Friday, December 11, 2009

Randomly Interesting Sexual Health Articles

India: condoms go with a bang

Vandals are targeting condom vending machines in Mumbai because they create a big bang when firecrackers are burst inside them.

More than 700 of the 3,200 machines, which were developed by Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust (HLFPPT), across India's financial hub and its neighbouring areas have been destroyed.

The money and condoms are taken away as "fringe benefits" while the machine itself is reportedly sold piece-by-piece in the open market.

Rajesh Nainakwal, programme manager at HLFPPT, told the Times of India: "We have noticed several instances of people putting bombs inside the machines for a bigger bang.

"This destroys the machines and the criminals then take away the structure, one piece at a time, to sell in the open market."

He added: "The money inside the machines and the condoms are the fringe benefits."

Within the last three years, nearly 22% of the condom vending machines placed in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region have been stolen or vandalised and the developers say they are shocked at the reaction of the police to the issue.

Mr Nainakwal said: "Police stations issue an acknowledgement slip and assure us of a probe into the incidents but routinely refuse to register proper complaints. We have made repeated requests but there is no action so far."

Joint police commissioner Himanshu Roy said the programme developers needed to approach superior officers "instead of filing a general diary at a police station".

Source: Press Association, Google News, 11 December 2009


'Friends with Benefits' sex does no psych harm - profs

Boffins in Minnesota have a message for young adults: sleeping around is OK. Your prospects in terms of psychological health should you indulge in casual flings are every bit as good as they would be if you bizarrely chose to waste your wild-oats years in one or more doleful and ultimately doomed monogamous relationships.

According to Marla E Eisenberg and her colleagues at Minnesota uni:
"Speculation in public discourse suggests that sexual encounters outside a committed romantic relationship may be emotionally damaging for young people, and federal abstinence education policy has required teaching that sexual activity outside of a marital relationship is likely to have harmful psychological consequences".

Au contraire, say the researchers - a few notches on the bedpost achieved in one's salad days will do no harm at all. Having surveyed 1,311 Minnesotan youngsters whose average age was 20.5 during 2003-04, they found no evidence that the odd fling leads to psychological problems whatsoever.

"Young adults engaging in casual sexual encounters do not appear to be at increased risk for harmful psychological outcomes compared to those in more committed relationships," says Eisenberg.

The study did appear to refer to so-called "friends with benefits" cheery consequence-free shagging among likeminded sorts who already know each other socially, as opposed to more risky practices such as simply picking up sailors on the docks.

Also, Eisenberg did offer a note of caution.

"This should not minimize the legitimate threats to physical well-being associated with casual sexual relationships, and the need for such messages in sexuality education programs," she adds.
Or, freely paraphrased, you won't (or anyway, needn't) feel cheap or worthless and end up dead inside if you occasionally have a bit of meaningless fun, but there is the risk of a nasty/fatal dose of Cupid's measles - so chastity is optional but condoms are not.

Eisenberg and her colleagues' new paper, 'Casual Sex and Psychological Health Among Young Adults: Is Having "Friends with Benefits" Emotionally Damaging?' appears in this month's issue of 'Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health'.

Source: The Register, (UK) 9 December 2009


Testosterone link to aggression may be all in the mind

The popular idea that testosterone always makes people more aggressive has been debunked by researchers. A team based in Switzerland has shown that the hormone can make people behave more fairly in an effort to defend their social status.

Ernst Fehr, an experimental economist at the University of Zurich, and his colleagues used the 'ultimatum bargaining' game to test how testosterone would affect behaviour in a group of 121 women. Counter-intuitively, women who were given testosterone bargained more fairly.

But the idea that testosterone causes aggression in humans, as it clearly does in rodents, is so firmly ingrained in the human psyche that women who believed they had been given testosterone — whether or not they had — bargained much less fairly.

Women, not men, were tested because they have less variable 'baseline' blood testosterone levels.

The study is published in Nature1. "It is a folk hypothesis that testosterone causes aggression," says Fehr. "But human society is more complex than this."

Fair play

Several studies in humans have shown positive correlations between high blood testosterone levels and confrontational behaviour. But it has been hard to determine experimentally whether the aggression is caused by testosterone or is instead a consequence of a challenge to a person's social status.

The ultimatum game makes it possible to distinguish between these possibilities.

In the game, two individuals must agree on the division of a sum of money. The proposer suggests a particular splitting of the sum and the responder must accept or reject the offer. The proposal is an ultimatum — the responder may not make a counter-offer. If the responder accepts the proposal, the money is duly allocated. If the responder rejects the proposal, neither the proposer nor the responder gets any money.

Responders normally reject very low offers as unfair — they would rather receive no money than see their partner carry off a disproportionate amount of cash.

Some proposers offer a 50-50 split because they are motivated by fairness, although most push to keep a bit more for themselves — but not so much more that they risk rejection and ending up with nothing.

Fehr's team reasoned that if testosterone caused aggression, it would cause proposers to make low offers. If, however, it promoted social-status-seeking behaviour, proposers would make higher offers to avoid the social affront of having their offers rejected.

Beggaring belief

The women were given either 0.5 mg testosterone or a placebo four hours before playing the ultimatum game for the sum of 10 money units. Before they played, they were asked to say whether they believed they had been given testosterone or placebo.

Women who received testosterone made significantly higher offers than those who received placebo — an average of 3.9 money units compared with the placebo group's average offer of 3.4 money units.

"In the socially complex human environment, pro-social behaviour, not aggression, secures status," says Michael Naef, an experimental economist at the Royal Holloway, University of London, who is a co-author on the paper.

The study has an additional, equally important message: those who believed they received testosterone, whether they had or not, made much lower offers — as low as 2 money units in some cases, or even nothing.

"We think their belief that they had received testosterone, and that testosterone promotes aggression, gave them an up-front excuse to act more aggressively," says Fehr.

Responders remained as likely to reject a shabby offer when they were treated with testosterone as when they received placebo, showing that the hormone was not promoting altruistic behaviour.

Adam Goodie, a psychologist at the University of Georgia in Athens who works on decision-making, says: "The paper is a major blow to the popular wisdom that testosterone simply makes you more aggressive and less cooperative — the true picture is not nearly as negative."

"And it takes the field of neuroeconomics an important step further by showing that not only does biology affect economic behaviour — but so does belief," he adds.

The powerful impact of belief is a good lesson for neuroeconomists, adds Fehr: "Belief should always be controlled for in neuroeconomics studies, but often it is not."

Source:, 8 December 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Time for more accurate terminology

Swedish Association for Sexuality Education
Stockholm 8 December 2009More information: Olle Castelius, RFSU press officer. +46 70 552 00 81.

Hymen renamed “vaginal corona”

The mythical status of the hymen has caused far too much harm for far too long. Last spring, RFSU published an information booklet in Swedish intended to dispel some of the myths surrounding the hymen and virginity.

The booklet was a great success and flew off the shelves. There was clearly great demand for the Swedish version, and in response to numerous requests, RFSU has now had it translated into Arabic, English and Sorani.

“When we introduced a new term for the hymen in Swedish, slidkrans, many people commented that it was good to finally have a word that accurately described this body part. A lot of people also asked why we hadn't had the booklet translated. Now we have,” said Åsa Regnér, RFSU secretary general.

The new term for the hymen in Arabic is تاج{اكليل}المهبل،,
The new term in English is vaginal corona.
In Sorani, the term is ئهڵقهی زێ

(If there are problems viewing the Arab and Sorani versions in this email, please see the attached pdf).

“After talking to organizations working in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights with people from non-Swedish ethnic backgrounds, we decided to start with these three langu¬ages. However, we aim to publish our booklet in other languages as well,” explained Ms Regnér.

The booklet describes what the female genitals look like and what the vaginal corona actually is. It also dispels many of the myths surrounding female sexuality and the misconceptions concerning the hymen and virginity. Etymologically, the term hymen comes from the Greek word for membrane. In Swedish, the hymen used to be called mödomshinna, which translates literally as “virginity membrane.” In fact, there is no brittle membrane, but rather multiple folds of mucous membrane. A vaginal corona, in other words.

“The vaginal corona is a permanent part of a woman's body throughout her life. It doesn't disappear after she first has sexual intercourse, and most women don't bleed the first time,” said Ms Regnér.

“The myths surrounding the hymen were created to control women's freedom and sexuality. The only way to counteract this is by disseminating knowledge. Translating this booklet into languages spoken by large communities in Sweden is a step in the right direction. We also hope the booklet and the new term will find their way to other countries,” said Alán Ali, RFSU board member and in charge of two projects in Malmö tackling honour-related oppression. RFSU's vaginal corona booklet is available free of charge. It can be ordered by email from or downloaded (PDF) from the RFSU website at:


RFSU (the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education) was founded in 1933. Today it is the leading organisation in Sweden in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). RFSU has no party political or religious affiliation.