TIME health

What Experts Got Wrong About Viagra

Small blue Viagra pills, Pfizer's pharma
Suzanne Opton—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Small blue Viagra pills, separated by machine, in 1998

March 27, 1998: Viagra is approved by the FDA

It was the miracle drug to beat all miracle drugs; an instant bestseller that topped the sales figures of Big Pharma’s other greatest hits: Prozac and Rogaine. After the FDA approved Viagra on this day, March 27, in 1998, sales of the drug rose quickly — pumped by an early rush that yielded at least 10,000 scripts a day, per a TIME cover story about the drug — and had staying power, as evidenced by Pfizer’s annual profit of about $1.8 billion as of 2013 and the fact that our email inboxes are still routinely barraged with spam offers for the drug.

It was a magic bullet for many men, but one that TIME initially feared would herald “the end of sex as we know it.”

“Could there be a product more tailored to the easy-solution-loving, sexually insecure American psyche than this one?” Bruce Handy wondered in the 1998 piece.

There were many who saw chemically-induced erection as a slippery slope to a Sleeper-style orgasmatron.

“People always want a quick fix,” one psychiatrist complained to TIME. “They think Viagra is magic, just like they thought the G spot worked like a garage-door opener.”

Seventeen years later, sex as we know it hasn’t ended — it’s still happening in more or less the usual ways, whether or not Viagra is a part of it. But what was a godsend for men hasn’t opened any doors for women with sexual dysfunction. That’s not for lack of trying: A drug hailed as “the female Viagra” has undergone extensive clinical trials and been submitted to the FDA three times so far, most recently last month, but has never been approved, as Cosmopolitan reports.

The two drugs operate differently, as one might expect: while Viagra stimulates blood flow to the genitals, it doesn’t act on the brain. The proposed drug for women, flibanserin, instead works on neurotransmitters to increase sexual desire.

The fact that there are now several drugs on the market for men’s sexual troubles and none for women constitutes sexism, some have argued, especially since an estimated 16 million women over the age of 50 suffer from some form of sexual dysfunction. A new campaign called “Even the Score” focuses on just this disparity, calling on the FDA to make “safe & effective treatments for low [female] desire” a priority.

In the meantime, a North Carolina doctor has patented a spinal implant that can produce orgasms at the push of a button, although he’s had trouble securing the funding to perfect the device. He calls it the Orgasmatron.

Read the 1998 cover story, here in the TIME Vault: The Potency Pill

TIME Research

Women Who Sleep More Also Have More Sex, a New Study Finds

Each additional hour of sleep is found to increase the next day's possibility of sex by 14%

Women who get more shut-eye generally have more sex, according to researchers from the University of Michigan, who spent over two weeks tracking the sleep and sexual patterns of 171 young women.

The study discovered that not only did more sleep for women lead to more sex, it often led to better sex. Good sleep hygiene, which refreshes a person’s mood, energy and concentration, is linked to increased sexual desire and arousal. In the study, women reported higher physical arousal after a longer average period of sleep, with the average sleep duration clocking in at seven hours, 22 minutes. More impressively, each additional hour of sleep increased the next day’s possibility of sex by 14%.

“If there’s anything women or their partners can do to help promote good sleep for one another, whether it’s helping out around the house to reduce workload, planning romantic getaways, or just practicing good sleep hygiene, it could help protect against having problems in the bedroom,” the study’s author David Kalmbach told CBS.

Read next: 8 Ways Sex Affects Your Brain

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME mating

Why Women Like War Heroes More than Any Other Kind of Guy

A stock image of a man in a military uniform lifting up a woman
Getty Images

And why men don't find brave women attractive

In a study that could explain so much about the Brian Williams thing, it has been found that women are more sexually attracted to men who have been deemed heroic during conflict than men who have merely served in the armed forces. And—sorry, humanitarians—men who were deemed heroic during a non-war-related crisis didn’t have nearly the same game.

Meanwhile, women who were considered heroic for any reason were found to be less attractive to men than regular women. (You read that right. Less attractive.)

The findings are the result of three studies done by researchers in England and the Netherlands. First, the researchers established from archives that World War II veterans who were Medal of Honor winners had more kids on average (3.18) than other returned servicemen (2.72).

The number of offspring is not completely correlated with the frequency of springing into bed, however. So the researchers asked 92 female British students to rate how attracted they were to various profiles and the war hero came out as the No. 1 most dateworthy type. Military service was attractive to women generally, but interestingly, if the guy had no war honors, whether he had served overseas or never left home base made no difference to his magnetism. In other words, men who see more action don’t necessarily see more action.

In the third study, 159 women and 181 men studying in Holland were given various profiles to rate and again the decorated war veteran was the female favorite. Soldiers who had been honored for their work in disaster zones or humanitarian crises got no spike in interest. And, depressingly, guys were less interested in women who had done something amazingly brave than women who hadn’t, even though the participants in the study were the supposedly gender equal Dutch.

The researchers were looking at the impact of medals not to enhance the dating resumes of veterans, but to examine the effect of conflict and bravery on evolution. (Those who attract the most mating partners have the highest chance of passing on their genes.)

So why are women drawn to guys who are demonstrably willing to engage in life threatening behavior? Because they’ve proved their genetic hardiness, suggest the researchers.

“Raids, battles, and ambushes in ancestral environments, and wars in modern environments, may provide an arena for men to signal their physical and psychological strengths,” says Joost Leunissen, a psychologist at the University of Southampton and co-author of the study. The thinking is that those who have the clarity of thought to try something life-saving and the physical prowess to pull it off must be built to survive, and are therefore a good evolutionary bet.

Leunissen also seems to offer, perhaps unintentionally, some eggheady advice on whether women should be on the front lines. “In light of the physical dangers and reproductive risks involved,” he says, “participating in intergroup aggression might not generally be a viable reproductive strategy for women.” Translation: not if they want to have kids.

TIME Dating

This Is Exactly How Much You Need to Drink to Seem More Attractive, Backed by Science

healthiest foods, health food, diet, nutrition, time.com stock, red wine, alcohol
Photograph by Danny Kim for TIME; Gif by Mia Tramz for TIME

No more, no less

Want to seem more attractive to the opposite sex? Drink one — exactly one — very large glass of wine.

That’s what a recent study by a group of researchers at the University of Bristol’s School of Psychology, published in Science Daily, suggests.

The researchers asked 40 heterosexual men and women, divided equally between both genders, to complete an attractiveness-rating exercise. The volunteers were then shown two images of a person, one taken while the subject was sober, one after the subject had consumed 250 ml of wine (equivalent to a very large glass), and one after 500 ml of wine (two-thirds of a bottle) had been consumed.

The photos of those who drank 250 ml wine were rated as more attractive, followed by images of sober subjects. The photos of those who had drank 500 ml were considered least attractive.

The researchers attributed this to the increased facial flushing that comes with consuming low amounts of alcohol, along with additional muscle relaxation and subtle smiles that portray a heightened positive mood.

One more good reason to drink in moderation.

[Science Daily]

TIME Sex

Women With Disabilities Are Three Times More Likely to Face Abuse: Report

Violence against women with disabilities is often ignored in several countries

Women with disabilities are three times as likely to be raped, physically abused or sexually assaulted, according to Human Rights Watch.

A resource on gender-based violence designed for people with disabilities, released by HRW ahead of International Women’s Day on Sunday, states that women and girls with disabilities are increasingly susceptible to violence but are often ignored when it comes to prevention programs.

The organization documented several cases across Zambia, India, Uganda and Turkey, finding a host of problems related to discrimination, vulnerability, accessibility and awareness.

“Women and girls with disabilities are too often the victims of violence, yet get too little information on where to go for help,” said Shantha Rau Barriga, HRW’s disability-rights director.

MONEY Love and Money

What Fifty Shades Gets Wrong About Money and Sex

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
Chuck Zlotnick—Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

The hit novel turned film suggests wealth makes men sexy to women. That's misleading.

Does money make men more attractive to women? On the surface, both popular culture and social science research seem to say yes.

You can’t take a step into the academic literature without tripping over a study showing that women place higher value than men on a partner’s wealth, that women are more attracted to men with nice cars, or that women orgasm more with rich partners.

The standard social science explanation for this phenomenon gets expressed in evolutionary terms: Because impregnating as many women as possible gives a man’s genes an evolutionary advantage, men are more superficial and promiscuous. Conversely, because of the time and energy required for a single pregnancy, women are choosier and more preoccupied with finding a mate rich with resources to provide for offspring. Or, at least, that’s the theory.

The success of the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise certainly does little to dispel all this. The story—for those living under a rock—details the sexual awakening of a young woman seduced by a billionaire, whose physical attractiveness is matched only by his fleet of luxury cars, helicopter, penthouse apartment, and cushy CEO job running his own company. In other words, as author E.L. James has put it, Christian Grey is “every woman’s dream.”

“He’s very good looking, he’s very good at sex, he’s disgustingly rich,” she told TIME.

To be fair, it’s intuitive that a partner with means is more desirable than one without, all else being equal. A recent poll found that 78% of coupled Americans of both sexes say they’d prefer a partner who is good with money over one who’s physically attractive. And if you are a man who feels pressure to impress women with your money, or a woman who felt titillated reading about Christian Grey’s alpha status, you probably buy into the theory without even realizing it.

But as it turns out, this popular narrative about men, women, sex, and money isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

A recent study has found that the common depiction of women primarily seeking out rich and powerful men (and men seeking out young and attractive women) is fairly uncommon in practice and—crucially—doesn’t reflect the reality of successful relationships or what actually makes people happy.

The research, by University of Notre Dame sociologist Elizabeth McClintock, has found that gender differences more or less disappear when you discard self-reported attraction scores and instead examine how real couples pursue one another, date, and settle down. In reality, rich women are just as likely as rich men to use their status to snag a more-attractive mate. And across the board, relationships in which people are essentially trading status for sex tend to be uncommon and short-lived.

Instead, McClintock found that the biggest force that predicts a successful match between people is actually how well all of your qualities match up. That means, for example, that people of similar physical appeal tend to pair off, and those with comparable educations and financial means are drawn together.

What’s perhaps counterintuitive, then, is that a woman seeking a rich man is actually better off getting herself a raise than a makeover. Likewise, a man seeking an attractive lady will see higher returns investing in a gym membership than a brokerage account.

So why does the tale of the rich, experienced man seducing the pretty ingenue persist in popular imagination, not to mention the academic literature? McClintock found that many existing studies took for granted the very gender roles they were supposed to be measuring, examining only women’s attractiveness and men’s status or money, while ignoring men’s appearance and the wealth and education of women.

As Northwestern University psychologist Eli Finkel told New York magazine: “Scientists are humans, too, and we can be inadvertently blinded by beliefs about how the world works.”

Indeed, we’re all better off disposing of our blindfolds—even if they’re made of the finest satin.

 

TIME Crime

Fifty Shades of Grey Inspired Student’s Sexual Assault, Prosecutors Say

Mohammad Hossain has been charged with criminal sexual assault after an incident over the weekend where scenes from the '50 Shades of Grey' movie were recreated—Cook County Sheriff's
Cook County Sheriff's Office Mohammad Hossain has been charged with criminal sexual assault after an incident over the weekend

Chicago freshman is accused of using restraints and sexual violence without a woman's consent

A University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) college freshman has been accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old female classmate during what prosecutors said Monday was a reenactment of scenes from the movie Fifty Shades of Grey.

Mohammad Hossain, 19, and the woman went to Hossain’s dorm room on Saturday evening where Hossain is accused of using restraints and sexual violence without the woman’s consent, Assistant State’s Attorney Sarah Karr told the Chicago Tribune. After leaving the dorm room, the woman told someone about the incident and the police were called.

Upon initial questioning by university detectives, Hossain confessed to the assault and told them that he and the female were re-creating parts of the movie, which features scenes of bondage and sadomasochism. He also admitted to “doing something wrong,” the Tribune reports. He has been charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault, a felony.

Hossain is a student leader at UIC, prompting Cook County judge Adam Bourgeois Jr. to ask how a movie could “persuade him to do something like this?” Public defender Sandra Bennewitz responded, “He would say that it was consensual.”

The movie, which has so far grossed over $130 million in the U.S, has been targeted by groups working to prevent domestic abuse, who say it promotes violence against women.

Hossain’s bail was set at $500,000.

[Chicago Tribune]

Read next: This Guy Really Doesn’t Want You To Know He Saw Fifty Shades of Grey

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME weather

7 Reasons to Love This Freezing Weather

Because there's always a bright side

It was 1º F in New York City on Friday—one frigging degree. That’s a keep-the-penny, why-bother, rounding error on the Fahrenheit scale. Convert it to Centigrade and it gets even worse, a brisk -17.22º, which may help explain why America never went metric.

But cold weather isn’t so bad. OK, it is, but here are seven things to like about the current deep freeze:

Less crime!

Criminals may be fools but they’re not stupid. If you’re going to heist a flat-screen TV or knock over a convenience store, would you rather do it when it’s 7oº and clear or when it’s 12-below and the wind chill factor is freezing your eyeballs? Crime historically drops during winter, and when it’s a brutal winter, things get even more peaceful. New York just earned applause after setting an all-time record for consecutive days without a homicide—at 12. (We do get graded on a curve.) Boston—which is just one woolly mammoth away from the next Ice Age—saw a 32% drop in larcenies, 35% in burglaries and 70% in homicides from Jan. 1 to Feb. 8, compared to the same period last year. But cold weather can increase auto thefts, thanks to what are known as puffers, cars left running in driveways while owners wait inside for them to warm up.

More sex!

Maybe it’s the cuddling under blankets, or the body heat generated when you’re active, or the belief that one more day of this flipping cold and you’re going to die so you and your squeeze might as well go out happy. But whatever it is, when things freeze, humans steam. Last summer, the Pittsburgh area saw a spike in s0-called “polar vortex babies,” with increases in births of 27.8% and 15.9% at two area hospitals compared to the same period a year earlier, following a bitter stretch that occurred nine months earlier. Cold weather amorousness may also be attributable to the mere fact that it gets dark earlier in the winter—putting people in mind of nighttime activities—or that bundling up in the winter means we see less skin during the day so even a glimpse of a partner’s elbow or ankle might be enough to light the engines.

Lose Weight!

Snowmen may never be anything but round, but the rest of us can slim down naturally in cold weather. That’s mostly because of the simple business of shivering. The whole purpose of shivering is to keep you moving, which generates heat—and uses calories. The very good news is, it doesn’t even take active shivering to burn at least some fat. A phenomenon called non-shivering thermogenesis (NST) may raise your thermostat and lower your weight when it’s as warm as 64º F (17.8º C). Caveat: NST helps only so much. Waiting out winter by huddling under a blanket, binge-watching TV and hoovering up Doritos is still going to have the expected effect.

Fewer bugs!

Nothing like the buzz of flies, the bite of mosquitos and the sting of bees to make summer the idyll it is—not. One of the few advantages of winter is that it’s murder on insects. All of them make provisions before the freeze hits, of course—either burrowing underground and hunkering down until spring or leaving behind a fresh clutch of eggs that can turn into a fresh swarm of bugs next summer. But if the thermometer drops far enough, those eggs may be finished too. The gypsy moth, the emerald ash borer and the pests that feed on honey locust trees all leave fewer heirs when the thermometer falls below zero. That means an easier season for the trees, and far fewer things for you to swat with a rolled up newspaper.

Live longer!

Alright, this one might be a stretch. Studies have absolutely, positively shown that colder temperatures activate genes that increase longevity—provided you’re a worm. Which you’re probably not. But another study shows that reducing core body temperature can increase lifespans by as much as 20%—provided you’re a mouse. Or a mussel. Still, it’s breakthroughs in animal studies that often lead to breakthroughs in human studies, so there’s reason to hope. Meantime, go mussels!

Feel no pain!

Or at least feel less. All that stuff you hear about cold weather making arthritis and other joint pain worse is true enough. But in at least one study in Finland, a plunge into icy water was found to increase norepinephrine levels in the blood as much as two- or three-fold. One of the many jobs neuropinephrine does is reduce overall pain. That’s a good thing. But plunging into icy water to get that effect? Not so much. So this one too may need a little work.

Fewer wars!

Napoleon didn’t leave a whole lot of valuable lessons behind. But one thing history’s bad boy did teach us was that on the list of truly bad ideas, attacking Russia in the winter ranks pretty much No. 1. It’s not just that wars bog down in cold weather, it’s that we tend to be less moved to fight them. Part of this is the same phenomenon that keeps crime down in the cold. Part is something much newer that was revealed in a 2011 study, which showed that higher temperatures have historically meant higher levels of armed conflict. The Cold War, it turns out, may have been an oxymoron.

MONEY Lifestyle

The Most Surprising Thing That Will Make You Happy in Retirement

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, l-r: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, 2015.
Chuck Zlotnick—Focus Features/courtesy Everett Collection

While financial security is important, a little sex goes a long way toward increasing happiness in retirement.

Most retirees probably aren’t as “frisky,” shall we say, as Christian Grey in the new film Fifty Shades of Grey. But new research shows that many people well into their 70s and 80s still have active sex lives, some engaging in sex at least twice a month. Tame perhaps, by Mr. Christian’s standards. But more than enough to make for a happier retirement.

We all know that diligent financial planning can lead to a more satisfying post-career life. But while money is important to retirees—especially guaranteed income they know they won’t outlive—financial security alone doesn’t assure well-being in retirement. A number of non-financial factors may also be able to increase your chances of having a more meaningful and joyful retirement, including having more sex.

A paper published last year in the Journals of Gerontology found that older married couples who had sex more frequently had higher levels of marital happiness than couples who had sex less often or had no sex at all. Which wasn’t exactly a revelation, since an earlier study (“Sex and Older Americans: Exploring the Relationship Between Frequency of Sexual Activity and Happiness”) that focused on people 65 and older, both single and married, also showed a relationship between happiness and frequency of sex, even after adjusting for health and finances.

To get this boost in happiness, the sex didn’t have to be the push-the-envelope variety portrayed in the Fifty Shades movie. Indeed, both studies set the parameters of sexual activity pretty broadly, with the Journals of Gerontology research defining sex as any activity with a partner that was sexually arousing.

But frequency does matter. In the Sex and Older Americans study, for example, only 32% of those who said they’d experienced no sexual activity during the prior 12 months felt very happy with life overall. By contrast, almost 38% who had sex at least once or twice over the previous 12 months reported that they were very happy, while more than half who had engaged in sex more than once a month reported being very happy.

I’m not suggesting that anyone should base their sex habits on these or any other studies. For one thing, it’s possible that frequency of sex isn’t what’s driving happiness. It could be the other way around. Happier people may just have more sex. Besides, how often one has sex or whether one chooses to have it at all is a highly personal matter, and thus a decision each person has to make based on his or her particular circumstances.

That said, intimacy and sex are an integral part of life. So it only makes sense for retirees to consider whether their current sex habits are contributing to a more meaningful and fulfilling life—and if not, whether this is an issue that deserves more attention.

Of course, there are plenty of other lifestyle moves that also have the potential to increase your sense of well-being in retirement. Research shows that people who cultivate a circle of friends they can rely on for companionship and support tend to be happier than those who have fewer ties with friends or family members. Similarly, staying active through occasional work or volunteering can make for a more satisfying retirement, as long as you don’t go too far and effectively turn an avocation into a job. And people who attend religious services also tend to be happier than those who don’t.

So as you’re mapping out your post-career life, by all means give financial issues all the attention they deserve. Make sure you’re saving enough, that you’re investing wisely and have a coherent retirement income plan. But do some retirement lifestyle planning as well, and make your sex life a part of it. As to how big a part, well, that’s entirely up to you.

Walter Updegrave is the editor of RealDealRetirement.com. If you have a question on retirement or investing that you would like Walter to answer online, send it to him at walter@realdealretirement.com.

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TIME movies

Fifty Shades of Grey Brings in Record Numbers at Box Office

The erotic movie may become the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all-time

Fifty Shades of Grey—an erotic R-rated movie based on the best-selling novel by E.L. James—brought in almost $9 million on Thursday and $30 million on Friday, according to Box Office Mojo, which could make it the highest-grossing February debut in history.

MORE: Fifty Shades of Grey Star Eloise Mumford: I Would Never Make a Film That Didn’t Empower Women

Movie experts are predicting that Fifty Shades, which features a sexually explicit relationship between a college student and a business mogul, will gross $91 million over a four-day stretch, surpassing the R-rated movie Passion of the Christ, which debuted in February 2004 and made $84 million.

It also could become the highest-grossing R-rated debut of all-time. Matrix Reloaded currently holds the top spot with almost $92 million made in its opening weekend in 2003.

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