Looking for UBC Psychology 350A?

When I started teaching Psychology 350A (The Psychology of Human Sexuality) at the University of British Columbia, I created an unofficial Wordpress blog to accompany the class as an add-on. The blog was hosted on Wordpress servers and was available to the public. It grew over the years and became the online hub for the course. Students posted comments and questions, and many also contributed content. I was stoked. Non-students also began commenting, which was great. As of this summer, there were over 1600 published posts.

The blog has now migrated to this site. I'm still moving over posts and have several hundred more to go. The new blog does not have the functionality that it previously did, although I'm working on it. 

If you're a student from class, the online administration for the class (i.e., course outlines, slides, etc.) will move to UBC Connect. But, this will still remain the very unofficial blog for the class. It's also for anyone else who ends up here. I hope you enjoy, and please feel free to comment and participate!

Re-released 1961 documentary on homosexuality: The Rejected.

It wasn't that long ago that homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. It was officially expunged from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association in 1986.

This documentary from 1961 was considered progressive at the time. It features many of the most forward-thinking researchers and clinicians of the time. Yet, they describe homosexuality  as a disorder that can be treated. This claim was used in attempt to decriminalize homosexual behaviour, which at the time was illegal.

From the description:

Introduced by KQED's General Manager James Day, The Rejected was the first ever U.S. televised documentary about homosexuality, broadcast on September 11th 1961. Originally titled 'The Gay Ones', The Rejected was filmed mostly in the KQED studio. Several sources - including co-producer Irving Saraf - confirm that at least one scene was shot on location at the Black Cat Bar in San Francisco (710 Montgomery Street). However, those scenes and others were cut from the film before it aired. Production correspondence written from March to July 1961 between KQED's Program Manager Jonathan Rice and NET's Director of TV Programming Donley F. Feddersen outline this process whereby The Rejected was edited down from it's original 120 minutes, to 89 minutes, then 74 minutes and finally the 59 minute version which aired. You can now view a draft script for The Rejected in DIVA, scenes from which never aired.
The Rejected is comprised of varied discussions about sexual orientation from: Margaret Mead (anthropologist); Dr. Karl Bowman (former President of the American Psychiatric Association); Harold Call, Donald Lucas and Les Fisher of the Mattachine Society; San Francisco District Attorney Thomas Lynch; Dr. Erwin Braff (Director of San Francisco's Bureau for Disease Control; Al Bendich; Mr J. Albert Hutchinson and Mr. Morris Lowenthal (who engage in debate); Bishop James Pike and Rabbi Alvin Fine. This film was written by John Reavis Jr., produced by Reavis Jr. and Irving Saraf, directed by Dick Christian and features location photography by Philip Greene. Note that Professorial Lecturer of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at American University Bob Connelly wrote an informative article about the making of The Rejected for Advocate.com.

John Oliver's poignant and funny take-down of bad sex ed and the abstinence-only approach.

Sex education is a highly contentious topic, even though it shouldn't be. Generally speaking, sex education is poor. Even the best comprehensive sex ed programs focus on risk and risk mitigation, with no attention paid to all other aspects of sex or relationships. Most sex ed is non-existent, superficial, or perhaps even worse, is based on the abstinence-only model. But Canada is still better than the US.

In this segment John Oliver provides biting and humorous commentary on the current state of sex ed.

The reality of marriage and long-term committed relationships.

Many people enter into marriages and long-term committed relationships not realizing that it takes a lot of work. There will be times when things feel desperate, and when conflict seems to be overwhelming and insurmountable. This doesn't mean that partners love each other any less or that their relationships are doomed.

In this piece published by the New York Times, Ada Calhoun provides a reality check about marriage and long-term committed relationships, but also shares why it's all worth it. Here are some excerpts:

I want to say that one day you and your husband will fight about missed flights, and you’ll find yourself wistful for the days when you had to pay for only your own mistakes. I want to say that at various points in your marriage, may it last forever, you will look at this person and feel only rage. You will gaze at this man you once adored and think, “It sure would be nice to have this whole place to myself.”
The longer you are with someone, the more big and little “and yets” rack up. You love this person. Of course you plan to be with him or her forever. And yet forever can begin to seem like a long time. Breaking up and starting fresh, which everyone around you seems to be doing, can begin to look like a wonderful and altogether logical proposition.
But “and yet” works the other way, too. Even during the darkest moments of my own marriage, I have had these nagging exceptions. And yet, we still make each other laugh. And yet, he is still my person. And yet, I still love him.
And so you don’t break up, and you outlast some more of your friends’ marriages.
At weddings, I do not contradict my beaming newlywed friends when they talk about how they will gracefully succeed where nearly everyone in human history has floundered. I only wish I could tell them they will suffer occasionally in this marriage — and not only sitcom-grade squabbles, but possibly even dark-night-of-the-soul despair.
That doesn’t mean they are doomed to divorce, just that it’s unlikely they will be each other’s best friend every single minute forever. And that while it’s good to aim high, it’s quite probable they will let each other down many times in ways both petty and profound that in this blissful moment they can’t even fathom.
But I would go on to say (had I not by that point been thrown out of the banquet hall): Epic failure is part of being human, and it’s definitely part of being married. It’s part of what being alive means, occasionally screwing up in expensive ways. And that’s part of what marriage means, sometimes hating this other person but staying together because you promised you would. And then, days or weeks later, waking up and loving him again, loving him still.

Read the whole piece here.


New study: What is a good looking penis?

penis chandelier

This study, recently published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, has been reported on widely, despite it being small and not originally intended as a examination of penis traits generally considered most attractive. The researchers were interested in the impact of surgery for hypospadias, a congenital condition characterized by a urethral opening in the wrong location (i.e., not at the tip of the glans), on perceived penis attractiveness. Because they had subjects rate control penises (i.e., those unaffected by hypospadias), they also had data demonstrating aspects considered most attractive for penises in general.

From Refinery29:

For a new study published in the The Journal of Sexual Medicine, the researchers asked 105 women in three different age groups — 16 to 20, 25 to 30, and 40 to 45 years old — to rank the importance of "eight penile aspects," including girth and length but also such traits as scrotum appearance. According to the women, the most important aspect was "general cosmetic appearance," followed by pubic hair appearance, penile skin, penile girth, glans shape, penile length, scrotum appearance, and position and shape of the urethra in last place. One takeaway, then, is that penis owners feeling insecure about creatively positioned urethras can relax. 
In addition to ranking penis traits, study participants also compared 10 photos of circumcised penises with 10 photos of penises that had been surgically treated for hypospadias, a condition in which the urethra is located on the underside of the penis; the participants then rated how "normal" they found the treated penises to look (they weren't informed beforehand which penises were which). Apparently, this study was inspired by the shame that some people with hypospadias feel, even after receiving surgery. The women in the study found the majority of the penises with hypospadias to look as "normal" as the circumcised-only penises; the change in their reactions to "different"-looking penises was deemed too small to be relevant.

Read the rest here.

Male strippers strip for boost in self-esteem.

A new study published in the academic journal Deviant Behavior, and reviewed in PsyPost:

male strippers

“Initially women who dance for men may experience a boost in self-esteem, but after time they suffer from a diminished self-concept,” said Scull. “My research finds that men who dance for women generally experience positive feelings of self-worth. So much so, that men will continue to strip even when it is no longer financially lucrative.”

Scull suggests these gendered differences are due to the fact that men and women ascribe different meanings to the objectification they experience while stripping. Female dancers may be more inclined to define sexual objectification as negative, because as women, they experience it more frequently than men.

Males, on the other hand, enjoy being objectified by audience members, Scull found. They did not define objectification with disempowerment and instead noted that they felt positive about being desirable.

Read the rest here.

Founder of OKCupid explains patterns in dating.


I've posted previously about the data arm of OKCupid (the online dating site) and the many interesting findings they've published on their blog, OKTrends. In this video, the founder of OKCupid summarizes those findings. He discusses the impact of gender, race, sexual orientation, message length, and message quality on the interactions and success of site members. Additionally, he addresses the effects of physical attributes and personality factors on attraction. Check it out, via Big Think:

Girls pushing stuck cars.

CarStuckGirls.com caters to those who get turned on by women with stuck cars. While I doubt it's a common sexual interest, one can easily imagine why this might be a turn-on. It plays on the damsel in distress theme, only rather than rescuing the princess from her prison in a castle, it's scantily clad women whose cars are stuck in the mud or snow. Here's the description from the photo set and video from which I selected the photo above. From CarStuckGirls.com:

Leanna and Kaitlin go offroading with daddy's Jeep and have lots of fun! They drive over rough and smooth, up and down and finally also through some mud. Suddenly the wheels start spinning and the Jeep stops. Are the girls stuck? Well, until they find how to switch into 4-wheel-drive. They keep going ... but not far, because now all 4 wheels are stuck in mud. And the mud is thick and gluey! The girls try to get out there driving deliberately forward and backward all over again. But the wheels keep digging deeper into the mud ... Finally Leanna takes her turn in driving and Kaitlin steps out and tries to push the Jeep from the front. On the way there she can hardly move to the mud and keeps getting stuck with her boots! And over more she also falls into the mud when trying to push the Jeep out. Tough luck. The girls are really in a mess ...!!!

Many more photo sets here.

Gay marriage legalized in the US

Today is a historic day for the LGBT community and its allies. The Supreme Court of the US ruled that it is unconstitutional for states to ban same sex marriage. Essentially, this means same sex marriages are now legal across the US. Congratulations USA! And welcome to the club.

In honour of today's decision, here's a gif depicting changes in laws concerning same sex marriage, over time and location.

Married Kama Sutra.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Kama Sutra, it's an ancient Hindu text, much of which describes human sexuality within the context of spiritual enlightenment. The version that we get in the West mostly features depictions of various sexual positions. Here is an example:

Two very funny dudes, Simon Rich and Farley Katz, created The Married Kama Sutra: The World's Least Erotic Sex Manual (Amazon link here). Sad and Useless published a bunch of the images:

See the rest here.

Genitals most searched human anatomy on Wikipedia.

From Slate:

The incredibly popular, highly contentious Wikipedia pages for penis and vagina. Plus: Meet a guy who uploaded one of the penis photos. By Ben Blatt
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has described his vision for the free encyclopedia as "the sum of all human knowledge." It's a noble goal, but it turns out that many Wikipedia users—readers and editors alike—are less interested in the sum than the parts. Two parts, in particular: the human penis and vagina.
Wikipedia keeps detailed records of page views and edit history so it’s easy to measure how often readers visit each article and how much work editors have put into each page. You might guess the entries for brain and human brain would be the most popular anatomy pages, given the brain’s importance and complexity. But together they average a total of only 215,000 views a month—considerably less than one-half the monthly page views either the penis or vagina page receive. The penis page is so popular it receives four times as many views as head, shoulders, knees, and toes—combined.

Here’s a graphic that shows the popularity of different anatomy related pages on Wikipedia

Wikipedia Genitals
Wikipedia Genitals

Read the rest here.

Important science: Rats tell us why men love lingerie.

Why Men Love Lingerie: Rat Study Offers Hints by Tanya Lewis

Just as lingerie turns on human males, tiny jackets do the same for male rats, a new study finds.

In an unusual study, researchers allowed virgin male rats to have sex with females wearing special rodent "jackets." Later, when scientists gave the males a chance to mate again, the animals preferred to mate with jacket-wearing female rats rather than with unclad ones.

The findings suggest that male animals can learn to associate the sight and feel of clothing with sex. [51 Sultry Facts About Sex]

In other words, male rats learn that "each time my partner wears lingerie [a jacket], I'm going to have sex," said study co-author Gonzalo R. Quintana Zunino, a psychologist working in the lab of psychologist Jim Pfaus at Concordia University in Montreal.

In previous studies, Zunino, Pfaus, and their colleagues trained rats to associate a particular odor (almond) with having sex, and male rats preferentially mated with females bearing that scent.

This time, the researchers wanted to know whether rats could learn to associate sex with other contextual cues, such as texture. In one experiment, a dozen virgin male rats were allowed to mate with females wearing jackets. Then, the males were put in a chamber with two sexually receptive female rats, one wearing a jacket and one "au naturel."

In general, when rats do the deed, the male approaches the female from behind and grabs hold of her on both sides, which excites her, Zunino told Live Science. If a human experimenter grabs the female in this way, she does a little wiggling dance, he said. If the female is wearing a jacket, the male will feel it with his whiskers while they are mating.

The trained male rats chose to mate with the jacket-clad females more often than with the unjacketed females, the researchers found. In addition, the males made more mounting attempts and ejaculated more quickly with the jacketed females.

In a second experiment, the researchers exposed virgin male rats first to jacketed females that were sexually receptive, then to unjacketed females that were not sexually receptive. Then they put the rats in a chamber similar to the first experiment, with one female wearing a jacket and one not wearing a jacket.

Again, the trained males preferred to mate with the jacketed females, mounted them more often and ejaculated more quickly, compared to with the unjacketed females.

Zunino and his colleagues also wanted to know how the jacket experience affected activity in the rats' brains. Right after the male rats mated with the jacketed females, the researchers sacrificed the animals and injected a dye into their brains that shows the activity of a gene called c-fos, which is a measure of neural activation. Specifically, they looked at c-fos activity in the pleasure centers of the rats' brains, including regions called the ventral tegmental area and the nucleus accumbens.

Males that mated with jacket-wearing females showed more c-fos activity in these brain areas than did males who mated with jacketless females, preliminary results showed.

Taken together, the researchers experiments reveal that rats can learn to associate sex with a variety of contextual cues, including the texture of clothing. While rats are quite different from humans, lingerie may have a similar effect on human males, Zunino said.

The findings were presented Nov. 17 at the 44th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C.

Gender equality within relationships a sex killer?

This article was published a while back in the New York Times. It's a great, thought-provoking (and controversial) read about changing gender power dynamics within opposite sex relationships, and its impact on sex and sexual satisfaction. It's a long read, but worth it. The comments are really interesting, too, with some alternate perspectives and explanations represented. Someone I spoke with also suggested that the phenomenon described could be better accounted for by differences between women's and men's sexual desire. Especially in long-term relationships, women's sexual desire tends to be more reactive than spontaneous (this is central to Basson's female sexual desire model). So in an egalitarian relationship, in which responsibility for initiating sex is shared, you would expect to see a decline in sex compared to a relationship in which the male partner decides when sex happens.

From the NY Times:

Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex? By Lori Gottlieb


A study called “Egalitarianism, Housework and Sexual Frequency in Marriage,” which appeared in The American Sociological Review last year, surprised many, precisely because it went against the logical assumption that as marriages improve by becoming more equal, the sex in these marriages will improve, too. Instead, it found that when men did certain kinds of chores around the house, couples had less sex. Specifically, if men did all of what the researchers characterized as feminine chores like folding laundry, cooking or vacuuming — the kinds of things many women say they want their husbands to do — then couples had sex 1.5 fewer times per month than those with husbands who did what were considered masculine chores, like taking out the trash or fixing the car. It wasn’t just the frequency that was affected, either — at least for the wives. The more traditional the division of labor, meaning the greater the husband’s share of masculine chores compared with feminine ones, the greater his wife’s reported sexual satisfaction.


Brines believes the quandary many couples find themselves in comes down to this: “The less gender differentiation, the less sexual desire.” In other words, in an attempt to be gender-neutral, we may have become gender-neutered. It’s interesting to note that when I asked Justin Garcia, a research scientist at the Kinsey Institute, whether lack of gender differentiation affects the sex lives of gay couples, he said that male couples, who have more sex than lesbian couples, tend to differentiate by choosing partners sexually unlike themselves — who, say, want to be in the more submissive sexual position — and that lesbians don’t follow as much of a pattern of seeking their sexual opposites. I posed the same question to Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor at the University of Washington who coined the term “lesbian bed death,” and she pointed out that gay male couples differentiate from each other in other ways, too. For gay men, she said, “the initial filter is erotic, so they’re more likely to end up with somebody who’s very different in terms of education or social class.” But, she continued, “a gay woman thinks like the heterosexual woman who asks: ‘Do we share common goals? Do we like to do things together? Is he smart?’ ” She believes that lesbian and heterosexual couples share sexual challenges because both relationships involve women who tend to seek similar mates. As she put it, most men, regardless of sexual orientation, prioritize the erotic, but “heterosexual men have to deal with heterosexual women.”


When I asked Esther Perel, a couples therapist whose book, “Mating in Captivity,” addresses the issue of desire in marriage, about the role sexual scripts play in egalitarian partnerships, she explained it like this: “Egalitarian marriage takes the values of a good social system — consensus-building and consent — and assumes you can bring these rules into the bedroom. But the values that make for good social relationships are not necessarily the same ones that drive lust.” In fact, she continued, “most of us get turned on at night by the very things that we’ll demonstrate against during the day.”


One woman in her late 30s, for instance, who has been in a peer marriage for 10 years, said during couples therapy that when she asked her husband to be more forceful, “rougher,” in bed, the result was comical.

“He was trying to do what I wanted,” she explained, “but he was so . . . careful. I don’t want him to ask, ‘Are you O.K.?’ I want him not to care if I’m O.K., to just, you know, not be the good husband and take charge.” And yet, she said, his caring and his concern that she’s O.K. with what he’s doing are what she loves so much about him in every other area of their marriage, ranging from which brand of toilet paper to buy to what to feed their children to where their money is spent and which nights each of them can stay late at work. “I don’t want him to take charge like that with anything else!” she said.

I mentioned this situation to Dan Savage, the sex columnist, who told me that he sees similar themes in the letters he receives and the questions he fields at personal appearances. At a recent talk, for instance, one woman asked him if a certain sex act was “loving or degrading?”

“My reply was, ‘Yes,’ ” he told me. “Why can’t it be both?” He continued: “People have to learn to compartmentalize. We all want to be objectified by the person we love at times. We all want to be with somebody who can flip the switch and see you as an object for an hour. Sometimes sex is an expression of anger or a struggle for power and dominance. They work in concert. People need to learn how to harness those impulses playfully in ways that are acceptable in equal relationships.”

Go read the rest here.

Best of old-school science fiction porn.

From io9:

The Greatest Science Fiction Porn Movies of All Time: 1961-1991 [NSFW]

Science fiction has long encompassed every aspect of human experience — including sex. For as long as we've dreamed of going to space, we've dreamed of getting it on there. And porn has embraced science fiction as well — from 1968's softcore masterpiece Barbarella to the 1990s cyberpunk boom to the recent craze for porn spoofs, there has always been science fiction porn. After all, porn is an escapist genre when you get right down to it. And the line between a science fiction "B" movie and a softcore porn film is often more seethru than Jane Fonda's breast bubbles.

Here are the greatest science fiction porn films of all time, from 1961 to 1991. It's NSFW! Note: There are a number of exploitation films on this list, but no horror, since that's a very different category. Likewise, no fantasy. Also, if we missed your favorite, please chime in in the comments! With such a huge and sweeping topic, I'm sure we missed some stuff. We'll be covering 1992 to the present very soon.

To see the list, and the corresponding NSFW images and videos, you'll have to click here.

Documentary: Fat Girls and Feeders.

Feederism is considered a fetish or paraphilia. Feeders derive sexual pleasure from feeding their partners (and often to the point of extreme obesity). Gainers derive sexual pleasure from eating (and typically becoming as large as possible). However, most feeders are not in relationships with gainers, who are rare - they're typically in relationships with obese partners who gain weight to sexually satisfy their feeder partners. These partners are called feedees. For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to feedees as the partners of feeders, even though some are clearly gainers.

Supporters claim that feeder/feedee relationships are fully consensual, that power is shared equally between the partners, that both the feeders and the feedees derive sexual pleasure from the feeder/feedee dynamic, and that the couples are fulfilled by their relationships. On the other hand, critics argue that feeder/feedee relationships are highly exploitative and manipulative, and are extremely dangerous for the feedees. Critics claim that the feeders are predatory, taking advantage of women with extreme low self-esteem and poor body image.

Fat Girls and Feeders is the documentary about the feeder/feedee relationship. It paints a very pathological picture.

You can download it here (NSFW and not for the faint of heart).

Not long after the documentary was released, Gina, the woman featured in it, had these scathing words to say: link here.

There are websites devoted to the feeder scene. These two appear to be the largest: links here and here.

For a critique of feederism, click here.

There's a defence of feederism in the reply section, submitted by someone who is not part of the class but who came across the post last year.

Another mini-doc about feederism from Vice: