Love & Relationships

Recent posts

Informed Consent: The Zimbardo Experiment

Also called the Stanford prison experiment, this psychological experiment is known along with Milgrim’s experiment as one of the most compelling pieces of evidence for the human tendency to react dramatically to power imbalances. A group of young people were randomly divided into prisoner roles or guard roles, and the arbitrary amounts of cruelty and control exhibited by the guards exceeded anyone’s expectations. This video clip shows some of the original footage as well as present-day commentary (and some hilarious 1970s hairstyles). The subjects knew that they were in an experiment, but they had no way of knowing how drastic the humiliation and psychological suffering would be. So again, we return to the idea of informed consent – that it’s important for people to understand what kind of situation they’ll be getting into in advance. Continue Reading →

Informed Consent: Risk Assessment vs. Stigma

As part of my informed consent post series, I’d like to talk about the issue of risk assessment regarding STIs when deciding whether to have sex with someone, and how to grapple with the problem of stigma. I wrote about stigma in my post on the adjacency effect, but the brief recap is that stigma is a sense of judgment or pollution attached to people who deviate from the norm. They’re seen to be dirty, unworthy, and so on. People who have been diagnosed with STIs certainly fall into this category; many face judgments such as slut-shaming, intolerance, and even human rights violations. In the context of informed consent, it is incredibly important for people to disclose their STI status to potential sexual partners. Continue Reading →

Informed Consent: The Milgram Experiment

I mentioned in the first informed consent post that we apply the idea of informed consent in academia and research in order to make sure we’re being ethical when dealing with human subjects. Why is this a big deal? Stanley Milgram’s experiment that tricked people into thinking they were administering electric shocks (in dangerous amounts) to other people is a great example of how an experiment can be psychologically damaging to people who don’t know what they’re in for. This video clip succinctly explains the experiment and shows footage from a similar experiment. If you felt disturbed while watching it, just imagine how the unknowing subjects involved felt! Continue Reading →

Informed Consent: Relationship Status Questions

An important way that informed consent is relevant to sexual pursuits is in the question of relationship status, availability, and ethical entanglements. Let me put it this way: say that you’re single and on a date with someone. It’s going well. What if, after the date (and whatever ensuing erotic activities you might’ve pursued), this person reveals that they’re actually in a long-term committed relationship, or married? How would you feel about that? Continue Reading →

Introduction To Informed Consent

I’ve been thinking about consent a lot lately, and so I’m going to use this blog post to kick off a series of posts that focuses on one aspect of consent: informed consent. I’ll address what informed consent is and how it differs from plain ol’ regular consent, and I’ll set up a discussion about the importance of informed consent that will continue in my next few posts. The most basic definition of consent is to give permission for something to happen. Sex educators and feminists generally agree that consent is a significant component of healthy sexual relationships: situations that lack consent are considered coercive or abusive, hence we try to educate people about consent so that they can make sure they’re always having consensual sex and thus not hurting anyone. How does informed consent differ from this? Continue Reading →

The Question Of Libido

How important is libido in the grand scheme of things? The answer may vary according to who you ask, as does the solution. The difference between men’s and women’s libidos has been noted and amply discussed, and yet there’s no consensus on how much of that difference is biological or culturally conditioned. In this post I discuss how under-reporting due to stigma and misogyny plays a role, while Dr. Debby discusses the results of one particular study that points to stress and fatigue as major roles in Western women’s low sexual desires. And, of course, there’s the flurry of reporting about the new “female viagra,” which as Lindy at Jezebel points out, is opening up interesting questions about women’s desire, monogamy, and social paradigms.

This blogger advocates for having sex regardless of high levels of desire, arguing: “You don’t wait until you’re starving before you eat. Continue Reading →

What’s Your “Sex Educator Face?”

Recently, at the end of a workshop I had given to a group of university students, I was standing with a small group of organizers and participants when an international student from Asia came up to me and asked me, “How does a tampon work?”

The group that was around me were all from Western countries and I could tell that they found her question really surprising. While internally I felt a bit surprised that someone who was in her late twenties was asking me a question that’s in the content of a fifth grade sex ed class, I responded in a way that communicated that this was a completely typical question. I asked a woman in the group if she happened to have a tampon in her bag. She found one, and I took a little plastic cup, put water in it, and did the demonstration that I’ve done in a puberty education class. After the participant left, a couple of the organizers commented on how I had handled her question with a warm but emotionally-neutral facial expression and a matter-of-fact explanation. Continue Reading →

My Favorite Facebook Status Updates about the SCOTUS Same-Sex Marriage Rulings

Today, SCOTUS changed life for many Americans in its rulings on DOMA and Prop 8. When I heard the news, via Twitter, I was walking into my lab space to interview a woman about orgasms (that’s the life of this research scientist). When the study participant arrived, she and I took a few minutes to acknowledge and talk about the monumental news of the day. Much of the day, I’ve felt on the verge of (happy) tears. I celebrated with a friend over lunch on an outdoor patio. Continue Reading →

What a Fashion Publicist Can Teach You About Sex

In an effort to not forget some of the wise advice I’ve read over the past year, I’ve recently been rereading certain chapters of books I’ve flagged on my bookshelf. (Side note: Never borrow a book from me; they’re all marked up with pen and flagged with neon Post-it notes.)

Getting to the point: I was rereading Kelly Cutrone’s book, Normal Gets You Nowhere, and forgot how completely fantastic (not to mention hysterical!) her second chapter is. The title? “THE KELLA-SUTRA: If You’re Not Getting Fucked by Midnight, Go Home.” Continue Reading →

Love, On Opposite Schedules

Something that’s been on my mind lately is how to keep a relationship when you have an opposite schedule from your partner’s. I think relationships of any kind involve work, and can be difficult at times – so opposite or overlapping schedules may not be any more difficult than any other relationship, but might just require different strategies. As someone who has a schedule that tends to be opposite from my partner’s, we face our own set of challenges, but here’s my tips of what works for us. 1. Make sure to set aside time for each other. Continue Reading →