The truth about marriage.

marriage | Dr. Jason Winters | Sex Therapy Vancouver | Squarespace Blogging

Alain De Botton wants you to get real about your relationships.

Many people grow up believing that marriage is in some way magical - the bringing together of two people who are perfect for each other. A marriage characterized by ever-present happiness and love, little conflict, and shared desires, likes, goals, and values.

Research in the states has shown that almost 75% of people believe in the idea of a soul mate, or one true love. Unfortunately for them, research has also shown that the more a person believes in the idea of one true love, the less likely that person is to be successful and happy in their relationships. They tend to bail when things get difficult.

It comes down to expectations, and commitment to relationships when they don't meet unrealistically high expectations.

People with realistic expectations, and a willingness to struggle through difficult times while still committed to the relationship, tend to do best. A key component of this is self-awareness, more specifically recognizing our own idiosyncrasies and why we might be difficult to be with.

This piece in the New York Times lays it all out, raw:

Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person
By Alain de Botton
IT’S one of the things we are most afraid might happen to us. We go to great lengths to avoid it. And yet we do it all the same: We marry the wrong person.
Partly, it’s because we have a bewildering array of problems that emerge when we try to get close to others. We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well. In a wiser, more self-aware society than our own, a standard question on any early dinner date would be: “And how are you crazy?”
Perhaps we have a latent tendency to get furious when someone disagrees with us or can relax only when we are working; perhaps we’re tricky about intimacy after sex or clam up in response to humiliation. Nobody’s perfect. The problem is that before marriage, we rarely delve into our complexities. Whenever casual relationships threaten to reveal our flaws, we blame our partners and call it a day. As for our friends, they don’t care enough to do the hard work of enlightening us. One of the privileges of being on our own is therefore the sincere impression that we are really quite easy to live with.

Read the rest here: link.

Man protests same-sex marriage by suing to marry his computer.

chris sevier same sex marriage bigot | Dr. Jason Winters | Sex Therapy | Blogging on Squarespace

From news of the strange.

Mark “Chris” Sevier, lawyer and EDM musician, is really opposed to same-sex marriage. So much so that he's insisting that he be allowed to marry his porn-filled laptop in protest. Sevier claims that if two people of the same sex are able to get married, then a person should be able to marry whoever or whatever they want.

Of course, his claim is intended to be absurd to support his view that marriage between a man and woman is constitutionally protected and same-sex marriage is not. He's filed a two lawsuits, one in Utah and the other in Florida, after being denied marriage licences to wed his laptop. Both cases have been dismissed. These are the not the first times that he's protested same-sex marriage with frivolous lawsuits.

More about him and his absurdity from the DailyBeast:

Meet the Anti-LGBT Bigot “Marrying” His Computer
Meet Mark Sevier, a Christian music producer with a lengthy arrest record and a history of bogus lawsuits.
by Samantha Allen
It’s a love story as old as time itself. Man meets laptop. Man fills laptop with pornography. Man sues state for the right to marry his masturbatory aid.
In 2014, former Tennessee lawyer and Christian electronic dance music producer Mark “Chris” Sevier filed a motion in Florida arguing that if same-sex couples “have the right to marry their object of sexual desire… then I should have the right to marry my preferred sexual object,” in this case his “porn-filled Apple computer.”
The motion was dismissed, of course, but Sevier is back again with a new Texas lawsuit demanding that he be granted a 14th Amendment right to wed his laptop.
As the Houston Chronicle reports, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has already asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed, arguing that “the right to marry one’s computer is not an interest, objectively, deeply rooted in the nation’s history and tradition.”
At the very least, Sevier appears to be monogamous. The laptop named in this new suit is the same 2011 MacBook that he asked to marry in 2014.
But Sevier, who has said that “the Constitution is being hijacked” by same-sex marriage, does not seem to actually be in love with his computer. The EDM artist has a long history of bogus legal actions designed to undermine marriage equality.

Read the rest here: link.

Online dating impacting the way people choose partners.

couple online dating | Dr. Jason Winters | Sex Therapy | Blogging on Squarespace

The assortative mating theory suggests that people choose partners who are similar to themselves in many ways, such as education, background, social class, personality, and attractiveness. There's now a substantial amount of research to support the theory.

When it comes to physical attractiveness, this means that people of similar attractiveness typically pair up. But, and this is a big but, the longer that people know each other, the less important physical attractiveness seems to be.

In other words, physical attractiveness plays a larger role in who people choose when they don't know each other well. With more time to get to know one another, many other variables start to play an important role in partner choice.

Additionally, relationship and partner satisfaction in the longer term seem to have less to do with partner attractiveness than other partner attributes.

The article below discusses this in the context of online dating, where there are limitless partner options and people have little chance to get to know each other before they date.

From Priceonomics:

Online Dating and the Death of the 'Mixed-Attractiveness' Couple
by Alex Mayyasi
When was the last time you met a couple where one person was attractive and the other was not? 
There’s no reason couples like that should stand out—except for the fact that they are so rare. Seeing it can set off an uncharitable search for an explanation. Is the plain one rich or funny? Is the attractive one boring or unintelligent? 
While love-seeking singles speak of this dynamic through euphemisms like “she’s out of my league”, economists and psychologists have dismally documented it.  
"We think we have highly idiosyncratic preferences,” psychologist Paul Eastwick has said of dating, “but there's just no compelling evidence that those preferences [matter] once people actually meet face-to-face.” Experiments run by OKCupid, a dating site that matches singles by asking them which qualities they care about in a partner, support this idea
Instead it’s well established among academics interested in dating that “opposites attract” is a myth. Study after study supports the idea of “assortative mating”: the hypothesis that people generally date and marry partners who are like them in terms of social class, educational background, race, personality, and, of course, attractiveness. 
To use fratboy vernacular: 7s date other 7s, and a 3 has no chance with a 10.
There is an exception, however, to this seeming rule that people always date equally attractive people: The longer two people know each other before they start dating, the more likely it is that a 3 will date a 6, or a 7 will marry a 10. 

Read the rest here: link.

Objectum sexuality.

Objectum sexuality is characterized by a strong romantic and sexual attraction to inanimate objects. Objectum sexuals develop relationships with the objects that they love.

The best known objectum sexual is a woman named Erika Eiffel. She's appeared on several American talk-shows, and is the central character in the documentary Married to the Eiffel Tower (it looks like it's a dead link, but click play):

Vice published a piece early last year discussing objectum sexuality that describes the struggles and judgment that Erika Eiffel has experienced. It also discussed the nature of objectum sexuality.

From Vice:

Breaking Up with the Eiffel Tower: Heartbreak Is No Less Real for Objectum Sexuals
By Nell Frizzell
Loss, grief, heartache: Breakups are no less painful when you're doing it with a bridge. Or a pylon. Or a wooden fence. Or the Eiffel Tower.
So argues Erika Eiffel, the tower crane operator and former award-winning archer made famous by the documentary Married to the Eiffel Tower. Erika is one of the few public objectum sexuals—people with a love orientation toward objects—and, in addition to holding a commitment ceremony with the 186-year-old French iron tower, has fallen for fighter jets, fencing, and is currently in a relationship with a crane. She also runs the support website Object Sexuality Internationale.
We don't know how many objectum sexuals there are in the world—not enough data has been gathered and people are, understandably, reluctant to identify their orientation in such a climate of distrust and misinformation. We do, however, know that objectum sexuality is found in both men and women across the world. In 2010, the clinical sexologist Dr. Amy Marsh wrote in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality that, while it is often assumed that OS is "a pathology" or related to "a history of sexual trauma," there is, in fact, no data to support such a claim and that "OS appears to be a genuine—though rare—sexual orientation."

Read the rest here: link.



Vice doc: Polyamorous unicorns.

Another post on the theme of not-to-everybody's-taste. But a poignant example of sexual and identity diversity.

From the description:

When a charismatic former alcoholic named Shaft had his life changed by Burning Man, he realized that he actually identifies as a unicorn. No longer able to face the monotony of work and life in the real world, he decided to form a polyamorous and hedonistic movement with other like-minded unicorns.
Donning glittery horns and galloping through London's streets, Shaft's unicorns set about trying to create a free-love utopia.
But as the unicorn revolution begins to clash with the realities of life and love, some of the "glampede" became disillusioned, and Shaft's reasons for starting this whole thing came into question.
Is this the hedonistic, free love revolution we were promised in the 60s? Or is it as fake as the unicorn horns they wear, a desperate and clever ploy by Shaft to escape his own inner loneliness by starting a cult?

What Google searches tell us about peoples' sex lives.

Google makes all of its search data publicly available. According to Google, 100 billion searches are done each month. That means a lot of data. And because sex is something that is searched often, there is a treasure trove of sex-related search data for the taking. 

This piece in the New York Times by economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz digs deep into the Google search data to tell us about our anxieties and the states of our relationships. There are a couple of nifty infographics that summarize his findings. The piece is worth a read - it's fun and informative.

From the New York Times

Searching for Sex
ARE you confused by sex? I certainly am.
One of the many reasons sex is puzzling is that we lack reliable data. People lie to friends, lovers, doctors, surveys and themselves.
Three years ago, when I was a graduate student in economics, I began to write about how new data, particularly Google searches, could give us fresh insights into socially sensitive topics. Since then, many people have asked me to write about sex.
I was wary because I wanted to do more research. Now I’m finally ready to report. Call it everything you always wanted to know about sex, but didn’t have the data to ask.
Let’s start with the basics. How much sex are we having? Traditional surveys are no good at answering this question.
I analyzed data from the General Social Survey, a classic source. Heterosexual men 18 and over say that they average 63 sex acts per year, using a condom in 23 percent of them. This adds up to more than 1.6 billion heterosexual condom uses per year.

And one of the infographics: 

Google sex searches marriage sexual behavior | Dr. Jason Winters | Sex Therapy | Blogging on Squarespace

Read the rest here: link.


Purity balls.

Second post this week about purity balls. I can't help but be fascinated (I've posted about purity balls previously: link and link).

In many cultures, religious denominations, and families, virginity until marriage is considered sacred. Virginity is typically associated with purity, innocence, virtuosity, and thought of as a gift to a future marital partner. Loss of virginity prior to marriage is equated with being a used, cheapened, damaged, or otherwise unappealing (keep in mind this isn't the case for all people are waiting for marriage to have penetrative sex).

Women are often held to this standard much more so than men (a great example of the double standard). In some cultures, a non-virgin woman is unable to get married, and often times in those cultures, there are no options for women other than being a wife.

Purity balls are a logical extension of the abstinence-only approach in Western culture (particularly North American). If you're unfamiliar with purity balls, the following clip provides a pretty superficial glimpse. Keep in mind that it's from a mainstream American network, so it's a bit sensationalized.

Rules for dating a sex worker.

The fact that the article linked below was published in Cosmopolitan is a bit mind blowing. Have things really changed so much that Cosmopolitan is now publishing articles by sex workers about sex work?

Pieces like this in mainstream publications are helpful for destigmatizing sex work. As part of that process, they challenge the worn-out stereotypes of sex workers as all being naïve, exploited, or otherwise broken.

The following piece lays out some important rules for dating sex workers. It's too bad something similar hasn't been published in a men's magazine like GQ, Details, or Playboy, where it could reach the audience that would most benefit from it most.

Some highlights from Cosmopolitan piece:

What It's Like to Date When You're a Porn Star
There are three cardinal rules for dating a sex worker. Don't break them.
By Andre Shakti
There are a few rules for dating a sex worker: don't compromise their cash flow by driving away their business, never out them to other people without their consent, and don't expect them to eagerly perform activities they normally get paid to do for free. He'd broken all three, and my work and my personal life were getting a little too close for comfort. I needed to draw a boundary, so I kicked well-intentioned Sam to the curb. 
The hardest boundary I've had to confront in my romantic relationships is the line between authentic desire in my work, and the "it's just work" defense. Sex workers in committed partnerships often spend a great deal of time reassuring their partners that what they do at work is fake. "It's not real intimacy," we insist after coming home from a porn shoot, "I'm on set. I'm cold. People are staring at me. The last thing I'm feeling is aroused." Then we highlight everything that makes our partners special to us to ease their jealousy. I'm not saying that sex workers who reassure their partners like this are being dishonest. Not exactly. But the world isn't black-and-white, and while the vast majority of us are not regularly turned on by our work, real connections can happen with scene partners and genuine fun can be had with clients. So where's the line? 

Read the rest here: link.


Woman tricked female friend into having sex by pretending to be a man.

Not often that you hear stories like this. Wowzer.

From Guardian:

Woman who pretended to be man to trick friend into sex jailed for eight years
Gayle Newland sentenced to eight years in prison for disguising her appearance and persuading woman to wear blindfold while they had sex.
A woman who duped her friend into having sex by pretending to be a man for two years has been sentenced to eight years in prison.
Gayle Newland, 25, of Willaston, Cheshire, disguised her appearance and voice, and persuaded the woman to put on a blindfold when they met up.
They had sex about 10 times until the complainant took off her mask and saw Newland wearing a prosthetic penis.
Sentencing, Judge Roger Dutton said Newland was “an intelligent, obsessional, highly manipulative, deceitful, scheming and thoroughly determined young woman”. 
Newland claimed her accuser, also 25, always knew she was pretending to be a man as they engaged in role play while struggling with their sexuality.

Read the rest here: link.


XKCD takes on Pick Up Artists.

For those unfamiliar with pick up artists (PUA) or the seduction scene, it's a loose-knit group of guys who have turned to tricks and sometimes manipulation to pick up and sleep with women. These men have typically been rejected many times over, have low self-esteem, and rage with resent and a sense of entitlement when it comes to sex.

There are PUA books, websites, etc. that provide tips and techniques. One of the most notorious strategies is called negging. Negging is underhanded compliments or thinly veiled insults that are intended to undermine the confidence of women. They typically are about appearance. The idea behind negging is that it puts the guy doing the negging in a position of power by discounting the woman's attractiveness, with the hopes that she will then try to gain his approval.

Here are some samples:

With that wit, it’s a good thing you’re pretty.

In one more drink I’ll be ready to hit on you.

Nice nails, are they real?

You have little crinkles around your eyes when you laugh

It's kind of rude to chew with your mouth open.

That outfit is really sharp. It would look much better if it were (some other color).

Nice, right? And PAUs wonder why they have a terrible reputation.

XKCD, in typical brilliant fashion, takes on the stupidity of negging with this strip:

Soul mates.

The idea of a soul mate, or one true love, is one of those deceptively lovely myths that we've all been sold (I'm looking at you Disney princess and prince movies).

A study of Americans found that 73% believed in the idea of a soul mate. The problem with this sort of belief is that it can lead to relationship and partner dissatisfaction. The reality, no matter how good, will never live up to the fantasy (i.e., the ideal) of that one perfect person.

This is not to say they aren't lots of fantastic people out there who would be a great fit, but the idea of a single person who is absolutely 100% perfect is a trap.

Someone in the comments section passed along a clip by Tim Minchin, the comedian, and piece by xkcd, the artist and satirist, on the subject (thanks!). Here's the clip:

And an excerpt from the piece by xkcd:

But what if we did have one randomly-assigned perfect soul mate, and we couldn’t be happy with anyone else? Would we find each other?
We’ll assume your soul mate is set at birth. You know nothing about who or where they are, but—as in the romantic cliché—you’ll recognize each other the moment your eyes meet.
Right away, this raises a few questions. For starters, is your soul mate even still alive? A hundred billion or so humans have ever lived, but only seven billion are alive now (which gives the human condition a 93% mortality rate). If we’re all paired up at random, 90% of our soul mates are long dead.

Read the rest, with lots of fun doodles, here: link

Certificate of purity presented at wedding kicks off polarized debate.

Sent along by Ola with the following message (thanks!):

An instagram photo is going viral of a daughter presenting her father with a certificate of purity, signed by a doctor, saying her hymen was intact before her wedding. Her older sister also presented their father (a Reverend) with a similar certificate at her wedding.
I am just cringing will reading it, because not only is a hymen not a way of "testing" virginity (I believe it's unsettling to even test this), but also, as the article mentions multiple times, it seems there is no male version of this certificate. Her husband claimed to be pure as well at the time of the wedding, but again, no certificate was presented.
The family also seems to be monetizing on this, posting a certificate on their website you can fill out, as well as t-shirts and merchandise pushing the idea of purity and virginity before marriage. 
Honestly, the article just makes me sad. I understand she and her family feel pride at the commitment she made, but it's sad that they don't even understand the concept (of virginity) that they are striving so much to "maintain". It also just makes me sad in the larger sense of bodily autonomy, and that somehow a woman is "lesser" if she for some reason could not get such a certificate signed on her wedding.

The certificate that started the firestorm:

Check out the article on CBC, with lots of photos: link. The piece includes a pile of commentary from Twitter and Instagram. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground. People are either highly supportive, or find the story entirely objectionable.

Putting on my clinical hat (and not my personal-opinion hat), the main questions are: Is this causing any distress or harm to anyone? Is this simply a matter of different beliefs and values? Based on my reading of the story, the answers are no, and yes.


Flare magazine gets racy with an article on sex parties.

Passed along by Ola (thanks!):

I mentioned to you in class about the positive porn movement that has been happening in Toronto. I originally heard about it from this article in Flare, a women's fashion magazine (I guess they decided to push some boundaries!)
Here is a link to the article: link.
I found it really interesting! Hard to imagine being in a room with a group of strangers and watching two people have sex without it being "pervy" as the author described. I found it really heartwarming how they handled the man who approached them wanted to perform in their porn if he lost some weight, and they quickly dismissed any notion about him needing to change.

And an excerpt from the article:

I’ve been to many CrushTO parties since that first one. Whenever I mention them, I can see in people’s eyes a vision of naked hedonists stuffing things in every orifice. But they’re less like raunchy orgies than sexy dance parties. Attendees of every size and shape wear as little or as much as they like. Some go wild and topless on the dance floor, while shyer folks can play spin-the-bottle in a quiet corner. You sense that what you look like matters less than your joie de vivre. Dan, a 34-year-old payroll administrator, has been an I’d Tap That regular from the beginning, attending almost every event over the past couple years (and even appearing in two Spit shoots—shocking, given how timid he seems). He likes the fact that there is open communication about what potential partners are looking for: “It’s an accepting atmosphere. I’ve had the confidence to do things that I never would’ve done before—and I don’t even mean the porn shoots, I mean just talking to new people.”
Lucia O’Sullivan, Canada Research Chair in Adolescent Sexual Health Behaviour and a University of New Brunswick psychology professor, says that millennials, despite their wanton gallivanting, have “one of the most conservative sexual health records—definitely in comparison to their parents and grandparents. The research shows there are lower-than-ever rates of pregnancy and abortion.” She does grant that, while use of birth control and condoms has improved, STIs are still on the rise, but that uptick is happening across generational and sexual-preference spectrums, not just among free-wheeling Gen-Yers. “Their attitudes are much more progressive. They’re more open and appreciative of diversity,” she continues. “A lot of people confuse this approach to sexuality with a more permissive sexual life, but young people are still making very healthy decisions.”


And more from Ola:

Here is a link to the people who hosted the party and are "leading an anything-goes, everyone-welcome social sex revolution": link. The shoot was specifically for their subset magazine called "Spit".


Millennials not as obsessed with sex as we've been led to believe.

It's not uncommon to hear in the media that young people are over-sexualized, "pornified," and obsessed with hookup culture. These claims make some sense, in that our culture is becoming increasing liberal and sex-positive, and many people are shunning marriage but accepting of pornography. But what does the data say?

A recent study published in the Journal of Sex Research examined the sex lives and attitudes of American millennials. The data showed that millennials are actually more sexually conservative than previous generations, have (slightly) less sex, and have had less partners.

A review of the study published by Playboy (of all places) describes the findings in a bit more detail. It's a quick and interesting read. Check it out: link


A dominatrix challenges some long-held beliefs.

A very unique perspective on some of our cultural myths and assumptions, from a professional dominatrix.

From the article at the Rumpus:

There’s no such thing as:

  1. Intimacy without vulnerability
  2. An accurate definition of sex 
  3. A typical submissive man
  4. A woman who isn’t someone’s wildest fantasy
  5. A neat cause-and-effect explanation for the nuances of human psychology
  6. “Normal”
  7. A replacement for hard work
  8. A one-sided relationship
  9. Universal taboos
  10. A good age to stop playing

Read the whole thing to get all the details(it's a good read): link.

Bad sex media bingo.

Brought to you by Sense About Sex (link), a brilliant and fun way to counter all the misinformation that seems to get repeated over and over again in the media, despite no scientific evidence to support it. Read below the card for information from the Bad Sex Media Bingo site (link).

Notice any claims that you thought were true? For the explanations, click here.

From the site:

Why Bad Sex Media Bingo?

So much coverage of sex in the media is boiled down to the simplest of clichés and the loudest of headlines. People with vested interests – campaigners, people selling toys, remedies and dubious fixes – are uncritically quoted as experts.

There are many ways to spot a bad sex programme or article – one that’s been made to fit an agenda, perhaps, or one that is more about prurience and sensationalism than accuracy or helping people.

So we’re inviting you to play Bad Sex Bingo with us. How many of our bingo numbers can you spot during each new programme or article about sex? Will you be able to call House! first?

Play along with us on Twitter: our hashtag is #badsexbingo.

We also hope you’ll use Bad Sex Media Bingo to inform media production, to teach and train on these issues, to support activist work in this area, and for any other purposes for which it is useful.

Each of the points in Bad Sex Media Bingo is:

  • Commonly repeated in the media (across broadcast and print media),
  • Problematic and potentially harmful,
  • Easily recognisable, and
  • Covers a range of areas.

For each of our bad sex media examples we also have explanations saying:

  • Why they are a problem,
  • What negative impacts they can have, and
  • What would better ways of presenting sex there are.