Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: Condoms for Women, New Vibrating Underwear, and the ‘Fifty Shades’ Effect on Sex Toy Purchases

Martha Kempner

This week, design students want to revamp condom packaging to appeal to women, a sex toy company released new underwear, and sex researchers predict 2014 will mark the return of "vanilla" sex for couples—but we're not so sure we agree.

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

Design Students Revamp Condom Packaging

Students at New York City’s School of Visual Arts are working to redesign condom packaging to make women feel more comfortable buying and carrying them. Mansi Gupta and three fellow students have come up with Mine products, which thus far include two different gender-neutral condom wrappers; one is a rectangular and one is circular, and both come in yellow, orange, or green, with a subtle white leaf design. With the tagline “There’s Nothing to Hide,” the line also includes a nifty night-table stand that allows women to store the condoms openly and proudly, and a caddy for holding condoms and tampons together.

The project is part of a course called “Design for Social Values,” which is conducted in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Before settling on a line of products, the students surveyed more than 200 people and found that 77 percent were embarrassed to buy condoms and a full 60 percent believed that women who carry condoms are promiscuous. They set out to change this through design. Gupta explained to Fast Company, “We hope to encourage more women to buy condoms, thus adopting healthier sexual behaviors.”

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The products are not yet available commercially, but the students would like to partner with an existing condom company or manufacturer of feminine hygiene products to bring them to e-commerce outlets and drugstore shelves.

Bluetooth-Enabled Vibrating Underwear

Amid talk of new gadgets for your kitchen, media room, and home office at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas came this little tidbit: The sex toy company OhMiBod is releasing new underwear. How is that an electronic breakthrough, you ask? Well, the underwear is specially made to hold the blueMotion massager, a vibrator-shaped toy kind of like a pantyliner—or maybe an athletic cup—which can be controlled via Bluetooth, and an accompanying app available for iPhone and Android. Yep, as long as the two of you are within Bluetooth accessible range, your partner can control the vibrator in your underwear from his or her phone without anyone being the wiser. Cocktail parties just got a whole lot more interesting.

Brian Dunham, who founded OhMiBod with his wife Suki, said the two of them came up with the idea when they realized they were spending more time on their smartphones than being intimate. He told Mashable, “Technology can drive couples apart, but this is using technology and gadgets to bring them closer together.”

The gadget will be available in March for $129. The company is working on a future model that could be controlled from a further distance.

The “Fifty Shades of Grey Effect” May Be Waning, at Least in the Sex Toy Market

Fifty Shades of Grey, the just-short-of-pure-porn trilogy that seems to have been read by every suburban woman in the United States and Britain, made a huge splash when it hit bookshelves and e-readers a couple of years ago. Many have credited the books for a rise in curiosity around BDSM activities, such as tying up a partner or using a whip during sex play.

In 2012, the international sex toy company LELO released its 2012 Global Survey, noting that sales of certain toys had gone way—way up. That year, there was a 34 percent increase in sales of role-playing lingerie, 50 percent rise in sales of whips, 80 percent jump in sales of blindfolds, a 100 percent uptick in sales of handcuffs, and a 400 percent surge in sales of ben wa balls, which are featured in the book.

But, despite the fact that the movie version is set to come out later this year, the Fifty Shades phenomenon might be over. LELO released numbers showing that sales of products like whips and leashes plateaued at the end of 2013, and couples are instead investing in high-end vibrators and vibrating rings. Sales of these products spiked by 82 percent last year.

LELO is saying that this marks the return of “vanilla” sex, but maybe it just means people feel their toy chest is well-stocked for nights when they want to pretend to be Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, and they now need some things that suit their many other moods.

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: Women Want More Sex Than Men Think, and Who Needs a $15K Vibrator?

Martha Kempner

This week, there's not enough of an important syphilis drug to go around, a new study shows that men don't know how much sex their female partners want, a beer company unveils a new same-sex marriage ad, and a sex toy recommended by Gwyneth Paltrow's website is gold (literally).

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

Temporary Penicillin Shortage Could Be Dangerous for Pregnant Women with Syphilis

The development of antibiotics in the 1940s ushered in a new era in which bacterial infections—including syphilis, one of the oldest sexually transmitted infections (STIs)—could be treated or cured. With that came the ability to prevent congenital syphilis, which occurs when a pregnant woman passes the bacteria to her infant. Congenital syphilis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, severe illness in the infant, and even early infant death. And, as Rewire recently reported, it is on the rise; between 2012 and 2014, there was a 38 percent increase in the rate of congenital syphilis.

The good news is that if a pregnant woman is treated with an antibiotic at least 30 days before giving birth, there is a 98 percent cure rate, meaning her infant would not be born infected. The bad news is that, until next month, there is a shortage of the one antibiotic approved for treating syphilis in pregnant women.

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Bicillin L-A, an injectable form of penicillin that is also used to treat other infections such as strep throat, is manufactured by Pfizer. The company said in April that it was experiencing “an unanticipated delay in manufacturing,” and that it would be shipping just 30 percent of the usual supply until July.

Typically, pregnant women are tested for syphilis during their first prenatal visit. If infected, they are treated with three injections of Bicillin L-A. In an attempt to keep these routine “test and treat” efforts going despite the shortage, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has asked that health-care providers refrain from prescribing Bicillin L-A for any infection other than syphilis if other treatments are available.

Supply issues are unfortunately common in the pharmaceutical industry. NPR explains that generic, injectable drugs—like Bicillin L-A—are particularly susceptible to shortages because they are difficult to make but cheap to purchase, meaning few drug companies manufacture them. If those companies experience a difficulty in manufacturing that forces them to shut down temporarily, such as rust in the equipment or mold in the factory, there is no other supplier to pick up the slack.

Luckily, Pfizer expects to be back to full capacity on Bicillin L-A by July, which will help make sure there are no disruptions to efforts to prevent congenital syphilis. This is particularly important given the number of cases that have been seen in recent years and the seriousness of the outcomes. In 2014, there were 438 nationwide cases of congenital syphilis, which led to 25 stillbirths and eight deaths within 30 days of birth.

Women Want More Sex than Their Male Partners Think

There is an enduring myth that men always want sex and women, well, not so much. It turns out that women in long-term relationships with men want more sex than their partners realize. To determine if perception and reality differed, researchers conducted three studies with couples—44 couples in the first study, 84 in the second, and 101 in the third. All but ten were opposite-sex couples.

Though questions varied according to the study, each participant was asked to keep a diary that recorded some combination of the following factors: their own sexual desire; relationship satisfaction; commitment to their partner; and their perception of their partner’s sexual desire, relationship satisfaction, and commitment. Couples were also asked to keep a log of their sexual activity. Couples in the third study were asked to record how motivated they were to avoid sexual rejection on any given day.

While men in the study did report higher levels of sexual desire than their female partners, what was more striking was that across all three studies men consistently underestimated their partner’s desire. The researchers are not sure why men’s perceptions were so frequently off but they have at least two theories.

First, as Amy Muise, the lead author on the study, told Fusion via email it might be about avoiding complacency: “We don’t know exactly what men do when they underperceive, but it’s possible that this keeps them from becoming lazy about maintaining their partner’s interest.”

Alternatively, men may perceive less desire from their partners as a way to avoid sexual rejection. This is supported by the additional finding that men were particularly likely to underestimate their partner’s desire on days when they felt ill-equipped to handle rejection.

Of course, it could just be that men have been trained by every television show, movie, and magazine to believe that women just don’t want sex as much as they do.

No matter where the misperception comes from, the results of this study once again point out how important it is for couples to communicate openly and honestly about what they want and how often they want it.

Bud Light Ad Celebrates Same-Sex Marriage

While Budweiser ads of the past seem to have mostly celebrated bikini-clad women and Clydesdale horses, a new ad released in honor of LGBT Pride Month takes a big turn for the beer company. The ad depicts scenes of a wedding and features actor Seth Rogan and comedienne Amy Schumer leading a beer-bottle toast to the groom and the groom.

The company said in a press release: “June is the height of wedding season, and it is also LGBT Pride [M]onth in America. That’s why right now is the time to spark a national conversation by celebrating every kind of wedding—and everyone’s right to marry whoever they choose.”

The ad was released in partnership with Ellen DeGeneres and first appeared on her social media channels. The company will continue to air the ad on social media and plans a primetime television airing as well.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Suggests a Gold-Plated Vibrator

You may remember when Goop, the lifestyle site launched by Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow, suggested steam-cleaning vaginas with the herb multwort, a practice that was roundly criticized by experts as unnecessary (the vagina cleans itself) and potentially dangerous (steam is hot). Goop made news again recently with a sexual-health suggestion that may be good for vaginas, but not so great for bank accounts.

Suggested on the website’s list of favorite sex toys was the LELO INEZ, a 24-karat gold vibrator that costs $15,000. Other pricey toys included a whip for $535 and a vibrating necklace for $395.

We here at This Week in Sex are all for sex toys. But we want to assure you that there a lot of good sex toys out there that won’t break the bank. You should be able to find some reliable toys for between $35 and $65 and even less, if you want to visit a local pharmacy and find vibrating rings (which, as an added bonus, are often packaged with a condom).

Roundups Sexuality

This Week in Sex, Valentine’s Day Edition: Dating Is Not Dead

Martha Kempner

In today’s Internet world, Valentine’s Day is for roses, chocolate, and surveys. Many websites and companies (and some academics) choose this most romantic of holidays to tell us what other people are doing and thinking when it comes to love, dating, and, of course, sex.

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

In today’s Internet world, Valentine’s Day is for roses, chocolate, and surveys. Many websites and companies (and some academics) choose this most romantic of holidays to tell us what other people are doing and thinking when it comes to love, dating, and, of course, sex.

Many Millennials Likely To Be Having Sex on Valentine’s Day

The SKYN Condoms Millennials Sex Survey asked 5,000 sexually active men and women between the ages of 18 and 34 about their sex lives and found that 73 percent of them have sex on Valentine’s Day. But for this group of randy young people, February 14 might just be a normal day—7 out of 10 of them reported having sex at least once a week. Much of this sex seems to take place outside of the bedroom or even outside of the house: 78 percent are having it on a couch, 74 percent in the shower, and 64 percent in a car. Less popular, but still surprisingly common, locations include the laundry room (24 percent), the beach (23 percent), and the great (public) outdoors (22 percent). The good news is that regardless of where they’re having sex, they’re enjoying it. Almost all men (97 percent) and a good majority of women (89 percent) have at least one orgasm during sex.

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One Night Stands Can Lead to More, and Other News From the Online Dating World

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Match.com released its sixth annual survey, Singles in America, asking over 5,500 singles about dating and sex. The survey found that what you do on the first date is a good predictor of whether or not you get that all-important second date. You’re 107 percent less likely to get a second date if you skip dinner or drinks and, for example, just meet for coffee. The best way to ensure that second date? Sushi. Those who chose this Japanese cuisine on the first date were 170 percent more likely to make it to date number two. And, don’t listen to anyone who tells you to keep the conversation light—80 percent of singles think politics, religion, and money are good topics for a first date. As for how the date ends, 7 percent of women would like it to end with “making out” and 6 percent of men expect it to end with sex. Half of singles, however, agree that a good date ends with a kiss.

Although, singles are (or want to be) doing much more than kissing—48 percent of men have had sex in public, for example, and 16 percent of women say they’re open to making a sex tape. (We at “This Week in Sex” would like to remind those singles of rule #1: It always ends up on the Internet.)

Today’s singles are not, however, doing it with all that many people. Though 46 percent of singles have had a “friend with benefits,” the clear majority (75 percent) have had fewer than 15 lifetime partners and 50 percent have had six at most.

And, finally, there is some good news for those who have had a hook-up but really wanted more. The survey found that 25 percent of singles had a one-night stand turn into a relationship.

Not the Sunshine State; the Sex Toy State

Parts of Florida are going to see very low temperatures this Valentine’s Day weekend with overnight lows in the 40s in Jacksonville. However, we shouldn’t worry because Sunshine State residents do seem to know how to keep warm. According to Amazon, three cities in Florida were among those that bought the most sexual wellness products in 2015. The online mega-retailer compiled a list of purchases in cities with more than 100,000 residents. The sexual wellness category, by the way, includes condoms, lubes, and vibes as well as bondage gear, sex furniture, and fetish jewelry.

Miami took the top spot, but two other Florida cities made the list: Orlando in number two and Gainesville as number nine. The other cities on the list (in order): Alexandria, Virginia; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Seattle, Washington; Berkeley, California; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Atlanta, Georgia; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Interestingly, the Big Apple did not make the list. We here at “This Week in Sex” lived in New York City for years and can’t help but think that this is not because New Yorkers aren’t interested in sex products but because they have many other options of where to buy them or how to get them delivered right to their door.

Don’t Believe the Hype, Dating Is Not Dead

Good news for romantics out there—dating is not dead. Recent reports that courtships have evaporated, dating is deceased, and the only thing young people are interested in is casually hooking up are not true according to a new study released by the Council on Contemporary Families. Researchers at the universities of North and South Carolina examined data collected between 2005 and 2011 from over 24,000 college students at 22 schools across the country.

It’s true that college kids are hooking up62 percent said they had done so since entering college. But almost the same number, 61 percent, also said they had gone out on a date. Only 8 percent said they had hooked up without being in a long-term relationship or dating, whereas far more (26.5 percent) said they’d never hooked up but had dated or been in a long-term relationship instead. And, long-term relationships are what 71 percent of men and 67 percent of women said they really want. (Read that sentence closely, it’s not a typo—more men said they wanted long-term relationships than women.)

While this may be seen as good news for those who enjoy traditional visions of Friday night dates and committed couples, we should remember that hooking-up is not inherently bad. Most men (48 percent) and women (45 percent) were happy with their most recent hook-up experience, and only 14.5 percent of women and 12 percent of men regretted it, with the rest falling somewhere in between happiness and regret.