Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: Surprises Involving Foot Cream, a Homecoming Queen, and George H.W. Bush

Martha Kempner

This week, researchers are hopeful after a common topical anti-fungal medication is found to kill HIV-infected cells, a transgender high school student experiences highs and lows after being named homecoming queen, and President George H.W. Bush is a witness at a same-sex wedding.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Could the Answer to the HIV Epidemic Already Be in Your Foot Cream?

Researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey announced this week that a common anti-fungal drug is able to “kill” HIV cells, or more accurately make the cells kill themselves. The drug, Ciclopirox, is a topical cream frequently prescribed by dermatologists and gynecologists to treat fungal infections. In cultures, the researchers found that it inhibits the expression of HIV genes and blocks the essential function of the mitochondria, which reactivates the cell’s suicide pathway.

As the researchers explain, cells naturally have a tendency to destroy themselves when they become damaged or infected in order to protect healthy cells, but one of the things that makes HIV so persistent is that it blocks this altruistic natural instinct. In cultures, Ciclopirox was able to reactivate the suicide pathway of infected cells without affecting healthy cells in any way.

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Even more promising is that the HIV cells did not rebound after the treatment was stopped. The researchers point out that while antiretroviral medication can suppress HIV, an individual must take them for life as the effects wear off quickly once the medication is stopped. Michael Mathews, the lead researcher on the study, told CNET, “The key thing these drugs do is, unlike anti-retrovirals in the current clinical arsenal, and there are lots of them and they have controlled this disease pretty successfully, these drugs kill the HIV-infected cell. That’s what’s so new and so promising about it.”

It is not yet clear how this drug ultimately will be used in the fight against HIV—it could be a topical application that prevents transmission, or researchers could try to find a way to administer the drug throughout the body’s systems as a way to cure HIV. This discovery is still a long way from being used as a treatment or prevention method, but researchers hope they can move forward at a more rapid pace than human trials usually do, because the drug has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and proven safe in humans.

Transgender Student Named Homecoming Queen

Cassidy Lynn Campbell had a very emotional night last Friday when she won the popular vote among students and became this year’s homecoming queen at Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California. Campbell is transgender; she has been living her life as a girl for the last three years. She has been very public about her transition, posting frequent YouTube videos that show her putting on make-up and making her own long-haired wig. She told local news channel KTLA that when she won, “I instantly just dropped to the ground and started crying. I realized it wasn’t for me anymore and I was doing this for so many people all around the county and the state and possibly the world and I am so proud to win this not just for me, but everyone out there.”

Unfortunately, her joy was somewhat short-lived as she says she was subjected to a good deal of bullying and “ignorant lies” that night. She posted a tearful video to her YouTube channel in which, still wearing her sash and tiara, she cries, “I’m always judged and I’m always looked down upon. … Sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth it and if I should just go back to being miserable.”

Campbell, however, seems to have bounced back quickly. She told Reuters that she realized the comments other people made about her were “based on ignorance” and not something she would dwell on or take too personally. “I’m fine,” she said. “I’ve had the time to look at the situation and evaluate it more.”

Campbell is not the first transgender girl to have won the homecoming queen title—in 2009, Jessee Vasold was named homecoming queen at the College of William and Mary—and she will likely not be the last. Her victory comes just a month after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring public schools to allow transgender students to choose which restrooms to use and whether to join the girls’ or boys’ sports teams.

Former President George H.W. Bush Witnesses Same-Sex Marriage

Though his press office was quick to say that his presence was the act of a private citizen and was not meant to be not a political statement, it was still interesting to see pictures of former President George H.W. Bush at a same-sex wedding (in two different colored socks no less).

Bonnie Clement and Helen Thorgalsen, owners of HB Provisions, a Kennebunk, Maine, general store, got married last weekend in Maine, where same-sex marriage became legal last December. The former president and his wife, Barbara Bush, who have a compound in the town and strong ties to the community, not only accepted their wedding invitation, but President Bush served as an official witness and signed their marriage certificate.

Same-sex marriage had not yet become a hot-button issue when Bush was in office, and he has not vocalized an opinion, but members of his very political family have differing thoughts on the subject. His son, President George W. Bush, supported a constitutional amendment that would permanently ban same-sex marriage. The younger Bush’s wife, Laura, and daughter, Barbara, however, have both come out in support of marriage equality, as has his vice president, Dick Cheney, who has an openly gay daughter. Jeb Bush, who may try to follow in the footsteps of his father and brother and run for president, has taken the political middle ground, saying the decision should be left up to the states.

Roundups Sexuality

This Week in Sex: Why Men Fake Orgasms and How Real Ones May Help Them Avoid Prostate Cancer

Martha Kempner

Many men pretend to have orgasms to make their partners feel better—and report higher levels of sexual satisfaction, at the same time. Another study suggests that the more ejaculation, the better if men want to reduce their prostate cancer risk. And there may be more help for women with sexual arousal problems.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

When Men “Fake It,” Their Motives Are Often Altruistic 

In the pilot episode of the TV show Masters of Sex, Dr. William Masters seems shocked to learn that women might fake orgasms. When he asks his new assistant, Virginia Johnson (who becomes his research partner and later his wife), why women might do such a thing, she replies: “To get a man to climax quickly. Usually so the woman can get back to whatever it is she’d rather be doing.”

Masters and Johnson, whose real-life work and relationship was fictionalized in that Showtime series, were pioneers of sex research in the 1950s and 1960s. Those who follow in their footsteps today are still trying to answer some of the same questions.

A new study from two Canadian researchers looks not at why women fake orgasms, but why men do—and what, if any, correlation there is between faking it and relationship satisfaction.

Researchers surveyed 230 young men between ages 18 and 29 who had admitted to faking an orgasm at least once in their current relationship. Using an online survey, they asked these men at what point in their relationship they began to fake orgasms, how often they did so, and why. They also measured sexual desire and relationship satisfaction.

On average, the men began faking orgasms 14 months into the relationship. On average, the men said they faked an orgasm in about 30 percent of their sexual encounters; 71 percent of participants reported having faked an orgasm during penile-vaginal intercourse; 27 percent during oral sex; 22 percent during anal intercourse; 18 percent during manual stimulation by a partner; and 5 percent while being stimulated with a sex toy by a partner.

Many of the reasons the men gave for faking orgasm revolved around making their partners feel better—including giving their partner an ego boost, feigning simultaneous orgasms, or avoiding upsetting their partner.

Interestingly, men who faked it for these relationship reasons tended to report higher levels of sexual desire. The authors theorize, “It is possible that men feel good when giving a partner pleasure, either out of love and generosity, or because it provides indirect reassurance of their own sexual adequacy, leading them to associate this reward with sexual activity, further leading them to seek more sex (i.e., experience higher levels of sexual desire).”

Men who faked orgasms also had higher levels of relationship satisfaction, though the authors point out that pretending might not lead to relationship satisfaction; those who are already satisfied may be more likely to fake orgasms for the sake of their partner’s feelings.

While it’s reassuring to know that some men fake orgasms for altruistic reasons, we here at This Week in Sex are not big fans of the fake orgasm, regardless of the gender or the reason. Once in a while is understandable “to get back to whatever it is [you’d] rather be doing,” as Johnson said. But, for the most part, we think it’s better to talk to partners about why you didn’t have a real one this time and what could be different next time.

Is Frequent Ejaculation a Cancer Prevention Method? 

Another new study found that men who ejaculated more frequently were less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Researchers followed about 32,000 men for almost 20 years, using the national Health Professionals Follow-up Study  at the Harvard School of Public Health. The men were all in their 20s when the study started in 1992 and therefore their 40s (or close to it) when it ended in 2010. They filled out questionnaires that asked about their sexual behavior (including masturbation), and researchers also looked at the men’s medical records.

During the course of the study, about 4,000 of the men were diagnosed with prostate cancer. The researchers’ analysis showed that men who ejaculated at least 21 times a month in their 20s were 19 percent less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than men who ejaculated no more than seven times a month at that age. Similarly, men who ejaculated more often in their 40s were 22 percent less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer diagnosis.

There are some limitations of the study, including the possible inaccuracy of self-reported data on ejaculation and the lack of diversity among participants. In addition, one urologist who spoke to Reuters questioned the fact that the relationship between ejaculation and prostate cancer applied mostly to less invasive forms of the disease. Dr. Behfar Ehdaie of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who was not part of the study, noted: “If ejaculation frequency was truly a causal factor for prostate cancer development, we would expect to find the association across all prostate cancer risk categories.”

And, of course, correlation does not equal causation. There could be other reasons that men who ejaculate less often are more likely to get prostate cancer. Specifically, as study co-author Dr. Jennifer Rider points out, men who ejaculate less than three times a month may be suffering from other health issues.

Still, there could be a prevention strategy in the findings. Rider told Reuters in an email: “The results of our study suggest that ejaculation and safe sexual activity throughout adulthood could be a beneficial strategy for reducing the risk of prostate cancer.”

Given that ejaculation tends to be enjoyable, it seems like a pretty good idea to try even while more research into the correlation is being conducted.

Emerging Options for Women With Sexual Arousal Issues

When the drug Addyi was under development, people referred to it as “female Viagra” because it was intended to address women’s sexual dysfunction. But the two treatments actually work very differently. While Viagra causes an erection by increasing blood flow to the penis, Addyi (or flibanserin) works on chemicals in the brain to increase sexual desire.

Now, researchers are developing a new treatment for women that is actually much more similar to Viagra. A company called Creative Medical Technologies filed a patent last week for a treatment that uses regenerative stem cells to increase blood flow to the vagina. Unlike Addyi, this treatment is designed for women who desire sex but are having trouble becoming aroused. Increasing blood flow to the vagina can cause the clitoris to become erect and the vagina to lubricate, both of which are important parts of the arousal stage of sexual response.

The treatment still needs more research and, of course, FDA approval, which was a very controversial process for Addyi’s maker. Moreover, it’s not clear how big the market is for female sexual dysfunction treatment, as prescriptions for Addyi have been low since its market release last October.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: GOP Candidates Offer a Collective ‘No’ on Merrick Garland

Ally Boguhn

Ohio Gov. John Kasich noted that while he thought the president shouldn’t have made a Supreme Court nomination, Republicans were also to blame for the chaos the matter has caused.

Republican presidential candidates this week reacted to President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee exactly how you might expect, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) released a plan to create an “AIDS and HIV-free generation.”

Republican Presidential Candidates React to Obama’s Supreme Court Nomination

Republican senators weren’t the only party members vowing to oppose Obama’s Supreme Court nomination this week. GOP presidential candidates also doubled down on their charges that the next president should be the one to appoint the replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. 

Republican presidential candidates moved swiftly to denounce the president’s decision after Obama nominated D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacant seat.

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“I think the next president should make the pick. And I think they shouldn’t go forward. And I believe I’m pretty much in line with what the Republicans are saying,” Donald Trump said on CNN’s New Day ahead of Obama’s decision.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took the opportunity to again attack Trump. “A so-called ‘moderate’ Democrat nominee is precisely the kind of deal that Donald Trump has told us he would make—someone who would rule along with other liberals on the bench like Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor,” Cruz said in a statement on the nomination. “Make no mistake, if Garland were confirmed, he would side predictably with President Obama on critical issues such as undermining the Second Amendment, legalizing partial-birth abortion, and propping up overreaching bureaucratic agencies like the EPA and the IRS.”

Cruz reiterated that the Senate “should not vote on any nominee until the next president is sworn into office.”

Speaking in Pennsylvania Wednesday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) noted that while he thought the president shouldn’t have made a nomination, Republicans were also to blame for the chaos the matter has caused.

“What I felt should have happened—I don’t think the president should have sent anybody up now,” Kasich said, according to CBS News. “Because it’s not going to happen. It’s just more division. Now we have more fighting, more fighting, more fighting.”

“I think this is not good for our country. It’s a roving debate. Both sides, you know, hands are guilty. That’s where we are,” Kasich concluded.

Across the aisle, Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sanders called on Republicans to consider Garland. 

“He has chosen a nominee with considerable experience on the bench and in public service, a brilliant legal mind, and a long history of bipartisan support and admiration,” Clinton said in a statement on the decision. “Now, it’s up to members of the Senate to meet their own, and perform the Constitutional duty they swore to undertake.”

“Judge Garland is a strong nominee with decades of experience on the bench,” Sanders said in a statement. “Refusing to hold hearings on the president’s nominee would be unprecedented. President Obama has done his job. It’s time for Republicans to do theirs.”

However, speaking on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show Thursday night, Sanders noted that while he will support Garland, “there are some more progressive judges out there” who could have been picked, and if elected, he would ask Obama to withdraw Garland’s name so he could pick a nominee of his own.

Sanders Releases Plan to “Create an AIDS and HIV-Free Generation”

Sanders on Monday released his plan to combat HIV and AIDS, promising to expand treatment and help lower drug prices.

“Today, one of the biggest problems in caring for the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV is the crisis of access to affordable drugs,” reads the plan’s introduction. “One of the great moral issues of our day is that people with HIV and AIDS are suffering and, in some cases, dying in America because they can’t afford to pay the outrageous prices being charged for the medicine they need to live.”

Among the ideas in Sanders’ plan is the establishment of a “a multibillion-dollar prize fund to incentivize drug development,” which would award $3 billion annually to innovations in HIV and AIDS therapy. Sanders promised that his universal health-care plan would include efforts to ensure insurance companies could not discriminate against those with HIV or AIDS, that he would expand mental health and addiction treatment services, and to stop trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that would increase the price of medication.

Sanders’ plan notes that there should be “prevention and treatment beyond health care,” which would include civil rights protections for LGBTQ people and those living with HIV or AIDS, as well as ensuring that schools provide “age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education and all Americans should have access to scientifically-accurate information regarding HIV infection.”

This isn’t the first time Sanders has addressed HIV and AIDS, as the Hill reported. In May 2012, Sanders called for the elimination of HIV and AIDS drug monopolies, which he suggested keep prices for treatment so high that many are forced to go without.

“The simple fact is that the prices of patent medicines are a significant barrier to access to health for millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans and people die because of it,” Sanders said at the time, before the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security.

Sanders’ proposal came just days after rival Democratic presidential candidate Clinton faced harsh criticism for praising the late President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan for having started a “a national conversation” on HIV and AIDS. Clinton later apologized for her remarks, noting a post on Medium that her assertion had been a “mistake.”

“To be clear, the Reagans did not start a national conversation about HIV and AIDS,” Clinton wrote. “That distinction belongs to generations of brave lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, along with straight allies, who started not just a conversation but a movement that continues to this day.”

What Else We’re Reading

Comedian and television host Samantha Bee had the “perfect response” to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough telling Clinton she should “smile.”

A new report from the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget found that Donald Trump’s health-care plan would leave 21 million Americans without health insurance “as the replacement health-care policies would only cover 5 percent of the 22 million individuals who would lose coverage upon the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The study found that Trump’s plan would cost between $270 billion and $500 billion over the next ten years.

In an exclusive for Fusion, Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy reports on NARAL’s new campaign to hold Trump accountable for “the way he and his campaign have targeted and victimized women,” and contrast the Republican presidential candidate with Clinton.

Cecily Hilleary outlines for Voice of America the many ways voting restrictions and barriers impact Native Americans, many of whom are unable to get proof of citizenship or residency, face language barriers, and have to make hours-long trips to get to a polling location.

“I feel empty inside. I feel like I don’t have a say in the political process. This is taxation without representation all over again. If we already paid our debt, we should be released without the bondage. But we’re being punished for a lifetime,” Harold Pendas told ThinkProgress about losing his right to vote due to a felony conviction. Florida, which had a critical primary battle on Tuesday, blocked more than 1.5 million state residents from voting this week due to the state’s felon disenfranchisement laws.

International Business Times’ Ned Resnikoff explains how a Republican brokered convention could allow mega-donors a “second chance” to push through their favorite candidate to the nomination.