Thursday, February 27, 2014

What I Learned While Cagefighting: Shaun McCoy at TEDxColumbiaSC

When he was 20 years old, Shaun McCoy became one of the rare people who acquired cat scratch disease (CSD) and ended up in a coma. Appalled by his physical condition afterward, he began to train and found himself interested in cage fighting.

His experience in the cage taught him a lot about taking risks, competition, and his ideas of what danger entails.

What I learned while cagefighting: Shaun McCoy at TEDxColumbiaSC

Published on Feb 26, 2014

A writer at an early age, Shaun penciled out his first full-length novel in middle school. At age 20, Shaun was struck with CSD, which put him in a coma and hospitalized him for two weeks.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Army Removes Hundreds of Soldiers Over Sexual Assault Concerns (Jezebel)

At least this is a step in the right direction. WAY too little and TOO late for thousands of women who have been raped by their fellow soldiers. Via Jezebel.

Army Removes Hundreds of Soldiers Over Sexual Assault Concerns

Army Removes Hundreds of Soldiers Over Sexual Assault Concerns

The U.S. Army has banned 588 soldiers from working as sexual assault counselors, recruiters and drill sergeants for a variety of transgressions, many of which are related to their ongoing issues with sexual assault in the military.

Last summer, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel requested that soldiers in these "positions of trust" undergo background checks to make sure they didn't have criminal histories. At that point, only 55 soldiers were removed. But as USA Today reported Wednesday, after the records of 20,000 more troops were reviewed, the new number of soldiers that have been dismissed from these roles by the Army is significantly higher. In contrast, other sections of the military that have had just as many problems as the Army concerning sexual assault removed only a few recruiters and counselors:
The Navy dropped three of 5,125 recruiters it had reviewed, and two of 4,739 counselors. None of its 869 recruit instructors was disqualified. The Air Force and Marine Corps reported that none of their servicemembers had been disqualified.
It's unclear what will happen to the suspended troops. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has put forth one of two proposed laws that would change the way sexual assault has been handled by the military, said the "reports paint a very clear picture of why nine out of 10 sexual assault victims don't report their attack and why the military needs a reformed, independent and transparent system of justice." Her sort-of opposition, Senator Claire McCaskill, praised the Army for their thorough review. On Monday, Republican Senator Jerry Moran blocked both bills from being voted on.

The Army has also been working to integrate women into a greater number of combat roles. Along those lines, a new series of in-house studies reported by the Associated Press Tuesday revealed that only 8% of women in the military want these jobs. Interestingly, most of those women were younger and held lower positions in the military.

Image via U.S. Army/Flickr

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Selenium, Vitamin E Supplements May Double Prostate Cancer Risk

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, selenium and vitamin E were being touted as the potential cure for prostate cancer. In fact, the most influential study was conducted at the University of Arizona - SELECT (the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial) - just a few miles down the road from here. The SELECT study found no benefit by the time it ended in 2008, but over the following years, they found an increased risk in men who took only the vitamin E supplement (2011):
After an average of 7 years (5.5 years on supplements and 1.5 off supplements), there were 17 percent more cases of prostate cancer in men taking only vitamin E than in men taking only placebos.

Specifically, for every 1,000 men who took placebos there were 65 cases of prostate cancer over 7 years; for every 1,000 men who took vitamin E, there were 76 cases of prostate cancer.  This difference, an absolute increase of 11 cases per 1,000 men, was statistically significant and therefore is not likely due to chance.  These results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association October 12, 2011 (see the paper Exit Disclaimer).
Now a new study is out showing that in men who take high dose vitamin E and selenium, there is a nearly two-found risks of developing prostate cancer. This new report seems to be using the same men who participated in the SELECT study.

Via Live Science:

Selenium, Vitamin E Supplements May Double Prostate Cancer Risk

By Bahar Gholipour, Staff Writer | February 21, 2014 

Selenium supplements are popular, but do they work?

Men who take selenium and vitamin E supplements may increase their risk of prostate cancer, researchers have found.

The new study examined about 1,700 men with prostate cancer and 3,100 healthy men. These men had previously participated in a large trial in 2001, in which they had been randomly assigned to take either high doses of vitamin E and selenium supplements, or a placebo. Researchers had measured the amount of selenium in the men's toenails before they started taking the supplements.

Now, the results showed that selenium supplements did not benefit men who had lower levels of the element at the start of the study, and nearly doubled the risk of prostate cancer in those who had higher levels of selenium (but still within ranges common among U.S. men).

In addition, vitamin E more than doubled the risk of the most aggressive type of prostate cancer, but only among men with low selenium levels at the beginning of the study. [5 Things You Should Know About Prostate Cancer]

"Men should avoid selenium or vitamin E supplementation at doses that exceed recommended dietary intakes," Dr. Eric Klein, chairman of the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, and his colleagues wrote in their study, published today (Feb. 21) in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The study is, in fact, a second look at a previous large, randomized trial, which aimed to investigate whether high doses of selenium and vitamin E supplements could lower a man's risk for prostate cancer, something that earlier studies had suggested.

However, that trial, which included 35,000 men, ended early with concerns that the treatments may do more harm than good. In fact, more users of vitamin E were getting prostate cancer than men who were on placebo. "Vitamins are not innocuous…they can be harmful," Klein told Live Science at the time in 2011.

The doses used in that trial were 200 micrograms of selenium and 400 international units of vitamin E. These doses are higher than most multivitamins, which contain about 50 micrograms of selenium and 30 to 200 international units of vitamin E.

Previous studies have suggested that the effects of nutrition supplements depend on how well-nourished a population is. Similarly, it is possible that the U.S. population is already getting adequately high levels of selenium through diet, and supplementing them with more selenium results in an unnaturally high amounts of the element, and has either no effect or increases cancer risk, the researchers said.

The findings also point to a complex interaction between selenium and vitamin E, the researchers said. The study showed that vitamin E increased the cancer risk in men who had low levels of selenium.

This was unexpected because both vitamin E and selenium have antioxidant roles and one could reasonably expect the opposite -- that supplemental vitamin E could compensate for an antioxidant deficit resulting from lower selenium, wrote Paul Frankel, a biostatistician at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, in an accompanying editorial.

It is unlikely that there will be another trial looking at these supplements and their role in preventing prostate cancer, the researchers said. Given the risks and lacking evidence of benefits for other diseases, men older than 55 should avoid supplementation with either vitamin E or selenium at doses that exceed recommended dietary intakes, the researchers said.

Email Bahar Gholipour or follow her @alterwired. Follow us @LiveScience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Bret Contreras - Mind-Muscle Connection: Fact or BS? (T-Nation)

Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in the gym will at one point have heard the phrase "mind-muscle connection," often spoken by a very large person to a very muscularly small person. You see, the secret to his size is that he connect his mind with his muscle, often most noticeably when he has a mind-meld with his bicep.

In reality, there is something to be said for this skill of connecting mentally (read: consciously) with the muscle we are working in a given exercise, or the one we want to work. For example, and this is an easy one, when doing a bicep curl you want the bicep to be doing all of the work, not the anterior deltoid, not the brachialis nor the brachioradialis, just the bicep. Harder than it sounds.

The whole idea of a mind-muscle connection is less relevant in multi-joint movements, but is still important. For example, when deadlifting we want to push our feet through the floor as we initiate the movement (activating the quads and hamstrings, but as the bar clears the knees we want to really engage the glutes and hamstrings to drive the hips through and come up to vertical.

Mind-Muscle Connection: Fact or BS?


Here's what you need to know...

•  Many bodybuilders believe in the mind-muscle connection: activating a muscle mentally. Others believe that if an exercise is done with good form, the right muscles do their job automatically.

•  The author decided to test (using EMG) whether load, cadence, and form dictate muscle activation, or whether it's possible to mentally steer neural drive towards some muscles and away from other muscles.

•  The surprise of the study wasn't that it showed you can activate a muscle mentally, but just how big a role the mind plays in kicking a muscle into gear.
Bodybuilders have been referring to the mind-muscle connection for a long time, and they'll typically recommend that new lifters spend time flexing their muscles independently and learning how to activate the muscles properly against resistance.

On the other hand, there's a subgroup of strength coaches and physical therapists that believe that if an exercise is performed with seemingly good form, then the right muscles will automatically do the job, and it's not necessary, or even possible, for the lifter to mentally alter muscle activation.

Which one of these camps is right? Do load, cadence, and form dictate muscle activation? Or can lifters mentally "steer" neural drive toward certain muscles and away from other muscles even when using the same weight, tempo, and mechanics just by focusing their attention on the targeted muscle?

To some, the following experiment is going to seem like one of the most obvious experiments you've ever seen. You'll be saying to yourself, "No shit, Sherlock," particularly if you've spent time reading up on bodybuilder wisdom. But to others, it will be eye opening, and offer some insight into the brain's role in muscle activation dynamics.


We decided to get to the bottom of this debate by conducting a pilot experiment. Essentially, we performed a variety of lower and upper body exercises while utilizing electromyography (EMG) to examine muscle activation. During exercise performance, we concentrated our attention either on activating a particular muscle or on not activating a particular muscle.

What's very important to understand is that during each exercise, the load, cadence, and mechanics were kept nearly identical. Stances and grip-width and positions were kept identical, bar and movement paths were unchanged, and joint ranges of motion were kept constant. The typical personal trainer, serving as a "referee," wouldn't have noticed any differences between the two styles of lifts for each exercise.

We used four different exercises for the lower body: squats, Romanian deadlifts, hip thrusts, and back extensions. We used a barbell load of 135 pounds for squats, RDL's, and hip thrusts, while we just used bodyweight for back extensions.

Our intention on each exercise was to not use the glutes. In the case of squats, the intention was to instead target the quads, and in the case of RDL's, the intention was to instead target the hammies. We then performed the tests again, this time with the intention of heavily utilizing the glutes.

We also used four different exercises for the upper body – two pressing movements and two pulling movements. We used bodyweight push-ups and 135-pound bench presses for upper body pressing muscles. The first time we did them, we concentrated on our pectorals and the second time we did them, we focused on the triceps.

For the upper body pulling muscles, we used bodyweight chin-ups and bodyweight inverted rows. Both exercises were performed in two ways, first with an emphasis primarily on the lats, and then with an emphasis on the biceps. We chose to stick with lighter loads as we felt that this would allow for a better ability to steer neural drive, assuming it was even possible, in comparison with heavy loading.

Furthermore, we've long noticed pro bodybuilders lifting seemingly very light loads while squeezing the muscles and trying to place maximal tension and metabolic stress on the targeted muscle. Using similarly light loads would allow us to gauge whether there might be merit to their methods.


We found that advanced lifters can indeed steer neural drive to and away from various muscles without significantly altering form. Our averaged data in terms of mean muscle activation are contained in the tables below. Of course you can skip trying to decipher the results and just read the discussion that follows.

Lower Body Movements Glute Max    Biceps Femoris    Vastus Lateralis    Lumbar Erector
Squat Quad Focus 10.61    11.19     109.67    48.73
Squat Glute Focus 25.30    12.78      94.33    54.63
RDL Hamstring Focus   9.13    21.07      30.80    60.67
RDL Glute Focus 32.13    22.67      35.97    54.33
Hip Thrust No Glute Focus 20.90     6.80      33.43    70.83
Hip Thrust Glute Focus 52.67    18.40      52.60    61.53
Back Ext. No Glute Focus   6.05    43.63        2.17    52.53
Back Ext. Glute Focus 38.13    52.70        2.69    47.87

Pressing Movements Upper Pec    Lower Pec    Front Delt   Tricep
Push-Up Pec Focus 60.47 47.10 55.33 63.30
Push-Up Tricep Focus 51.77 23.74 51.13 90.77
Bench Press Pec Focus 64.90 54.77 49.77 63.43
Bench Press Tricep Focus 58.47 33.23 50.73 71.77

Pulling Movements   Lat Rear Delt    Mid Trap   Bicep
Chin-Up Lat Focus   59.73      67.33 68.30 44.10
Chin-Up Bicep Focus   59.17 73.07 50.50 68.70
Inverted Row Lat Focus   82.10 82.57 94.73 31.33
Inverted Row Bicep Focus   66.60 75.13 62.27 71.30


As you can see in the tables, there's definite evidence of the mind-muscle connection, and this phenomenon is more evident in certain muscles than others. Perhaps the most eye opening finding in this experiment is that advanced lifters can perform a bodyweight back extension – which requires around 235 Nm of hip extension torque for an average athletic male – moving from full hip flexion to full hip extension, while barely using the glutes.

When purposely trying to not focus on glutes during the back extension, glute EMG activation reached just 6% of MVIC (maximum voluntary isometric contraction). However, when trying to use the glutes, glute EMG activation rose to 38% of MVIC!

Overall, glute activation during hip extension exercise was highly dependent on the mental focus of attention. With squats, RDL's, hip thrusts, and back extensions, glute activation could vary markedly when trying or not trying to utilize them, and glute activation is quite low when squatting with a quad focus or performing an RDL with a hamstring focus. In fact, it appears to be rather difficult to not utilize the quads in a squat, the hamstrings in a back extension, or the glutes in a hip thrust.

For the upper body pressing muscles, lower pec activation was very low when focusing on the triceps during push-ups, but while focusing on the pecs, triceps activation was much lower. Furthermore, it seems easier to mentally direct muscle activity during the push-up compared to the bench press.

For the pulling muscles, mid-trap and biceps activation varied markedly between trials. Lat activation didn't change much during chin-ups regardless of focus, but it did with inverted rows. Biceps and mid-trap activation appear to be inversely related depending on whether focusing on the lats or biceps during the pulling movements, and it seems easier to mentally direct muscle activity during the inverted row compared to the chin-up.

We deliberately didn't concentrate or focus on or away from the lumbar erectors, upper pecs, front delts, and rear delts, which explains why their activation was more consistent compared to the glutes, lower pecs, tri's, and bi's.

Practical Applications and Conclusion

Based on this experiment, we can conclude that advanced lifters are quite capable of "steering" neuromuscular drive to and away from muscles, at least with lighter loads.

In 2012, researchers Snyder and Fry found that verbal instruction was effective in steering muscle activation with lighter loads in the bench press, but this wasn't the case with heavier loads. Similarly, a variety of studies have examined the effect of internal focus of attention (focusing on body parts during movement) and found that individuals can preferentially activate muscles depending on the task, for example the abs, the lats, and the glutes.

In fact, one study showed that belly dancers could completely isolate their upper and lower abs, indicating that targeting muscles gets easier with practice. Therefore, our results are in agreement with previous research. In fact, there's research nearly 20 years old providing evidence of the mind muscle connection pertaining to shoulder stabilizers.

We think this experiment indicates that the notion, "if it looks right, it'll fly right" is incorrect, at least according to light-load resistance training. For example, as explained earlier, it's quite possible to extend the hips while barely activating the glutes during the back extension exercise.

Form needs to be solid, but simply observing movement from the outside doesn't completely tell you what's going on under the hood. The underlying muscles also need to be firing in proper amounts and in proper combinations during movement for optimal performance, and these amounts and combinations likely differ depending on whether the goal is to develop maximum strength, endurance, or activation.

The literature's quite clear on the fact that an external focus of attention (focusing outside of the body) will produce better demonstrations of strength, endurance, and accuracy. When maxing out on the bench press, you wouldn't want to focus on maximally activating the pecs or triceps and would instead want to focus on raising the bar off the chest as explosively as possible.

Beyond all that, this experiment indicates that bodybuilders were indeed right all along – the mind-muscle connection is a real phenomenon that influences neuromuscular dynamics during resistance training. It's logical to assume that the mind muscle connection would meaningfully impact hypertrophic gains, but this remains to be shown in the research.

In order to be more confident with recommending that lifters prioritize the mind muscle connection, we need research examining whether bodybuilders can steer neural drive when using heavier loading and also whether focusing attention on activating particular muscles during exercise leads to greater hypertrophic adaptations over time. In the meantime, consider experimenting with a few different methods:
1. Give a try to what Mel Siff would call "loadless training" by flexing muscles independently just as bodybuilders do when they pose.
2. Perform low-load activation work prior to heavy strength training or in between heavier sets to see if it improves your performance.
3. Perform heavy strength work with an external focus of attention (form) during the workout, but afterwards, perform lighter work with an internal focus of attention, concentrating and trying to activate the target muscles.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The First Lesson of Marriage 101: There Are No Soul Mates

If you go to Northwestern University, you can take a course called Marriage 101. Why isn't something similar available at every college and university in the country? Or even every high school?

The First Lesson of Marriage 101: There Are No Soul Mates

A course at Northwestern University teaches students about what makes a healthy relationship.

Christine Gross-Loh | Feb 12 2014

Research shows that practically every dimension of life happiness is influenced by the quality of one’s marriage, while divorce is the second most stressful life event one can ever experience.

Yet nearly half of all married couples are likely to divorce, and many couples report feeling unhappy in their relationships. Instructors of Northwestern University’s Marriage 101 class want to change that. The goal of their course is to help students have more fulfilling love relationships during their lives. In Marriage 101 popular books such as Mating in Captivity and For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage are interspersed with meaty academic studies. Students attend one lecture a week and then meet in smaller breakout groups to discuss the weekly topics, which range from infidelity to addiction, childrearing to sexuality in long-term relationships.

At first glance this class may seem a tad too frivolous for a major research university. But the instructors say it’s not an easy A and its reputation as a meaningful, relevant, and enlightening course has grown steadily over the 14 years it’s been offered. In fact, teachers are forced to turn away eager prospective students every year. This spring, the enrollment will be capped at 100. The class is kept to a manageable size so that students can grapple at a deeply personal level with the material during their discussion sessions.

The Marriage 101 professors believe college is the perfect time for students to learn about relationships. “Developmentally, this is what the college years are all about: Students are thinking about who they are as people, how they love, who they love, and who they want as a partner,” says Alexandra Solomon, a professor and family therapist who will be teaching the course along with a team of four other faculty, all affiliated with Northwestern University’s Family Institute, and 11 teaching assistants. “We’re all really passionate about talking about what makes a healthy relationship.” The professors see the course—which requires journaling exercises, interviews with married couples, and several term papers—as a kind of inoculation against potential life trauma.

Historians tell us that marriage education in America began as a way to keep women’s sexuality in check. “Marriage education has been for hundreds of years aimed at women. It was considered their responsibility to keep the marriage going,” Stephanie Coontz, co-chairwoman of the Council on Contemporary Families and author of Marriage: A History, tells me. During the 1920s and 1930s, Coontz explains in her book, fears about sexual liberation and the future of marriage led eugenics proponents like Paul Popenoe to become enthusiastic about marriage counseling. “If we were going to promote a sound population, we would not have to get the right kind of people married, but we would have to keep them married,” Popenoe wrote. One of our more beloved cultural myths about marriage is that it should be easy.

College-level marriage courses became even more popular during the post-World War II period, when marriage rates were at an all-time high and women were encouraged to embrace a new role as happy homemakers. Marriage education during that time, Coontz explains, was similarly driven by a strong emphasis on stereotypical gender, race, and class ideas about how a marriage should ideally be conducted. “The received wisdom of the day was that the only way to have a happy marriage was for the woman to give up any aspirations that might threaten the man’s sense of superiority, to make his interests hers, and to never ask for help around the house.” In one case, cited in Rebecca Davis’s book More Perfect Unions, a young wife became convinced, after a series of sessions at Ohio State University’s marriage clinic, that her husband’s straying was a result of her failing to do her duty by taking care of her looks and keeping a proper home. And New York University’s College of Engineering presented “Good Wife Awards” to women who put their spouses first, providing the domestic support that allowed their husbands to concentrate on their studies.

There was another resurgence of interest in marriage education a decade ago when the George W. Bush administration undertook an initiative, with bipartisan Congressional support, to promote marriage. The Healthy Marriage Initiative was met with mixed reception; criticism was leveled at the lack of evidence that the proposed marriage-promotion strategies even worked, as well as the possibility that low-income women would feel pressured to remain in abusive or dysfunctional marriages. “We did not know if the existing scientific literature on predicting successful marriages would apply to poor families because it was mostly conducted on middle-class families,” Matthew Johnson, Director of the Marriage and Family Studies Laboratory at SUNY Buffalo, told Forbes in an interview. “Some in the scientific community were trying to point out that we did not know whether investing [large amounts of money] in marriage education for poor couples would work, but our voices were drowned out by those who felt that it was worth the gamble.”

Nowadays, when colleges and universities offer courses on the topic of marriage, rather than explicitly offering practical marriage advice, they often survey the institution of marriage from a historical point of view or look at larger sociological trends.

Today’s marriage education classes are most often aimed at high-school students, usually as part of a home economics or health class, where teens are taught how family structure affects child well-being, learn basic relationship and communication skills, or are required to carry around a sack filled with flour for a week so they can learn what is entailed in being responsible for a baby 24 hours a day. Other courses are taught at specifically religious colleges, or are meant for engaged couples, like Pre-Cana, a marriage prep course required of all couples desiring to marry in a Catholic church.

Northwestern’s Marriage 101 is unique among liberal arts universities in offering a course that is comprehensively and directly focused on the experiential, on self-exploration: on walking students through the actual practice of learning to love well.

While popular culture often depicts love as a matter of luck and meeting the right person, after which everything effortlessly falls into place, learning how to love another person well, Solomon explains, is anything but intuitive. Among the larger lessons students learn in this class are:

Self-understanding is the first step to having a good relationship

“The foundation of our course is based on correcting a misconception: that to make a marriage work, you have to find the right person. The fact is, you have to be the right person,” Solomon declares. “Our message is countercultural: Our focus is on whether you are the right person. Given that we’re dealing with 19-, 20-, 21-year olds, we think the best thing to do at this stage in the game, rather than look for the right partner, is do the work they need to understand who they are, where they are, where they came from, so they can then invite in a compatible suitable partner.”

To that end, students keep a journal, interview friends about their own weaknesses, and discuss what triggers their own reactions and behaviors in order to understand their own issues, hot buttons, and values. “Being blind to these causes people to experience problems as due to someone else—not to themselves,” Solomon explains. “We all have triggers, blind spots, growing edges, vulnerabilities. The best thing we can do is be aware of them, take responsibility for them, and learn how to work with them effectively.”

You can’t avoid marital conflict, but you can learn how to handle it better

The instructors teach that self-discovery is impossible without knowing where you came from. “Understanding your past and the family you grew up in helps you to understand who you are now and what you value,” Solomon says. To help students recognize what has shaped their views on love, she and her colleagues have students extensively interview their own parents about their own relationship. Many find this to be the most demanding and yet the most rewarding assignment of the course. Maddy Bloch, who took the course two years ago along with her boyfriend at the time, learned a lot when she interviewed her own parents about their own marriage, despite the fact that they are divorced. “I learned that in an intimate relationship each person holds a tremendous amount of power that you can easily turn on someone,” she says. “This is why relationships require a lot of mutual trust and vulnerability.” It seems a little unromantic to talk about skill building and communication skills. But it’s important.

Once you have a sound, objective sense of why you behave the way you do, you are better equipped to deal with conflicts—inevitable in any long-term relationship—with the appropriate tincture of self-awareness so that you avoid behaving in ways that make your partner defensive. The class instructors teach their students that blaming, oversimplifying, and seeing themselves as victims are all common traits of unhappy couples and failed marriages. They aim to teach students that rather than viewing conflicts from a zero-sum position, where one wins and one loses, they would benefit from a paradigm shift that allows them to see a couple as “two people standing shoulder to shoulder looking together at the problem.”

Thus, one of many concrete conflict-resolution skills that they teach is to frame statements as “X, Y, Z” statements, rather than finger pointing: When you did X, in situation Y, I felt Z. In other words, calmly telling my husband that when he left his clothes on the bathroom floor in the morning because he was late for a meeting, I felt resentful because I felt he didn’t notice that I was busy too, would lead to a better outcome than if I were to reactively lash out and accuse him of being a messy and careless slob. “‘You’ statements,” Solomon explains, “invite the other partner’s defensiveness, inviting them to put their walls up.” So too do words (tempting though they may sound in the moment) such as “always” or “never.”

A good marriage takes skill

There’s no doubt that the largest takeaway from the course is that fostering good relationships takes skills. “We’re a very romantic culture,” Solomon says, “and it seems a little unromantic to talk about skill building and communication skills. But it’s important.” One of our more beloved cultural myths about marriage is that it should be easy. The reality is that most of us don’t have adequate communication skills going into marriage. That’s why Marriage 101 students are required to interview another couple in addition to their own parents: a mentor couple (typically a local couple who has been married anywhere from several years to several decades). The professors hand out a list of more than 80 suggested questions and tell their students to think of the interview as a sort of lab experiment, a chance to observe the theoretical concepts they’ve been learning in a real-life context. During a 90-minute interview, a pair of students asks each couple questions such as what most attracted them to the other at the start of their relationship, which moments stand out as the best ones of their marriage, how they’ve weathered severe stresses, whether they ever thought about divorce, and what their sex life has been like over time. They watch the couple interact and engage in good couple skills: bringing a spouse a glass of water, for instance, as an unspoken gesture of caretaking. The interview is itself also a chance to observe a couple doing something that research shows is good for marriage: reminisce together as they look back on their relationship.

You and your partner need a similar worldview

Yet, despite how often we hear about the importance of good communication, even the best communication skills won’t help a couple that sees the world completely differently. One of the texts used in the course, Will Our Love Last? by Sam R. Hamburg, argues that people can be incredibly proficient communicators, yet never see eye to eye because they simply can’t understand how their partner can hold a position they see as untenable. “For people to be happy in their marriage they must be able to understand not just what their partner is saying, but the experience behind the words,” writes Hamburg. If partners are unable to do that, “they cannot understand what it’s like to be their partner—to understand their partner empathically—and the best communication in the world won’t help.”

The instructors teach students that once they learn to identify what is important to them, what values they hold, what they like to do on a daily basis, and what their sexual preferences are—in other words, once they know who they are—they will then be in a much stronger position to be able to recognize when they are with a partner who is compatible and shares their worldview.

Ben Eisenberg, who majored in learning and organizational change at Northwestern, took the course last year as a senior, right after the breakup of a long-term relationship. He found it enlightening as he looked back at his past and towards his future. “Pairing up with a partner is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in life, more important than some of the other things you’ll learn in college,” he mused. Among other things, he learned to recognize that the more aligned you are on certain crucial dimensions—such as day-to-day compatibility, or whether you are on the same wavelength about larger issues—the better off you’ll be as a couple. He learned that all the communication skills in the world won’t help if you haven’t learned how to recognize and invite in a compatible partner. “How similarly you spend your day, your money, how you view the world, greatly affects that day-to-day happiness with your partner, more than whether you have initial attraction.”

The greatest lesson Eisenberg learned from Marriage 101? “I learned that the modern idea about love at first sight is a myth. Love is a lot of work, but it’s worth it if you put the work in.”

Friday, February 21, 2014

Do You Have to Pee Standing Up to Be a Real Man?

Why would you pee sitting down (if you are a cis male)? But that is not the issue of this story - some men are not able to pee standing up, and some men are gender- or genital-variant. If you are a trans man who wishes to pass, standing at a urinal might be the only to fully pass.

From Pacific Standard.

Do You Have to Pee Standing Up to Be a Real Man?

• February 13, 2014 

This simple idea, encouraged by medical texts of the past that taught deviation from the norm would lead to confused sexuality and gender identity issues, has put a surprising number of babies under the knife.

In contemporary American culture, much is still demanded of “real men”: To be commanding and composed. To be courageous and chivalrous. To be rugged, strong, and low-voiced. And to be able to pee standing up.

Males are sometimes born with a urinary meatus (what kids might call “the pee hole”) somewhere other than the tip of the penis, which can make it difficult to meet this last demand. The opening might be farther down the head, on the shaft, or even on the scrotum. When this happens, and a doctor notices it, a newborn lad gets hit with a diagnosis of hypospadias. Often, he will be referred to a surgeon for “correction.”

How many boys are born with hypospadias is a matter of some dispute. Environmental hormone disruptors—including those found in some medications for hair loss and prostate cancer—increase chances of a male fetus developing hypospadias, and so the rate of hypospadias in America is probably increasing every year. Right now, American medical textbooks put the frequency at around one in 150 to 250 live male births, which would make it pretty common. That frequency would mean that, when you’re shopping in Costco, chances are so is a man born with hypospadias. When you’re in a major sports stadium, chances are you’re surrounded by a few hundred such men.

In fact, hypospadias might be much more common than even that, and may have always been. In 1995, the Journal of Urology published a stunning—and generally ignored—study out of Germany that showed that urologists have unreasonably strict expectations for penises. These physicians looked at a group of 500 men and found that only 55 percent could be labeled “normal,” according to medical standards. Of the 500, fully 225 counted as having hypospadias.

The team observed that “it remains unclear whether the tip of the glans [penis] is truly the normal site” for the urethral opening. The physicians also questioned whether surgical “correction” of hypospadias was necessary, given what they admitted was the “significant complication rate” of “reparative” surgeries—and given these men seemed to have figured out how to use their penises to their own satisfaction.

Yet every day in America, baby boys are put under anesthesia and under the knife to “fix” hypospadias. This involves moving the meatus to where surgeons believe it’s “supposed” to be (regardless of the German study’s findings). In mild cases of hypospadias, this is often a relatively simple surgery, and most of the time comes with no complications. In more significant cases, moving the meatus involves having to surgically build more urethra (the tube that carries urine and, in males, semen). That’s when things can get especially tricky.

The risks of “hypospadias repair” surgeries include wounds opening up on the penis (fistulas), scar tissue building up inside the urethra (stenosis), chronic pain at the surgical site, and chronic infections. For some boys, surgical “repairs” to their penises turn out to be downright destructive—even devastating. Jim Lake, a 54-year-old counselor who works in the Chicago area, has had 17 major urological surgeries to try and undo the damage that followed the surgical “correction” performed on his penis when he was just a baby. The medical literature has a special name for boys and men like Jim: hypospadias cripples.

Make no mistake: this “crippling” isn’t caused by the hypospadias; it’s caused by the complications of surgeries to “fix” hypospadias. In the vast majority of cases, initial “repair” of hypospadias is not done because a boy’s health is being actively compromised by this anatomical quirk; his health is not. In fact, in most cases, the surgery increases the odds a boy is going to suffer from urological problems. If what you care about is improving physical health, in most cases you would not go through with “hypospadias repair.”

And consider one of the most shocking findings of the German study: “all but 6 [of the 225 men diagnosed with hypospadias] were not aware of any penile anomaly, all but 1 homosexual patient have fathered children…. [A]ll patients participated in sexual intercourse without problems and were able to void in a standing position with a single stream.” So why label them as anything but normal?

Most hypospadias “repairs” performed by surgeons occur because of an untested, Freudian belief that you can’t grow up a “real man” if you urinate and ejaculate from somewhere other than the very tip of your penis. Urology texts of the past made it pretty plain: if you don’t “fix” hypospadias, a boy might be so messed up in his gender identity that he’ll grow up gay. Few urologists today seem to believe that sexual orientation is caused by how one pees, but many still think boys’ psychological health absolutely depends on being able to pee standing up. There’s no evidence for this. Why insurance covers it, even when there is no good evidence it is necessary or beneficial, remains a mystery.

I have heard some contemporary surgeons insist that hypospadias repair is done for a “medical” reason—to ensure a boy can eventually successfully impregnate a woman though intercourse. But there are simpler, non-surgical solutions to the problem of ejaculating somewhere other than the penis’s tip, including one reported in a late-19th-century British medical journal. In that case, a man with hypospadias was reported to have impregnated his wife by ejaculating onto a long-handled spoon and inserting it into her vagina.

Of course, we have better tools today. Through my work on this subject, a few years ago I met a man with “uncorrected” hypospadias who had opted for a high-quality turkey baster. He observed to me that, so far as he and his wife were concerned, they had the best of all possible worlds: he had no trouble with erections, orgasms, and intercourse—he was healthy—and yet he couldn’t accidentally get his wife pregnant. When they wanted to conceive, they just engaged in a private thanksgiving.

Nevertheless, parents of boys with hypospadias are often led to believe “corrective” surgery is necessary and worth the risks. Urologists don’t typically suggest that, before consenting to surgery, parents talk to the men in the Hypospadias and Epispadias Association (HEA) support group, of which Jim Lake is the incoming president.

Tiger Devore, a clinical psychologist now completing his service as HEA’s president, told me in a recent phone interview that he sees signs of pediatric urologists backing off of “hypospadias repair,” and that those changes in attitude break down along generational lines. Devore attended the International Pediatric Urology Task Force on Hypospadias in Las Vegas last September, and there he observed younger urologists being much more hesitant to push “corrective” surgery, especially in relatively minor cases, because of the risks.

Devore’s observation reminded me of a set of conversations I had with one pediatric urologist. About 15 years ago, this urological surgeon told me he wished I’d stop saying that hypospadias repair was motivated by a latent homophobia—it was a necessary surgery, he said. When I ran into him a couple of years ago, he admitted to me that my activist colleagues and I had been winning in our attempts to get his colleagues to move away from so many “repair” surgeries for hypospadias. I asked him to what he attributed the change. Without pause, he replied, “American culture has really come around on the gay thing.”

Could it be that surgeons and parents have really worried that a child left to grow up with atypical genitals will be at greater risk of gender identity and sexual orientation “problems”? Well, when I was editing a handbook for parents of these children in 2005, and I asked specialist clinicians what questions parents typically had when faced with a newborn with atypical genitals, the number one question was: Will my child be gay?

After working in this field for almost 20 years, I do not believe that most parents (or physicians) are trying to eliminate the possibility of a gay child through “corrective” surgery. I don’t see this as a eugenicist agenda. I think when parents ask Will my child be gay?, most of the time they are asking something more complicated, something genuinely compassionate: Will my child be able to know love, as I have known love?

But I do think it is the case that we still have a very tangled and too often unexamined confusion over genital variation and its meanings. We need an approach that is much calmer, more organized, and less anatomically naïve. Less surgical in its “corrective” fantasies.

So what are the options, at least for hypospadias?

A pediatric psychologist asked me something like this a couple of years ago, specifically in reference to a three-year-old boy on his service. The boy was born with hypospadias and his parents had decided early on against surgery. The mother was now feeling some anxiety because the boy, whose hypospadias made it so he had to sit to pee, was noticing how boys usually stand to pee while girls sit. The psychologist was calling to ask me if I knew of a simple prosthetic option so that this boy could try standing to pee.

Yes, I replied. And I know about the prosthetic solution because I like to camp. There’s a product called Go Girl, and it’s basically a reusable little plastic funnel. You hold it under yourself when you urinate, and the pee goes shooting out in front. Transgender men (who used to be female) sometimes also use these. I suggested the psychologist buy some of these devices, perhaps in the “camo” color, take them out of the Go Girl package, and show the kid how to use them, in case he wanted to pee standing up. A few bucks spent now and then on this handy product will buy this boy time so he can decide later, when he’s mature enough, if he wants to take on genital surgery risk. By then, too, the surgeries will hopefully be better.

An even better solution than Go Girl came from another family I ran across, a family including a boy born with a small penis and hypospadias. The first set of doctors had suggested sex changing the boy, something that used to be pretty common in such cases. (If you can’t make him into a “real man,” you make him into a girl, right?) Another set of doctors had offered “hypospadias repair.” But the parents, conservative Christians, had decided to let the boy grow up without elective, risky, invasive medical procedures.

In this case, the father took an innovative approach. Hearing about the alleged importance of a boy being able to urinate the way the men around him do, the father decided to sit to pee. Following the father’s lead, so did (and do) all the other men in the family when they are around this little boy: they all sit to pee.

Rather than getting that little boy to come to their norm, they decided to go to his.

What lesson is that little American boy learning about what makes a “real man”: compassion, acceptance, joy, and love. And sitting down to pee. What would be wrong with more men like that?

To watch videos of people born with hypospadias and other relatively uncommon variations on sex anatomy talking about their lives, visit The Interface Project.

Alice Dreger
Alice Dreger is a professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Supposed Adult Pays Man To Sit In Room And Listen To Him Talk About His Feelings

This is from The Onion, so don't take it seriously. However, this little piece of satire points out a stigma that still is common in our culture - that seeing a therapist is weak, especially for men.

Supposed Adult Pays Man To Sit In Room And Listen To Him Talk About His Feelings

News in Brief ISSUE 50•07 • Feb 19, 2014

BRIDGEPORT, CT—Reportedly going twice a week to his special safe place where he’s told he doesn’t have to be afraid, local accountant and supposedly grown adult Carl Rowley confirmed Wednesday that he pays a man to sit right next to him in a room and listen to him talk all about his feelings. “It’s really helpful to talk through my issues out loud with someone who has an objective viewpoint,” said the feeble approximation of a mature self-respecting grownup, describing the hour-long sessions in which he nestles himself on a big comfy couch with a soft pillow and tells the nice man how he’s sad and lonely and wants everything to feel good again. “I think I’m making a lot of progress, especially around issues with my family. I definitely think it’s something every [oh-so-fragile little infant masquerading as an actual grown man] should try.” At press time, sources reported that Rowley felt much better after the kindly listening man, a so-called doctor, told him that it was okay to cry.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How Men Can Support Women Post Sexual Abuse (Good Men Project)

This anonymous post is up at the Good Men Project - and it is a must read for any man. Whether our partners are male, female, trans, or "other," we ALL need to know how to handle ourselves if our partner is ever the target of rape or sexual assault.

One of the early parts of this article describes what this man saw in the hospital room when he got there to be with his wife. WAY too many people, many of them male, while his wife was naked and crying hysterically. Sadly, this is often the case around the country.

But if you are in Tucson and you are taken to a local hospital, you will be met by a SARS nurse (Sexual Assault Response Specialist) who will do the forensic exam and advocate for your right to be examine before speaking with police. You will also be met by one of our (Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault) SARS crisis advocates who will also advocate your rights with the medical staff and with the police. Tucson Medical Center, who works closely with SACASA and the SARS program, also has a special exam room with its own entrance completely dedicated to sexual assault and rape care.

EVERY town and city in the country (in the world!) should have a hospital like this.

We see survivors of sexual trauma for FREE at SACASA. We are located in mid-town, Tucson, Arizona. 520-327-1171 or 24/7 crisis line, (520) 327-7273 or (800) 400-1001. TTY/TDD/SMS Line: (520) 327-1721; after-hours: (520) 235-3358.
We also see secondary survivors of sexual trauma (husbands, fathers, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, and anyone else who is actively involved with a survivor).

If you think this is worth supporting and you have a few dollars to share, SACASA is a non-profit that survives through grants and charitable giving - so please give! [Be sure to select "Behavioral Health and Trauma/Crisis Response" for where you want the donation to go, and name SACASA as the recipient in the "Comments" box. Thank you!]

Okay, down from my soap box.

Here is the article:

How Men Can Support Women Post Sexual Abuse

February 17, 2014 by Anonymous

Two years ago his wife was kidnapped, stabbed, shot and sexually assaulted by nine men. Here’s the story, the mistakes he made in trying to help and the lessons he wants to put into the world for other men who may find themselves in a similar situation.

Note: Trigger Warning

I remember clearly one morning about two years ago, I was enjoying a quiet breakfast with my wife. It was a beautiful morning, after days of rain the sun was shining and I couldn’t help but think I was the luckiest man on earth. I was married to this incredible woman who was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside. Like any other morning we rushed out the door to work. Little did I know our lives were about to change dramatically.

I returned home at the end of the day to find the house was empty. This was highly unusual as my wife always collected her two children (from her first marriage) from after-school care and would always be home by 4:30pm. Instantly I felt something wasn’t right, I contacted the child care program and discovered the children were still there. Quickly I went and picked them up, then I drove to my wife’s work thinking she must have had a car accident and I was hoping to find her on the way. When I reached the carpark she used every day I found her car. It was unlocked, her laptop on the passenger seat and her handbag was on the ground, yet she wasn’t anywhere to be seen. I felt ill, I knew that she had been receiving threatening and abusive messages from her ex-husband and in my heart I knew he was responsible for her disappearance.

I dropped the children off with my parents and went straight to the police station. They were anything but helpful. Evidently there was nothing they could do for 24-48 hours, they were more interested in whether we had an argument, whether there was any domestic violence at home and once it was established there wasn’t I was sent on my way and told: “She will come home, mate, women disappear all the time.” I knew my wife, they didn’t. I was angry they were not listening to me.

When my wife still hadn’t returned some 36 hours later the police agreed to look at her phone and emails then they came to the conclusion I had, she probably had been kidnapped by her ex. I was told to wait at home and stay by the phone while they tried to find where she had been taken.

Finally the following night the phone rang. It wasn’t the police, it was my wife calling reverse charges from a public pay phone. She sounded ghost-like, so quiet and lifeless. Then she said those words I had been so afraid of, she had been raped. I felt my heart break into a million pieces, I don’t remember much of that conversation but I do remember telling her it was not her fault and that we would get through this together. By using the ID number on the public phone the police and ambulance were able to get to my wife while I talked to her. As soon as they were there I hung up the phone and rushed to the hospital they said that she would be taken to.

When I arrived at the hospital I was met by two police detectives. They told me to sit and wait, my wife was in a bad way and the doctors were assessing her. I refused to accept this, I knew from my conversation with her that she was extremely traumatized and that she needed me by her side for support. I ignored the police and walked into the room my wife was in, what I saw when I walked in there will haunt me for the rest of my life.

There in the middle of the room was my wife laying on the hospital bed crying hysterically, she was naked without even a sheet to maintain her dignity. Around the room there were close to ten police men just looking at her, taking photographs and talking. There was a senior doctor and his team of eight junior doctors as well as three nurses. No one was there for my wife, no one was talking to her, holding her hand or looking out for her interests. It was like she was a side show act, everyone was there to just look at her. It was at that moment I knew what my role was as her husband, it was to advocate for her and to protect her from further humiliation and abuse. I removed my jacket and used it to cover my wife and I told all the police and junior doctors to get the fuck out. I didn’t want anyone in that room unless they were specifically there to help my wife medically. My attention then turned to my beautiful wife and I made my first of many mistakes. I tried to put my arms around her to comfort her and that terrified her. I felt her freeze in my arms and saw fresh tears roll down her face. I had never felt so completely useless and out of my depth. I sat beside her and watched the doctor look over her extensive injuries. She was taken to surgery and put in a medically induced coma for two days to enable her to start to recover physically. I never left her side despite hospital staff telling me I should go home and rest, during this time the police were constantly pressuring the ICU staff and myself to bring her out of her coma so they could interview her. Again my role as her husband was to protect her and her physical recovery.

After two days she was brought out of her coma. Looking back on it I believe it was too soon. She had been shot in both ankles & her right shoulder, stabbed several times and had several broken ribs, she had also been brutally raped to the point she needed full vaginal and anal reconstruction. Yes physically she was a mess but ready to wake, however, emotionally she was not in any condition to face what had happened to her and the extent of her injuries. Once she was awake we were faced with new challenges mainly the police investigation and the detectives constantly interviewing her. My wife was physically weak and emotionally fragile but that did not factor into their treatment of her. The police brought in a support worker from the local Rape Crisis Centre to be there with my wife. This support worker and the police told me that it was not appropriate for me to sit in on these interviews. They made this assumption without asking my wife how she felt about it. I could see through the glass window that my wife was distressed so once more I pushed my way in and I asked my wife if SHE wanted me there for support. Surprise surprise she did!!

As I sat there hearing her talk about what happened to her I felt so angry. I found out that it was her ex-husband that was responsible for what happened to her and he had eight of his friends with him. My wife had been shot, stabbed, beaten and raped countless times by these nine men. I wanted to find them and kill them for what they had done to her. I expressed these feelings and I was told to keep quiet and warned that if I showed any emotion again I would be made to leave.

After the police left I asked to speak with the support worker. I asked her specifically what I could do to support my wife and help her through this. She said to me “You’re a man, you won’t be able to help her, the best thing you can do is keep quiet and keep your hands to yourself. Rape is women’s business not mens’. Men rape and women support women.” I was gobsmacked. This woman without knowing me or my wife decided I wasn’t capable of supporting my wife because I was a male. What crap. I started to do some research and there was very little information written from the perspective of husbands. My wife was drifting further away from me emotionally it felt at times like she was frightened of me, I felt angry, helpless, confused and as much as I hated to admit it I felt alone. I started learning as much as I could about rape. I was surprised to discover it isn’t about sexual needs that really it’s about power and control with sex used as the weapon.

After a couple of weeks my wife was discharged from hospital. As I drove her home fear washed over me. I didn’t know how she was coping or how I would cope. We had a quiet family dinner that night with the children and my wife went to bed early, she was still very weak physically. Once the kids were asleep it suddenly dawned on me “where was I going to sleep?” I couldn’t just go and get into bed with my wife the way I use to, I was scared of upsetting her. So I got a blanket and pillow and slept on the floor next to our bed. That first night at home she woke screaming several times from nightmares, I didn’t know what to do so I sat on the bed and told her I was there for her. That seemed to calm her and she went back to sleep. The following day the kids went off to school as normal and I decided it was time for me to talk to my wife and ask her how she was feeling and what she needed from me at this time. What she said to me was exactly what I did and I want to share this with men everywhere as it helped the two of us so much.

She said that she was worried I didn’t love her anymore, that I blamed her for what happened, that I thought she was “damaged goods”, she said that she felt I had shut myself off from her. She said she felt scared of me when I said I wanted to kill those who had done this to her. Calmly and gently I reassured her that I still loved her very much and that in no way did I think she was responsible for what happened. I asked her if there was anything that I had done to make her feel like damaged goods and in what way I had shut her out. My wife said to me that I never held her hand or cuddled her, it felt to her like I didn’t want to go near her. I was gutted, I wanted so much to be able to hold her in my arms but after that first time when she froze I figured she didn’t want me to. I told her this and she simply said to me “why didn’t you ask me?”. We agreed that from that point on I would not withhold physical shows of support and affection however, I would always check with her first that it was ok. Was difficult to get use to but over time it became second nature. I would say to her “sweetheart I would like to give you a hug is that ok?” or “can I hold your hand?”. This helped my wife on so many levels, she knew I was there for her and I wanted to be close to her yet she was the one in full control. I showed her by those actions that I respected her and that what happened had not changed how I felt about her.

In many ways my wife and I were lucky which may sound strange given what she had been through. But we were. As you may have guessed my wife’s first marriage was very abusive and she found the strength to leave. It took her a long time to trust me in the early stages of our relationship and fortunately that trust was still there after she had been raped. That trust was key to not only her recovery but also the survival of our marriage.

Over time she recovered physically, and in everyone’s eyes she recovered emotionally. She was back at work like nothing had happened and was very involved with the kid’s sports, etc. The only difference was sleeping arrangements but gradually that changed as well. I went from the floor of our bedroom to sleeping on top of the bedding so I was next to her but not actually in bed with her. Eventually she allowed me back in the bed with her. Nights were the worst for us, my wife had terrible nightmares. Over time we found that it was easier for my wife to talk at night, it was dark and she found security in being able to hide her face. I never pressured her in these conversations, I never asked her for details of what happened. These conversations were in her control and it was my job to listen and reassure her. She needed so much reassurance, I lost count of how many times I had to tell her it wasn’t her fault, that I loved her and that she was safe. We developed a nightly routine of walking around the house together checking every door and window was locked. This also gave her a feeling of security and safety.

Months passed and we found we were not thinking about it all the time, everything was back to normal accept for the fact we had no sex life at all. I hadn’t attempted to initiate sexual contact and it wasn’t something we talked about. Eventually I built up the courage to talk to my wife about it. I was careful to make sure she knew it was not an expectation and that she could take as much time as she needed. She admitted it was something she was scared to try again even though she wanted to. We agreed that at any time she could say no or stop and that I would immediately. During many of our initial attempts to be intimate my wife would have flashbacks or start crying without knowing why. But over time we found that it was easier for her if I gently and lovingly talked to her whilst we were making love. I would tell her over and over and over that I loved her. I always respected her decision to say no and never made her feel guilty for saying no if anything I tried to make it easy for her to say so.

I’m happy to say that now two years later my wife and I are closer than we ever were and that we have a wonderful marriage.

To any men out there who find themselves in the position I was in where their partners are raped I suggest the following things:
1. Most importantly believe her, never question her when she says she’s been assaulted.
2. Ensure she gets medical care immediately and offer to stay with her.
3. Although it’s a normal reaction to want to hurt those who hurt her keep that to yourself. She’s been violently assaulted and does not need to see you wanting to be violent.
4. Advocate for her. Keep non-essential people away in the initial crisis.
5. Understand the police are doing their job but make sure it’s not detrimental to your partner either.
6. Help her regain control. If she doesn’t want police involvement that’s her choice not yours.
7. Don’t withhold physical affection but give her the choice as to whether or not she wants it.
8. Reassure her constantly that you love her and that it is NOT her fault.
9. Never pressure her to resume sexual activity and when you do find ways to help her relax. Never take rejection personally and make it easy for her to say no.
10. Look after yourself and your stress levels. I found running and working out in the gym helpful.
11. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone you are comfortable with about everything. My father was my trusted friend and without him I don’t know what I would have done.
12. Communicate with your partner and do whatever you can to maintain her trust.
13. Learn and understand as much as you can about rape and it’s effects.
I hope that by sharing my story I can raise awareness on how men can help and that there is life after rape. Rape is a violent and senseless attack and it’s our responsibility as men to support all survivors and not tolerate it under any circumstance. No always means no and real men don’t rape.

There’s so much more I could write particularly around the court and justice system but this note is on supporting women and understanding how we can do that so the rest can wait for another piece.

Editor’s Note: Certain details have been omitted or slightly obscured to protect the survivor’s identity.

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–Photo: Adam Tinworth/Flickr

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked

Via After Hours LifeHacker, this is an interesting compilation and debunking of myths around sexuality. Most of them were familiar to me, a couple are new.

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked

Perhaps you've heard that size matters, women are naturally more bisexual than men, or that tantric sex means everlasting orgasms. The fact is, none of these things are quite true. Sex has been around forever, but we're just starting to understand it. Today we're debunking 10 of the most common sex myths to set the record straight.

I like sex as much as the next guy, but I'm not going to pretend for a second that I'm an expert. To help get to the bottom of each myth on our list, I requested a little help from some top sexologists: Dr. Debby Herbenick (research scientist at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, and author multiple books including Sex Made Easy), Dr. Lindsey Doe (doctor of sexual health and host of Sexplanations), and Dr. Amy Marsh (clinical sexologist and sex counselor). Let's get down to business and find out what we do know.

Myth 1: Penis Size Matters

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked

Men seem to care a lot about the size and shape of their penises, but do women—or even other men? And how much does it actually affect performance in the bedroom? Some argue larger penises can create a more intense orgasm during penetrative sex. Others presume that men with smaller members make up the difference with added effort. So is it all a wash in the end? Debby argues it can depend on the person but ultimately has more to do with a psychological connection than anything else:
To some people, size does matter. They may wish their partner were longer or shorter or thinner or thicker. The bottom line, however, is that research consistently finds that sexual satisfaction is more influenced by psychological connection, intimacy, and relationship satisfaction–not just the size or shape of a person's genitals. In our study of more than 1600 men, we found the average erect length was about 5.6 inches, with most men hovering around that average. How two people connect through sex is typically more important than the size of the parts, however. A great book for better technique? "Great in Bed."
Amy agrees, and notes some men might underestimate what they've got and that there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to genitalia:
Size matters to those who let it matter, and that includes men and women. People have and inflict too much body shame about genitals. Some even worry when they are "average." For example, men who look downward at their penises (or who have belly fat) may see them as smaller than they actually are. Sometimes a larger penis may be "too large" for oral sex, but just right for penetration. Or a smaller penis may feel just right for oral sex, as it can be taken more completely into the mouth. Motion, rapport, depth of intimacy, lovemaking skills, and/or positions often have more to do with partner satisfaction than size.
So what should you do if you're unhappy with the size of your package? Stop worrying so much about what you're working with—whether too large, too small, or too average—and figure out how you can use it to please your partner. Any partner worth your time won't reject you solely based on the size of your penis, and if they really want something different from time to time you can supplement your sexual regimen with toys.

On the other side of the issue, if you have a partner who struggles with his size, be supportive. If the sex is good, let him know. When it isn't, make suggestions that will increase your pleasure. It may be his insecurity, but good partners should help each other.

Myth 2: Men and Women Reach Their Sexual Peak at the Same Time

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked1

When do men and women reach their sexual peak? Some believe men get there sooner in their late teens and early twenties while women experience similar results a little later in life. Debby believe there's no real way to know for sure:
I hear this all the time and everyone means something different (frequency of sex, enjoyment of sex, ease of orgasm, etc). But however I look at it, I can't make full sense of it. Do men have easier erections at 18 than age 70? Sure, but the sex may be more meaningful and satisfying at 70 than 18 (generally speaking). Enjoyable sex can happen at any age. It's rarely all physical or all emotional. Sex is this fascinating place where our bodies and emotions and past experiences and future hopes collide, and that can result in something pretty spectacular at any age. If you think you've reached your peak, forget it. The best may still be yet to come.
The same advice goes for those who haven't reached their peak. You shouldn't worry about it. So long as you're comfortable with who you are, understand your own body, and remain reasonably open to new experiences, you should have no problem enjoying a satisfying sex life. Whether a "peak" comes or not doesn't matter much if you're having a good time.

Myth 3: Most Women Can Achieve Orgasm From Vaginal Sex Alone

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked2

Wouldn't it be easy if orgasms resulted from simply following instructions? Just insert Tab A into Slot B, move it around for awhile, and enjoy. Perhaps because it more often works that way for men, this unfortunate myth arose for women. Most don't achieve orgasm from vaginal sex alone even though it's possible—anatomically speaking. Debby explains:
It's not that simple to determine who "can" have an orgasm from a certain type of sex (after all, whether someone has an orgasm during sex depends on more than just their ability, but also on how they feel about their partner, their partner's technique, etc). And when women have orgasms from penile-vaginal intercourse, it's not always clear-cut how exactly the orgasm came to be. After all, the clitoris has inside parts and outside parts and intercourse stimulates both. The vagina, including the G-spot area, is also stimulated during intercourse as are nerves around the cervix, including the vagus nerve, which is one pathway to orgasm.
Continuing on that theme, Amy notes that orgasms can occur in all sorts of ways:
Human beings can achieve orgasm in all kinds of ways. Mary Roach, author of Bonk, found a woman who could think herself to orgasm and another who orgasmed while brushing her teeth. However, the persistent emphasis on vaginal orgasm at the expense of clitoral stimulation is incredibly damaging. It's more more accurate to say that the "majority of women" will need some kind of consistent clitoral stimulation in order to experience orgasm. And we should also remember what sex researcher Mary Jane Sherfey asserted as long ago as 1966: "the clitoris is not just the small protuberance at the anterior end of the vulva."
So how do most women achieve orgasm? Debby breaks it down:
What we do know very clearly is that women and men experience orgasm through diverse sexual behaviors. According to data from our 2009 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, most women (about 2/3) have orgasms when they have sex, and this could be from vaginal, clitoral, breast or other kinds of stimulation. And yet in another study, nearly 1/5 of women reported preferring oral sex in order to have an orgasm.
We can hash out statistics all day, but ultimately we still have a problem: orgasms are less common for women than men. For women who have difficulty achieving orgasm, Debbie recommends reading Sex Made Easy and Becoming Orgasmic for a little help.

Myth 4: Men Can't Have Multiple Orgasms

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked

Men are known for shutting down and going to sleep post-ejaculation (for biological reasons), so the idea of multiple orgasms sounds almost ridiculous to many people. That said, it happens. Some men can do it naturally, but most have to work pretty hard. Amy explains:
Men can, but it's usually learned skill involving Taoist or Tantric techniques which include breath control and making a distinction between ejaculation and orgasm. You can find these techniques in books like Mantak Chia and Douglas Abram's account of Taoist sexual practices, The Multi-Orgasmic Man. It's interesting to note that sex researchers William Hartman and Marilyn Fithian said that 12% of men they'd studied were reporting multiple orgasms.
Debby notes that there are some men who can ejaculate repeatedly, however:
There are the rare men who can ejaculate over and over again, kind of how many women can orgasm repeatedly. Why this differences occurs is not well understood – and there's no sense it can be taught (these men seem to have some physical differences from other men).
While some men can ejaculate more than once, most can't and never will. That said, men looking for more than a single orgasm can teach themselves to achieve them.

Myth 5: Women Are Naturally More Bisexual

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked

Females are generally considered a more fluid gender in regards to sex, but does that mean men are less likely to be bisexual? According to Lindsay, the answer is pretty straightforward:
Nope. While there is no consistent data on how many people identify as bisexual, we do see stats where there are twice as many bisexual men as there are women. Sexual orientation is natural, and no more for one gender than others; it may be more socially acceptable and therefore easier for women to express more flexibility or fluidity with their sexualities but this does not equate to their identities nor does it exclude the men who experience attraction for their sex and other sexes.
Debby concurs, citing a few studies of her own:
Sizable minorities of women and men have had sex with same-sex partners. For example, in one of our national studies, we found about 15% of women had had oral sex with another woman and about 11% of men had had oral sex with another man. Far fewer women and men identify as gay or lesbian or bisexual. Research suggests that both women and men may be somewhat "fluid" in their sexual feelings and behaviors.
Why is this myth so prevalent? It might have to do with higher amounts of "lesbian" pornography aimed at straight men, or a perceived cultural preference towards homosexual sex with women rather than men. While a number of factors may have contributed to this misinformation, it all started with a 2005 New York Times article that argued bisexual men do not exist. More recently, that study was finally debunked. Bisexual men have known this for years that they exist, but now science is finally backing them up. Tell your friends!
Read the rest of the article to see the other five myths.