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Friday, May 25, 2007

Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Classes Have No Effect

Congress will decide this summer whether it wishes to renew the block grant program for abstinence-only sex education known as Title V. The federal government has spent about $176 million annually for the program. A study ordered by Congress and completed last month put some data into the public forum that will permit it to make its decision based on science rather than ideology.

Mathematica Policy Research Inc. conducted the study. Here’s what they found.

Students who took part in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have intercourse as those who did not. And, those who attended the classes reported having similar numbers of sexual partners to those who did not attend the classes. Mathematica also found out that the average age of having the first intercourse was the same for both groups – just a little less than 15 years old.

Four different abstinence-only programs were examined from around the USA. Students were about eleven when they participated in these programs in 1999. They were surveyed again in late 2005 and early 2006 when they were about 16.

They found that about half of the abstinence-only students had experienced intercourse and about half of the control group (having no program) had also. The 2,057 students were from Miami, Milwaukee, Powhatan, VA and Clarksdale, MS – with both urban and rural settings represented.

So far, eight states have declined to participate in the Congressional funding program in which they spend $3 for every $4 that they get from the federal government. These states have decided that, despite the loss of revenue, their constituents would be better served by other types of sex education. Some lawmakers believe that this money should be used for what is called comprehensive sex education in which abstinence is included as a significant piece of the curriculum – but not the only piece. I strongly favor this approach also.

Some defenders of the abstinence-only programs say that these programs were in their early days and, by implication, that they were not as powerful in their effect as their defenders hoped. Supporters of comprehensive programs say that these four programs were “supposed to be their all-star lineup” and that this is excuse-making to combat results that did not favor their ideological position.

For years, the people working “in the trenches” with teens (Planned Parenthood, for example) have known that virginity promises and chastity balls attended by young women and their fathers had little impact on sexual decision-making. “Just saying ‘no’” made some adults feel like they had adequately dealt with that pesky business called sex education. But, many have known that it was of little help. It’s my sincere hope that Congress will look at this study carefully and abandon a sex education funding program that is based on ideology.

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Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 9:30 am

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Erotic Asphyxiation – A Headline Grabber When the News is Slow

Erotic asphyxiation is a complicated issue. It’s also one that frequently gets some attention when not much else is happening that is newsworthy. It was in our local news recently. This sexual activity falls under the heading of paraphilias, which loosely means “erotic attraction to activities that are at the edge.”

We have a lot of speculative explanations for what causes a paraphilia, but not a lot of agreement among professionals. The explanation that holds up best for me is that they are due more to accidental conditioning than anything else. You could name nearly any object or situation and there will be someone out there who has a sexual response to it.

Sexual arousal to having one’s air supply cut off and/or to pressure around one’s neck, however, is not as harmless as the person who gets turned on by the sounds of ducks quacking. That’s because the potential for fatal accidents occurring is always there. In the 1980s (the most recent comprehensive study), it was estimated that between 250 and 1,000 deaths occur yearly in the United States as a result of asphyxiophilia (Hazelwood, R., Dietz, P, and Burgess, A., Autoerotic Fatalities, Lexington, MA, Heath, 1983.) So, doing this creates some extreme risk taking.

The pleasure that people derive from strangulation during sex can be coming from two sources: physical and psychological. Both can be quite compelling on their own. Put them together and the combination can create the motivation for a dangerous habit. The physical pleasure from asphyxia occurs because oxygen to the brain gets reduced. It’s called hypoxia and can lead to a semi-hallucinogenic, lucid state. Couple that with orgasm and some people find it undeniably gripping. The problem is that there’s no sure (or even somewhat sure) way to know when you are at the point of no return from brain damage and death.

Autoerotic asphyxiation is unfortunately one of those sexual variations about which I cannot say “consenting adults” should be able to do what they want. That’s because the experts on this practice have studied the situation – very nonjudgmental experts, I might add – and they’ve concluded that the dangers are just way too great.

Breath holding for a little while during masturbation may generate a mini high, but know that you’ll need to stop and allow yourself to breath. Never create any physical situation that actually cuts off air supply. That’s where the extreme danger lies.

It is totally risky to do any kind of pseudo-hanging activities. When things go wrong and a death is the outcome, it is often from playing with some form of hanging. But, here’s the clincher – even if you are playing with a partner whom you can trust totally to stop when you signal, there’s an enormous danger of brain damage. No one knows exactly where the line is for oxygen cutoff to cause brain damage. There are no studies that can guarantee how many seconds are “safe.”

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Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 11:15 am

Thursday, May 3, 2007

From The Sex Files: Online Dating Dishonesty

Today a bisexual client of mine was discussing some of his online dating experiences. He started to speak about the plusses and minuses of meeting men that way. As he began discussing the negative aspects of it, I jumped ahead slightly in my mind and thought, “He’s going to talk about people not being truthful online.” Sure enough, he did.

People will often lie about their physical appearance. I hear that all the time. Then he described something that I had never heard before.

He said when the email communications back and forth got to an interesting level and he was considering meeting that person, he usually would ask for a picture to be sent to him online. What he received on two occasions – not just once, but twice – was a picture of himself!!

I asked if this picture was a particularly wonderful picture or had been photoshopped in some way. He said that it was just a picture that a friend had taken of him. This client is an attractive man, but not in any startling way. The picture that he had sent in his past online communications had apparently made its way into the “public domain” in the minds of some. It had evidently appealed so much to these two other men that they had decided to “borrow” it to “facilitate” a meeting. It’s quite possible that others have done something similar. Time will tell.

In case you’re wondering – no, my client decided not to meet either of these two men. There was absolutely no way that he could interpret this type of “plagiarism” as a positive trait in these two prospective dates.

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Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 12:03 pm

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