Society needs to change its views about women pursuing sex.

Join us: facebook.com/unitedhumanists

Society needs to change its views about women pursuing sex.

I’ve never been one of those people who sees the humanity in all animals. I don’t share whimsical sloth pictures on Tumblr or insist that a dog is “really connecting” with me or try to psychoanalyze my friend’s cat’s behavior. But when I read Daniel Bergner’s description of rat clitorises — one of the more fascinating sections of his totally engrossing new book, What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire, out this week — for once I felt a serious connection with the animal kingdom.

Here are some facts about female lab rats: During sex, a female rat will evade her partner, darting away in the midst of his pumping, so it doesn’t end too quickly — she wants it to last, because it’s more pleasurable for her that way. It’s not clear whether they orgasm, but “female rats do what feels good,” a researcher explains. When graduate students stroke female rats’ clitorises (which apparently look like little eraser heads) and then stop, the rats will tug on the students’ sleeves and beg for more. “This,” writes Bergner, “went on and on.” No research yet on how the situation is exacerbated if the female rat has had a really tough week at work.

Camels Photo: Ed Darack/Corbis

Female animals don’t just enjoy sex, they are not shy about pursuing it. Bergner’s new book is a reexamination of everything we think we know about sex and female biology. An excerpt in The New York Times Magazine two weeks ago explained how, contrary to long-standing cultural beliefs that women are turned on by stability and emotional intimacy, long-term monogamy actually saps women’s sex drives. A German researcher “shows women and men in new relationships reporting, on average, more or less equal lust for each other. But for women who’ve been with their partners between one and four years, a dive begins — and continues, leaving male desire far higher.” We fundamentally misunderstand women’s lust, says Bergner. And not just when it comes to married women.

Bergner explains that, in the past, “scientists fixated on what the rat female did in the act of sex, not what she did to get there.” And if you’re friends with any single women or are one yourself, you know that “what she did to get there” is often the most taxing part of the sexual act. It’s also where cultural factors really start to work against women’s newly documented desire. Bergner makes a pretty strong case that women are socially, not biologically, discouraged from initiating and enjoying sex. (You think those female rats are compelling? I had to take a walk around the block after reading about female rhesus monkeys. Game recognize game.) Men and women have been barraged with the message that women are not naughty by nature. They are thought of as hardwired to hunt for a partner and a mate, while men pursue sex as a pleasurable act in and of itself. It follows from there that women — at least good women — must be pursued and coaxed into sex, and men enjoy the thrill of the chase.

In one small study of college students, 93 percent of women said they preferred to be asked out, while 83 percent of men preferred to do the asking. An oft-cited 1989 study of university students found that men were far more receptive than women to direct offers of casual sex. During the early aughts panic about the prevalence of campus hookups, many socially conservative experts alleged that women didn’t really want all that casual sex they were having. But a University of Michigan researcher found in 2011 that “gender differences are minimized when women feel that they can avoid being stigmatized for their behavior.” Women like having sex. They don’t like being socially punished for it.

Garden beetles Photo: Erhard Nerger/Corbis

There are other factors propping up the idea that women prefer to be sexually passive. Bergner reports that preliminary research indicates women are most turned on by their partners’ desire for them. It’s easy to see how this could be misconstrued as passivity — especially because more than a century of conventional wisdom says women don’t like sex as much as men do. But if we accept Bergner’s radical thesis that women do, in fact, like to get off, and get off on being desired, the question of who pursues whom poses a real conundrum for single women.

Think about it: Women want sex, and in particular, they want sex with people who really want them. But socially, many straight men still find it a turnoff when women are sexual aggressors. Which means that, for women, aggressively pursuing the thing they want actually leads to them not getting it. I suspect this is the source of much sexual dissatisfaction of the modern single lady, who’s so horny she’s running across the street to Walgreens to buy more batteries twice a week, but is unable to pick up men despite social conventions that men are “easy” to bed and women have to be coaxed into casual sex. The thing women are told they can access any time is, maddeningly, often just out of reach.

Even in research about appropriate dating behavior among adults today, “men and women both agree that men should actively pursue female partners and that women should be passive recipients to their advances,” says Jessica Carbino, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at UCLA who studies online dating and relationships. “For example, women and men overwhelmingly state that men are supposed to plan dates, ask out the woman, and pick her up. Moreover, when women do not adhere to these scripts they are viewed negatively. For example, women who initiate dates are viewed by men as more promiscuous and not interested in forming a serious relationship.” If the rats are any indication, maybe they aren’t! We’ve already established that females of all species are interested in sex for pleasure. But in the human realm, that simple, fundamental motivation is all too easily labeled as “sluttiness,” or some sort of deep desperation wrought by singledom.

Ostriches Photo: Michel Denis-Huot/Corbis

This catch-22 presents women with a few options, none of which are appealing. You can directly pursue a man, but only if you want to convey that you’re only in it for sex. You can choose not to pursue him, but then you’re relegated to this historic, passive role that doesn’t jibe with your active, considered approach to any other area of life, be it work or real estate or even friendship. Carbino sees this tension in her own research. “According to these women, their professional background is already intimidating to many men and they feel as though asking them out would make them less attractive and even more intimidating,” she says. “The men I interview also state that they prefer to be the individual who initiates the date and at times find women who ask them out to be more aggressive.”

Women aren’t the only ones experiencing some cognitive dissonance between their animalistic urges and the social conventions of dating. “More and more men are finding it difficult to be as direct, when it comes to dating and sex, as previous generations of men maybe once were,” says Chiara Atik, author of Modern Dating: A Field Guide. We all get that the rules of traditional courtship — in which men make every single advance and women demur or acquiesce — are dead, but we haven’t replaced them with a new standard operating procedure. “Everyone’s being kind of wishy-washy,” Atik says. “Women want sex, but they don’t want to be seen as forward (or worse, desperate). Men want sex but are intimidated, unconfident, or don’t want to be seen as domineering. We’re not sure who should be the sexual instigators, and then no one really steps up to the plate.”

Here, again, perhaps the animal kingdom can be a source of inspiration. Sex for pleasure: Lady birds do it, lady bees do it, and, I’m sure by dint of their socioeconomic status and feminism 101 classes, even educated lady fleas do it. The sooner we can agree that pleasure is one major motivation to pursue sex — for both men and women — the sooner we can all start instigating it.

Source: https://bit.ly/2KxAxyg

Advertisements

Facebook wants to kill smartphones.

Join us : facebook.com/unitedhumanists.com

Facebook wants to kill smartphones.

It’s no secret Mark Zuckerberg is pinning Facebook’s prospects on augmented reality — technology that overlays digital imagery onto the real world, like Snapchat’s signature camera filters.

At this year’s F8 conference, taking place this week, Zuckerberg doubled down on the company’s ambitious 10-year master plan, which was first revealed in 2016. According to this timeline, Facebook expects to turn artificial intelligence, ubiquitous internet connectivity, and virtual and augmented reality into viable parts of its business over the next decade.

To accelerate the rise of augmented reality, a big part of the plan, Zuckerberg unveiled the Camera Effects platform — basically a set of tools for outside developers to build augmented-reality apps that you can access from the existing Facebook app’s camera. That would theoretically open the door for Facebook to host the next phenomenon like “Pokémon Go.”

The Facebook 10-year road map, first revealed in April 2016. (Facebook)

 

Mark Zuckerberg shows off the Facebook Camera Effects platform, which lets developers make augmented-reality apps like this Nike one that lets you share your run times with friends.Getty

While this announcement seems pretty innocuous, make no mistake — Facebook is once again putting itself into direct competition with Google and Apple, trying to create yet another parallel universe of apps and tools that don’t rely on the smartphones’ marketplaces. As The New York Times notes, Zuckerberg has long been disappointed that Facebook never built a credible smartphone operating system of its own.

This time, though, Facebook is also declaring war on pretty much everyone else in the tech industry, too. While it’ll take at least a decade to fully play out, the stuff Facebook is talking about today is just one more milestone on the slow march toward the death of the smartphone and the rise of even weirder and wilder futures.

(REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

Why buy a TV?

Zuckerberg tipped his hand, just a bit, during Tuesday’s Facebook F8 keynote. During a demo of the company’s vision for augmented reality — in the form of a pair of easy-to-wear, standard-looking glasses — he showed how you could have a virtual “screen” in your living room, bigger than your biggest TV.

“We don’t need a physical TV. We can buy a $1 app ‘TV’ and put it on the wall and watch it,” Zuckerberg told USA Today ahead of his keynote. “It’s actually pretty amazing when you think about how much of the physical stuff we have doesn’t need to be physical.”

That makes sense, assuming you’re into the idea of wearing a computer on your face (and you’re OK with Facebook intermediating everything you see and hear, glitches and all).

But it’s not just TVs. This philosophy could extend to smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, fitness trackers, or anything else that has a screen or relies on one to work. Zuckerberg even showed off a street art installation that’s just a blank wall until you wave the Facebook camera app over it to reveal a mural.

For Microsoft, which has already dipped its toe in this area with its HoloLens holographic goggles, this is a foregone conclusion. HoloLens boss Alex Kipman recently called the demise of the smartphone the “natural conclusion” of augmented reality and its associated technologies.

War of the worlds

The problem, naturally, is that a huge chunk of the world’s economy hinges on the production of phones, TVs, tablets, and all those other things that Facebook thinks could be replaced with this technology.

Even Zuckerberg acknowledges it’s a long road ahead. That said, this Camera Effects platform, should it succeed in attracting a bunch of users, could go down as a savvy move. The apps that are built for the Facebook Camera today could wind up as the first versions of the apps you’d use with those glasses.

Microsoft’s futuristic HoloLens goggles provide an early look at Facebook’s goal. (Microsoft)

In the short term, Facebook’s play for augmented reality is going to look a lot like competing with Snapchat — and in a meaningful way, it is. Facebook needs developer and user love, so it needs to keep offering fun and funny tools to keep people from moving away from using its apps.

In the long term, though, this is Facebook versus everybody else to usher in an age of a new kind of computing — and pretty much every tech company out there will get caught in the crossfire, as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and more rush out their responses to this extremely existential, but still meaningful, threat.

Source: https://ind.pn/2Nlf6y4

Is there a dark side to meditation?

Join us : facebook.com/unitedhumanists.com

Is there a dark side to meditation?

We’ve all heard about the benefits of meditation ad nauseam. Those disciplined enough to practice regularly are rewarded with increased control over the brainwaves known as alpha rhythms, which leads to better focus and may help ease pain. In addition to calming the mind and body, meditation can also reduce the markers of stress in people with anxiety disorders. Rigorous studies have backed health claims such as these to convince therapists, physicians, and corporate gurus to embrace meditation’s potential.

What contemporary and ancient meditators have always known, however, is that while the hype may be warranted, the practice is not all peace, love, and blissful glimpses of unreality. Sitting zazen, gazing at their third eye, a person can encounter extremely unpleasant emotions and physical or mental disturbances.

Zen Buddhism has a word for the warped perceptions that can arise during meditation: makyo, which combines the Japanese words for “devil” and “objective world.” Philip Kapleau, the late American Zen master, once described confronting makyo as “a dredging and cleansing process that releases stressful experiences in deep layers of the mind.”

However, this demanding and sometimes intensely distressing side of meditation is rarely mentioned in scientific literature, says Jared Lindahl, a visiting professor of religious studies at Brown University, who has an interest in neuroscience and Buddhism. Along with Willoughby Britton, a psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown, the two meditators have co-authored a study that documents and creates a taxonomy for the variant phenomenology of meditation. The paper, published in Plos One, is the beginning of an ongoing series of studies. “Just because something is positive and beneficial doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of the broader range of possible effects it might have,” Lindahl says.

To conduct their research, the pair interviewed 60 Western Buddhist meditation practitioners who had all experienced challenging issues during their practice. They included both rookies and meditation teachers, many of whom had accumulated more than 10,000 hours of meditation experience in their lifetime. All belonged to either Theravāda, Zen, or Tibetan traditions.

The researchers identified 59 kinds of unexpected or unwanted experiences, which they classified into seven domains: cognitive, perceptual, affective (related to moods), somatic, conative (related to motivation), sense of self, and social. Among the experiences described to them were feelings of anxiety and fear, involuntary twitching, insomnia, a sense of complete detachment from one’s emotions, hypersensitivity to light or sound, distortion in time and space, nausea, hallucinations, irritability, and the re-experiencing of past traumas. The associated levels of distress and impairment ranged from “mild and transient to severe and lasting,” according to the study. Most would not imagine that these side-effects could be hiding behind the lotus-print curtains of your local meditation center.

However, the survey respondents didn’t necessarily perceive every non-euphoric event as negative. In fact, says Britton, she and Lindahl deliberately avoided the word “adverse” in their study for this reason. Instead, they chose “challenging,” which better captured the meditators’ varied interpretations of their experiences. For instance, a person who came away from a retreat feeling “very expanded and very unified with other people in the world” might have found their oneness with the universe distracting once they returned home. (That’s challenging, not tragic.)

The goal of the study was to look for patterns in the common accounts of unwanted reactions. Who runs into the unexpected hurdles? What are the unique set of factors involved? In which ways do teachers assist students who are struggling? (And do they blame inner demons for the upsets, or maybe something you ate at lunch?) The answers, which still require future research, may one day be relevant to the ways meditation is used as therapy.

Source: https://bit.ly/2r6ktrz

Facebook is broken.

Join us : facebook.com/unitedhumanists.com

Facebook is broken.

The problem is this: Facebook has become a feedback loop which can and does, despite its best intentions, become a vicious spiral. At Facebook’s scale, behavioral targeting doesn’t just reflect our behavior, it actually influences it. Over time, a service which was supposed to connect humanity is actually partitioning us into fractal disconnected bubbles.

The way Facebook’s News Feed works is that the more you “engage” with posts from a particular user, the more often their posts are shown to you. The more you engage with a particular kind of post, the more you will see its ilk. So far so good! It’s just showing you what you’ve demonstrated you’re interested in. What’s wrong with that?

The answer is twofold. First, this eventually constructs a small “in-group” cluster of Facebook friends and topics that dominate your feed; and as you grow accustomed to interacting with them, this causes your behavior to change, and you interact with them even more, reinforcing their in-group status … and (relatively) isolating you from the rest of your friends, the out-group.

Second, and substantially worse, because “engagement” is the metric, Facebook inevitably selects for the shocking and the outrageous. Ev Williams summed up the results brilliantly:

Of course this doesn’t just apply to Facebook. The first problem applies to all social networks with “smart” algorithmic feeds that optimize for engagement. Facebook is just the largest and most influential by far.

The second has been a problem with television for decades. Why have majorities or crazily large minorities of people believed, for many years, that violent crime just keeps getting worse, that their hometown mall might be bombed by terrorists at any moment, that Sharia law will come to their province/state any day now, that the rest of the world is a war-torn shambles only barely propped up by vast quantities of aid we can’t afford — despite the easily available, incredibly copious, clear evidence to the contrary? In large part because “if it bleeds, it leads.”

‘Fake news’ is far from new; it’s just become explicit rather than implicit. And I certainly don’t mean to suggest that Facebook singlehandedly caused the terrible trend of demonizing any and all people with whom one disagrees. Studies show that political polarization is more extreme in older people, who use social media less, than in the young. Whatever’s happening is far more complicated than just “Facebook is driving us apart.”

Still — we hoped the 21st century of Facebook would be better, more compassionate, more understanding, than the 20th century TV. But it’s not, and the ways in which it’s worse are far more personal. We hoped that making the world more open and connected would be good for us. Maybe it would be, if the metric that the connecting entity optimized for was something other than “engagement.” But it now seems fairly clear that engagement is negativelycorrelated with happiness for users, and moderately clear that this is, in fact, a causal relationship:

The analogy I like to use is global warming causing extreme weather: the more energy pumped into our atmosphere, the more it behaves in bizarre and erratic ways. Facebook is like a powerful greenhouse gas for our collective social atmosphere. TV was too, of course, but it was CO2 to Facebook’s methane.

I don’t want to get into Facebook’s privacy issues, hate–speech issues, ongoing rejection of all the principles of the open web, etc. I’m not suggesting that this is anyone’s fault, or even that anyone has done anything wrong. Nothing like Facebook has ever existed before. It is a company that is also a massive global experiment, one with some excellent outcomes.

But it would be good for us all if Facebook were to at least acknowledge the possibility that at least some of their experiment’s outcomes seem at best worrying — and maybe even alarming — and something should be done to try to mitigate them. As hard as that admission might be.

I’m happy to report that this may well be happening. See Mark Zuckerberg’s recent comments to the effect that “Facebook is … working on a way to connect you with people that you should know like mentors.” I hope this is the harbinger of a new understanding that Facebook’s focus on optimizing for engagement is, in and of itself, harmful to its users … and an understanding that it’s always best to head off a backlash before it begins, rather than after it gathers steam.

Source: https://tcrn.ch/2rT32fS

Is sugar really as addictive as cocaine? Scientists row over effect on body and brain.

Join us : facebook.com/unitedhumanists

Is sugar really as addictive as cocaine? Scientists row over effect on body and brain.

An article suggesting that sugar should be considered an addictive substance, and could even be on a par with abusive drugs such as cocaine, has sparked a furious backlash with experts describing the claims as “absurd”.

In a narrative review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine the authors write that sugar could act as a gateway to alcohol and other addictive substances, adding that like sugar, like cocaine and opium, is refined from plants to yield pure white crystals – a process they say “significantly adds to its addictive properties.”

The article was co-authored by cardiovascular research scientist James J DiNicolantonio and cardiologist James H O’Keefe, both from Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas, together with William Wilson – a physician with the nonprofit US group practice Lahey Health.

“Consuming sugar produces effects similar to that of cocaine, altering mood, possibly through its ability to induce reward and pleasure, leading to the seeking out of sugar,” they write, citing rodent studies which show that sweetness is preferred even over cocaine, and that mice can experience sugar withdrawal.

Speaking to the Guardian, DiNicolantonio said that the consumption of sugar was a grave concern. “In animals, it is actually more addictive than even cocaine, so sugar is pretty much probably the most consumed addictive substance around the world and it is wreaking havoc on our health.”

The trio are not the first to explore whether sugar should be considered addictive, but the article has come under fire from some in the field, who say while sugar consumption can lead to problematic health issues, it it is not addictive or a drug of abuse.

Hisham Ziauddeen, a psychiatrist at the University of Cambridge, said that the rodent studies had been misunderstood by the authors, and added that a review of the matter he co-authored last year did not support the idea that sugar was addictive to humans.

“The rodent studies show that you only get addiction-like behaviours if you restrict the animals to having [sugar] for two hours every day. If you allow them to have it whenever they want it – which is really how we consume it – they don’t show these addiction-like behaviours,” he said.

“What this means is that it is the combination of that particular kind of intermittent access and sugar that produces those behaviours. Further you get the same kind of effect if you use saccharin … so it seems to be about sweet taste rather than sugar.”

Ziauddeen added that it was not surprising that even rats hooked on cocaine might prefer sugar, pointing out that many animals would naturally look for sweet things, not cocaine.

Maggie Westwater, a co-author of the study with Ziauddeen, said that the anxious behaviour sometimes shown by rodents after eating sugar was far from a clear sign of addiction. “Since such ‘withdrawal’ often occurs in the context of extended fasting, we cannot say if the behaviours were precipitated by previous sugar consumption or by hunger,” she said, adding that unlike for cocaine, rodents would not seek sugar if it was paired with an unpleasant event, like an electric shock

The authors of the latest study also point to parallels between the effect of cocaine and sugar on the brain, pointing out that both interact with the same reward system.

But Ziauddeen said that was not surprising. “The reality is that quite simply the brain’s rewards system and the circuits that control eating behaviour are the same ones that respond to drugs of abuse,” he said. But, he added, unlike sugar “drugs of abuse seem to hijack those systems and turn off their normal controls.”

Tom Sanders, emeritus professor of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London said that it was “absurd to suggest that sugar is addictive like hard drugs.”

“While it is true that a liking for sweet things can be habit-forming it is not addictive like opiates or cocaine,” said Sanders. “Individuals do not get withdrawal symptoms when they cut sugar intake.”

However, DiNicolantonio said that while sugar consumption in humans didn’t lead to physical withdrawal signs, there were biochemical signs of withdrawal in the brain – a point contested by Ziauddeen.

But not everyone disagreed with the authors.

Robert Lustig, professor of paediatrics at the University of California San Francisco said he shared the concerns of DiNicolantonio and colleagues. “I do believe that sugar is addictive, based on its metabolic and hedonic properties,” he said. Lustig has previously argued that sugar is the “alcohol of the child”. However, while he said he believed sugar was a drug of abuse, he considered it a weak one, on a par with nicotine, rather than drugs like heroin.

But Ziauddeen cautioned that sugar, in itself, is not dangerous. “From an eating, metabolism and obesity point of view, sugar is not this terrific demon by itself, because of some innate property of it,” he said. “Where the problem lies is that there are huge amounts of sugar that are put into various foods that substantially boost the calorie content of those foods.”

Sanders agreed, noting that our taste for sugar is a trait that humans are born with and that sweetness helps us recognise foods rich in vitamin C.“The main health hazard from sugar is dental decay – it only contributes to obesity directly via overconsumption of sugar-sweetened beverages,” he said.

Source : https://bit.ly/2w4opMg

French school students to be banned from using mobile phones.

Join us : facebook.com//unitedhumanists

French school students to be banned from using mobile phones.

French school students will be banned from using mobile phones anywhere on school grounds from September, after the lower house of parliament passed what it called a “detox” law for a younger generation increasingly addicted to screens.

The centrist president Emmanuel Macron had promised during his election campaign that he would outlaw children’s phones in nursery, primary and middle-schools, until around the age of 15.

The new law bans phone-use by children in school playgrounds, at breaktimes and anywhere on school premises. Legislation passed in 2010 already states children should not use phones in class.

During a parliamentary debate, lawmakers from Macron’s La République En Marche party said banning phones in schools meant all children now had a legal “right to disconnect” from digital pressures during their school day.

Some in Macron’s party had initially sought to go even further, arguing that adults should set an example and the the ban should be extended to all staff in schools, making teachers surrender their phones on arrival each morning.

But Macron’s education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, brushed this aside, saying it wasn’t necessary to extend the ban to teachers and staff.

The minister said that the school phone ban for children would “make us all reflect on our phone use in society, including adults”.

But the leftwing MP Hervé Saulignac pointed out that, during the debate about children being dangerously addicted to phones and unable to concentrate on their studies, scores of lawmakers were sitting through the session absent-mindedly tapping away on their own phones.

Opposition parties warned that major questions remained about how to enforce the ban, which will affect millions of children. The details of how schools could put the law in place have been left deliberately open.

Politicians estimate that more than 90% of French children aged between 12 and 17 have a phone. Blanquer had previously suggested that children could place their phones in lockers when they arrive at school in the same way that government ministers “place their phone in a box before cabinet meetings”.

But some schools have complained that setting up individual lockers in huge schools would be costly, impractical and difficult to police. Rights groups warned that schools would not have the legal right to confiscate phones.

Source: https://bit.ly/2Htp9gd

Chick-fil-A Still Hates Gay People.

Join us : facebook.com/unitedhumanists.com

Chick-fil-A Still Hates Gay People.

Although they have tried to deny it, their latest IRS filings show otherwise.

“the Chick-fil-A Foundation gave more than $1 million in 2015 (nearly one-sixth of its total grants) to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes,” a religious organization which “imparts a strongly anti-LGBTQ message.

the foundation also gave more than $200,000 to the Paul Anderson Youth Home, a Georgia-based “transformative organization” that operates an anti-gay “Christian residential home for troubled youth” and uses propaganda associated with harmful and discredited “ex-gay” therapy.

The above are just examples of anti-gay organizations that the fast food franchise supports.

Although they might claim otherwise this is a horrid franchise that *must* be boycotted.

I know here in metro-Detroit when a new store of theirs opened (the first in the area) it made local news (read free advertising) for several days earlier this year.

Please help spread the word.

Source: https://bit.ly/2Kr1Ud8