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Love potions have been a plot point in fairytales for centuries. Now, thanks to dramatic advances in our understanding of the neuroscience behind love, they’re close enough to reality to be studied by Oxford University researchers.
Anders Sandberg, a neuroethicist at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, will discuss the role of romance drugs at an upcoming Institute of Art and Ideas conference “Love in the Time of Tinder”. He says that while we can’t buy romance pills yet, it’s only a matter of years before they exist. His work combines neuroscience and philosophy to unpack the ethical consequences of such pills, and just how they’ll fit into our lives.
“All our emotions are built on the foundations of neuroscience,” Sandberg says—whether that’s fear or anger or love. Recently, neuroscientists have begun to map out just what happens in the brain when we’re in love, bringing us closer to artificially recreating those neurochemical processes. “While there’s still not anything you can find in the supermarket or approved, we’re getting towards the point where they probably will show up,” he says.
Neuroimaging studies of brains show that love is, well, extremely complicated. (No surprises there.) Different subsystems of the brain are involved in that initial lustful attraction, the rush that comes when you fall in love, and then the commitment and affection of long-term partnership. It’s that last, lengthy phase of love that romance drugs are likely to focus on, effectively re-booting the romance for existing couples.
“It’s very different to the love potion in fairytales where you drink it and then fall in love with the next person who comes in,” Sandberg says. “From an ethical standpoint, that’s very worrisome… I would imagine a future love drug would be something you take together with your partner, and that causes a slow, long-term experience.”
Scientists have identified the brain system behind long-term feelings of romantic love partly thanks to studies of prairie voles (yes, you read that right). There are two closely related species of prairie vole; one is monogamous and the other is not. Key differences in the oxytocin system of these two species suggest that this hormone is crucial to the ability to stay together.
These findings are supported by neuroimaging studies of humans who claim to be in love, which again show that oxytocin is key. (The specific systems activated in the brains of those who are romantically in love overlap with, but are not exactly the same as, the systems involved in parents thinking about their love of their children.)
There are several drugs already available (legally and illegally) that create a release of oxytocin, and there’s likely plenty of informal love-drug experimentation already underway with potent substances such as MDMA or the Amazonian hallucinogenic ayahuasca. “People are trying things that might make sense,” says Sandberg. “Ecstasy is not implausible.” Oxytocin nose spray is another possible option, though there are no definitive studies on the effects of these drugs.
In general, Sandberg believes currently existing drugs have too short-term an effect to be truly effective in boosting romance. A trained therapist would also have to be involved to create the best effect. “You probably want to teach your brain to produce oxytocin when you actually meet your partner,” he explains. “You want to teach the brain: This is the person I’m together with.”
Sandberg expects to see growing numbers of pharmaceutical drugs that affect oxytocin levels, in part because there’s interest in the theory that oxytocin is connected to autism-related disorders.
But while it’s entirely plausible, from a scientific standpoint, that we’ll have approved romance drugs within a decade, do we really want to artificially interfere with love? If a love has faded, perhaps it’s best to move on rather than use drugs to resuscitate it.
In some senses, we already interfere with the pathways of long-term love, argues Sandberg. “Should people having trouble in a relationship go to a marriage counselor?” he asks. “Shouldn’t a marriage just fall apart naturally?… If someone goes away on a romantic holiday that costs a lot of money and comes back with a better marriage, we’d probably say, ‘Yeah, that’s great.’”
But surely there’s a clear line between medicalization and other means of improving a marriage, just as in sports there’s a difference between physical training and using drugs to boost performance? Well, the key concern in the sporting analogy is cheating, says Sandberg. Cheating in how you fall in love doesn’t make much sense: “Could you look at a married couple and say, ‘They cheated”?” he asks. “‘They’re deeply in love but they got to that state in the wrong way. Ha, those losers.'”
The primary focus for romance drugs should be whether they could be a force for good, Sandberg says. To answer that question, it’s important to remember that romantic love isn’t always positive. Indeed, there may be a use for “anti-love” drugs, Sandberg says, to help people leave abusive relationships. A potentially less-ethical use of such drugs would be to help people get over break ups (which, economists have told Sandberg, would certainly increase the liquidity of the dating market).
But aside from clear-cut cases of abuse, it’s often impossible to know whether or not a long-term relationship is worth trying to save. Some couples break up and forever regret it, while others are sad for a while but rediscover their own passions, make stronger friendships, or fall happily in love with someone else.
“If the only thing holding your marriage together is a steady supply of oxytocin, then maybe this marriage is not very good and might be better off cancelled,” says Sandberg. But realistically, he argues, relationships that are that far gone probably won’t be saved by pills. Instead, love drugs would work best as a top-up on romance that’s solid but in need of reinvigorating.
Beyond the requisite drug trials and safety questions, these ethical concerns are likely to delay the introduction of love drugs. “I think in many ways, the drugs might be the easy part,” Sandberg says. “Figuring out how they actually fit into our lives is going to be the great challenge.”
Feminists have institutionalized violence against men through the legal systems of all Western nations. But women cannot win the violence competition. The more violent societies become, the more women need protection. And the more they need protection, the quicker they will abandon feminism. Rich men should invest their money in fostering violence in all societies. Then they will end up with their own harems. No feminists inside there.
For ornithologist Richard Prum, manakins are among the most beautiful creatures in the world. He first started studying these small South American birds in 1982, and he’s been privy to many of their flamboyant performances. One species has a golden head and moonwalks. Another puffs up a white ‘beard’ and hops about like a “buff gymnast.” Yet another makes alarmingly loud noises with its club-shaped wing bones. Each of the 54 species has its own combination of costumes, calls, and choreography, which males use in their mating displays. To Prum, this is a great example of “aesthetic radiation,” where a group of animals has evolved “54 distinctive ideals of beauty.”
That’s not a common view among evolutionary biologists. Most of Prum’s colleagues see outrageous sexual traits as reliable advertisements. The logic goes that only the fittest manakins could coordinate their movements just so. Only the healthiest peacocks could afford to carry such a cumbersome tail. Their displays and dances hint at their good genes, allowing females to make adaptive decisions.
But Prum says that view is poorly supported by years of research, and plainly makes no sense when you actually look at what birds do. How could there be adaptive value in every single minute detail of a manakin’s plumage and performance? And why have some species replaced certain ancestral maneuvers (like pointing one’s tail to the sky) with new moves (like pointing one’s bill to the sky) that surely provide no better information? “It’s clearly arbitrary,” says Prum. “I wrote that in a 1997 paper, but the reviewers hated it. They said you can’t claim that unless you falsify every adaptive hypothesis we can imagine. And if you can’t find an adaptive explanation, you haven’t worked hard enough to discover it.”
That struck him as absurd. Worse, it’s stubbornly cold. It’s a theory of aesthetics that tries to shove aesthetics under the rug, implicitly denying that manakins and other animals could be having any kind of subjective experience. It has even crept into our understanding of ourselves: Evolutionary psychologists have put forward poorly conceived adaptive explanations for everything from female orgasms to same-sex preferences. “These ideas have saturated the popular culture. In the pages of Vogue, and in cosmetic surgery offices, you read that beauty is a revealing indicator of objective quality,” says Prum. “That’s why I had to write the book.”
The book in question, which publishes tomorrow, is The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World—and Us. It’s a “natural history of beauty and desire”—a smorgasbord of evolutionary biology, philosophy, and sociology, filtered through Prum’s experiences as a birdwatcher and his diverse research on everything from dinosaur colors to duck sex. Through compelling arguments and colorful examples, Prum launches a counterstrike against the adaptationist regime, in an attempt to “put the subjective experience of animals back in the center of biology” and to “bring beauty back to the sciences.”
The central idea that animates the book is a longstanding one that Prum has rebranded as the “Beauty Happens hypothesis.” It starts with animals developing random preferences—for colors, songs, displays, and more—which they use in choosing their mates. Their offspring inherit not only those sexy traits, but also the preference for them. By choosing what they like, choosers transform both the form and the objects of their desires.
Critically, all of this is arbitrary—not adaptive. Songs and ornaments and dances evolve not because they signal good genes but because animals just like them. They’re not objectively informative; they’re subjectively pleasing. Beauty, in other words, just happens. “It’s a self-organizing process, by which selection will arrive at some standard of beauty all by itself, in the absence of any adaptive benefit—or, indeed, despite maladaptive disadvantage,” says Prum.
The Beauty Happens idea isn’t an anthropomorphic one; Prum’s arguing that animals have evolved to be beautiful to themselves, not to him. It’s not a new idea either. A century ago, geneticist Ronald Fisher wrote about extreme traits and the desire for those traits co-evolving in a runaway process. “But [Fisher’s hypothesis] has been viewed as a curious idea that’s irrelevant to nature—that’s the status in most textbooks,” says Prum. He’s on a mission to re-emphasize it, and to show that aesthetics and beauty aren’t mushy subjects that science should shy away from.
It’s been an uphill struggle, partly because the arbitrary nature of the idea is so distasteful to some. Prum recalls discussing his ideas with a “well-respected, center-of-the-road, evolutionary biologist,” who took it all in and said: But that’s nihilism! “That’s when I realized that I had a marketing problem,” he says. “This is what fills me with joy to study, what literally gives me goosebumps in the office, and when I express it to my colleague, he doesn’t have a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”
The originator of these ideas—Charles Darwin himself—suffered from similar problems. In The Descent of Man, he put forward an explicitly aesthetic view of sexual selection, in which animal beauty evolves because it’s pleasurable to the animals themselves. And despite the book’s title, Darwin spent many of its pages focusing on the choices of females, casting them as agents of their own evolution and arguing that their preferences were a powerful force behind nature’s diversity.
Darwin’s contemporaries were having none of it. They believed that animals didn’t have rich subjective worlds, lacking the mental abilities that had been divinely endowed to humans. And the idea of female animals making fine-grained choices seemed doubly preposterous to the Victorian patriarchy. One scientist wrote that female whims were so fickle that they could never act as a consistent source of selection. Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of evolutionary theory, also rejected Darwin’s ideas, insisting that beauty must be the result of adaptation, and that sexual selection is just another form of natural selection. In a feat of sheer chutzpah, he even claimed that his view was more Darwinian than Darwin’s in a book called Darwinism. “I can still remember wanting to throw Wallace around the room when I read that,” says Prum, who accuses the man of turning sexual selection into an ‘intellectually impoverished theory.’”
That legacy still infects evolutionary biology today. Consider orgasms, which Prum does at length in a later chapter. “There’s an entire field on the evolution of orgasm that’s devoid of any discussion of pleasure,” he says. “It’s stunningly bad science, and once more, it places male quality at the causal center.” For example, some researchers suggested that contractions produced during female orgasm are adaptations that allow women to better “upsuck”—no, really—the sperm of the best males. Others theorists suggested that female orgasm is the equivalent of male nipples—an inconsequential byproduct of natural selection acting on the opposite sex. Both ideas trivialize the sexual agency of women, Prum says, and completely fail to engage with the thing they’re actually trying to explain--women’s subjective experiences of sexual pleasure.
“It should come as no surprise that science does such a poor job of explaining pleasure because it’s left the actual experience of pleasure out of the equation,” he writes. That is, when biologists think about mate choice, whether in manakins or people, they focus only on the outcomes of the choice, and neglect the actual act of choosing. The result is a sexual science that’s bizarrely sanitized—an account of pleasure that’s totally anhedonic.
His counter-explanation is simple: women preferred to have sex with men who stimulated their own sexual pleasure, leading to co-evolution between female desire and male behaviors that met those desires. That’s why, compared to our closest ape relatives, human sex is much longer, involves a variety of positions, and isn’t tied to fertility cycles. It’s also why female orgasm isn’t necessary for actual procreation. “It may be the greatest testament to the power of aesthetic evolution,” Prum writes. “It’s sexual pleasure for its own sake, which has evolved purely as a consequence of women’s pursuit of pleasure.”
By his admission, this is speculative. He hopes that his book—which also includes hypotheses about human bodies, cultural standards of attractiveness, sexual identity, and more—will spur more research that’s grounded in an appreciation of aesthetics. But he also notes that there are other species in which experiments have confirmed the power of female choice.
In 2005, a woman named Patricia Brennan joined Prum’s lab with an interest in animal genitals—and in ducks. Most birds don’t have penises, but male ducks have huge, corkscrew-shaped ones that they extrude into females at high speed. But Brennan showed that female ducks have equally convoluted vaginas, which spiral in the opposite direction and include several dead-end pockets. Why?
Duck sex is intense and violent. Several males will often try to force themselves onto a female, and they use their ballistic penises to deposit sperm as far inside their mates as possible. But Brennan, by getting drakes to launch their penises into variously shaped glass tubes, showed that a female’s counter-spiraling vagina can stop the progress of her partner’s phallus. If she actually wants to mate, she can change her posture and relax the walls of her genital tract to offer a male easy passage. As a result, even in species where 40 percent of sexual encounters are forced, more than 95 percent of chicks are actually sired by a female’s chosen partner.
I wrote about Brennan’s work back in 2009, and I’ve since heard it repeatedly called “that duck penis study.” But really, it’s a duck vagina story. It’s a story of females asserting their agency, even in the face of persistent violence. “And when females get sexual autonomy, what do they do with it?” says Prum. “They make aesthetic choices, and the result is this aesthetic explosion over time.” By retaining their capacity to choose, female ducks force male plumage, displays and songs to continually evolve to court those choices. Sexual autonomy is an evolutionary engine of beauty.
“That research was transformative for me,” says Prum. It’s one of several reasons why The Evolution of Beauty is an explicitly feminist book. It’s disdainful about the male biases that characterize much of evolutionary psychology. Instead, it consistently centers female choice and repeatedly draws on feminist scholarship.
“If you say anything about a feminist science, you get a lot of negative blowback immediately,” says Prum. “But this isn’t a science that accommodates itself to feminist principles. It’s about the discovery of feminist concepts in biology itself.” By his reckoning, freedom of choice isn’t a matter of ideology. It arises from evolution, and it shapes subsequent evolution—and it’s about time that biologists recognized that.
“It’s a sad thing that, given the promise of evolutionary biology, we’ve really failed to lead culture in any meaningful way, whether in thinking about racism, sexism, or economic disparity,” says Prum. “We’re just hanging at the rear end. And there’s a real prospect for that to change because of all the power of evolutionary theory to be relevant to people and people’s lives.”
Every rich man in his right mind want patriarchy as a social and political system. Men rule, and can have harems, one way or the other. And because women are natural cowards, the more violent a society, the more women will retreat. All by themselves. So, welcome violent migrants. They will finish off feminism. Just take precautions to protect yourself. A dangerous world is one ruled by men.
95 percent of the victims of violence are men. Because women are natural cowards who send men to handle things when they are dangerous.
Before Google search or truth or dare became a mainstream thing, people used other methods to extract information. But not everyone had the gift of subterfuge. Torture was a popular way of getting people to reveal information or confess to crimes (which they sometimes did not commit). While impaling people or crucifying them or even laying them on a torture rack was pretty common in history, there have been other methods that are so screwed up that simply reading about them might make you shudder. No, seriously, if you're easily rattled, reading further might not be the best idea.
But for those who are still interested, here's a list of some of the most gruesome torture (mostly followed by execution) methods ever recorded.
1. Judas Cradle
You'd place the waist harness (attached to the ropes) around the victim and then slowly lower him/her onto the pyramid shaped seat with the pointy top inserted into their anus or vagina. With the downward pressure caused by the victim's body, the muscles around the orifice would eventually tear thereby impaling the victim. It was also called the nightwatch because when pressure is applied to certain parts of the body, the person cannot fall asleep.
2. Blood Eagle
While the actual accuracy of this method of torture and execution is shrouded in mystery, the blood eagle has been mentioned in Norse literature. As the torturer/executioner, you'd cut open the back of the victim and expose his/her lungs by twisting the ribs outwards to make them look like wings. Very Hannibal- ish if you ask me.
3. Tickle Torture
Not all torture methods involved gore. In medieval China, especially during the reign of the Han dynasty, sometimes you'd have to torture someone for interrogation without actually leaving any scars. This used to be a common occurrence if the victim belonged to the royal or any other influential family. A variation of this in the Roman camps involved dipping the victim's feet in salt solution and then have a goat lick the bottom of the feet. This would start out as normal tickling but then the pain that followed would be extreme.
4. Swedish Drink
Also called Schwedentrunk , this was the name given by German victims of the torture during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). The Swedish soldiers and mercenaries didn't receive any pay for fighting for their lords. Instead they were told, they could loot and plunder the regions they marched through, thus making life pretty shitty for non-combatants. Speaking of shit, the 'Swedish drink' method involved forcing the victim to drink dangerous amounts of foul manure/urine/excreta, thus making the stomach bloat up to painful levels. But that wasn't all - if the victims didn't answer the interrogators' questions, they'd stomp on their tummies and run horses over them.
5. Brazen Bull
Philosophy wasn't the only strong suit of the ancient Greeks; they dabbled in sadism too. Perillos of Athens designed it for Phalaris of Sicily as a new means of executing criminals. The Brazen Bull was a bronze hollow bull that could fit a person in it. Once the victim was locked inside, they'd light a fire under the bull, slowly roasting the victim inside. What was even more sadistic was that the contraption was fitted with pipes in such a way that the screams of the dying person would resemble the bellowing of an angry bull, much to the amazement of the onlookers.
6. White Torture
Don't we all feel tortured when someone gives us the 'silent treatment'? Now expand that to its optimum scale and that is 'white torture'. The victim is kept in long periods of solitary confinement in a white room without any windows. His clothes are white. He's given white food on a white plate and the guards outside wear soft footwear to muffle their sounds. The idea is to cause massive sensory deprivation and isolation to the victim. Ebrahim Nabavi, an Iranian journalist who was subject to this kind of torture, said -
Since I left Evin, I have not been able to sleep without sleeping pills. It is terrible. The loneliness never leaves you, long after you are "free." Every door that is closed on you ... This is why we call it "white torture." They get what they want without having to hit you. They know enough about you to control the information that you get: they can make you believe that the president has resigned, that they have your wife, that someone you trust has told them lies about you. You begin to break. And once you break, they have control. And then you begin to confess.
7. Breast Ripper
Isn't the name pretty self-explanatory? Mutilation has always been a favourite go-to zone for torturers and if you were one in 16th century Bavaria, chances are you'd have used one of these on women who were accused of adultery or self-abortion. Breast rippers were usually made of iron and they heated before you'd use them to rip out the victim's breasts.
8. Pear of Anguish
If there was ever a torturer's handbook (pretty sure there is one), there's probably a page that says, if you find a hole, make it bigger . The pear of anguish or choke pear, as it was also called, was a pear shaped metal device whose ends would, for lack of a better word, bloom after they were inserted in a victim's mouth, anus or vagina, causing immense pain. Sometimes, they'd even fit spikes at the end of these machines.
9. Tying Intestines Around a Tree
Okay, the technical term for this is disembowelment, which has been a pretty common practice throughout history. But there have been rare cases where the victims' intestines were pulled out, tied/nailed to a tree and then they were made to run around the tree which resulted in eventual death. The tree below is one in Cuylerville, NY, where in 1779, Lt. Thomas Boyd was tortured and killed when Seneca chief Little Beard tied his intestines around the tree and made him run around it.
10. Chinese Water Torture
This weird but effective technique was used by both the Chinese and the Spanish with slight variations. But the crux of the technique was this - the victim was restrained, and then little but constant droplets would be allowed to fall on a sensitive part of his/her head, usually the forehead. It is said that this would apparently make the victim frantic as he/she would perceive a hollow being formed in the spot the droplets would fall.
11. Bamboo Torture
If you think horticulture and torture don't gel well, you clearly haven't heard of the bamboo torture method. A restrained victim would be made to sit on a bamboo sapling. Bamboo grows really fast. In this case, the sapling would tear the anus and continue its journey inside the victim's body. Poor victim. Poor bamboo.
Yeah, so I saved the best (worst) one for last. The Greeks described this as a Persian method of torture and execution. The victim was stripped naked and then firmly fastened within a face-to-face pair of narrow rowing boats (or hollowed-out tree trunks), with the head and limbs protruding. The condemned was forced to drink milk and honey to the point of developing severe diarrhea, and more honey would be rubbed on his body to attract insects to the exposed appendages, eyes and genitals. He would then be left to float on a stagnant pond or be exposed to the sun. The defenseless individual's feces accumulated within the container, attracting more insects, which would eat and breed within his exposed flesh, which became increasingly gangrenous. The feeding would be repeated each day in some cases to prolong the torture, so that dehydration or starvation did not kill him. Death, when it eventually occurred, was probably due to a combination of dehydration, starvation and septic shock. Death by scaphism was incredibly painful, humiliating and protracted. Plutarch writes in his biography of Artaxerxes that Mithridates, sentenced to die in this manner in 401 BC for killing Cyrus the Younger, survived 17 days before dying.
Once islamic terror organizations will have discovered the power of arson, they will win any war. Setting forests on fire is low risk for attackers and inflicts maximum damage.
A British doctor has been arrested in Cambodia on Thursday after four underage girls between the ages of 12 and 15 accused him of rape.
Local authorities arrested 69-year-old Clive Robert Kingsley Cressy at a cafe in Phnom Penh following reports from his alleged victims, according to The Sun.
A British doctor has been arrested in Cambodia on Thursday after four underage girls between the ages of 12 and 15 accused him of rape.
Local authorities arrested 69-year-old Clive Robert Kingsley Cressy at a cafe in Phnom Penh following reports from his alleged victims, according to The Sun.
A raid conducted on Cressy’s condo yielded an assortment of children’s clothes, shoes, and toys. Images from the search show the doctor’s suitcase filled with Barbie dolls and young girls’ clothing.
Some of Cressy’s belongings were seized, including computers, a laptop, camera, external hard drive, and DVDs. The items will also be thoroughly checked as the police are “doing more investigation” to find other potential victims.
According to the police, the doctor from Hove, East Sussex allegedly paid four girls aged 12, 13, 14 and 15 to have sex with him. It is also reported that he paid up to $3,000 to have sex with a virgin.
His Vietnamese girlfriend, identified as Chea Sokthy, is believed to have acted as Cressy’s accomplice. She has also been arrested, according to the Phnom Penh Post. The 27-year-old woman is under suspicion of procuring the would-be victims for Cressy.
According to Phnom Penh’s municipal anti-trafficking police chief Keo Thea, Cressy has been under police surveillance for months. During the investigation, the doctor has been observed to leave and return to Cambodia a number of times.
The decline or destruction of Europe is in the interest of China, in the interest of all of Asia, and in the sexual interest of the male population just anywhere on earth. The political system of Europe is stupid feminism and hypocritical humanism. By contrast, the patriarchy as political system is best for men and mankind.
There’s a long history of using medical language to explain socially unacceptable sexual appetites.
Last month, former congressman Anthony Weiner pleaded guilty to charges related to sexing with a 15-year-old, declaring, “I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse.”
Weiner’s seeming inability to stop sending sexts to a minor, despite all the personal and political consequences he knew he could face, has touched off a debate around the dubious science of sex addiction. Weiner’s actions put him in a long line of famous men — from Tiger Woods to David Duchovney to Josh Duggar — who argue that their sexual behavior reflects an addiction.
For the most part, modern medical professionals are skeptical about the science of sex addiction. But there’s a long tradition of using medical language to explain socially unacceptable sexual appetites.
Sex addiction as we currently understand it became part of the public discussion around 1980, as Barry Reay, Nina Attwood and Claire Gooder of the University of Aukland explained in a 2012 paper.
After the country had experimented with two decades of free love, disco clubs and shifting gender and sex roles, there was a serious pushback to sexual promiscuity, particularly coming from conservative Christians and certain strains of feminism. Rising concern about addictions to drugs, alcohol and gambling provided an easy way to talk about destructive sexual behavior. The term “sexual addiction” was broad enough to encompass any sort of sexual thought or action that made people feel guilty or ashamed.
“Its success as a concept lay with its medicalization, both as a self-help movement in terms of self-diagnosis, and as a rapidly growing industry of therapists on hand to deal with the new disease,” Reay and his colleagues wrote.
Today, when we talk about sexual addiction, we’re often talking about the danger of people retreating from “real life.” Framing it as addiction helps us understand why men like Weiner and Woods would wreck their marriages and careers for fleeting encounters. Checklists of sexual addiction symptoms include items like “thinking of sex to the detriment of other activities” and “neglecting obligations such as work, school or family in pursuit of sex.”
A long history of pathologizing sex
For thousands of years, doctors have worried that excessive or inappropriate sexual behavior would harm men’s ability to function in productive, socially appropriate ways. In the days of early Christianity, cultural studies scholar Elizabeth Stephens explains, medical texts warned that “excessive” ejaculation depleted masculinity.
She quotes historian Peter Brown’s description of the belief among Roman doctors that “no normal man might actually become a woman, but each man trembled forever on the brink of becoming ‘womanish.’ His flickering heat was an uncertain force.”
If the link between ejaculation and weakness was a longstanding concern, it took on a sudden new urgency in the 19th century, Stephens wrote. In the 1830s, French physician Claude-François Lallemand “discovered” spermatorrhea, a malady roughly comparable to sex addiction. Noting the asymmetrical testes of a man who had died of a cerebral hemorrhage, he concluded that the unfortunate man’s troubles began with the excessive discharge of semen.
Suddenly doctors were seeing spermatorrhea everywhere. Doctors compiled long lists of the purported disease’s symptoms, including decreased sexual desire, “erections and emissions upon slightest excitement,” nervous asthma, cowardice, poor memory and insanity.
Doctors believed the most significant cause of spermatorrhea was masturbation, Stephens wrote. The treatments ranged from exercise and cold bathing to injections of acetate of lead, blistering of the penis, and occasionally, castration.
Stephens argued that “many of the concerns about non-reproductive male sexual practices in the nineteenth century derive from an unease about modern indulgences making men soft, weak, incontinent, and undisciplined.”
Race, class and sexual panic
In the 19th-century U.S., this medical panic had a lot to do with a rapidly changing society. Middle-class young men were leaving rural areas and seeking upward mobility in the growing cities. Historian Kevin J. Mumford explained that this new freedom demanded individual self-control. Reformers warned that men who succumbed to urban vice “were likely to be found wanting in virtually all manly endeavors, especially in the pursuit of profit,” he wrote.
If spermatorrhea was a great threat, being susceptible to it was also seen as a mark of civilization and racial superiority. Nineteenth-century racial “science” held that black men were utterly lacking in self-control and prone to becoming rapists, yet they were in no danger of the physical and mental damage that sexual licentiousness caused white men. That meant, Mumford wrote, that by exercising sexual self-restraint, men “not only avoided sexual disorders but also distinguished themselves as white.”
Medical attitudes toward women’s sexuality also took a sharp turn in the 19th century. Before then, according to historian Carol Groneman, Western doctors generally believed women were as lewd and lascivious as men, and that female orgasm was necessary for pregnancy. But as men left their farms and home workshops for jobs in the industrializing economy, cultural belief in the differences between men and women’s sexual desires grew. Now, middle-class white women were seen as naturally nurturing and civilizing, and excessive female sexual desire was a threat to social order.
Groneman described an 1856 account by a gynecologist of a married 24-year-old woman who came to him complaining about her lascivious dreams about men other than her husband. The doctor instructed her to reduce her intake of meat, take cold enemas and swab her vagina with a borax solution. “If she continued in her present habits of indulgence, it would probably become necessary to send her to an asylum,” he wrote.
In other cases, gynecologists treated what they now termed nymphomania —defined rather ambiguously as “excessive” female sexual desire — with surgery, removing women’s ovaries and clitorises.
By the turn of the 20th century, Groneman writes, nymphomania was closely tied to all kinds of “dangerous” female behavior, including lesbianism, prostitution and agitating for economic and political rights.
For both women and men, the concept of sexual disorders in the past was broad enough to encompass all manner of social and economic upheaval. That’s still true today. As the cases of Weiner and other prominent men suggest, we can use “sex addiction” to mean being bad at monogamy, committing actual sexual crimes, or simply lacking the self-control to put long-term goals ahead of momentary pleasure.
The truth is, psychiatrists now generally don’t consider sexual addiction to be a real disorder. The American Psychiatric Association left it out of the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders after studies found little evidence to support the “addiction” label. For example, people who exhibit the behaviors we call sexual addiction don’t show the same patterns in brain activity as those who are addicted to drugs. “Sexual addiction” may actually be a loose collection of traits like high sex drive and lack of impulse control.
But history suggests that the way we think about sexual disorders isn’t just about medical evidence. It’s about our understanding of self-control, and the expectations we have for how men and women are “normally” supposed to behave.
Educated women are sexually less attractive, so let's stop that nonsense of sending every girl to school.
It is the secret dream of every Swedish or German woman to marry a black men, or at least have sex with a black man. Every smart young African man should migrate to Europe. Free money, nice house, good sex!
Don't expect Vicky Pattison to have children any time soon.
The former Geordie Shore star was her usual candid self when asked by the Daily Star Sunday why kids "aren't on the horizon", despite being loved up with her current boyfriend John Noble.
"They get on my tits. I love him and his company, but I'm not prepared to carry something for nine months which would then ruin my body, steal my career and destroy my vagina," Vicky explained.
"After all that what if it turns out to be a prick and I don't even like it. Everyone says you will fall in love with your baby, but why?
Just because they've had the privilege of popping out of me fanny doesn't mean I'm going to love them for it. I'll probably be too angry about everything else."
Still, at least marriage IS on the horizon for Vicky and John.
"John's the one. I have no doubt in my mind. He's the one I will settle down with and marry," she enthused.
"Kids aren't on the horizon but a big wedding and a lovely future is. I couldn't be happier and nothing I've ever experienced before comes close to this feeling."
Here's hoping that her wedding day when it comes will be a lot better than her Valentine's Day this year which she had to spend in hospital.
John offered updates on her condition on Instagram throughout the day, with it turning out that she was being treated for a bad case of the flu.
The age of explosives in warfare is as bygone as the age of swords and cavalries. The future of warfare is economic sabotage by arson and the redirection of population streams.
One woman's story of falling victim to FGM and the reconstructive surgery that made her feel whole again.
California, United States - Nawaal* is lying on a hospital bed with her legs spread open. A thin intravenous tube is carefully inserted into her left arm, slowly pumping a dose of general anaesthesia into her system.
As she waits for sleep to consume her, she remembers an afternoon a decade or so ago when she was lying in another hospital bed. That time, she was in a nursing home in Nairobi, Kenya.
Beside her was a table covered in a standard hospital green cloth. On top of it were a shiny pair of curved scissors, a spool of surgical thread, and a bundle of gauze.
A middle-aged male Somali doctor fumbled with an injection while muttering a dua (prayer) under his breath.
The image grows hazy as she lets the anaesthesia take control of her body.
Nawaal, 27, is Dr Marci Bowers' fourth surgery of the day.
Bowers is a gynaecologist who specialises in transgender surgical care, but over the past seven years, around 126 clients have made the journey to her cosy clinic in Burlingame, California, with the hope of reclaiming a part of their anatomy they lost as children. Nawaal is one of them.
The next thing Nawaal recalls from that day, 11 years ago, is the Somali doctor carefully closing her legs and asking a nurse to help put on Nawaal's long black skirt and green linen top. She was 15 years old and had just undergone female genital mutilation, or FGM.
A second opportunity
In a 2015 report for the Population Reference Bureau, Dr Nawal Nour, the founder of the African Women's Health Centre at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, wrote that "more than 125 million girls and women globally are living with female genital mutilation," and that "three million undergo such procedures every year".
Some of those girls are raised in western countries, but taken to the countries from which their families originate, on the pretext of a holiday, and then circumcised in hospitals under the supervision of medical practitioners - a practice often referred to as "vacation cutting".
Most of Bowers' patients have been victims of vacation cuttings - women, she says, come from destinations as far-flung as Europe, Australia, North America or Asia.
In her opinion, these women experience a loss of identity post-FGM. While western society tells them that FGM is an act of mutilation, their cultural bindings might tell them otherwise.
A transgender woman herself, 58-year-old Bowers has been a pioneer in sex-reassignment surgeries, but only began performing FGM-reversals in 2009.
She was first approached in 2007, by an organisation called Clitoraid, to train for two years under French surgeon and urologist Dr Pierre Foldes, who developed the reconstructive procedure.
Now mired in controversy, Clitoraid is a non-profit project started by the Raelian religious movement that is rooted in the belief system that extraterrestrial species created life on Earth and that humanity's purpose on this planet is to pursue pleasure.
Bowers explains that her thriving personal practice and association with Clitoraid affords her the opportunity to perform the surgery pro-bono, charging only for the operating room and anaesthesia procedure.
Although Bowers has performed surgeries in Burkina Faso, at a Clitoraid-run hospital, she is currently only practising from her clinic in California, which she admits limits the pool of patients who can access the surgery.
Picking up a file in front of her, she says: "I primarily only see patients like Nawaal ... western-educated, privileged women who refuse to live with the consequences of what they had to undergo in their childhood."
The surgery Bowers practises is not without controversy. In a response to a 2012 paper by Dr Foldes, leading British doctors argued that surgery to correct FGM was "not anatomically possible".
The doctors disputed Foldes' claims "that surgery can excavate and expose buried tissue" and questioned the integrity of the methods used to conduct the research, eventually concluding that reversal procedures could cause more harm than good.
While Foldes has studied the ramifications of the surgery on a patient population of 866 women, over the course of one year, there has been no long-term research done to determine the efficacy of the procedure.
Bowers acknowledges that it is hard to keep track of patients post-procedure, but reflects "even if one patient comes back to me saying she was able to achieve an orgasm post surgery, for me, that is reason enough to continue".
'Cut - not mutilated'
Born in Somalia, Nawaal's family moved to Canada to escape war when she was four years old. She describes her western-educated parents as religious, yet progressive.
When Nawaal was growing up, tales of this "old-fashioned" custom were something her mother, a nurse, and her friends discussed over tea in their suburban Canadian living rooms.
Then, in the summer of 2005, when she was 15, Nawaal left for a three-month holiday in Nairobi with her mother and sister. She recalls how, on one afternoon during the "rather pleasant summer holiday", her mother and four other women encircled her and her sister and explained that it was time for them to embark on the road to womanhood.
"I was almost 16 years old, there was no way I was going to let them bully my sister or me," says Nawaal, who spent weeks resisting what she says began as "emotional abuse", but soon became threats.
Finally, after 21 days of "being bullied," Nawaal gave in. She was taken to a local hospital, where she recalls the surgery lasting no more than five minutes.
"I never felt a thing," she says. "I remember riding my bicycle that evening."
Eleven years later, while studying to be a nurse, Nawaal had the opportunity to examine the female anatomy up close. She decided it was the right time to have a reversal procedure for the form of FGM - categorised as Type 1, where the clitoral hood was taken off and part of a tip of her clitoris was removed, leaving her with scar tissue instead of a fully formed clitoris - she had undergone.
Nawaal has made the trip to San Francisco for her surgery with her sister, Basra, and four of her closest friends.
Once at the surgical centre, she fills out a set of consent forms, with her sister by her side. Only two years apart in age, both underwent FGM at the same time. But while Nawaal struggled to deal with the trauma, Basra says, "it didn't really make that much of a difference to my life".
Basra explains that while she wishes she wasn't cut, she has no plan to get the reversal surgery anytime soon. "At this point, I want to spend my money on other things," she says, referring to the $1,700 cost for the anaesthesia and surgery room.
But sitting two seats away from Basra is 21-year-old Nathar, who is considering undergoing the surgery herself.
She was cut when she was 12. Preferring to use the term FGC - female genital cutting - instead of FGM, Nathar is of the opinion that she was "cut, not mutilated".
She decided to make the trip to support Nawaal, but also to check out the surgery, although unlike Nawaal, this is a decision she would not share with anyone. "I don't want my mum to feel guilty about what happened to me," she says. "I know her intentions weren't evil."
'I can already feel the difference'
Once in the operating theatre, Bowers starts by examining Nawaal. Slipping on a pair of magnifying surgical glasses, she uses a tweezer-like instrument on her clitoral hood.
Finding a cut along her clitoris she discovers small bumps or nerve collections, that she delicately cuts using a thin curved scissor. In most of those who have undergone FGM, the amputated clitoris generally recedes behind a web of scar tissue that develops over the years, eventually covering up the organ.
Trickles of blood start oozing out, and Bowers reaches for a bundle of gauze to control the bleeding while deftly suturing up the wound with delicate stitches.
A total of 15 minutes, 12 stitches and two high-fives later, she deems the surgery a "success". While the wound will take a minimum of six weeks to heal, Nawaal's recovery should start within the next two days.
Back in her office, Bowers looks at her appointments scheduled for the next few months. In 2015, she performed 20 surgeries and already has four back-to-back surgeries scheduled for sometime in the coming month.
Determined to help as many women as she can, Bowers says she is eager to train anyone who wants to learn the technique. She hopes that a female doctor from Africa will sign up for the programme. "That definitely should add more credibility to the surgery," she says.
Three weeks later, Nawaal is back at home in Canada recovering and enjoying some time off with her family. The first few days after the surgery, she was sore and nervous about her wound. But after three days, the curiosity became too much to bear, so she pulled out a pocket mirror to take a quick look.
"My first reaction? That's so cool," she laughs. The clot of scar tissue Bowers took out during surgery helped expose her clitoris; the stitches made sure the area around it would remain open. And her husband? "He was pretty excited, as well," she says.
She's been told to abstain from full sexual intercourse for six weeks, but "I can already feel the difference," she says, shyly. But most importantly, she says: "I finally feel … complete."
Most European women have gang rape fantasies, because their vaginas are so big that there is space for two or more dicks.
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