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Jul 26 2013

RIP Virginia Johnson

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by thepleasurechest

On Wednesday, we lost Virginia Johnson, one of the trailblazers of modern sex research. Along with her partner, William H. Masters, she revolutionized the study of human sexuality. Masters and Johnson made their initial splash in 1966 with Human Sexual Response, a straightforward, non-sensational approach to the physiology of sex. From her New York Times obituary:

More than any investigator before them, Masters and Johnson moved sex out of the bedroom and into the laboratory, where it could be observed, measured, recorded, quantified and compared. While Kinsey had relied on interviews and questionnaires to elicit accounts of his subjects’ sexual habits, Masters and Johnson gathered direct physiological data on what happens to the human body during sex, from arousal to orgasm.

Early in his research, Dr. Masters realized that he lacked a female perspective and sought out a woman who could help put his subjects at ease, while offering insights into women’s sexuality. He found Johnson, a divorced mother, onetime country singer and psychology student when she responded to an ad seeking an assistant. .

As Slate’s Amanda Hess explains:

 He eventually recruited Johnson to advise him on the finer parts of female sexuality because she was a woman and willing, but also because she was not a fellow MD. As Thomas Maier detailed in his 2012 biography of the duo, female doctors in the 1950s were fighting an uphill battle in the male-dominated world of medicine just to earn their degrees and secure jobs; they didn’t yet have the social clout to turn their attentions to the highly stigmatized study of sex. “When women went to medical school at that particular time, an MD was so hard-won they would never have jeopardized it, being associated with sex research,” Johnson recalled Masters as telling her. Instead, Masters leveraged his own social positioning to undertake the research, with the help of a woman who had no social standing to lose.

Together, Masters and Johnson debunked myths about sex and aging, challenged the Freudian bias against clitoral orgasm and helped thousands of men and women overcome problems with orgasm, by shifting from a psychoanalytic model to a physiological one. In the process, they helped take sex therapy to the mainstream. Their partnership and their pioneering work has even inspired Masters of Sex, a new dramatic series on Showtime.

To learn more about Virginia Johnson, we recommend the remembrances in the New York Times and at Slate.

Jun 25 2013

Epic Pro-Choice Filibuster in Texas

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by thepleasurechest

For advocates of abortion rights, all eyes are on the Texas legislature right now. In case you haven’t heard, State Senator Wendy Davis is in the middle of an epic 13 hour filibuster to block a bill that would dramatically restrict abortion services within the state. Davis’ filibuster can be watched in the live stream above. Supporters are also asked to send their personal testimonies for Davis to read on the floor.

Jun 21 2013

Supreme Court Ends Anti-Sex Work Restriction On AIDS Funding

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by thepleasurechest

gavel

While many of us anticipated a historic ruling on marriage equality yesterday, the Supreme Court weighed in another issue, vital to the concerns of sex workers and global health advocates.

The Supreme Court, in its 6-2 decision, said the federal government cannot require HIV outreach groups to sign an anti-prostitution pledge in order to get government funding. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the Court, stated that such a requirement violated the First Amendment. “The policy requirement goes beyond preventing recipients from using private funds in a way that would undermine the federal program,” he wrote. “It requires them to pledge allegiance to the government’s policy of eradicating prostitution.”

For the past 10 years, the controversial policy has complicated efforts to provide HIV/AIDS services to sex workers around the world.  The ruling is seen as a huge win for sex workers and health advocates.

Can we expect more good news from the court next week?

 

Jun 19 2013

HPV Vaccine Cuts Infection Rate In Half

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by thepleasurechest

hpv

There’s great news in the fight against HPV. The vaccine is working! The New York Times reports:

Infection with the viral strains that cause cancer dropped to 3.6 percent among girls ages 14 to 19 in 2010, from 7.2 percent in 2006, a new study has found.

Yes, the rates of HPV infection were cut in half in just 4 years. As Jezebel points out, this is even more remarkable when one considers that vaccination rates are still pretty low, with only about a third of teenage girls completing the series of doses. As more young men and women get the vaccine, public health officials expect rates of infection– and the cancers associated with HPV– to decline even further.

h/t Jezebel 

Jun 17 2013

Will This Become the Gold Standard for Birth Control?

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by thepleasurechest

gold

A few months ago, we told you about RISUG, a promising male birth control method in which a nontoxic polymer is injected into the vas deferens, sterilizing sperm. Now there’s another birth control procedure for men that’s proving its mettle in Chinese laboratories.We’ll let Popular Science explain:

The method requires researchers to inject male mice in the testes with a mixture containing nano-size rods of gold. (I feel like there’s a rap song in here somewhere.) Then they aim an infrared laser at the testes, which heats the nano-gold inside. At just the right temperature, the testes are warmed enough to kill sperm cells, but not enough to kill the cells that make new sperm. The sperm death lasts for a certain amount of time.

Are you ready to have microscopic bars of gold injected into your balls in the name of science? Not so fast. Resarchers are still testing on mice, so human trials could be a ways off.

h/t Violet Blue

Jun 13 2013

Sex Work & the Global War on AIDS

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by thepleasurechest

SexWorkersRates1

Ten years ago, the United States dramatically ramped up AIDS funding, but the funding came with this dangerous string attached: in order to qualify, non-governmental organizations must adopt an explicit policy opposing prostitution.

The US provides nearly 60% of the funds to fight the global AIDS epidemic, but as you can see from this infographic, aid is often prohibited from going where it is most needed. Namely to female sex workers in the Global South. Can the US fight a war on sex work and a war on AIDS at the same time?

More at The Nation.

Jun 10 2013

Plan B is Now OTC

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by thepleasurechest

planb

“The government intends to file with the Circuit Court notice that it is voluntarily withdrawing its appeal in this matter.”

With that single sentence, the White House and the Department of Justice have ended their legal challenges against Plan B, paving the way for the emergency contraception pill to appear on drug store shelves without a prescription. This is a big victory for reproductive freedom.

 

Jun 04 2013

How Common is Throat Cancer from HPV?

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by thepleasurechest

douglas

Actor Michael Douglas made news over the weekend by revealing that his recent illness from throat cancer was the result of contracting HPV from cunnilingus. (Yesterday, he seemed to walk back that claim.) Whatever the facts in Douglas’ case, the story highlights a growing concern among medical professionals about the link between HPV and oral cancer. From Jezebel:

Every year in the U.S., about 5,600 men contract cancers of the oropharynx (back of throat), but many of these cancers are related to tobacco and alcohol use, not HPV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A recent study on the prevalence of oral HPV infection in the U.S. found that HPV infection is the principal cause of a specific form of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma that is increasing in incidence among men in the United States, but acknowledged that little is still known about the epidemiology (the study of disease/its prevention) of oral HPV infection.

So, basically there’s a risk, but experts still don’t know how great that risk is. The article goes on to acknowledge that drinking and smoking are two of the primary causes of throat cancer, and may have been contributing factors in Douglas’ illness.

Still, for those of us concerned about the risks associated with HPV and oral sex, there’s a solution. The CDC recommends the vaccine Gardasil for men and women, beginning at 11 and up to age 26. In the meantime, Douglas’ comments have begun an important conversation on HPV and safer sex.

 

Jun 03 2013

Brooklyn Cops Stop Condom Busts

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by thepleasurechest

condoms

As we reported back in March, the NYPD has been arresting people on suspicion of prostitution simply for carrying condoms. The practice is especially problematic since the same city also distributes free condoms to help combat STIs. Now there’s some good news out of Brooklyn where prosecutors, bowing to pressure from sex worker advocates, have ordered the police to stop collecting condoms as evidence.

Prosecutors will continue to use condoms as evidence in trafficking cases, a policy that remains controversial among sex worker advocates. Still, this new rule should help to reduce the number of arrests and reduce fears of getting arrested simply for carrying protection.

h/t @Melissa Gira Grant