Category Archives: Reproductive Health

Books: ‘Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex’ by Mary Roach

A few years ago, I read Mary Roach’s first book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and absolutely loved it! One of the best popular science books I have read in a long time – informative, eye-opening, thought-provoking and funny. Somehow I missed finding time to read her second (Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife – I guess just not a topic I care much about), but when her third book came out, with such a provocative title as Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, I could not resist.
And I was not disappointed. It is informative, eye-opening, thought-provoking and funny. The language we use to talk about sex (and death) is so rich, and so full of thinly (or thickly) veiled allusions, that playing with that language is easy. Puns and double-entendres come off effortlessly and yet never seem to grow old. And the effect of interspersing serious discussion of science with what amounts to, essentially, Kindergarten humor, makes the humor effective. I guess it is the effect of surprise. The same humor in a different context (or outside of any context) may not be as effective or funny. The book made me laugh out loud on many occasions, startling the other B-767 passengers on the trans-Atlantic flight a couple of weeks ago (if it was B-777, as American Airlines promised, I would have slept, but the smaller airplane made that impossible, so I read about sex instead).
I should not point out any specific examples of research described in the book – there’s so much of it – as I don’t want to take the wind out of Scicurious’ sails: she uses the book as a starting point for many of her Friday Weird Science posts.
And I will not even attempt to write a real book review (see the review by Scicurious and the series of posts on The Intersection for more details. Also check out Greta Christina and Dr.Joan for different takes).
Instead, I will mention something that I kept noticing over and over again in each chapter. An obsession of mine, or a case of a person with a hammer seeing nails everywhere, you decide.
On one hand, the history of science shows a trajectory of ever improving standards of research, more and more stringent criteria for statistics and drawing conclusions from the data, more and more stringent ethical criteria for the use of animal and human subjects in research, etc. As the time goes on, the results of scientific research are becoming more and more reliable (far from 100%, of course, but a huge improvement over Aristotle, Galen or the Ancient Chinese who could write down their wildest ideas with authoritative flair).
On the other hand, the language of science has become, over time, more and more technical and unintelligible to a lay reader. The ancient ‘scientific’ and ‘medical’ scripts, the books of 300 years ago, the Letters to the Academy of 200 years ago, the early scientific papers of 100 years ago – all of those were readable and understandable by everyone who could read. Of course, in the past, only the most educated sliver of the society was literate. Today, most people are literate (ignoring some geographical difference in the rates of literacy for the moment). But even the most educated sliver of the society, unless they are experts in the same scientific field, cannot understand a scientific paper.
Thus, as the science gets ever more reliable through history, it also becomes less and less understandable to an educated lay reader. Why is that so?
In the past, the educated lay reader was the intended audience for the scientific and medical writings. Today, the intended audience are colleagues. The papers are hidden behind paywalls and accessible only to people in big First World research institutions where the libraries have sufficient funds to pay for journal subscriptions. The communication to the lay audience is relegated to the non-experts: the media (which does an awful job of it) and science writers (who often do a great job, but their audience is severely limited to self-selected science aficionados).
I have been wondering for a while now (see the end of this post for an early example – and we had an entire session on the topic at ScienceOnline’09) if Open Access and the new metrics (that include media/blog coverage, downloads and bookmarks – all requiring that as many people as possible can understand the paper itself) will prompt authors of scientific papers to write keeping broader audiences in mind. Even if the “Materials and Methods” and “Results” sections need to remain technical, perhaps the Abstract, Introduction and Discussion (and in more and more journals also the “Author’s Summary”) will become more readable? At least the titles should be clear – and sometimes funny.
Last week I asked (on Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook – but FriendFeed, again, proved to be the best platform for this kind of inquiry) for examples of witty, normal-language titles of scientific papers. You can see some responses here and everyone reminded me of NCBI ROFL, the blog that specializes in finding wacky papers with wacky titles. Many, but certainly not all, of such titles indeed cover the science of sex.
Do you see this trend towards abandoning unreadable scientese (at least in titles) happening now or in the near future? Is it more likely to happen in OA journals? Do you have good examples?
In the meantime, watch Mary Roach – see why humor is an important aspect of science communication to lay audiences:

Science Cafe – Durham: Uncovering the Mysteries of Human Fertility: On Sex, Fertile Days, and Why the Rabbit Dies


Science Cafe
July 14, 2009 | 7:00 P.M.
Uncovering the Mysteries of Human Fertility: On Sex, Fertile Days, and Why the Rabbit Dies
Speaker: Allen Wilcox, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Everyone knows where babies come from, but few people appreciate the extraordinary and in some cases completely weird processes that have to work right in order for a new life to form.
Dr. Wilcox will discuss the key steps of human conception and early pregnancy including the window of days in which a woman can conceive, some of the factors that affect a couple’s chances of conceiving, and the new options for infertile couples created by modern technology.
Periodic Tables is a monthly gathering where curious adults can meet in a casual setting to discuss the latest science in plain English. At Periodic Tables, you will chat with your neighbors and local experts about interesting and relevant science happenings right here in the Triangle and beyond. No lengthy PowerPoint presentations, no drawn-out seminars, no confusing jargon. Simply smart and relevant science in a relaxed atmosphere. There is no such thing as a stupid question.
Come out and join us for a lively conversation at Broad Street Café at 1116 Broad Street (919.416.9707).


Since my post about it is not on the front page any more, I just want to remind you of the groundswell of support for the Silence Is The Enemy initiative.
Join the Facebook group, donate to Doctors Without Borders and write a letter to your representatives. Join the blogger coalition by blogging about this and spreading the word.
Small help is better than no help. And in many cases, growing coverage of an issue in the blogosphere forces the corporate media to break the silence as well, start paying attention and start covering it. Then, once it is in MSM, the elected officials start noticing it and they may actually do something about it. This process may go even faster on this topic, since one of these bloggers is NYTimes op-ed writer Nicholas Kristof.
You can also pitch in by doing nothing but clicking! Blogs donating all June revenue to Doctors Without Borders (income is determined by blog traffic, so you can contribute with each click) are:
The Intersection
On Becoming A Domestic And Laboratory Goddess
The Questionable Authority
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Blog Of The Moderate Left
Seattle Grassroots Examiner
the rugbyologist
And if you can afford more – there are Doctors Without Borders


About a week ago, Nicholas Kristof wrote an eye-opening op-ed in NYTimes – After Wars, Mass Rapes Persist. In Liberia, and probably in some other places, the end of war does not automatically mean the end of rape:

Of course, children are raped everywhere, but what is happening in Liberia is different. The war seems to have shattered norms and trained some men to think that when they want sex, they need simply to overpower a girl. Or at school, girls sometimes find that to get good grades, they must have sex with their teachers.

The war, and the use of rape as a weapon of war, changes the culture in a way that permits the rape to continue in a civilian society, as a means of asserting power, nursing one’s wounded sense of masculinity and keeping the women under control. Kristof writes:

The evidence is overwhelming that the best way to deal with rape — whether in Darfur or Liberia, or even in the United States — is to demystify it, dismantle the taboos, and address it directly. That is happening.
The United Nations Security Council held a formal session last year on sexual violence, and the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued its arrest warrant for Sudan’s president in part because of mass rapes. Senators Barbara Boxer and Russ Feingold chaired subcommittee hearings on rape just this month, focused on Congo and Sudan, where the brutality is particularly appalling. But the lesson of Liberia is equally sad: that even when wars end, mass rape continues by inertia.

In a related article, Eve Ensler focuses on similar issues in the Congo:

Nothing I have heard or seen compares with what is going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where corporate greed, fueled by capitalist consumption, and the rape of women have merged into a single nightmare. Femicide, the systematic and planned destruction of the female population, is being used as a tactic of war to clear villages, pillage mines and destroy the fabric of Congolese society.
In 12 years, there have been 6 million dead men and women in Congo and 1.4 million people displaced. Hundreds and thousands of women and girls have been raped and tortured. Babies as young as 6 months, women as old as 80, their insides torn apart. What I witnessed in Congo has shattered and changed me forever. I will never be the same. None of us should ever be the same.

Ensler is also the founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls.
Sheril Kirshenbaum is leading a very important blogospheric initiative called SILENCE IS THE ENEMY starting today, June 1st to help a generation of young women half a world away. She says:

An International Rescue Committee survey suggests 12 percent of girls aged 17 and under acknowledged having been sexually abused in some way in the previous 18 months. Further, of the 275 new sexual violence cases treated Jan-April by Doctors Without Borders, 28 percent involve children aged 4 or younger, and 33 percent involve children aged 5 through 12. That’s 61% age 12 or under. We read about their plight and see the figures, but it’s so easy to feel helpless to act in isolation. But these are not statistics, they are girls. Together we can do more.

Today, on June 1 at 9am, ‘SILENCE IS THE ENEMY’ begins – so named because we will not be (also lyrics of a rising Top 30 song, and therefore memorable).
What can you do?
Post about this. Send the URL of your post to Sheril (see the details and instructions in her post) so she can add it to the ‘SILENCE IS THE ENEMY’ homepage. And make sure you include the links to the Doctors Without Borders Donation Page and ask for donations, as well as to the Congressional Directory so readers can contact their representatives. Sheril will also post a static letter to Congress on the sidebar of her blog, so that readers can copy it and include it in their letters to Congressmen.
And spread the word using all the online and offline tools you have.

Book Club: ‘Bonk’ by Mary Roach

I loved Mary Roach’s ‘Stiff’ when it first came out, so I was excited to see that Sheril started a book club reading the third book, Bonk, by the same author. My copy just arrived, so I will be participating as much as I can find the time.
Some of my SciBlings have already read and reviewed the book, e.g., SciCurious, or have the book and intend to read it, like Brian and Dr.Joan.
Sheril introduces the book here and begins the club, strangely with Chapter 5, here. Join in.

Harold Varmus is everywhere!

VarmusBookCover.jpgLook what came in the mail yesterday! The Art and Politics of Science by Harold Varmus and, since he is in some way my boss, with a very nice personal inscription inside the cover. I am excited and already started reading it.
And speaking o Varmus, he seems to be everywhere. See this article in TimesOnline:

A major investment in fighting tropical infections and chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes in poor countries would transform international perceptions of the US, according to Harold Varmus, who co-chairs the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.
In an exclusive interview with The Times, Dr Varmus said that American diplomacy had undervalued the role of medicine and science in fostering friendly relations with developing nations.
He is asking President Obama to endorse a plan from the US Institute of Medicine that would almost double annual US support for global health to $15 billion by 2012. ….

Effects of Developmental Exposure to Bisphenol-A on the Ovary and Brain


Even if you haven’t heard of Bisphenol A (BPA), you’ve likely been exposed to it. The endocrine disrupting compound is common in plastic infant bottles, water bottles, food cans and lots of other products. Scientists debate its dangers but the National Toxicology Program (based in RTP) acknowledges BPA as a source of “some concern” due to its possible harm to the brains and behavior of fetuses, infants and children.
On Wed. Feb. 18, at noon, come hear NCSU assistant biology professor Heather Patisaul share what she’s finding about BPA’s potential permanent effects in a talk entitled “Effects of Developmental Exposure to Bisphenol-A on the Ovary and Brain.”
Pizza Lunch is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes. Feel free to forward this invitation to anyone you would like to see included. RSVPs are required (for a reliable slice count) to
Directions to Sigma XI:

What is wrong with the picture?

Serbian Ministry of Health, as part of their fight against AIDS, inserted a condom inside a women’s magazine this month. The condom is German-made, named “Bumper-Bumper” and in a fun-looking package:
[Image from]
The timing is unfortunate (I’m sure it was planned months in advance and was too difficult to pull back at the last moment) – this was mailed out just 2-3 days after a guy in Belgrade killed his wife – a pretty brutal case of domestic violence that everyone is talking about (this is not something that happens often there).
Question #1: Why are condoms not sent to men? Are the guys there not reading any magazines? Sports? Tech? I am sure there is some research that shows that this is more efficient, but aren’t the guys those who should care of this thing?
Question #2: what is wrong with the picture?
Hat-tip: Danica

So, my question is how birds, insects, worms, frogs and fish do it?

An Evolutionary Look at Sperm Holds Secrets of Mobility, Fertility:

The fusion of sperm and egg succeeds in mammals because the sperm cells hyperactivate as they swim into the increasingly alkaline female reproductive tract. One fast-moving sperm drives on through the egg’s fertilization barrier.
Mammals have sperm with a tail that reacts when calcium ions enter a microscopic channel in the tail and make the sperm go into overdrive. In fact, four genes are needed to produce the so-called CatSper ion channel in the sperm tail that hypermotivates the sperm. The CatSper genes may someday be targeted in a male contraceptive: no calcium-ion channel gene = no sperm hyperactivity = no fertilization (infertility correlation to the gene blockage has been proven in mice).
The interesting thing is that mammals, reptiles, sea urchins, and even some primitive lower invertebrates, animals without backbones, have all of these four genes, while birds, insects, worms, frogs, and most fish species, do not, says co-author Xingjiang Cai, M.D., Ph.D., of the Duke Department of Cell Biology and the Duke Department of Medicine, in the Division of Cardiology.

The research is reported in: Cai X, Clapham DE (2008) Evolutionary Genomics Reveals Lineage-Specific Gene Loss and Rapid Evolution of a Sperm-Specific Ion Channel Complex: CatSpers and CatSperβ. PLoS ONE 3(10): e3569. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003569

Abstract: The mammalian CatSper ion channel family consists of four sperm-specific voltage-gated Ca2+ channels that are crucial for sperm hyperactivation and male fertility. All four CatSper subunits are believed to assemble into a heteromultimeric channel complex, together with an auxiliary subunit, CatSperβ. Here, we report a comprehensive comparative genomics study and evolutionary analysis of CatSpers and CatSperβ, with important correlation to physiological significance of molecular evolution of the CatSper channel complex. The development of the CatSper channel complex with four CatSpers and CatSperβ originated as early as primitive metazoans such as the Cnidarian Nematostella vectensis. Comparative genomics revealed extensive lineage-specific gene loss of all four CatSpers and CatSperβ through metazoan evolution, especially in vertebrates. The CatSper channel complex underwent rapid evolution and functional divergence, while distinct evolutionary constraints appear to have acted on different domains and specific sites of the four CatSper genes. These results reveal unique evolutionary characteristics of sperm-specific Ca2+ channels and their adaptation to sperm biology through metazoan evolution.

The hook-up culture

Amanda is in the middle of reading Michael Kimmel’s Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men and has posted the first, preliminary review, with some very interesting explorations by the commenters as well (I guess the MRAs did not get there yet to ruin the discussion). The review is focusing on the societal gender roles as the cause of the hook-up culture as well as the perception of it as being negative.
Much younger, sarahmeyers looks at the setting for the hook-up culture and identifies her own – highly urban, career-oriented, highly-connected (online and offline).
Possibly related:
Hooked on Hooking Up, Or What’s Wrong With Conservative View Of Marriage
Teen Sex, ‘Hooking Up’, Gay Marriage, Femiphobia and Bush Victory Are All Interconnected
Stephanie Coontz On Marriage
What is the Future of the Institution of Marriage?
Books: ‘The Sex Lives Of Teenagers’ by Lynn Ponton
Teen Parenthood for the X-box generation

An eye-catching yet flawed bar graph

Discussed at these sites, among others:
Chart junk-ies
When bar charts go bad
World’s Most Expensive Places to Have Sex.
Catch the flaw(s).
Click here to see large.
Go under the fold to see small:

Continue reading

Sex, Gender, Reproduction

I have not done a Friday Weird Sex Blogging post in ages, and I won’t do today either, but others did some cool blogging on various related topics: from gender disparities, to gynecological procedures, to weird animal/plant sex, so here is a little collection for this weekend:
My take on Mr. Tierney’s article:

Again, I can’t predict what the gender breakdown of any profession would be if we didn’t live in a rather patriarchal society. Maybe it wouldn’t be 50/50 if everything else was equal. But it’s not. I hate to use the P-word, but consider the environment our girls are being raised in. Until societal pressures can really be controlled for, I’m not sure that we can really say what people’s “natural tendencies” are. And that goes for men, too. Gender stereotypes are stupid. And Tierney’s insistence that girls just don’t like some things isn’t terribly inspiring (or new).

Blogging my mammogram:

At the urging of my colleague Abel, who liveblogged his own vasectomy, I’m documenting my first mammogram. Given that I had pretty much no idea what to expect going into this, I’m hopeful that this post will demystify the experience a little for those who know they probably should get mammograms but have been putting it off.

The pros and cons of screening mammography: reading my ‘patient instructions’:

However, to the extent that most of us who are getting regular health care in the U.S. are doing it within the context of some kind of insurance, we aren’t generally making this call individually. We’re working within the framework of our health care provider’s policy, which usually tracks what insurance will cover.

Why Not? Blogging My D & C:

And that’s it! Now I am officially one of those people who shares every intimate detail of their lives with total strangers on the internet. You know, just like I promised myself I would never do. If you had asked me, when I first took up blogging, whether I’d be posting pictures of the inside of my uterus on my blog, I’m pretty sure I’d have answered “what the hell are you talking about?” And yet, here we are. Just don’t tell my mom.

World Wide Web Abortions:

In theory, I think it’s pathetic (not to mention potentially high-risk) that some patients have to resort to DIY specialized medical care just because they happen to be pregnant. In practice, when your reality is that your access to proper medical care is at the mercy of strangers, it’s preferable to obtain care from (apparently) competent strangers like Women on Web, rather than some unqualified black marketeer.

Sex and the over seventies – what the research really said:

Media coverage has stuck to this, although a lot of coverage has focused on the ooo-isn’t-it-shocking-that-wrinklies-are-having-sex angle, and in many places misquoting or misunderstanding the study data. This is probably because most journalists didn’t read the original research or editorial, and based their stories on the press release. Of the journalists I spoke to who were writing their coverage yesterday the majority were not interested in getting reportage of the study right, but simply wanted me to find them a seventy year old couple who didn’t mind talking about their sex lives or having their photograph included in the paper.

Lonesome George not so lonesome:

George, a Pinta island tortoise who has shown little interest in reproducing during 36 years in captivity, stunned his keepers by mating with one of his two female companions of a similar species of Galapagos tortoise.

This Friday’s Weird Science: Foot-binding:

This is where Dr. McGeoch got his idea. He notes that ancient Chinese historians who lived during the Tang Dynasty talked about women with their feet bound, noting that they were, perhaps, a little more “sensitive” in bed than those who had big feet. So foot binding was considered conducive to a better sex life. Dr. McGeoch hypothesizes that, because the girl’s feet were kept small, broken, and atrophied, she might get a structural reorganization in her somatosensory cortex, where neurons were recruited from the feet to the genetalia, resulting in a stronger signal from the genitals. Of course, this would remain to be seen (and I would not want to be the lab rat for that experiment), but it’s an interesting idea.

Not quite viagra!:

…It’s a penis shaped fungus! A Stinkhorn in the family Phallaceae. I came across this in a unit about fungi I did last year and just found it funny… a bit immature perhaps…

Virginity Pledges Among the Willing, and Defining “Willing”

I briefly noted this study yesterday, but now W. D. Craft analyzes it in great detail:

I am pessimistic that the authors’ more careful conclusions and recommendations will be noticed. Instead I fear we’re in for more naive calls for “abstinence education” and coerced virginity pledges.

Friday Weird Sex Blogging – Corkscrewing

Friday Weird Sex Blogging - CorkscrewingYou really think I am going to put this above the fold? No way – you have to click (First posted on July 7, 2006):

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Oxytocin and Childbirth. Or not.

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

From the Archives

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

When teaching human or animal physiology, it is very easy to come up with examples of ubiqutous negative feedback loops. On the other hand, there are very few physiological processes that can serve as examples of positive feedback. These include opening of the ion channels during the action potential, the blood clotting cascade, emptying of the urinary bladder, copulation, breastfeeding and childbirth. The last two (and perhaps the last three!) involve the hormone oxytocin. The childbirth, at least in humans, is a canonical example and the standard story goes roughly like this:

When the baby is ready to go out (and there’s no stopping it at this point!), it releases a hormone that triggers the first contraction of the uterus. The contraction of the uterus pushes the baby out a little. That movement of the baby stretches the wall of the uterus. The wall of the uterus contains stretch receptors which send signals to the brain. In response to the signal, the brain (actually the posterior portion of the pituitary gland, which is an outgrowth of the brain) releases hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin gets into the bloodstream and reaches the uterus triggering the next contraction which, in turn, moves the baby which further stretches the wall of the uterus, which results in more release of oxytocin…and so on, until the baby is expelled, when everything returns to normal.

As usual, introductory textbook material lags by a few years (or decades) behind the current state of scientific understanding. And a brand new paper just added a new monkeywrench into the story. Oxytocin in the Circadian Timing of Birth by Jeffrey Roizen, Christina E. Luedke, Erik D. Herzog and Louis J. Muglia was published last Tuesday night and I have been poring over it since then. It is a very short paper, yet there is so much there to think about! Oh, and of course I was going to comment on a paper by Erik Herzog – you knew that was coming! Not just that he is my friend, but he also tends to ask all the questions I consider interesting in my field, including questions I wanted to answer myself while I was still in the lab (so I live vicariously though his papers and blog about every one of them).
Unfortunately, I have not found time yet to write a Clock Tutorial on the fascinating topic of embryonic development of the circadian system in mammals and the transfer of circadian time from mother to fetus – a link to it would have worked wonderfully here – so I’ll have to make shortcuts, but I hope that the gist of the paper will be clear anyway.

Continue reading

The Spitzer files…

Lindsay Beyerstein: Spitzer linked to prostitution ring
Spitzer’s Nixonian hubris
Sex and taxes: How Spitzer allegedly got caught
Spitzer and Suspicious Activity Reports and sex stings
Enough is enough: Feds probe Spitzer’s records back to 1999
Amanda Marcotte: Cut out the stand by your man routine
Ask for facts, get the facts
Elizabeth Pisani: Spitzer’s true folly
Spitzer: cementing a cross-party tradition of hypocrisy
Spitzer: some better ideas for the lapsed abolitionist
Calling “These women”: tell us about your disorders…
Scott Swenson: RealTime: Prostitution Pledge for Politicians
Ed Cone: Aarfy never paid for it in his life

Neglected Research Findings in Family Planning and Reproductive Health

Many important research findings never make it into the actual practice when it comes to reproductive health services. Rose of The INFO Project Blog has posted an interesting and good survey which needs to be spread around the blogosphere more in order to get a bigger number of responses:

To improve service delivery and policies, research should be put into practice. However, some important research findings that could improve reproductive health services have not been incorporated widely into policies and programs.
For example, the World Health Organization advises that family planning clients using oral contraceptives receive up to one year’s supply of pills (13 cycles), or as many pill packs as feasible, at the first visit. Research has found that women given a full year’s supply of pills are more likely to use the method effectively, without interruption, than women given only one to three pill packs at a time. This practice is rare in many countries, however.
Neglected research findings such as the one above will be discussed in the forthcoming Population Reports issue, “New Findings on Contraceptives.” We welcome you to share your opinions with us to help us decide which neglected findings we should discuss in the report.

Do the survey and comment on the post. And put this on your blog and ask your readers to do this survey as well.

The Dangers of Blogging, or, the Quest for Male Contraception

dice.jpg“Why isn’t there a birth control pill for men?” is the latest “Ask A ScienceBlogger” question. I am sure my SciBlings will rise to the occasion and explain both the biological and social barriers to the development, production and marketing of such a pill. I will be more light hearted, with a brief look at alternative methods proposed over the years intended to make guys temporarily infertile. Let’s start with this delightful, funny, yet informative, movie:

The movie can be found here, via Science of the Invisible (Thanks for the heads-up).
Perhaps this quack had a point after all! Would you mind getting mildly electrocuted so you could have unprotected sex for a while?
One of the factors often invoked to explain the decrease in male fertility in the developed world is the fashion of wearing tight jeans (didn’t work for me – look at my kids!), which increases the temperature in the scrotal region. Perhaps we can learn from the dolphins and devise ways to do exactly the opposite: kill sperm by heating the testes. People have actually tried this, sitting in hot baths for hours every day, with some anecdotal success.
Or we can infect men with norovirus. There is no way they will have sex at all if they are spending their time in the bathroom, trying to make the tough decision of which way to turn when projectile ejection of liquid is happening simultaneously at both the cranial and the caudal ends of the body.
Finally, going to the chemicals, there is an unwanted side-effect of some anti-depressants: Though there’s no problem with getting an erection (for hours!), they make it almost impossible to achieve orgasm or ejaculation. Perhaps we can study the underlying mechanism of this effect and devise a complex time-release pill that would work sort-of like this: first, Viagra gets into the system, ensuring erection; then, the drug mimicking the effects of anti-depressants kicks in blocking ejaculation; and finally, after a prescribed time, an anti-Viagra compound is released, effectively ending the show with no damage done.
What do you think, would guys go for it?
Or should they (as the movie above suggests) just blog around the clock?

How to talk about Health Care

Rockridge Institute published a set of articles (and a video ad) that I found quite interesting about the way to frame health care. See for yourself:
Introduction to Rockridge’s Health Care Campaign:

Framing for Rockridge is about the honest expression of the progressive moral view based upon empathy and responsibility for oneself and others. It is about recognizing government’s role to protect and empower citizens. In other words, we want to communicate our moral view as directly as possible. We want to make sure the moral view is not lost in the fog of complex policy proposals.

The Logic of the Health Care Debate:

Most health care reports advocate a policy, describe it, and argue for it. We take a different approach. In this paper, we describe the logic of the overall debate over the U.S. health care system –the assumptions, the arguments, who makes them, and why. We do come out of this process with recommendations, but not of the usual sort.

Don’t Think of a Sick Child:

George W. Bush doesn’t want you to think of a sick child. Not Graeme Frost. Not Gemma Frost. Not Bethany Wilkerson. Not any of the real children affected. He wants you straining your eyes on the fine print of policies, puzzling over the nuances of coverage — whether you can afford premiums for basic, catastrophic, comprehensive or limited health insurance.

Don’t Think of a Sick Child: The Framing of the Rockridge Institute’s Health Care Security Ad:

The initial web ad in the Rockridge Institute’s campaign for health care security is intended to make a simple, emotional point: today’s profit-first, private, insurance-based health care system forces Americans to choose to exclude millions of Americans from adequate health care.

Could You Explain a Vote Against Children’s Health to the Children?:

For those in U.S. House or Senate inclined to sustain a presidential veto of a bill that will provide basic health care to more than 3 million additional American children, ask yourselves this question: Are you willing to explain your decision to a schoolroom of fragile young children who cannot afford treatment for whooping cough or measles, leukemia or juvenile diabetes? Are you willing to explain this to them, human to human?

Who’s Afraid of Sick Kids?:

When is a twelve-year-old boy with brain damage a threat? When he exemplifies the good a government program can do when it provides health security to middle-class Americans.

SCHIP and the Rigged Health Insurance Game:

The House on Thursday passed a modified version of the SCHIP bill, with a vote that was seven votes shy of a veto-proof majority. There were 142 members of Congress who voted against extending health care to more poor children. Behind their rhetoric, their intentions are clear: they want to protect the health insurance market and the huge profits that go with it.

Ask Rockridge: The Importance of Mental Health:

A Rockridge Nation member recently asked how we can reframe mental health as being necessary for health. We explore a key cognitive bias in how health is conceptualized to pave the way toward an effective alternative.

Ask Rockridge: The Meaning of Socialized Medicine:

Rockridge Nation members recently asked about the phrase “socialized medicine” and raised the deeper question of how to overcome resistance to an expanded government role in funding healthcare, prompting our response here.

You may not agree with the Lakoffian analysis, but reading these articles SHOULD make you think about the way you talk about health care.

Exclusive: Interview with Senator John Edwards on Science-Related Topics

I had a great pleasure recently to be able to interview Senator – and now Democratic Presidential candidate – John Edwards for my blog. The interview was conducted by e-mail last week.
As I am at work and unable to moderate comments, the comment section is closed on this post, but will be open on the previous post (here) where I hope you will remain civil and stay on topic. You are also welcome to comment on this interview at several other places (e.g,. DailyKos, MyDD, TPMCafe, Science And Politics, Liberal Coalition, the Edwards campaign blog as well as, hopefully, your own blogs).
I cannot answer any additional questions for Senator Edwards, of course, but there are likely to be other opportunities in the future where your questions can be answered so feel free to post them in the comments thread on the other post and I’ll make sure he gets them. The interview is under the fold:

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FemiBlogging of the Week, Month, Year and Forever

The 29th Carnival of Feminists is up on The imponderabilia of actual life containing posts by several of my favourite bloggers, including Zuska who has her own pick of favourites there.
Speaking of Zuska, she also has a cool article in the inaugural issue of the new science-culture Inkling Magazine, the brainchild of the magnificent blogging Trio Fantasticus of Inkycircus.
And while we are on the topic, Razib exhibits a complete lack of sense of irony, i.e., the inability to see sarcasm and seeing seriousness instead.

Why do we have sex?

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A new meaning of ‘having a buzz’

A new meaning of 'having a buzz'This strange November 09, 2005 post should really be posted on Friday as part of the Friday Weird Sex Blogging….

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Friday Weird Sex Blogging – Cooling The Balls


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Books: “The Sex Lives Of Teenagers” by Lynn Ponton

After hearing Lynn Ponton on the radio and subsequently writing this, I read her book and wrote a brief comment about it (originally on June 14, 2005):
I recently finished reading The Sex Lives of Teenagers by Lynn Ponton. This interview is probably the best introduction to the book.
As parent of soon-to-be teens, I found the book useful to some extent. It is a series of case-studies – the kind of chatty book so often written by psychologists – a format that makes it easy to read, but leaves one deeply unsatisfied.
My interest is in sexuality of American society and how it affects politics. This book is not it – it rarely, and very obliquely touches on the broader culture. After being impressed with Dr.Ponton when I heard her talk on the radio, I was expecting and hoping for an academic read, full of statistics, and focusing on the Big Picture. I hope she writes one. Soon.

Another case of Evo-Psych abuse…

Have you heard about the stupid German study that uses evo-psych Just-So-Stories about, supposedly, women losing interest in sex shortly after marriage?
I wanted to dissect it when it first came out but Real Life and time-constraints prevented me. In the meantime, Dr.Petra, Shakespeare’s Sister, Amanda and Echidne ably debunked and destroyed the study and the media reporting on it, so I don’t have to do anything but link to them.

Plan B Prevents Abortion!

First, go to Well-timed Period and Pharyngula to get all the neccessary information about Plan B, what it is, what it isn’t, and how it works. Then go to Bitch PhD and buy a T-shirt (for which you need to know what you are talking about because you WILL be asked).

Plan B

Connect The Dots. Will they ever do anything if not for political reasons? Health? They don’t care… Approval of a Bush appointee? Sure, let’s sign what needs to be signed….

What happens in bed, stays in bed

Men’s sleep apnea found alongside erectile problems:

Men who are sound sleepers have better sex lives.
A study published in a recent edition of Urology says men who suffer from sleep apnea syndrome also suffer a high rate of erectile dysfunction.
One theory, Dr. Atwood said, suggests that sleep apnea disrupts rapid-eye-movement or REM sleep — a time when men routinely experience erections. Decreased REM sleep means fewer REM erections.
The possibility exists, he said, that REM erections are a necessary process for men to maintain healthy sexual function.

(Hat-tip: Insulin Resistance)

Sexsomnia Revisited

The article I linked to in my previous post on the topic of having sex while asleep (or is it ‘being sleep while having sex’?), e.g., the one I got pointed to by someone (e-mail?), is actually, quite terrible. So, instead, if you are interested in the topic, you should check out a much more serious website –, which focuses entirely on the phenomenon of sexsomnia.
I need to thank Karmen for pointing out that site to me. The site has extensive links to other sources of information, including links to all of Dr. Shapiro’s papers on the topic. For instance, this paper (pdf) appears much more trustworthy than the little online survey mentioned in the article I linked a few days ago.
On a less scientific, but perhaps more exciting note, you should check out the story of a woman whose boyfriend left her because of sexsomnia (masturbating in her sleep). And, since the original article mentioned potential legal consequences of sexsomnia (e.g., having sex with a minor), there was a case in Canada last year in which they found a man innocent of rape because he suffered from sexsomnia (the weird part is, he woke up with a condom on!)

Melatonin in Human Milk

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

Melatonin is secreted in human mother’s milk with a daily rhythm – high at night, undetectable during the day (see the figure under the fold):

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Obligatory Reading of the Day

Amanda reviews the lies about sex and contraception that are peddled by the Catholic church in their pre-marital classes:
Pandagon goes undercover the lazy way on a Catholic anti-contraception seminar
Pandagon goes undercover the lazy way on a Catholic anti-contraception seminar, Pt. II