FDA Approves New Pill To Alleviate Pain During Sex

As we’ve reported, about one-third of women in the U.S. say they experience pain during sex.

There a number of non-medical interventions that can help fix the problem, such as pelvic floor physical therapy, which we’ve also written about here. Still, for some, medication may be called for, so it looks like a positive development that the FDA earlier this week approved a new drug to alleviate the pain that many post-menopausal women experience during intercourse.

MedPage Today reports that the newly approved “selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM)” called ospemifene (Osphena) is taken as an oral tablet and “targets vulvar and vaginal atrophy resulting from menopause, which is the underlying cause of dyspareunia, or pain during sex.” There are risks, however:

The treatment, however, will come with a boxed warning stating that it may thicken the uterine lining, with the concern that unusual bleeding may be a sign of endometrial cancer or a condition that can lead to it. Continue reading

News Flash: Sex With A Condom Still Fun, Study Finds



News Flash: Sex is fun — even with a condom.

That’s the takeaway from a nationwide online sex survey of men and women ages 18-59, just out in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. When asked to quantify their pleasure quotient, both men and women rated their most recent sexual experience as quite high, in general, with few differences based on condom and lubricant use.

Notably, the new study, which included 1,645 respondents, didn’t ask whether people preferred sex with or without a condom. It simply asked for a detailed accounting of a recent sexual encounter. So, among those who chose to use condoms (27.5% of men and 22.3% of women in the survey) the self-reported arousal rating and other key pleasure indicators appeared to be essentially comparable to non-condom users.

“Not everyone wants to or has to use a condom, or lubricant, when they have sex,” the study’s lead author, Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., MPH, with the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University told me via email. “But if they want to use a condom or lubricant – to make sex safer or more comfortable – it’s unlikely to have a significant impact on overall pleasure for many (but not all) people.”

(I should say here that the study was funded by condom and vibrator maker Church & Dwight. This set off my skeptic’s alarm bells; I asked Herbenick whether the company played any role in analyzing the data. She said that Church & Dwight “did not intervene in that way. Our team at Indiana University analyzed the data on our own, we wrote the papers, and we managed the review process directly with the Journal of Sexual Medicine where the study was published.”)

Of course, conventional wisdom holds that sex is far hotter without a condom. See: Christian Grey on condom-free sex in “Fifty Shades Of Grey,” p. 271:

“I scoot out of bed, too, and grab my sweatpants and a cami top, then sit back on the bed, cross-legged, watching him. I don’t want him to go. What can I do?
“When is your period due?” He interrupts my thoughts.
“I hate wearing these things,” he grumbles. He holds up the condom, then puts it on the floor and slips on his jeans.
“Well?” he prompts when I don’t reply, and he looks at me expectantly as if he’s waiting for my opinion on the weather. Holy crap…this is personal stuff.
“Next week.” I stare down at my hands.
“You need to sort out some contraception.”

(Also, read this single guy’s lament in which the author blames condoms for triggering “deflationary” erectile events.) Continue reading

Study: Men Who Pay For Sex Really Want Love

More proof that all you need is love: a new analysis of men who pay for sex suggests that what these customers really want is a deeper bond — even love — from their sex workers. (Could there be a movie here?)

Pretty Woman, the movie. (T Hoffarth/flickr)

I won’t paraphrase, just share the press release:

While it is commonly believed that men who pay for sex are attempting to avoid emotional commitment, a new study finds that men who become regular clients of sex workers often develop feelings of romance and love. This study is published in a recent edition of Men and Masculinities, a SAGE journal.

“In recent years, we have come to see a gradual normalization of independent escort prostitution, where sexual encounters have come to resemble quasi-dating relationships,” stated study author Christine Milrod. “Our study shows that regular clients of a particular sex provider often come to experience feelings of deep affection, which can progress into an authentic love story.”

In this new study, Milrod and co-author Ronald Weitzer analyzed 2,442 postings on an online discussion board from a sex provider review site where more than a million clients of sex workers read and post about their experiences. Approximately one-third included a discussion about emotional intimacy between sex workers and their clients, many of whom expressed a desire to grow their relationships beyond the physical level in the form of sharing private feelings and mutual love.

“These relationships follow a conventionally romantic script that normalizes the liaison and destigmatizes both provider and client,” stated Milrod. “The study shows that this kind of normalization may manifest itself in a merger of finances, families and finally monogamous partnerships – the provider is no longer just a supplier of the girlfriend experience, but a real-life romantic partner.”

Commentary: How I Talk About Sex With My Kids

By Dr. Annie Brewster
Guest Contributor

My thirteen-year-old daughter is now in the throes of seventh grade Sex-Ed. Yesterday, while lingering at the table after dinner, just the two of us left, she asked: “Rubbing the clitoris is what makes sex feel good, right?” I swallowed hard, hesitated for half a second, and then said “Yes. That’s a big part of it.” And the door was open for further discussion. What are the other ingredients of sex that “feels good”?

We have always talked openly about sex and the human body. I am not squeamish on these topics, perhaps in part because I am a doctor, and when my children (now ranging in age from 5-15) ask questions, I believe in answering directly and honestly.

Dr. Annie Brewster says her three-year-old daughter loved asking questions about baby-making. That daughter is now 13 and the questions are more explicit.

My now thirteen-year-old, a relatively uninhibited and curious child, asked about how babies are made when she was three. Her favorite book was “It’s So Amazing” by Robie Harris, and she begged me to read it to her over and over again, so I did. She asked questions, and I answered. We talked about the sperm and the egg, the penis and the vagina, and how the sperm and egg meet up (i.e., the penis goes into the vagina), and for a while, we stopped there. At some point, she discovered my diaphragm in the bathroom drawer, and, more than once, I found her using it as a frisbee. “That’s not a toy,” I would tell her. “That’s mommy’s.” For a while, that was enough, and she would obediently put it away. It was a few more years before she pressed for more details, and I told her about birth control, after explaining that grown-ups sometimes have sex even when they don’t want to make babies. Now, we have moved on to the clitoris and the concept of pleasure.

In our house, we are not shy about nakedness, or at least I’m not. Continue reading

Sex Scandal At The Yoga Studio

Continuing his reporting on the dark-side-of-yoga beat, William Broad of The New York Times broke this news yesterday: there are sex scandals in yoga too.

Broad, the author of a recent, much-hyped piece on how yoga can wreck your body comes back with another sordid story on the downside of all those down dogs, including a short history of yoga (how it started as a way to pleasure your body) and the science behind that pleasure (the postures and breathing can boost hormones and other brain chemicals to increase sexual arousal) and concludes that, well, it’s not surprising that sex and yoga are often deeply connected. My personal favorite: The concept of “thinking off.”

Here’s how Broad explains it:

…over the decades, many have discovered from personal experience that the practice can fan the sexual flames. Pelvic regions can feel more sensitive and orgasms more intense.

Science has begun to clarify the inner mechanisms. In Russia and India, scientists have measured sharp rises in testosterone — a main hormone of sexual arousal in both men and women. Czech scientists working with electroencephalographs have shown how poses can result in bursts of brainwaves indistinguishable from those of lovers. Continue reading

Why Safe Sex Is Easier Said Than Done

I scrolled through my contacts, found his name, took a deep breath, and pressed call. Pacing on the sidewalk, my palms getting sweatier by the minute, I rehearsed what I wanted to say, but it was useless by this point because he was going to pick up any sec—


I struggled through mundane small talk, but finally broke out with the real reason for my call: to talk about sex, or more specifically, sexual history.

Sure, it’d been a few months since we’d slept together, but, at the time, neither of us had initiated that conversation — you know, the one about past partners, risky behavior, condom use, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It’s the conversation we all should be having but rarely do. Not only did we not talk about these things, but we didn’t use protection either. I know, I know.

I figured it was time I owned up to my mistake. Continue reading

Women Who Dominate At Home Have Less Sex, Study Finds

Last week the big news was that when men become fathers, and take on more of the tasks of parenting — from diapers to day care — their testosterone levels drop precipitously.

This week, researchers from Johns Hopkins report that sexual activity also decreases among married women who make the domestic decisions. Indeed, they found this striking correlation: the more household decisions woman make on their own, the less sex they have.

From the press release:

In Sub-Saharan Africa, women who are empowered to make household decisions tend to have sex less often. This is according to a study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. They examined the relationships between married women’s autonomy and the time since most recent sexual intercourse and found that women’s position in their household may influence sexual activity. The full article will be published in the October issue of the Journal of Sex Research.

“A very consistent pattern was observed across all six countries we surveyed—as the number of decisions in which a women had the final say increased, the mean and median time since most recent sex also increased by three- to 100-fold,” said Michelle Hindin, PhD, MHS, lead author of the study and an associate professor at the Bloomberg School’s Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health. “The more decisions a woman reported making on her own, as compared to joint decision making, the less likely she was to have sex and the longer it was since she last had sexual intercourse.”

Taken together, these findings do not bode well for the sex lives of parents today.

Dan Savage On Infidelity For A More Stable Marriage

Is infidelity good for marriage? (Photo: shopangelica/flickr)

This may be one of the smartest, most honest pieces on marriage I’ve read in a while.

It’s kind of a profile of Dan Savage, who is, of course, the brilliant, hilarious and sage author of the syndicated sex-advice column Savage Love, and who, as a gay, married father recently launched a powerful public service campaign, It Gets Better to support young gays who are bullied.

But it’s more than a profile. Mark Oppenheimer, writing for the Sunday New York Times magazine, gets Savage talking about how his own marriage has slowly grown more open, sexually, and how frank interaction about sexual needs and desire — which might lead to infidelity — can actually keep a marriage in tact. The key is honesty: messy, potentially shame-inducing, bare- your-soul honesty. Like, your fantasies under oath. Clearly, easier said than done. Here’s the gist:

Savage believes monogamy is right for many couples. But he believes that our discourse about it, and about sexuality more generally, is dishonest. Some people need more than one partner, he writes, just as some people need flirting, others need to be whipped, others need lovers of both sexes. We can’t help our urges, and we should not lie to our partners about them. In some marriages, talking honestly about our needs will forestall or obviate affairs; in other marriages, the conversation may lead to an affair, but with permission. In both cases, honesty is the best policy.

“I acknowledge the advantages of monogamy,” Savage told me, “when it comes to sexual safety, infections, emotional safety, paternity assurances. But people in monogamous relationships have to be willing to meet me a quarter of the way and acknowledge the drawbacks of monogamy around boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death and being taken for granted.”


I dare any married person — gay, straight, whatever — to read the entire piece and not think twice before getting into bed with your spouse.

Five Things Every Cancer Patient Should Know About Sex

When you are diagnosed with cancer, your first thoughts might be about mortality, family or mapping out a plan to beat the disease. You’re probably not thinking about sex. But experts say you should be.

It turns out that among the 12 million cancer survivors living in the U.S., a huge number of them suffer from some kind of sexual problem directly related to their cancer or treatment. (Estimates range from 40 to 100 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute, depending on the type of cancer and therapy.)

Earlier this week, in a post entitled, Sex After Cancer: How To Get Your Groove Back, several cancer patients spoke frankly about their shattered sex lives both during and after treatment, and how they coped. (Answers: with therapy, hormones, patience, vibrators and talking, talking, talking with their partners.)

Here, clinical psychologist Dr. Sharon Bober, founder and director of the Sexual Health Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, discusses the most important facts about sex and sexual health all cancer patients should know before, during and after treatment.

1. Sex Is Bigger Than Any Body Part

Sexuality is complex, Bober says, and the ways that cancer and treatment can undermine a person’s sexuality are multifaceted. Of course, if you are facing prostate, ovarian or any cancer involving a sex organ, the impact of chemotherapy, radiation or surgery will be direct and physical. But people with head and neck cancer, for example, might also face huge obstacles when it comes to intimacy: disfigurement, the loss of saliva, fatigue and other symptoms might contribute to a sharp decline in libido. Treatment-induced menopause may make it harder (or impossible) to reach an orgasm. Infertility could be a problem. And therapies that involve multiple doctors and technicians prodding and manipulating your body might, understandably, trigger a sharp drop in your desire to be touched, even lovingly. “It’s how you feel about your body,” Bober says. “Not just what’s happening to your body.” Continue reading

Why To Exercise Today: Less Fear Of Dying In Flagrante Delicto

New research appears to bear out popular wisdom: Sex or “episodic” exercise like the snow shoveling many of us may face tomorrow do appear to briefly raise the risk of a heart attack.

But the study by Tufts Medical Center researchers just out in the Journal of the American Medical Association is by no means a justification for refraining from exercise. On the contrary: It also found that regular exercise significantly reduces those heart risks, so exercising today could mean lower risk if you exercise — or attempt certain other potentially strenuous activities — tomorrow.

The Los Angeles Times sums up the study here:

Researchers analyzed 14 studies looking at the effects of exercise and sex on sudden cardiac death and myocardial infarction, or heart attack. They found periodic physical activity was associated with a 3.5-times increased risk of heart attack, and occasional sexual activity was linked with a 2.7-times increased risk of heart attack. Periodic physical activity was also linked with an increased risk of sudden cardiac death.

However, the more exercise people did, the lower their risk of acute cardiac events. For each time someone exercised during the week, the relative risk of a bout of exercise prompting a heart attack decreased by about 45%, and for sudden cardiac death it decreased 30%.