggests that women dress more provocatively and look prettier around ovulation. When male judges were shown pictures that women took of themselves every day of the month, the guys gave women in the fertile phase of their menstrual cycles the highest attractiveness ratings. The women also considered themselves more attractive at this time of the month.
2. Meanwhile, at the University of Albany, researchers recorded women’s voices at four different times during their respective cycles and played the recordings to male and female judges. Results show that a woman’s voice is significantly higher-pitched and considered more attractive mid-cycle, when she’s most likely to conceive.
3. Women taking oral contraceptives have weaker preferences for masculine faces and voices than do women who aren’t on the Pill, according to a study at McMaster University. The Pill simulates the hormonal profile of pregnancy, and women tend to prefer more nurturing and familiar-looking faces at this time.

POLL: Would you test him for the “cheating gene”?

Posted in Polls and Surveys by jenapincott on September 29, 2008

Imagine there’s a genetic test that could reveal your man’s chances of being a cheater — or, at least, a difficult long-term companion. Would you make him take it?  Turns out we’re one step closer to having the option.

Can your genes make you cheat? is one question posed in BLONDES.  To answer, I mention recent studies on the monogamous prairie vole and the role of vasopressin, a hormone associated with monogamy.  Prairie voles are much more monogamous than their cousins, the montane vole, and the difference might boil down to different variants of vasopressin receptor genes in the two species. (Vasopressin receptors exist in regions of the brain related to trust, reward, and bonding, including the ventral tegmental area or VTA.)  Scientists have  since speculated that men, too, might vary in their vasopressin receptor genes….and that might make all the difference between faithful guys and cheating rats.

Now there’s more concrete evidence that men do indeed differ in their vasopressin receptor genes, and that that a single genetic variation affects their love lives.  Hasse Wallum , a medical epidemiologist at the Karolinska Institute, found that men who had one or two copies of allele RS3 334, a variant of a vasopressin receptor gene, were more likely to have relationship crises than men who lacked the variant. The wives of guys with the variant cited more relationship problems than did women married to men without the variant.  Interestingly, studies have also found that autistic men are more likely to have copies of this wayward gene variant.

Although the study stresses that men with RS3 334 alleles aren’t guaranteed to be romantic duds and deadends — after all,  the effects are modest, other genes may be involved, and cultural factors have their sway — but it inspires the imagination.  What do you do if your man has the “cheating” gene, putting your relationship at greater risk of strife and infidelity?  Do you still date him – or do you dump him?  Would you even want to know? 

So, do you test him?

(Thoughts welcome in comment box below.)

POLL (women only): Does size really matter?

Posted in Polls and Surveys by jenapincott on September 10, 2008

When more than 25,000 women responded to the penis size question in a survey taken by MSNBC/Elle, most — 85 percent — were totally satisfied with their partner’s size. Only a small minority — little more than 1 in every 10 women — wanted their man to be larger, and even fewer women — about 1 in 50 — wanted their partners to be smaller.

Pose the penis question to men and the results are strikingly different. When more than 25,000 guys in the study were asked if they were satisfied with the size of their privates, nearly half desired to be larger down there, even if they saw themselves as average in size. (FYI, the average size of an erect penis is 5.3 in. or 13.5 cm.)

The big question, as discussed in BLONDES: If women are so satisfied with their men, why do men give themselves short shrift?

POLL: Which leg length is sexiest?

Posted in Polls and Surveys by jenapincott on August 30, 2008

Among my favorite of the lighter subjects I tackle in BLONDES is leg length. How long is ideal? In the book I describe on study in which researchers asked male and female subjects to rate the leg-length attractiveness of seven silhouettes (similar to those in the poll above).

The results show that, for men and women alike, the sexiest leg length is 5 percent longer than average for a given height — the equivalent of Figure E in our poll. (Figure A = legs 15% shorter than average; Figure B = 10% shorter; Figure C = 5% shorter; Figure D = average length for height; Figure E = legs 5% longer than average; Figure F = 10% longer; Figure G = 15% longer).

Second choice was split between average-length legs (Figure D) and those 10% longer than average (Figure F). According to the researchers, Boguslaw Pawlowski and Piotr Sorokowski, the preference for slightly longer legs may be evolutionary. Longish legs are associated with good childhood nutrition and development. Some studies, including (this and this ) suggest that longer legs are linked to longevity and a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. Legs that are shorter than average (Figures A-C) — or disproportionately long (Figure G) — may signal health problems that are genetic, environmental, or a combination of both.

I devote a chunk of BLONDES to the long-leg bias. After all, one reason why high heels are so sexy is that they make legs look longer. The average leg length of a 5’6″ woman (in the U.S.) is ~30″ — so a heel that is 1.5-3 inches high makes her legs look 5-10 percent longer and puts her in the developmental sweet spot. Of course, cultural factors may be driving us to wear higher and higher heels — in some places (like in Croatia, where I write this post) the 4-5-inch spike appears to be the new norm…..io

Archives

Connect on Facebook

Top Posts & Pages