Stories tagged human sexuality

Apr
22
2009

Planned or unplanned?: A study shows that more than half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. Why is that? This NPR report tries to find some answers.
Planned or unplanned?: A study shows that more than half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. Why is that? This NPR report tries to find some answers.Courtesy Petercantfail
National Public Radio has a pretty interesting story on the statistical odds of getting pregnant in the U.S., and the birth-control reasoning that goes into – at least what I consider – the high rate of unplanned pregnancies.

More than half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned. In an age with some many forms of birth control, lots of education opportunities to learn how to avoid pregnancy and a greater openness to talk about sexual activities than in the past, how can this happen?

Click here to get the full report, plus a thorough round-up of the variety of contraception methods that are currently available. While the cliché answer is that pregnancy avoidance is a shared responsibility – and I agree it should be – experts quoted in the story come to the conclusion that females who are sexually active and don’t want to become pregnant need to have a plan in place in advance to reduce their pregnancy chances.

Among the contributing factors to unplanned pregnancies are incorrect or inconsistent use of contraceptives, lack of access to health care and the one theory that really caught my attention: “Magical Thinking.”

Giving the example of one woman, magical thinking was explained as having sex at a time determine through a process of elimination on time when a woman figures she is not fertile. It’s sort of the reverse process of timing sexual activity at the optimum time of ovulation in order to get pregnant.

"You either say, 'I'm not planning to get pregnant, and therefore I'm going to be very careful,' or, 'I am planning to get pregnant,' " says Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "If you are the middle, in a fog and magically thinking, you're planning to get pregnant."

What do you think of all of this? Do you react like me to think that the number of unplanned pregnancies is especially high? How can we shift mind-sets of people to be more proactive practicing contraception if they don’t want to encounter a pregnancy? Is this making to big of a deal out of a natural process of life? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Jan
16
2009

Happy fingers: They're only smiling because they've just thought of mean things to do to you, though.
Happy fingers: They're only smiling because they've just thought of mean things to do to you, though.Courtesy peyri
Hooray, everybody! Get out your hands and your eyeballs, because we’re going to going to be looking at our fingers with our eyes, and making snap, unscientific judgments based on subtle trends observed in scientific research!

Hey, it’s Friday, after all, isn’t it? Take off your mittens and start lookin’!

(Unless you’re reading this from, like, California or Indonesia. Then you don’t get to participate. All y’all go find some mittens, and imagine what it’s like to wait for the bus when it’s -15 Fahrenheit out. Ooh, I’m angry.)

Oh, also, I’m afraid that the ladies will have to sit most of this one out as well. You can still look at your hands, or whatever, and we might have something for you later, but mostly this is boys’ club time.

Anyhoo, the scaly tail of years of research has just dragged by us, bearing the news that men with long ring fingers are more successful stock traders. Yowza! All right, guys, take a look; are you going to be successful in the stock market?

Wait, what? You have no interest in being a stock trader? Me neither? Oh. Well, let’s follow this tail-end news item up to the hips: back in the year 2005, we learned that men with relatively long ring fingers (compared to the index finger) have been exposed to a greater amount of testosterone in his mother’s womb, and, therefore, are more likely to be physically aggressive individuals. This aggressive behavior is likely what leads to success in the dog-eat-dog world of expensive suits, country clubs, and golfing that is stock trading.

Guess who this hand belongs to: All right, what can y'all tell JGordon about himself?
Guess who this hand belongs to: All right, what can y'all tell JGordon about himself?Courtesy JGordon
So take another look, everyone (everyone with a Y-chromosome, anyway). Are you a violent, aggressive dude? Does your ring finger tower over your little pointer? (If it’s not clear, take a look at your other hand. Is it gouging, clawing, or strangling something? Because that’s another strong sign of aggressive behavior.)

That’s interesting, isn’t it? We’re always looking for ways to see who’s more manly, and we don’t even have to disrobe for this one. But wait one more second, because this research beast goes even further back.

A study done in 2000 suggests that there may be a link between ring finger size and sexual orientation. (Ladies, you might want to toss an ear this way now, because this concerns you too.)

The research seemed to show that men who have a ring finger that is much larger than their index finger (the characteristic associated with aggressiveness in the later studies) were more likely to be gay—but only if they have older brothers.

Think back… do you have any brothers? Are they older than you? What about your ring finger—where’s it at?

And, women, the study has something to say about y’all as well. While most men have some noticeable difference in their ring and index finger lengths, most women have index and ring fingers that are much closer to each other in length. Lesbian women, however, often have a greater difference in the length of these fingers than straight women do.

Take a look, ladies. Were you straight or gay all this time, and it turns out that your fingers don’t agree?

It’s probably not worth getting too worked up about. If you have been acting aggressive all your life, and just found out that you’re living a lie… don’t worry about it. These are statistical associations, but they don’t mean nuthin’ about who you are.

How was that? Now put your mittens back on.

Jun
18
2008

We've come a long way, baby: So at least the stork is now off the board these days when we discuss what's appropriate for sex education for young people.
We've come a long way, baby: So at least the stork is now off the board these days when we discuss what's appropriate for sex education for young people.Courtesy Argument in an Off Key
In a previous job, I had the experience of reporting on a school district’s struggles with how to present sex education. In that case, the controversy swirled around if it was a school’s responsibility to do the job, particularly if parents were failing to do the job.

Some 15 years later, a school district is struggling again with the issues of sex education, but with a twist. How much information should one gender learn about the other at the age of 12?

Some parents of Shakopee Middle School students are upset that their sixth-grade children were given sexual education information in a co-ed setting. They contend that the classes should be separated by gender. A smaller group of concerned parents say that at that age, boys should only learn about male sexual development; girls should only learn about female development. Full details of the situation are available at this Star-Tribune story.

In one case reported from Shakopee, a sixth-grade girl came home in tears, feeling traumatized by the information that her male classmates had learned about changes girls undergo during puberty.

Part of me thinks that at least we’re making some progress on the sex education front. We’re now debating “how” to teach it in schools rather than “if” we should teach it in schools. But another part of me rolls my eyes and wonders if we’ll ever reach a maturity level in this country to be able to have discussions on sexuality in a responsible, healthy way.

Issues like this make great grist for the discussion mills of editorial pages, cable news shows, and yes, even science blogs. So the questions I put out there for you to hash over are: can sex education be delivered in an effective way in public schools and if so, how do we make that happen?

Just looking at the poor track record we have as a nation in unplanned pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases pretty coupled with an ever-younger onset of puberty among our kids shows that we need to come up with some way of responsibly informing our youth about sexual matters.