TIME

The Most Erogenous Parts of the Female Body, Ranked By Science

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Getty Images

Scientists have determined which female body parts are most sensitive

Here’s a study that will make you blush.

Canadian scientists tested the sensitivities of several sexual areas on the female body, including the parts in the perineum area–the area between the anus and vulva–as well as the side boob and nipple. They compared these to neutral areas on the body, like the neck, forearm, abdomen.

Exactly how did they go about this? The researchers used light touch, pressure, and yes, vibration to assess how sensitive these body parts were. They had 3o healthy women between the ages of 18 and 35 get undressed and lie on a table covered in a bed sheet. They then used scientific instruments to apply the various forms of touch to the women’s clitoris, labia minora, vaginal margin, anal margin, lateral breast (side boob), areola (the small ring of skin surrounding the nipple), nipple, neck and forearm.

The researchers applied stimulation for 1.5 seconds, then waited for five seconds before asking the women if they felt it.

Here’s what they found.

For light touch, the neck, forearm, and vaginal margin are the most sensitive areas, and the areola is the least sensitive. When it comes to pressure, the clitoris and nipple are the most sensitive, and the side boob and abdomen are the least. Lastly, when it comes to vibration, the clitoris and nipple are most sensitive. The clitoris was the most sensitive to vibration out of all the body parts.

Overall, the researchers found that the genitals are more sensitive to pressure and vibration compared to light touch, which they found “interesting” because people enjoy sex and sex toys. (Duh).

In all seriousness, the researchers say that understanding these sensitives is useful knowledge for breast augmentation and gender reassignment surgery. But if you want this information for other reasons, by all means bookmark this page.

This study is published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

 

 

TIME

China’s Tinder Plots IPO in the Shadow of Anti-Porn Crackdown

Chinese officials launch a ceremony to d
Chinese officials launch a ceremony to destroy thousands of pornographic books and video materials in Beijing on April 24, 2011. AFP/Getty Images

China's dating app has 120 million user profiles, some of which may be too hot for Beijing

China’s dating app Momo has 120 million users, a possible valuation of $2 billion, and an ongoing flirtation with U.S. banks, eager to get a piece of the action should the company go public on a U.S. stock exchange, but a few of the racier user profiles have investors on edge.

The Wall Street Journal reports that some of the photos could run afoul of China’s widening crackdown on internet pornography. A reporter from state news service Xinhua logged onto the app in a popular bar district of Beijing and reportedly found scantily clad women “wearing bikinis to show off their physiques” and profiles suggestive of escort services. The salacious details may not shock users of dating sites the world over, but in China, the pictures can trigger regulatory crackdowns. Web companies Sina and Sohu.com have seen their publishing licenses revoked for explicit content.

In an email to the Journal, a company spokesperson insisted the company supported the government’s crackdown and would expand its team of internal censors from 60 to 100 employees, saying its commercial interests were “totally incompatible with lewd and sexual content.”

[WSJ]

TIME feminism

The Shaming of Monica: Why We Owe Her an Apology

Monica Lewinsky in Washington DC just after the scandal broke in 1998.
Monica Lewinsky in Washington DC just after the scandal broke in 1998. Timothy Clary—AFP/Getty Images

America turned its back on a young intern, and the media called her tubby, slutty and predatory. A TV network even asked people to vote on whether she was a "tramp." Long before slut-shaming was a term, Monica Lewinsky was its original target.

Ask any child of the 1990s, and she remembers — vividly — when she first heard about the Monica Lewinsky scandal (as well as the particular sex acts involved).

I was 16, perched with a group of friends in the hallway of my high school, devouring the contents of the Starr report like a trashy romance novel. (He did what with a cigar?!) None of us was old enough to truly comprehend the complexities — or power dynamics — of a 22-year-old intern fellating the President of the United States. And yet we did know one thing: we didn’t like that raunchy Lewinsky girl. What kind of woman flashes her thong at the President, anyway?

Long before slut-shaming was a term, Monica Lewinsky was its original target. My teenage friends and I were among her critics, though the rest of the country, too, seemed to be acting like horny misogynist teens. The basics of Lewinsky’s story we all remember: Young intern makes idiotic mistake and, like many before her, starts a sexual relationship with the President. Affair leads to legal explosion, investigation, impeachment and, ultimately, one of the first tests of the Internet’s viral capabilities. (The story was blasted out on Drudge.) The young woman is permanently cast as a semen-smeared laughingstock.

Nearly two decades later, Lewinsky is still a punch line and a sly euphemism for oral sex. She reappears in the press this week by way of a 4,000-word Vanity Fair essay about the hellish aftermath of her “mutual relationship” with President Bill Clinton. She says she’s had trouble getting jobs. (Everyone knows her name, after all.) She turned down lucrative offers to tell all — because they “didn’t feel like the right thing to do” — and survived on loans from family and friends. If humiliation is indeed the most intense human emotion, as a new study found, then Lewinsky is my generation’s Hester Prynne. She had suicidal thoughts, and her mother feared that she would be “literally humiliated to death” (a consequence we now know is not so far-fetched in the Internet and social-media era).

The timing of Lewinsky’s essay, as we await a Hillary Clinton presidential run, is no doubt strategic, taking us back to an era that the Clintons would rather not revisit. But perhaps it also shows how far we’ve come. Does the media owe Monica Lewinsky a collective apology?

To look back on the specifics now is mind-blowing. The Wall Street Journal referred to Lewinsky — in print — as a “little tart.” New York magazine reported that as an adolescent, Lewinsky had spent two summers at fat camp, where she “paid particular attention to the boys.” (Code word: slut.) Maureen Dowd won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of Lewinsky, in which she called her a “ditzy, predatory White House intern” and “the girl who was too tubby to be in the high school ‘in’ crowd,” among other ugly caricatures. Fox News actually released a poll investigating whether the public thought Lewinsky was an “average girl” or a “young tramp looking for thrills.” Fifty-four percent rated her a tramp.

“It was a different time back then. There was no consciousness raised about slut-shaming. Bullying wasn’t even in the vernacular,” says Leora Tanenbaum, the author of Slut!, which first established the term slut-bashing (a precursor to slut-shaming) when it came out in 1999. “​People who were decisionmakers and influential writers were making comments about her hair and body. It was a textbook case of the sexual double standard.”

Indeed, it wasn’t just Bill Clinton who didn’t even grant Lewinsky the dignity of using her name when he finally, partially, admitted the affair. (She was “That Woman” — as in, “I didn’t have sexual relations with that woman.”) There were no websites like Jezebel back then, no feminist bloggers, no Women’s Media Center to call out sexism in the press. And so the media vilified her, painting her as that scary feminine trope: the crazy, emotional Single White Female — or, to borrow the phrase from the political sex scandal before her, “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.” “This is all sort of part of the water at the time, where the woman is the evil seductress — and the poor, weak man had no power to resist her,” says Jennifer Pozner, a media critic and the author of Reality Bites Back, about women and reality TV. “That’s how Monica Lewinsky entered the fray.”

In reality, it’s not actually that hard to imagine being in Lewinsky’s shoes. The thrill of the flirtation. The flattery of being wooed by a President. The naiveté about the consequences. The stupidity … of being 22.

“I doubt most people could survive being defined by the least advisable sexual encounter they’ve engaged in,” says the feminist writer Amanda Marcotte. “She was young and dumb, but it was consensual. He has more responsibility, being both married and older.”

And yet at the time, Lewinsky had few defenders, even among feminists — her identity, not just her behavior, systematically torn apart. In a column in TIME, Barbara Ehrenreich lamented that the days after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke had been “The Week Feminists Got Laryngitis.” And when they did speak up, it wasn’t pretty: “My dental hygienist pointed out she had third-stage gum disease,” quipped Erica Jong. “If anything, it sounds like she put the moves on him,” said Backlash author Susan Faludi. “Even mainstream feminists, who you’d think would come out and say, ‘You know, here’s this poor young woman being exploited, let’s take her side,’ they’re not taking her side,” Katie Roiphe mused as part of a New York Observer roundtable with Jong and others held at the time that is once again making the rounds.

“The national reaction against Monica was reminiscent of the way teen girls will rally around a high-status boy and throw the ‘slutty’ girl under the bus,” says Rachel Simmons, the author of Odd Girl Out and Curse of the Good Girl, who was working for Senator Charles Schumer at the time. “Girls do it to protect their own status and preserve their own relationships with the guys. Bill Clinton was the golden boy.”

And indeed, that was part of the problem. Sure, Clinton was charming and charismatic. (“All of my women friends and I would be happy to have sex with Clinton and not talk about it,” New Yorker writer Patricia Marx joked at the time.) But he was also good for women at large. He supported reproductive rights. He put Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. And then there was Hillary. So when Lewinsky asks now, “Where … were the feminists back then?” we know the answer. As the president of the Feminist Majority Foundation put it five months after the affair was revealed, “We’re trying to think of the bigger picture, think about what’s best for women.”

There’s very rarely sympathy for “the other woman.” Or, as Erica Jong tells me when asked if the reaction to Lewinsky would be any different today, “Blaming women is always in fashion.”

And yet the Lewinsky scandal would play out differently today. Remember, this was pre-sexting, pre-orchestrated sex tapes, pre-Paris Hilton. There was no social media, no feminist blogs, no Rachel Maddow. “No infrastructure,” as Pozner puts it, “to push back against the echo chamber.” Yes, there’s a long history of political sex scandals, but today we’re somewhat immune from the shock factor: we’d never remember where we were when one or another was first revealed. There have simply been too many to count.

“I think it was a unique moment in time,” says Pozner of the collective shaming of Lewinsky. “She was young, she was single, she wasn’t connected to money or much of a support system, and so she was sort of like an Etch A Sketch for whatever the right wing and/or media wanted to map onto her. And she didn’t have a PR machine behind her, she didn’t have an activist machine behind her, so she didn’t have the support or audience to change the narrative.”

She’s got it now. The problem: it’s too late.

Correction: The original version of this story misspelled Rachel Maddow’s name.

TIME Sex

Another Study Shows That ‘Hookup Culture’ Is a Myth

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Paul Bradbury—OJO Images RF/Getty Images

Parents had just as much sex in college as their kids are having now

A gaggle of sociologists and think-piece writers have been saying that young adults don’t have time to invest in relationships and therefore are treating their romantic lives with reckless abandon and having sex with random strangers. But despite pundits’ outcries that the moral fiber of America is decaying as college students ditch dating in favor of “hookup culture,” it turns out the sexual practices of millennials aren’t that different from those of their parents.

A new study published in the Journal of Sex Research compares a survey on sexual practices from 1988-1996 to one from 2004-2012. Researchers from the University of Portland found that respondents from the later survey did not report more sexual partners after the age 18, more frequent sex or more partners during the past year than respondents from the earlier survey. “We find no evidence of substantial changes in sexual behavior that would indicate a new or pervasive pattern of non-relational sex among contemporary college students,” the researchers conclude.

In fact, most people are still having sex with a regular partner rather than with random people. According to the new study, 78.2% of those recently surveyed reported that their sexual partner was either a spouse or a significant other, compared to 84.5% in the survey from the ’80s and ’90s. The researchers chalk up the differences in responses to the earlier set of people surveyed containing a higher proportion of married people. This isn’t surprising news since marriage rates are going down and people are getting married later.

We’ve known for a while now that the media hype surrounding hookup culture is overblown: Less than 15% of college students “hook up” more than twice per year—and that definition of “hook up” ranges from kissing to intercourse. Almost a year ago I wrote that the sex lives of college students today aren’t all that different from their parents and their grandparents, citing surveys from the 1960s and 70s that show students were having as much sex then as they are now. But despite all the evidence to the contrary, there’s been so much coverage of this nonexistent new hookup culture that some students are feeling left out if they are not having tons of casual sex.

So parents, don’t worry. Your kids aren’t doing anything you didn’t do in college…Well, except for maybe sending naked SnapChats.

TIME Bizarre

Hook-Up Truck Driving Around San Francisco This Weekend Provides Exact Service You Guessed It Would

Greg Earl

It's like Uber for your nether-regions!

Once upon a time, having sex in the back of a truck was seen as a thing that you only did out of extreme necessity. Like, your boyfriend’s futon had bed bugs or your parents were home. But a new service that has been getting a considerable amount of internet buzz is trying to change that mentality.

This weekend, a no-frills, on-demand, condom-filled Hook-Up truck will be driving around San Francisco providing the exact service you think it would: A place for fornication. It’s like Uber for your genitals!

But this isn’t UberLUX. The 21+ crowd who rents the mobile hour-motel service can expect an unmarked box-truck to show up, providing basic services: temperature control, free safe sex accoutrement, and a camera ready option to record the interlude. There are no stripper poles or water beds — no beds at all, actually, since bedding is absorbent and therefore less clean.

“There’s not much in the room,” creator and conceptual artist Spy Emerson told TIME. “There’s a bench and a handle, like a bar you hold on to. It’s designed to keep clean, so we just wipe everything down. I have bleach and this green stuff, I have disinfective wipes. I guarantee that this is cleaner than BART [San Francisco's transit system] or any public bathroom that anyone has used recently.”

The Hook-Up Truck is part performance art, part social experiment, and part test-run for an actual business. While services are free this weekend, Emerson plans to eventually charge people for their time in the truck and eventually franchise the sex-on-wheels-mobile in other cities. It has been reported that rates will range from $75 for 30 parked minutes of bliss to $2,500 for a 5-hour party rental.

Unsurprisingly, the Hook-Up Truck was created for the swipe-happy, dating app generation. “One of my friends was talking about his experiences on Grindr, and he was doing it in driveways and behind cars, and I realized that his service is needed,” Emerson said.

But Emerson was surprised to find that clients who have reserved the truck for Friday and Saturday night aren’t just Tinder addicts.

Creator Spy Emerson driving the unmarked Hook-Up Truck Greg Earl

“It’s not just the exhibitionists you’d imagine,” Emerson said. There are single mothers, a military wife surprising her husband when he’s on leave, and husband who is surprising his wife for their anniversary. “They’re gong to have dinner, and then he’s going to bring her to the truck.”

You shouldn’t have?

Emerson is also hoping to collect materials from the Hook-Up Truck for an art exhibition she hopes to present at Miami’s Art Basel in December. So if couples are interested, photos before, after, and even during are strongly encouraged.

Emerson says that “this weekend is just to get us out there and rolling around.” Literally and metaphorically.

TIME career

Leaning In at Work, Traditionalist at Home: Women Who Hide Their Success

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Retro housewife Bojan Kontrec—Getty Images/Vetta

Why we need to stop worrying about emasculating men

I once hid my raise from my live-in boyfriend for a full year before he found out. I was already the decision-maker in our relationship, and I didn’t want him to feel bad that he made less than I did.

It’s the kind of scenario we hear often: ambitious, hard-charging women purposely shaving off a couple digits when talking about money with their partners. Women who subtly downplay their accomplishments in order to protect their boyfriends’ egos. Those who play the damsel in distress to cater to some caveman-like need to save. Even toning down an online dating profile – deleting accolades and advanced degrees – to sound less “intimidating” to potential suitors.

“I would let him make the decisions even when I knew they weren’t the right ones,” one friend told me recently, of her (not coincidentally) now ex-husband.

“I never reveal where I got my PhD on a first date,” said another, who is an Ivy League grad.

“I think my biggest fear in a relationship,” a New York editor quipped over brunch recently, “is emasculating the guy and ending up alone.”

It’s a feminist by day, traditionalist by night way of life, and it would make our Second Wave mothers cringe. By day, these women are successful and self-assured – part of a cohort dominating the working world and outpacing their male peers in college and advanced degrees. The under 30 set are outearning their male counterparts in nearly every major city in America. And when it comes to married couples, the number of female breadwinners has been steadily rising: 24 percent of wives now make more than their husbands.

And yet when it comes to their romantic lives, these women are unabashedly shrinking violets, their behavior influenced by age-old stereotypes about men, women and power that have simply not shifted as quickly as the working world. They’re also being influenced by a bevy of advice books – including a new one, When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women, by financial advisor and journalist Farnoosh Torabi.

One part financial manual and two parts primer in retro-femininity, the book is a guide, she says, for single women whose success may intimidate potential suitors. Rule No. 1: Face the Facts. And the facts, she explains are clear. “When a woman makes more than her man, the odds are stacked against her in many ways: she’s less likely to get married, more likely to be unhappier in marriage, and there are many psychological and sexual costs,” writes Torabi.

Torabi is wrestling with the contradictions of a particular cultural moment: women are less dependent and passive than ever before. And yet, as Ronald Levant, the editor of the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity, put it recently, “men are stuck” – caught between caveman-like desires to protect and provide, and the fact that more and more women are the ones doing the providing. One recent study found that men subconsciously suffer a bruised ego when their wives or girlfriends excel — regardless of whether they are in direct competition. Another survey, from Pew, found that 28 percent of Americans believe that it is “generally better for a marriage if the husband earns more than his wife.”

Where that leaves us? If you believe Torabi, with a complicated set of rules to follow – lest we end up, as the Princeton Mom warned, a “spinster with cats.” Not only must we achieve at work, we must stroke our partner’s ego. We can land the big deal, but we still must play the damsel in distress. We can go to Pilates, but might still consider asking him to lift that box – to make him feel like a man. Oh, and we may be the primary breadwinner, but we should still let him pay in public (as Torabi often does with her own husband) – even if it’s coming out of a joint checking account.

“Calling it stroking his ego can sound controversial, but money is a huge source of power and self worth for a lot of people,” she says. “So you have to understand that.”

Or better yet: you can reject it altogether.

Yes, men have been breadwinners for 10,000 years. They’ve been conditioned to be dominant. Hunters, gatherers … you know the drill. But let’s give dudes some credit.

College-aged men and women almost universally say they desire unions in which housework, child-rearing, ambition and moneymaking will be respectfully negotiated and shared. There are plenty of men – as a recent Cosmo survey on the topic helped made clear — who would happily date a woman who made more money than they did (and like it). (Of more than 1,000 straight men ages 18 to 35, nearly half say they’ve dated a woman who made more money than they did. Fifty seven percent say they are “more attracted” to a woman who is ambitious at work.)

We are, as the biological anthropologist Helen Fisher recently told me, “in a time of tremendous transformation.”

So here’s a rule for when you make more than your male partner: Don’t believe everything you read.

TIME Books

Uncensored F. Scott Fitzgerald Stories Released for the First Time

Author F. Scott Fitzgerald
Author F. Scott Fitzgerald AP

In the 1920s and '30s, F. Scott Fitzgerald's work was altered for the Saturday Evening Post; now, uncensored versions have been published that include the bad language, sex and drug references that were left out of the originals

Even an author as great as F. Scott Fitzgerald sometimes had to do what his editor said: when Fitzgerald wrote stories for the Saturday Evening Post during the 1920s and ’30s, his work was censored to fit the publication’s standards. When many of those stories were published as his last-ever short-story collection Taps at Reveille in 1935, those changes stuck. But, as The Guardian reports, those stories are now available in their “restored” uncensored format for the very first time in a new edition from Cambridge University Press, published yesterday. The editors used manuscript drafts marked up in Fitzgerald’s own hand to find what was removed after the works left his hands.

So what got cut? Sex, drugs, and slurs.

Now, thanks again to The Guardian, you can see for yourself. The paper has posted the uncensored version of the story “Two Wrongs,” including a typescript with an antisemitic word — spoken by an antisemitic character, not the narrator — that didn’t make it to print. The word appears once again after that in the full text of the story, but not in previously published versions.

You can compare it to the Post version at Project Gutenberg; in addition to removing the derogatory language, the editors apparently found a scene where a woman talks to a man while she takes a bath a bit too sexy. In the Post version, even though the tub water’s running, she’s talking to him while she dresses rather than while she bathes.

Maybe the new Taps will make a difference that goes beyond the words on the page: though the work is important for its place in Fitzgerald’s career, there’s a reason it’s not a Gatsby-level classic. Upon its original 1935 release, the New York Times noted that the book was just “not good enough”: “It has become a dreadful commonplace to say that Mr. Fitzgerald’s material is rarely worthy of his talents,” wrote reviewer Edith H. Walton. “Unfortunately, however, the platitude represents truth.”

TIME Sex

Why Science Needs More Sex

What Duckpenisgate tells us about ourselves

In March 2013, Yale University biologist Patricia Brennan, who studies the evolution of birds’ reproductive organs, found herself in the path of a two-week media cyclone. Brennan had secured a $390,000 National Science Foundation grant for her work on duck genitalia. Conservative news site CNSNews.com found out about this and ran a story on it, which sparked nation-wide outrage (quickly dubbed “Duckpenisgate”) at the spending of tax dollars on research as frivolous as studying the nether regions of waterfowl.

We genital researchers are used to getting giggly or derisive responses when we try to explain our work. It has been like that ever since this particular branch of evolutionary biology was kick-started, back in 1979. In that year, in the journal Science, Brown University’s Jonathan Waage reported that male damselflies use their penis not just to squirt sperm into the female’s vagina, but also to scrape out any remaining sperm of her previous trysts. When I interviewed Waage for my book Nature’s Nether Regions, he recalled that one magazine covered the news with a derogatory headline like, “University Egghead Wastes Taxpayers’ Money Studying Dragonfly Sex”.

The egghead headline and Duckpenisgate bracket three and a half decades during which the study of the evolution of penises, vaginas, and their equivalents throughout the animal kingdom has matured into a solid biological discipline, with hundreds of my fellow scientists worldwide working on it. However, if we are to believe our vociferous critics, we have all been sidetracked into a perversion of publicly funded science, following our own deviant fascinations with the sordid sex lives of inconsequential creepy-crawlies, rather than pursuing research that benefits society.

I could of course retort by pointing out that our field has, on occasion, yielded direct applications. Artificial insemination in livestock has been improved by more effectively-shaped pipettes, and certain gynecological problems can also be understood if we take an evolutionary view.

Such practical spin-offs are all-too-often paraded by basic science as a justification, or even a motivation for its existence. But deep down we all know this to be only part of the story. The desire to understand nature, and the great satisfaction when we succeed, is what really drives us genitalia researchers, and technological or medical applications of our research are little more than a beneficial side-effect.

But that is not to say that our work is a solipsistic exercise for evolutionary biologists only. I think basic science should be mentioned in the same vein as art, music, or top-class sports, which also serve no practical purpose but provide entertainment to the rest of humankind. Evolutionary biologists do the hard scientific labor that leads to the discoveries that allow us to tell true tales about the way nature works. Billions of people watch nature documentaries about amazing wildlife in far-away corners of the globe. But the facts dished out are not discovered by their khaki-clad presenters. Instead, every minute of footage required a dedicated, publicly-funded biologist, sometime, somewhere, doing the painstaking basic research and furnishing a previously unknown plant or animal with its fifteen minutes of National Geographic fame.

And if anything about nature is entertaining, it should be all the weird and wonderful ways in which animals have sex. The list of mind-bending facts is endless.

Think snails that impale one another with hormone-laced daggers; she-spiders that force their partners to four hours of foreplay and galago ladies that demand equally drawn-out afterplay; slugs with (literally) yard-long penises that take a whole night to erect; a rove beetle with a coiled-up vagina three times longer than her body; insect semen that leaches holes in the vagina wall, makes a female frigid, congeals into a cement-like plug, or otherwise misbehaves…

These snippets of the outlandish sexual habits of many animals are already highly entertaining in themselves and make good party stories, if nothing else. But they become even more fascinating when they are strung together into a rosary in veneration of evolution’s greatest feats.

Evolution, after all, is all about reproduction: if you’re better at it, you leave more descendants, who inherit your DNA with its superior reproductive abilities, and go on to be successful procreators themselves. All that survival of the fittest stuff is fine, but if you really want to be an evolutionary success, then invest in being better at sex. That is why the evolution of animal genitalia progresses at such a breakneck speed, causing even the most similar species to have wildly different boy and girl bits.

In fact, the evolution of reproductive plumbing is being pushed along even more urgently by a second engine: the conflict between the sexes. Being good at sex — evolutionarily speaking — for a female means choosing wisely from among the available sperm donors. But being good at sex as a male usually means making sure that as many females as possible choose you as their exclusive sperm donor.

Such a conflict of interest pervades the evolution of reproductive organs in animals. But not only in animals: we humans fit right in. Above, I made the claim that gynecological problems can be understood if we take an evolutionary view. For example, scientists have discovered that preeclampsia, a dangerous inflammation in pregnant women—essentially an allergic reaction of the mother’s body to her own fetus —can be reduced by regular exposure of the woman to semen of her baby’s father, either by unprotected vaginal sex or via oral sex. The evolutionary interpretation of this curious medication? Proteins in semen have evolved to take control of the woman’s immune system and protect the father’s interests by suppressing the allergic reaction — even if it were healthier for the mother’s body to abort an overdemanding fetus.

Another gynecological problem are so-called ectopic pregnancies. Sometimes an embryo will implant itself outside of the uterus — for example in the fallopian tube, or even inside the ovaries themselves. It turns out that some of these pregnancies are caused by rogue sperm that do not stay within the legitimate confines of vagina and uterus, but wiggle their way through organ walls and go cross-country, as it were, through the woman’s abdomen, looking for fertilizable eggs.

Such all-terrain sperm are to be expected, and, in fact, similar sperm behavior is found all across the animal world. Again, the problem can be understood if we see that evolution will smile on sperm that do not let themselves be restricted by the boundaries imposed by the female. Such new and refreshing ways of viewing human reproduction can only be achieved thanks to decades of trying to understand animal sex. Populist media may balk at spending public money on such studies. But the field has not only given us the greatest stories from the Kama Sutra of creepy-crawlies, it has also paved the way for gynecologists, urologists, and evolutionary biologists to sit down and draft a research program to gain a deeper understanding of human sexuality and reproduction. Nothing perverse about that.

Menno Schilthuizen is an ecologist and evolutionary biologist based at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, the Netherlands, and is the author of Nature’s Nether Regions: What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds, and Beasts Tell Us About Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ourselves.

TIME Sex

What About the Good Guys? How Sexual Assault Awareness Affects College Men

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Mixed signals PeskyMonkey—Getty Images

The White House's new sexual assault guidelines encourage more prevention education. But some sexual assault awareness programs send mixed signals to college men.

The White House released new guidelines on sexual assault Tuesday with a strong focus on bystander intervention programs and prevention education. Earlier this month, TIME spoke to college men about how sexual assault awareness changes their approach to sex.

One night during my freshman year of college, I was in the room of a male pseudo-friend-pseudo-love interest, doing what college kids do when they’re drunk and into each other (we weren’t playing Settlers of Catan). In the middle of a fully clothed, lukewarm makeout, he suddenly pulled away. “Do you, uh, consent?” he said. We hadn’t even taken our shoes off. “Um, yes?” I said. Frankly, the question was the most shocking thing that happened all night.

I shouldn’t have been so surprised. When 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted in college, the conversation around rape has veered away from what women can do to protect themselves (advice which can quickly turn to victim-blaming) and has instead focused on what young men can do to make their campuses safer. Since many college men are just as concerned about sexual assault as their female classmates, that’s a step in the right direction.

But there are so many different prevention strategies that sometimes the messages can contradict each other. On the one hand, guys are warned that clear communication about consent can help prevent sexual assaults. On the other hand, they’re reminded that sexual assaults are acts of violence, not misunderstandings. “I don’t think that most rapes are the result of a miscommunication,” said Scott Berkowitz, president of RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. “I think they’re intentional acts in which the criminal knows what he’s doing.”

It’s easy to see how young men might be less than sure-footed. Research shows that only 6% of college-aged men admit to forcing or coercing a girl into sex, and those who do tend to be repeat offenders. But what about men who are not serial rapists but are still steeped in the hyper-nuanced conversation about assault prevention? When boys are told that sexual assault is everywhere, that it’s hard to identify and that everyone is at risk of crossing a line, some of them begin to wonder: could I have done something like this? Or even come close? It’s a minefield of mixed messages and blurred lines, leaving boys wondering where they fit on a spectrum that includes everything from “hookup” to “jerk” to “criminal.”

Dylan Munro, a sophomore applied math major at Harvard, explains it this way: “There is an inkling in your mind, especially when you first start to talk about that, to think ‘oh my god, did I ever do this? Could I have ever made someone feel uncomfortable accidentally?’” he said. “It makes you question things you’ve said to people in the past, whether anything could be misinterpreted.”

“Just being a male, it’s natural to think ‘oh I hope I’m not that kind of guy.'” Munro said. “And then you quickly realize, ‘oh whew, it’s okay, I’m not that kind of guy.'”

The changing definition of “consent” fuels a lot of this anxiety. Ben Murrie, one of the producers of a traveling campus assault education program called Sex Signals, says his program defines consent as “present, active, ongoing, freely given, and sober,” in an attempt to move away from the old “no means no” idea of consent. But to a literal-minded college student, that means anyone who willingly has sex after a couple beers could be a rape victim, and anyone who doesn’t hear “please continue with intercourse” could be a rapist.

Matthew Kaiser is a Washington D.C.-based lawyer who often represents male students who have been accused of sexual assault, and he says there’s “substantial ambiguity” about the definition of crime in college handbooks. “It’s not clear who’s understanding of the moment matters, if you’re in a situation where one person reasonably believes that the other person is consenting, but the other person does not believe they’re consenting,” he said. “In a lot of schools, the student code just doesn’t answer whether that’s a sexual assault or not.” That’s also something the new White House guidelines are trying to address, with an increased focused on school transparency and accountability.

To add to the confusion, there’s not a lot of common ground between the awkward communication encouraged by campus counselors and the rip-your-clothes-off sex that students see on TV.

Jonathan Kalin is a senior at Colby and former captain of the basketball team who helped found Male Athletes Against Violence and Party With Consent, two organizations that help college-aged men discuss consent and sexual assault prevention. He says he and his friends have noticed that most of the sex in the media is totally wordless, without any conversation at all. “Whether it’s a music video, a song, a movie, pornography, there’s usually an understanding that you have sex and there’s no talking going on,” he said. “Every single person who goes on the screen has signed consent forms, but when we see it it’s just silence.”

But there are times when silence—from either gender—can be just as misleading. In a particularly confusing assault prevention skit we saw freshman year, a girl went to a guy’s room, willingly took off her clothes, and they had (simulated) sex. She had a momentary hesitation, but never said “no,” or offered any kind of resistance, or tried to put her clothes back on. It looked like a regular scene from Sex & the City. When the prevention counselors asked at the end of the skit whether this was sexual assault, the room filled with a resounding “yes” Because the girl had not explicitly said that she wanted to have intercourse, it qualified as non-consensual sex.

So even if young people (kind of) understand the official definition of consent, they’re not always that good at communicating with each other in the moment. And who is? A candid conversation about consent doesn’t match most people’s idea of pillowtalk. Sometimes, especially when it’s just a casual hookup, the situation is awkward enough already, and explicit clarity about consent just makes things weirder. “Who’s job is it to initiate the conversation? There’s no universal for that,” Kalin explained. “It’s a taboo for a guy to just say ‘hey do you want to have sex with me?’”

But even among the mixed messaging and the self-doubt, most college age men want to do everything they can to keep campus safe for their female classmates. “A lot of people who are good guys know they’re good people, but it’s dangerous to get in a self-congratulatory state,” Munro said. “You can be a nice guy, but you also have to be a good ally and a good friend and look out for people who aren’t such good guys.”

That’s why many sexual assault prevention programs are beginning to focus on bystander intervention just as much as consent, to mobilize the majority of “good guys” (and girls) to help stop the bad ones. The White House’s new guidelines include a recommendation that more universities start bystander intervention programs like the ones at University of New Hampshire or University of Kentucky. Murrie says that teaching other students to step up to prevent rape is much more effective than “risk reduction” messages about drinking and self-defense that could make women feel like being raped was somehow in their control. “Those messages are wonderful, but if it comes with the tagline of ‘if you didn’t do this, it’s your fault’ then it doesn’t belong anywhere,” he said.

Murrie’s on the right track, since research shows that bystander intervention programs actually work. A study at UMass found that men who’d had bystander intervention training were 26% more likely to step in to stop an assault than ones who hadn’t. So in the murky bog of sexual assault prevention, the importance of interrupting bad situations (from girls as well as guys) may be one of the only things that’s becoming clear.

TIME relationships

The Science of Happily Ever After: How Millennials Beat the Odds to Find Love

Millennials know that living happily ever after is a long shot, but they're not giving up. Here are some of the strategies young people are using to find love.

Like generations before them, millennials were told bedtime stories that ended happily ever after, but they have grown up to find a new technology-driven dating scene that has lost the plot. I’ve spoken with many millennials while touring for my new book, The Science of Happily Ever After, and the question I hear over and over is: “Does happily ever after even exist?”

It’s a fair question from a group of young people who watched almost 50% of their parents’ generation divorce, another 10% permanently separate and another 7% remain in unhappy marriages. Maybe it’s because I’m from Gen X, but a one-in-three chance of finding enduring love sounds a little depressing to me. But millennials are an optimistic bunch, so they’re usually relieved to hear that enduring love exists, even if they know that the odds are not in their favor.

Although singles of all ages yearn to find enduring love, many are uncertain about how to navigate the thousands of dating partners that are now available through online dating sites and mobile apps. Technology has given singles far more choice than previous generations, which sounds good in theory, but people are finding that the sheer volume and speed produced by dating technologies quickly becomes overwhelming.

It’s what social psychologist Barry Schwartz calls the “tyranny of freedom”: a feeling of being overwhelmed, uncertain and anxious when we are given too many choices and no updated framework for managing those choices. Singles of all ages feel dizzied from the carousel of Tinder photos, resigned to the hundreds of online dating messages sitting in their inboxes and weary from serial hookups that eventually give one’s love life an unbearable lightness. Collectively, these changes can give single young people a feeling of derealization, far away from the days of getting to know the girls next door over a milkshake at the soda fountain.

However, millennials are accustomed to a postmodern world that does not always provide genuine experiences. They didn’t have to put worms on their fishing lines, but instead were fed genetically modified fish, raised in a fake stream on a fish farm, that was colored to look more fish-like. They watched the economy almost collapse after Wall Street sold loans of loans, packaged in algorithmically complex securities, which led everyone to forget what the loans were worth in the first place. Millennials watched what happens when life becomes representations of representations and they decided that this is no way to live.

Now they are finding that the convenience of Tinder geolocation or algorithmic online matches can insert a layer of artifice, which makes it harder to really get to know someone. Like other aspects of their lives, millennials want to find a process that is more organic, a method of dating that is more real. Maybe that’s why millennials seem less inclined than previous generations to fall in love with the idea of marriage and instead are determined to find the right person for marriage.

I decided to write The Science of Happily Ever After based on the premise that good relationships come from choosing good partners. I do not promise love in ten days or the one secret to finding your soulmate, but instead provide a framework and methods for assessing the traits that really matter while choosing a partner. As I have talked about the book with university students around the country, I have realized that millennials have certain tendencies that are already changing the way we date and that there are a few things we can learn from them. Here are a few valuable lessons from the way millennials search for love:

  • Be Clear About Your Goal: It sounds obvious that singles need a goal, but previous generations often felt trapped by narrow societal views of marriage. Millennials are generally more open to diversity, which has broadened our views of what can be a happy marriage, including changes in beliefs about gender roles, support of gay marriage and more favorable attitudes about interracial marriage.
  • Be Smart: Millennials are generally optimistic, but they delight in smart, contrarian views of cultural standards. They eagerly latch onto research findings that demonstrate how holding onto fairy tale notions of the beautiful princess, powerful princes, and fate delivering a soulmate, actually make it less likely that one’s love story will end happily ever after.
  • Find Undervalued Traits: Millennials do not want fate to provide the answer, they want to find an answer through their resourcefulness. They love the Moneyball aspect of the book, the idea that just as there were undervalued traits in baseball players that were key to winning, there are also undervalued traits in romantic partners that are key to happy relationships.
  • Take Action: Although millennials deliberate before acting, they don’t ruminate, which makes them amenable to solution focused psychological approaches. They want to create dating habits that create creating congruence between what they know are the right decisions in relationships and how they actually act.
  • Keep The Faith: Millennials may be dissatisfied with modern dating, but they are not giving up. They know that who you choose as a marital partner is one of the most important decisions you make in your lifetime and they are powered by an optimism that they will find a better way to do it.

Ty Tashiro, Ph.D. is a relationship expert and author of The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love. Visit him online at www.tytashiro.net.

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