Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Recipe for great sex

Only a great physique or knowledge of twenty different positions doesn’t make for wonderful sex. It might sound old-fashioned, but really knowing and liking your partner is crucial to the mercury rising in your bedroom. These are some common goof-ups people make during sex, and how to avoid them.

Not very hot on info
It’s no secret that many people in the land of the Kamasutra are basically misinformed or under informed about sex. Conservative families, the burden of upholding our ‘culture’ and embarrassment prevent people from going to the bedroom armed with at least enough information about sex and the body. But with the amount of information available on the net, you can easily educate yourself about how your partner’s body works and what is pleasurable. After that, it’s all a matter of trial (and a few errors) to figure out how you both can have the most fun.

Are you clairvoyant?
You’re not, right? Neither is your partner. It’s naive to assume they will just know what you want if they ‘really love you’. In fact, if you really love your partner, you should be the one taking the initiative to speak up and actually talk about what you want and what the two of you could improve upon in the bedroom. Don’t expect your lover to be superhuman and all knowing. It’s no fun making love to a perfect being anyway.

Putting you to sleep
If all you can think about when you look at your bed is sleeping, you’re probably bored with your sex life. It happens. Hectic schedules and family responsibilities leave hardly any time for sex, let alone innovative sex. But if you want to do more than sleep in the bedroom, you should give some thought to doing it differently. Boredom creeps in largely because of monotony, because sex becomes a chore. You wouldn’t have dal and chawal every night, so you shouldn’t make love the same way every time either. Vary the scene a bit each time – try sexy lingerie, different lighting, dirty talk, massages, different positions ... there are enough sources to find out how you can make an otherwise lukewarm sex life really steamy.

One way street
That’s what sex often becomes – a one-sided effort. Women either think men should initiate sex if they really desire them, or that men are natural aggressors and it’s their ‘role’ to desire lovemaking more than women do. Again, that’s partly misinformation. The healthiest, hottest relationship is one in which both partners make each other feel loved and wanted. Don’t let one person do all the work. Initiate sex more often, and when your partner least expects it. Brush against them discreetly at a party or if you’re alone during a meal. Try seduction during a boring car ride or call them at work (when you know they will have some free time!) . Your partner will be pleasantly surprised at how warm and loved that makes them feel, and you can then turn things from warm to hot at the next opportunity.

‘How do I look?’
This worry often stands in the way of really enjoying sex with your partner. We’re not all meant to look like supermodels, and it’s ok if you don’t. Your partner might not think you look bad, even if you agonise over the fact that you don’t look like Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt. If you keep wondering whether you’re looking fine all the time and trying not to let your partner look at you too much, it makes for disappointing sex. You need to trust your partner to like you just the way you are, the way you like them. Relax and enjoy the feeling of being together, and you’ll discover what a romp you can have. Confidence only grows with good sex, so if you can feel good about yourself in bed once, the next time, you’ll feel even better.

Top ten sex romps

Are you always complaining that your sex life is running out of steam? Well, what’s stopping you from getting adventurous and innovative? Charge up your sex life using this list of the 10 craziest places to fool around...or you could get inspired and think of a few of your own!

1. On the couch: After the bed, the couch in the living room is screaming for attention. And the best part...it’s comfy too. The cushions work as a support system to get those curves and arches to enjoy the perfect moves, while the lack of space will keep up the intimacy levels. Want some more action? Put on a wild flick on video and you have a perfect mood maker!
Word of caution: Watch out your moves, going out of control is injurious...for the couch of course!

2. In the bathtub: Things can get real hot even in a cool bath tub. For the ultimate romantic experience, arrange for a bubble bath with aromatic rose petals and passion perfume. Add some mood lighting, splash a few drops of ‘ylang ylang’ essential oil and be certain that the sensuous experiment will lead to some supah hot sex.
Word of caution: Check out the water temperature, you don’t want to end up with painful blisters or a frozen lover...isn’t?

3. In the kitchen: Be it 91/2 Weeks or Fatal Attraction , the kitchen has borne witness to quite a number of sexapades. The sturdy surfaces and shelves offer great support, especially for stand-up acts, while the feeling of being at an unconventional place pumps up the excitement to newer heights. And how can you miss the yummy treats your kitchen is loaded with? Eat them, but off each other’s hot bods. Think chocolate, cream, jams and jellies!
Word of caution: Know the stuff you are eating and applying...some edibles are good only to eat. So watch out for allergies!

4. In the pool: Though not many are privileged to have one in the confines of their home, if you are one of the lucky few, make the most of it. Challenge your swimming skills and get under for into some underwater escapades. Who said that the inflatable water turtle is meant only for tanning, use it for some steamy adventure...ride it together and get a new high!
Word of caution: You need not be swimming champs, but fairly decent floating skills are definitely expected to get into the water-y fun.

5. In the car: Yes it’s crammed, but it’s cosy too. A quickie in the backseat can rekindle the excitement that you felt during your heady college days. Put on some romantic retro tracks and switch on the AC. Don’t fret, it won’t cool down the passion. When the place is different, the position can’t be a drab. It’s tough to adjust facing each other, but turning the world around can definitely help...hope you got the clue!
Word of caution: Just be careful where you park...you don’t want to get busted!

6. In the dressing room: How about catching her unawares in the dressing room of a store? Sounds dangerous but thrilling too! The fear of getting caught will only add to the sensual experience, while the lack of time is perfect to give you a never before quickie. Thinking comfort? Sorry! All you have is a stool...let him stand as you take charge!
Word of caution: Making noise is not allowed here and do take care of hidden cameras and key-holes.

7. The stairs: If you are thinking they can be a pain to one’s body, think again, as they can be adventurous too. After all, they can give you those highs and lows, especially when the girl is comparatively short.
Word of caution: Don’t get really aggressive if getting cramps in your lower back is not on your mind.

8. On the roof : Yes, this can be a great playground; the gentle moonlight, a cool breeze to caress your passionate entwinings. Pep it up with some paper lamps or scented candles and light music, which will just add to the mood. You have all the space to set the ball rolling...so go ahead and explore her contours under a starry sky.
Word of caution: No physical risks are involved...but just take care of peeping Toms around.

9. In a sleeping bag: Nothing could bring you as close as that sleeping bag that’s meant for a single person and is loaded with two! Why not get into some naughty action and add to a fun-filled camping trip? Instead of the normal position, turn around and have some fun from behind. Talk about kinky fantasies!
Word of caution: Zip the bag properly, you don’t want end up killing insects in the mid of the act.

10. On a plane: You can try the toilet and if that’s too cramped, the seat in a Business or First class cabin. Some airliners with long-haul flights now boast of recliner seats that go as flat as a bed. Take a flight of fantasy.
Word of caution: Don’t try it if you already have flight phobia and take care of people lining-up outside the loo.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Why Some Animals (and People) Are Gay

We have known for at least a decade that hundreds of animal species — including birds, reptiles, mollusks and, of course, humans — engage in same-gender sexual acts. But no one is quite sure why. After all, same-sex couplings don't usually result in offspring. (I say usually because when male marine snails pair with other males, one partner conveniently changes sex, allowing for reproduction.) Evolutionarily speaking, homosexuality should have disappeared long ago.

A yearlong study just completed at the University of California at Riverside offers several fascinating competing theories about why same-gender sexual behavior has endured. And although it's gay-pride month — and the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that sparked the gay-rights movement — not all the theories will give same-gender-loving humans a reason to celebrate.

One particularly charged finding is that in most species besides humans, same-gender pairings rarely lead to lifelong relationships. In other words, when one attractive bonobo male eyes another in a lovely patch of Congo swamp forest, they occasionally kiss and then move on to other oral pleasures, but they don't bother anyone afterward about trying to legalize their right to an open-banana-bar ceremony. In fact, they are likely to move on to girl bonobos: most animals that engage in same-gender sex acts do so only when an opposite-sex partner is unavailable.

And yet the study's authors, Nathan Bailey and Marlene Zuk of UC Riverside's biology department, report some exceptions, like the laysan albatross. Last year, researchers studying a Hawaiian colony of albatrosses found that nearly a third of all the couples involved two females who courted and then shared parenting responsibilities. (Albatrosses don't have U-Hauls, so no lesbian jokes, please.) Male chinstrap penguins also form long-term relationships, at least in captivity. And some male bighorn sheep will mount females only after the females adopt male-like behaviors.

What explains all these variances? Here are some hypotheses I collected from Bailey and Zuk's paper as well as from some of their original sources:

1. The boys-in-the-locker-room theory. Any guy who played sports in high school knows that homoerotic jokes and towel-snapping are an underlying part of the subculture. Similarly, male bottlenose dolphins use same-sex sexual behavior to maintain and strengthen their social relationships — although dolphins are far more explicit about their homosexual play, regularly mounting one another and (hide the kids' ears here) sticking their noses into certain boy-dolphin parts. (Very regularly: roughly half of male dolphin sex occurs with other males.) Among bonobos, same-sex sexual behavior is also thought to ease social tension and facilitate reconciliation. And among garter snakes, male-on-male contact may allow some solitary males to thermoregulate and, therefore, survive.

2. The emasculation theory. Some male animals might mount other males as a way of denying them access to the ladies. For instance, as the Journal of Natural History noted in 2006, male dung flies often must compete violently to impregnate females. In those situations, "the most sensible strategy for beating a competitor in the race to an arriving female would be to mount him and remain in situ for as long as possible." Then, when the lady dung fly finally sails by, the aggressor male can pull himself out from the dominated male and — because he is on top — get above to the female faster.

3. The "oops" theory. Among insects, same-sex sexual behavior is usually a case of mistaken identity. Male fruit flies, for instance, may romance other males because they lack a gene that enables them to distinguish between sexes. Even more surprising, male toads can't tell the difference between girl toads and boy toads, so males will routinely embrace other males, although the subordinate ones are equipped with a call that quickly results in the dominant male releasing. In other species, the "straight" males get tricked by other wily straight males who dress in animal drag: male goodeid fish, for instance, sometimes have a black spot that resembles a spot that females get when pregnant. Dominant males then court them rather than fight with them. While the dominant guys are busy courting the subordinate, ladylike fish, the latter are able to "sneak copulations with females," as Bailey and Zuk write. I'm going to dub this the Hugh Grant Theory: it's not always the most masculine guy who gets the most girls.

4. The let's-see-how-this-thing-works theory. Younger animals (particularly males, and including humans) sometimes engage in same-sex sexual behavior as practice, which may improve their reproductive success when they are ready for a heterosexual relationship later. Fruit flies who experiment with other members of the same sex as youngsters may have more baby fruit flies later on than those who don't experiment.

5. The two-plus-one theory. Among flour beetles, males routinely force themselves on other males. According to Bailey and Zuk, there's some evidence that sperm deposited during this male beetle rape is sometimes transferred to a female later on, increasing the chances that she will have offspring.

What all these theories have in common is that same-sex sexual activity is either an accident or a quirky genetic method of helping males impregnate females. Which raises the evolutionary question of why men and women who are exclusive gay and lesbian exist. One answer is that exclusive gays and lesbians are a relatively new creation: the concept of exclusive homosexuality barely existed before modernity; even a century ago, most same-sex-attracted men and women got married and had kids. (Read "Do Monkeys Pay for Sex?")

As Bailey, Zuk and many others have pointed out, no one has offered an adequate evolutionary explanation for the relatively recent development of exclusive homosexuality among humans. In January, the journal Evolution and Human Behavior published a paper exploring the idea that certain alleles increase the likelihood of homosexuality by blocking the effect of androgens during fetal development. Having all those alleles hampers the masculinization of some parts of the brain that affect personality, making you gay, the theory goes. Brothers of gay men who have only some of the alleles would turn out straight but less aggressive than typical guys. And because those brothers exhibit less psychopathology, they would attract more women and therefore have more kids. It was a provocative theory, but it turned out not to be proved: gay men's brothers don't actually have more kids than straight men's brothers do.

So we're stuck at square one. As the 40th anniversary of Stonewall approaches, the question that Alan Miller and Satoshi Kanazawa ask in their 2007 book about evolutionary psychology, Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters, has never been more relevant: Will "the liberation of homosexuals, which allows them to come out of the closet and not pretend to be straight" actually turn out to "contribute to the end of homosexuality?" We may not know for a thousand years, but it's a great question.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cancer: The facts

One in three of us will be diagnosed with cancer during our life.

The disease tends to affect older people - but can strike at any time.

Excluding certain skin cancers, there were more than 270,000 new cases of the disease in 2001 - and the rate is increasing by about 1% a year.

Some cancer, such as breast, are becoming more common, while new cases of lung cancer fall away due to the drop in the number of smokers.

However, while the overall number of new cancers is not falling, the good news is that successful treatment rates for many of the most common types are improving rapidly.

BBC News Online has produced, in conjunction with Cancer Research UK, a guide to some of the most common forms of cancer and the treatments used to tackle them.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Snoring more dangerous than thought

While snoring has been linked to learning impairment, stroke and premature death, researchers at The University of New South Wales (UNSW) now say that snoring linked with sleep apnoea may impair brain function more than previously thought.

The research has shown that obstructive sleep apnoea sufferers experience similar changes in brain biochemistry to people who have had a severe stroke or who are dying.

And the new study is the first to analyse-"in a second-by-second timeframe"-what is happening in the brains of sufferers as they sleep.

Previous studies have focused on recreating oxygen impairment in awake patients.

"It used to be thought that apnoeic snoring had absolutely no acute effects on brain function but this is plainly not true," said New South Global Professor Caroline Rae, the lead author of the study.

Severe form of Sleep apnoea is characterised by extended pauses in breathing, repetitive asphyxia, and sleep fragmentation.

Children with enlarged tonsils and adenoids are also affected, raising concerns of long-term cognitive damage.

The researchers used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to study the brains of 13 men with severe, untreated, obstructive sleep apnoea.

They found that even a moderate degree of oxygen desaturation during the patients'' sleep had significant effects on the brain''s bioenergetic status.

"The findings show that lack of oxygen while asleep may be far more detrimental than when awake, possibly because the normal compensatory mechanisms don't work as well when you are asleep," said Rae.

She added: "This is happening in someone with sleep apnoea acutely and continually when they are asleep. It's a completely different biochemical mechanism from anything we've seen before and is similar to what you see in somebody who has had a very severe stroke or is dying."

In her opinion, the findings suggested societal perceptions of snoring needed to change.

She said: "People look at people snoring and think it's funny. That has to stop."

Rae said that they don't known why the body responded to oxygen depletion in this way.

"The brain could be basically resetting its bioenergetics to make itself more resistant to lack of oxygen. It may be a compensatory mechanism to keep you alive, we just don't know, but even if it is it's not likely to be doing you much good," said Rae.