This series on Relationships, Love and Sex ends today by answering all the burning questions you’ve wanted to know for years and years.
To supply these questions, I’ve assembled various experts to discuss a range of topics. Some of this is humorous and some is perfectly serious.
In the above at the top of the page, Woody Allen and company explain what happens during ejaculation.
In the below video, Mary Roach, author of the book Bonk, tells us Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Orgasm.
In the next video below, anthropologist Mary Fisher, an expert on romantic love and author of Anatomy of Love and Why We Love, tells us Why We Love and Cheat.
And in the last video below, Dr. David Schnarch, a marital and sex therapist and author of Intimacy and Desire, talks about Bedroom Stereotypes Debunked.
Today, I’ll tell you about the health benefits of sex. To get these benefits, you have to have sex on a regular basis.
Fewer colds, less stress, and a healthier heart are just some of the things that are attributed to regular sex of at least once a week.
In regards to colds, according to researchers at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania, sex once or twice a week in winter can boost the immune system and reduce the chances of catching colds and flu.
They found it boosted levels of immunoglobulin A or IGA which binds to organisms that invade the body and then activates the immune system to destroy them.
In regards to stress, during sex your body produces dopamine, a substance that fights stress hormones, endorphins, aka “happiness hormones,” and oxytocin, a desire-enhancing hormone secreted by the pituitary gland.
And in regards to heart health – at least for men – research has shown men who indulge in regular lovemaking of at least twice per week are up to 45 per cent less likely to develop life-threatening heart conditions than men who have sex once a month or less.
In another recent study it was found that everyday sex helped men who had issues with fertility – it appears to help with DNA-damaged sperm.
Meanwhile, In England, the British Government’s National Health Service has started a campaign aimed at schools, telling students that sex everyday keeps the doctor away.
A National Health Service leaflet is advising school pupils that they have a “right” to an enjoyable sex life and that regular intercourse can be good for their cardiovascular health.
The advice appears in guidance circulated to parents, teachers and youth workers, and is intended to update sex education by telling pupils about the benefits of sexual pleasure. For too long, say its authors, experts have concentrated on the need for “safe sex” and loving relationships while ignoring the main reason that many people have sex, that is, for enjoyment.
Alongside the slogan “an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away”, it says: “Health promotion experts advocate five portions of fruit and veg a day and 30 minutes’ physical activity three times a week. What about sex or masturbation twice a week?”
So much for the British and their reputation of always maintaining a stiff upper lip.
That’s the equivalent of jogging 200 miles. In addition, heavy breathing raises the amount of oxygen in your cells, and the testosterone produced during sex keeps your bones and muscles strong.
Pain can be relieved through sex. During sex, both male and female bodies produce endorphins, hormones that act as painkillers.
One study showed that during sexual stimulation and especially during orgasm, we don’t feel pain.
For men, frequent sex can benefit the prostate gland. Most of the fluid you ejaculate is secreted by the prostate gland. If you stop ejaculating, the fluid stays in the gland, which tends to swell, causing lots of problems.
Regular ejaculation will wash those fluids out and ensure the well-being of your prostate until old age.
Also for men, sex can be of benefit for erectile dysfunction. Fifty per cent of men older than 40 suffer from erectile dysfunctions and all young men fear the moment when they too may have this happen to them.
An erection keeps the blood flowing through the penile arteries, so the tissue stays healthy. Plus, doctors compare an erection to an athletic reflex: the more you train the more capable you are to perform.
And for women, sex can increase fertility, postpone menopause and relieve PMS symptoms.
I’ve been asked, because of yesterday’s article, How to Increase the Sex Drive, how come I didn’t mention the certain foods that are considered aphrodisiacs.
Surely, it was noted to me, they are definite ways to increase the sex drive.
Well, I didn’t talk about foods that might increase the sex drive because the jury is still out on that one.
And that’s because most anyone claiming to know what foods are or aren’t aphrodisiacs, from avocados to zebra tongue, acknowledge that it’s all highly subjective. As Dr. Ruth has famously put it, “the most important sex organ lies between the ears.”
But let’s look at a few anyway.
Chili peppers, for example, quicken the pulse and induce sweating, mimicking the state of sexual arousal, as well as stimulating the release of endorphins, which play a role in sexual pleasure.
Chocolate appears to be highly exaggerated in its abilities. It does contain some chemicals like phenylethylamine, which produce feelings of euphoria. Yet one widely cited study showed that a 130-pound person would have to eat 25 pounds of chocolate in one sitting to significantly alter the mood. And who would be in the mood after eating 19.2 percent of their weight in chocolate?
The scent of doughnuts, on the other hand, have some potential to heighten male sexual response, but only paired with licorice, according to one study. And of course, like chocolate, how many licorice-enhanced doughnuts do you want to eat?
In this same study, female sexual response was heightened by the scent of baby powder and also the combination of Good & Plenty candy with cucumber. Coming in second place in the study was a combination of Good & Plenty and banana nut bread.
This same study also found that the aroma of cherries caused a sharp drop in excitation among women, as did the smell of meat cooked over charcoal.
So ladies, next time you’re barbecuing your meat, make sure you’re also not eating cherries. That would be a double whammy.
Culture and tradition play an important part. Certain foods with aphrodisiac status, like basil, rosemary, saffron, honey, grapes and pine nuts, were coveted for their great libidinal powers by ancient Greeks and Romans and medieval Europeans.
Others, like figs, asparagus and cucumbers, have long been seen as erotic because of their resemblance to the male and female sex organs.
Some ingredients are considered sensual by virtue of how they are eaten, for example, “sharing food from a common platter,” as Dr. Meryl Rosofsky, a doctor and adjunct professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, wrote in an entry on aphrodisiacs in the “Encyclopedia of Food and Culture” (Scribner, 2002), or, in the case of oysters, “sucking and slurping seductively.”
Oysters also are considered aphrodisiacs because they contain zinc, which is linked to increased sperm production. However, a zinc-deficient person would have to chow down enormous quantities of oysters before he noticed a difference.
And according to Dr. Rosofsky, garlic contains an amino acid that enhances blood flow and could augment erections.
One thing researchers have found to be an absolute is the strong links between scent, emotion and sexual attraction. Smell can induce emotion that then triggers neurochemical changes. Of all the senses, it is the only one that bypasses the conscious parts of the brain and goes directly to the limbic system, the region responsible for basic memory, motivation and emotion.
Amy Reiley, the author of a recipe book structured like “The Joy of Sex,“ suggests that restaurants wanting to serve truly carnal cuisine go with guacamole, not only because avocados have long been considered aphrodisiacs.
“Guacamole, in the ways it is typically served, offers a silky foil to crunchy chips, a cool, slippery and sexy topping for spicy burritos and tamale pies.”
She also likes to use lots of saffron, mint and vanilla, all ingredients she considers aphrodisiacs, and, of course, chili pepper.
And then there’s alchohol, and especially that most sensuous of drinks, wine.
But as Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth, alcohol “provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.”
During this discussion on sex, as part of the topic on Relationships, Love and Sex, one of the points I’ve made is that the sexual experience is an intimate one that can help you to be fully human and to live your life to your fullest potential.
There literally and figuratively is nowhere to hide during sex – you are there, warts and all. Which means it can be a profound tool for self-growth and development.
And as I said before, the more healthy and happy a person is, and the more of a Low Density Lifestyle they lead, the better will their sex life be.
That being said, sometimes, for one reason or another, the sex drive is low.
Menopause is one instance. Many women experience a loss of sexual desire and/or the ability to achieve orgasm as they age. One reason is scientifically linked to a waning production of the hormone progesterone, which is instrumental to relaxation.
This is just one of the many reasons why the most important organ for having great sex is the brain: if you can’t relax and turn off your brain, how will you be able to turn yourself on?
Men also are affected by this, because men go through their own type of menopause.
It’s never too late to improve your sex life, because an aging body and an aging brain can be reversed to a younger, more vibrant state. For all of us, sex can be decoded into four distinct phases, and each is directly correlated to one of the four primary brain chemicals, and the hormones associated with them:
***Desire and libido is created in the brain by dopamine; when you are low on dopamine your energy for and interest in sex wanes, as well as your performance
***Arousal is initiated by acetylcholine; when cognitive functioning and internal moisture goes awry and your acetylcholine becomes depleted, you will not be able to focus on sex, let alone maintain your attention and stimulation.
***GABA is your “get started” brain chemical. It controls your anxiety; you will not be able to achieve an orgasm if you are tense. GABA and progesterone are intricately linked.
***Resolution is related to serotonin. If serotonin becomes depleted, your timing is off. You’re either coming to the party too early or too late.
Through eating a more organic, whole-foods, plant-based diet, and cutting out the chemicals and junk; and through exercise and building muscle mass, you can increase the sex drive, no matter your age, by increasing the production of brain chemicals.
A recent study showed that building muscle mass leads to both neurogenesis, the creation of new brain cells, and angiogenesis, the increase in the amount of blood that flows to the brain. And the more new brain cells and amount of blood that flows to the brain, then the more chance that there is that the brain can trigger heightened sensations and arousal during intercourse.
Another way to increase the sex drive is to increase your connection to the spiritual dimension.
“I think people have been well aware of the role that religious and spiritual matters play in everyday life for a very long time,” said Jessica Burris, one of the study’s researchers at the University of Kentucky. “But in the research literature, the unique qualities of spirituality — apart from religiousness — are not usually considered.”
According to a research measure known as the Spiritual Transcendence Scale, those qualities are connectedness, universality, and prayer fulfillment. But the data found that of the three, connectedness plays the largest role in spiritual sexuality and leads to more sex with more partners.
“Believing one is intimately tied to other human beings and that interconnectedness and harmony are indispensible may lead one to believe sexual intimacy possesses a divine or transcendent quality in itself,” Burris writes. “In fact, ascribing sacred qualities to sex has been positively associated with positive affective reactions to sex, frequency of sex, and number of sexual partners.”
And in a separate review of studies last year, it was found that sexually unsatisfied women who practiced mindfulness and yoga reported improvements in levels of arousal and desire, as well as better orgasms.
I continue forward with the topic of sex, which is the last leg of this series on Relationships, Love and Sex.
Yesterday I gave you the history of sex, briefly, and today I offer a test so that you can find out what your sex IQ is.
So let’s get crackin’ on the test. Answers are at the bottom of the page – but no looking until you answer all the questions!
1) The sex lives of our prehistoric ancestors were likely similar to the –
a) Monogamous penguins
b) Promiscuous, no-commitment bonobo chimpanzees
c) Polygamist, harem-loving gorillas
2) Women in ancient Egypt prevented pregnancy with –
a) Plugs made of crocodile droppings
b) Drinks of lemon, milk and ground water lily
c) Offerings to the fertility goddess
3) Proportionally and compared to other primates, human males have –
a) Tiny genitalia
b) Massive genitalia
c) About average
4) Based on artifacts and cave paintings, Ice Age women were likely –
a) Submissive and dragged around by their hair
b) To have sex only to make babies
c) To enjoy sex as much as their male mates
5) In 2005, the average first time for US girls occurred at the age of –
6) Known aphrodisiacs of the food world include –
a) Chocolate, oysters and spicy foods
b) Oysters, strawberries and turkey
c) Chocolate, figs and zucchini
7) That females have a weaker sex drive than men is –
a) A physical fact
b) A cultural misconception
c) A rumor started in the 1950s
8) The most common sexual problem among men is –
a) Erectile dysfunction
b) Wanting too much
c) Premature ejaculation
9) It is a common misconception that pregnancy can occur –
a) Without male orgasm
b) Without a stork involved
c) From oral sex
10) Whether put to use or not, males produce about –
a) 100 million sperm every day
b) 500 million sperm every year
c) 300 million sperm every day
Now, you can check how you did. If you got:
8-10 correct, you’re a genius
5-7 correct, you’re an intemediate
4-6 correct, you’re a work in progress
1-3 correct, you’re in need of some education
0 correct, oh boy!
Answers 1-b, 2-a, 3-b, 4-c, 5-b, 6-a, 7-b, 8-c, 9-a, 10-c
I’ve now turned the spotlight in this series on Relationships, Love and Sex to the topic of sex. Yesterday I looked at sex and marriage, with the provocative idea that marriage can mean the end of sex.
Before I continue further with the topic of sex, I thought it would be good to look at the history of sex, briefly.
As the song goes, birds do it and bees do it; and humans too have been doing it since the dawn of time.
But just how much has the act really changed through the millennia and even in past decades? Are humans doing it more? Or better?
Well, sort of. But it’s how people tell the truth about their sex lives that has changed the most over the years.
Humans have basically been the same anatomically for about 100,000 years—so what is safe to say is that if we enjoy it now, then so did our cave-dwelling ancestors and everyone else since.
“Just as our bodies tell us what we might like to eat, or when we should go to sleep, they lay down for us our pattern of lust,” says University of Toronto psychologist Edward Shorter. “Sex has always offered pleasure.”
Sexuality has a lot to do with our biological framework, agreed Joann Rodgers, director of media relations and lecturer at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.
“People and indeed all animals are hard wired to seek out sex and to continue to do so,” Rodgers said.
It is nearly impossible to tell, however, whether people enjoyed sex more 50 years ago or 50,000 years ago, said David Buss, professor of psychology at the University of Texas and author of “The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating.”
There is “no reason to think that we do more now than in the past, although we are certainly more frank about it,” Buss says.
“To be sure, what people actually experience is always a mixture of biological and social conditioning: Desire surges from the body, the mind interprets what society will accept and what not, and the rest of the signals are edited out by culture,” he writes in his book, “Written in the Flesh: A History of Desire.”
That’s not to say that cultural norms keep people from exploring the taboo, but only what is admitted to openly, according to archaeologist Timothy Taylor of Great Britain’s University of Bradford.
“The idea that there is a sexual line that must not be crossed but in practice often is, is far older than the story of Eve’s temptation by the serpent,” he writes in “The History of Sex: Four Million Years of Human Sexual Culture.”
Religion especially has held powerful sway over the mind’s attitude towards the body’s carnal desires, most sexual psychologists agree. Men and women who lived during the pious Middle Ages were certainly affected by the fear of sin, Shorter said, though he notes there were other inhibiting factors to consider, too.
“The low priority attached to sexual pleasure by people who lived in distant times is inexplicable unless one considers the hindrances that existed in those days,” Shorter writes. He points especially to the 1,000 years of misery and disease—often accompanied by some very un-sexy smells and itching—that led up to the Industrial Revolution. “After the mid-nineteenth century, these hindrances start to be removed, and the great surge towards pleasure begins.”
Many historians and psychologists see the late 1800s as a kind of watershed period for sexuality in the Western world. With the industrial revolution pushing more and more people together—literally—in dense, culturally-mixed neighborhoods, attitudes towards sex became more liberal.
The liberalization of sexuality kicked into high gear by the 1960s with the advent of the birth control pill, letting women get in on the fun and act on the basis of desire as men always had, according to Shorter.
“The 1960s vastly accelerated this unhesitant willingness to grab sex for the sheer sake of physical pleasure,” he said, noting that the trend of openly seeking out sex just because it feels good, rather than for procreation alone, has continued on unabated into the new millennium.
But despite the modern tendency towards sexual freedom, even today there are vast differences in attitudes across the world, experts say.
“Cultures vary tremendously in how early they start having sex, how open they are about it, and how many sexual partners they have,” said Buss, noting that Swedes generally have many partners in their lifetime and the Chinese typically have few.
An informal 2005 global sex survey sponsored by the condom company Durex confirmed Buss’ views. Just 3 percent of Americans polled called their sex lives “monotonous,” compared to a sizable 26 percent of Indian respondents. While 53 percent of Norwegians wanted more sex than they were having (a respectable 98 times per year, on average), 81 percent of the Portuguese were quite happy with their national quota of 108 times per year.
Though poll numbers and surveys offer an interesting window into the sex lives of strangers, they’re still constrained by the unwillingness of people to open up about a part of their lives that’s usually kept behind closed doors.
And what if we weren’t bound by such social limitations? Taylor offers the promiscuous—and very laid-back—bonobo chimpanzee as a utopian example.
“Bonobos have sex most of the time … a fairly quick, perfunctory, and relaxed activity that functions as a social cement,” he writes. “But for cultural constraints, we would all behave more like bonobos. In physical terms, there is actually nothing that bonobos do that some humans do not sometimes do.”
During this series on Relationships, Love and Sex, I’ve talked about relationships and love, and even marriage, but I have yet to talk about the third part of this triangle, sex.
Today, and for the rest of this series, that’s the subject I’ll be discussing.
Sex is an important part of any discussion on relationships and love, because it is when we have the closest and most intimate of all encounters, the experience of sex, that we are fully tested as to who we truly are.
To live your life to your fullest potential, you have to be fully human, and sex can be one of the greatest teachers in that regard. There literally and figuratively is nowhere to hide during sex – you are there, warts and all.
So today I begin the discussion of sex with a perfect segue from the previous article on a brief history of marriage.
Today, in the above video, you’ll hear from David Schnarch, Ph.D., about whether marriage kills sex. You may consider what he says to be most provocative.
Dr. Schnarch is co-director of the Marriage & Family Health Center. He is a licensed clinical psychologist, world-renown sex and marital therapist, and international best-selling author. For seventeen years he was an Associate Professor in the Depts. of Psychiatry and Urology at Louisiana State University Medical School.