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It’s 2018, but young men still don’t want to talk about contraception – here’s why

It’s 2018, but young men still don’t want to talk about contraception – here’s why

2018-05-23

It’s a Friday night in a midsize university town in the Western US, and for many students, this means one thing: it’s time to party. University students head out for a night of drinking, dancing and often, sex. For many students attending large US universities, it’s more or less expected that they will have casual sex on a night out. But while attitudes toward casual sex have become more liberal, there’s been significantly less change when it comes to attitudes toward contraception.

Since the 1960s, when the birth control pill became widely available in the United States, research and development has focused on generating contraceptive methods for women to use. The feminist movement celebrated female contraceptives for giving women the power to control if and when they become pregnant. But somewhere along the way, a woman’s right to use birth control translated into a woman’s responsibility to use birth control.

Our research, recently published in Culture, Health & Sexuality, found that young men have a difficult time reconciling the idea that women should have control over their own bodies with the ideal that men should play an equal role in making decisions about contraception – especially since most forms of contraception alter women’s bodies to prevent pregnancy, rather than men’s.

A conflict of ideas

For our study, we held in-depth interviews with 44 young men at a large public university in the western United States to understand how they make decisions about contraception during their sexual relationships with women. The men we interviewed clearly articulated two sets of expectations: they thought that men should participate equally in decisions about contraceptive use, but that women should have the final say, since women bear much of the physical and social responsibility if they get pregnant.

Some men were worried that they might disrespect women’s bodily autonomy by bringing up the issue of contraceptives. Women were expected to request that men use a condom or otherwise communicate to men that they were not using a hormonal contraceptive. By deferring to women, men were attempting to be mindful of power dynamics that still privilege them.

We found that being confused about these competing ideas can prevent men from communicating clearly about contraceptives with their partners. As a result, men ultimately tasked women with initiating all communication about contraception, leaving their sexual partners with greater responsibility, work and financial costs related to getting contraception, and preventing pregnancy.

Bringing up birth control

In a culture where almost all forms of contraception are designed for women, most men couldn’t come to a satisfactory resolution between sharing equal responsibility for contraception and respecting a woman’s right to control her own body. What’s more, they said that this conflict contributed to their general reluctance to engage with the issue of contraception at all.

Our findings suggest that sexual health education aimed at young men must go beyond simply telling them to use condoms. Recent efforts to normalise “affirmative consent” and encourage men and women to communicate clearly about sex might also help raise the issue of contraception.

How researchers and sexual health practitioners can help to reconcile these opposing ideas is up for debate. New efforts to develop a birth control pill for men are promising, and would help to reduce the gender disparities in available methods. But the male pill is still in development and won’t be widely available for some time.

In the meantime, when in doubt, men should simply wear a condom. Men shouldn’t just assume that if women don’t say anything about contraception, it means they’re protected. It’s necessary to have the conversation – even if it’s uncomfortable. Men also can also learn more about female forms of contraception, so that they can understand the impact they have on women’s bodies and be more sensitive to women’s needs during these conversations.

Men should never assume that any woman is using a contraceptive method. If you don’t want to discuss contraception, then simply use a condom – and relieve women of the responsibility for requesting one.

In this, and other ways, we must cultivate an understanding of sexual relationships that goes beyond a battle of the sexes approach, in which men’s and women’s needs and desires are seemingly at odds. In this study, men lacked the tools they needed to engage in sex responsibly, which ended up placing greater responsibility on women.

http://theconversation.com/its-2018-but-young-men-still-dont-want-to-talk-about-contraception-heres-why-96951

Why STDs Like Gonorrhea and Syphilis Are on the Rise

Why STDs Like Gonorrhea and Syphilis Are on the Rise

2018-05-18

People have blamed dating apps for the rise of gonorrhea and syphilis. But there are a few sneakier factors at play here.

As if dating weren’t hard enough, singles in California have one more thing to worry about: the rise of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

According to the California Department of Health, more than 300,000 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis were reported in the state in 2017 alone. Overall, the transmission rate of these three STIs has spiked by a staggering 45 percent over the past five years.

But the rise of STIs isn’t just a concern in the Golden State. Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that STIs are rising everywhere. From 2015 to 2016 alone, gonorrhea rates in men increased by 22 percent nationwide, while syphilis rates increased by 14.7 percent.

The biggest problem? Many men might not even know they’re infected with these STIs. About half of men don’t exhibit any symptoms of chlamydia, while many men with gonorrhea are similarly asymptomatic. The early signs of syphilis — small, painless sores around the mouth, genitals, or rectum — also tend to be subtle, and can easily be explained away as an ingrown hair.

The massive spike in STI rates is particularly concerning, given that just a decade ago, STI rates were on the declineBut “progress has since unraveled,” the CDC wrote in a 2016 report.

So what’s to blame for this unraveling? The answer is more complicated than you might think.

Over the past few years, many media outlets have published alarmist stories linking Tinder and Grindr to the rise in STIs. As recently as May 15, the Los Angeles Timesreported that some health experts partially attribute the spike to people having “more sexual partners linked to dating apps.”

But Matthew Prior of the National Coalition of STD Directors says we shouldn’t be so quick to point the finger at Tinder and Grindr. Most experts “don’t think it’s a primary reason that STDs are spreading,” he told MensHealth.com.

Instead, Prior and other public health experts attribute the nationwide spike in STIs to a confluence of different factors.

While STI rates have risen across the board, cases of syphilis in particular are on the rise among men who have sex with other men (MSMs, according to CDC lingo), who accounted for 80.6% of the new syphilis diagnoses between 2000 and 2016. That’s in part because MSMs are more likely to have receptive anal sex, which ups their risk of contracting STIs: the anus is narrow, doesn’t offer natural lubrication, and the skin tears easily, which means that STIs can easily enter the bloodstream.

Dr. Hunter Handsfield, Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of Washington Center for AIDS and STD, believes an additional reason why men who have sex with men may have gotten more lax about using condoms is because of PrEP, a daily medication taken to prevent HIV infection.

“Because HIV is now less of a worry, there’s less condom use,” Handsfield tells MensHealth.com. “That’s the biggest single change.”

According to the California data, half of chlamydia cases and a third of gonorrhea cases were among people under 25, indicating that young people in particular are at heightened risk. That’s in part because they simply don’t know that many of the most common STIs are asymptomatic, Heidi Bauer, the chief of the California Department of Public Health, told BuzzFeed News.

“I hear it all the time — they think, Well, if I have something, I will know it and I will just go in and get it treated. But the reality is the vast majority of these infections don’t cause any symptoms at all,” she said. “So people just pass them around without realizing it.”

Over the past decade, federal budget cuts have led to the closure of STI clinics across the country, making it harder for people to get tested and treated. In a 2016 report, for example, the CDC reported that more than 20 health department STI clinics had been shuttered in 2012 alone.

Prior also says there are now fewer Disease Intervention Specialists throughout the United States, who typically reach out to people infected with gonorrhea and syphilis to ensure they’re getting proper treatment and help them contact their sexual partners for testing.

“Those are really important access points for people to get STI care,” Prior explains.

Doctors may be tasked with knowing everything about our bodies, but some would rather avoid awkward sex talk, according to Prior.

“There’s a certain amount of stigma around STIs,” he explains. “Talking about sexual health and sexuality is not comfortable, even among healthcare providers. It’s easier to not talk about that.”

It’s not just that doctors are avoid talking to their patients about sex — they’re avoiding testing their patients for STIs altogether. Even worse, some don’t know how to properly treat patients with STIs in the first place: Prior says that that about one in five gonorrhea cases aren’t being handled adequately, with doctors prescribing one antibiotic instead of the two recommended by the CDC.

Given how much training doctors receive, it might be surprising to hear that they’re ill-equipped to treat STIs. But most physicians only receive about three to 10 hours of sexual health training during four years of medical school, says Prior.

“There’s a real need to educate providers nationally about what’s going on, and unfortunately the primary care provider network is ill-prepared to handle the STI epidemic,” Prior asserts.

How to protect yourself

Thankfully, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis are all easily treatable with a course of antibiotics. The problem is that most guys aren’t getting tested regularly, thereby putting their own health and that of their partners at risk.

If you are sexually active, you should be getting tested at least once a year, regardless of whether you are monogamous. And of course, if you or your partner haven’t been tested in a while, you should be wearing a condom every time you have sex.

Why doesn’t your husband want to have sex?

Why doesn’t your husband want to have sex?

2018-05-14

Contrary to conventional wisdom, sometimes it’s men who first lose sexual desire in a long-term relationship, a new study finds.

Men’s desire for sex can be as tricky as women’s, according to ­researchers at the University of Kentucky. Men often lose interest when they feel insecure, when they worry they are losing autonomy in a relationship, or when physical changes cause embarrassment. Pressure to be the ­initiator compounds the stress.

“We expect male desire to ­always be high and to be simple, like an on and off switch, while we expect women’s desire to be a complicated switchboard, but they are both complex,” says Kristen P. Mark, associate professor of health promotion and director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab at the University of Kentucky and the lead researcher on the project, a broad look at men and women that analysed 64 studies on sexual ­desire conducted since the 1950s.

Psychologists say desire in both sexes ebbs and flows. And it’s ­natural for it to decline after the heady honeymoon period, which typi­cally lasts about 18 months to two years. Still, almost 80 per cent of married couples have sex a few times a month or more: 32 per cent reported having sex two to three times a week; 47 per cent ­reported having sex a few times a month, according to The Social ­Organisation of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, a 1994 University of Chicago study considered the most comprehensive in the field.

Women do lose desire more often than men: research shows that about one in three women — regardless of age — reports a lack of interest in sex for at least several months in the past year, compared with one in five men, ­according to Edward Laumann, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, who has studied sexual desire and dysfunction for 25 years. But experts say that men are often reluctant to talk about sexual troubles, so the problem may be more prevalent.

Mark’s research, published in March in the Journal of Sex ­Research, found that the reasons for a drop in desire generally fitted into three main categories — individual, interpersonal and societal. Some issues, such as stress, a drop in self-esteem or changes in their attraction to their partner, affect both men and women.

But men’s desire also wanes for different reasons. Men have ­trouble when they expect their ­desire to always remain high and it does not, or when they fail to make their relationship a priority. Sometimes men’s desire drops when a couple has sex for negative reasons — to avoid a fight, for example — rather than positive ones, such as to increase intimacy. Men also feel pressure to always be ready for sex and to initiate it.

There are often physical issues, as well. A man’s less-efficient bloodflow as he ages, diseases such as depression or medicines for issues such as high blood pressure or mood disorders can all hurt a man’s sex drive.

And these physical changes can cause emotional distress. Embarrassment is a big issue for men who have trouble getting or maintaining an erection, and so they may stop initiating sex. “For the guys who don’t like to do what they don’t do well, there will be avoidance, because they feel ashamed,” says Michael A. Perelman, co-­director of Weill Cornell Medicine’s Human Sexuality Program.

Unlike women, men often lose interest in sex when they are ­unhappy or insecure, Laumann says. Stress about a promotion, worry about a child, the transition to retirement “all undercut a man’s sense of his abilities and prowess”, he says.

And sometimes the problem does stem from the relationship. Sex can become routine in a long-term marriage, or partners grow apart. A man may harbour resentments, often about money. Or he may de-eroticise his wife. “He sees her as a good person, mother, supporter, but not as an exciting lover,” says Barry McCarthy, a psychology professor at American University.

Is the relationship doomed when a man — or a woman, for that matter — loses interest in sex? Not necessarily. But it’s definitely a signal that you need to evaluate what is going on. And there is the possibility that a decrease in desire for your partner may indicate that the person is no longer right for you, says Gurit Birnbaum, a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the Interdisciplinary Centre, a private university in Herzliya, Israel. You may have grown too far apart, or your goals, values or interests may have changed. “Your body may be telling you something,” she says.

But often the problems can be solved. This will require talking, the experts say, and it’s important to do that before it is too late. “A ­relationship becomes more fragile when it loses its sex aspect,” says Birnbaum.

Start by having a conversation outside of a sexual situation — go for a walk or have a glass of wine. Tell your spouse you miss having sex rather than criticising. Both partners should ease pressure by accepting that men, not just women, don’t want sex all the time. “Approaching hard conversations by being vulnerable ­upfront automatically creates a safer environment for a tough talk,” says Mark.

The Wall Street Journal

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/life/why-doesnt-your-husband-want-to-have-sex/news-story/4252b40db44be354e483bd7cab3dff85

Seven sexual health myths you should ignore

Seven sexual health myths you should ignore

2018-05-10

  1. You can’t get pregnant during menstruation

Menstruation is the process of the womb’s wall lining shedding off after unsuccessful fertilisation of an egg. While it is not common that pregnancy occurs during menstruation, it is still scientifically possible that intercourse during the period a woman sheds blood can lead to conception.

Sperm once shed into the birth canal can remain alive and viable between three to five days. During this time ovulation may take place followed by successful fertilisation.

  1. You can get an STI from a toilet seat

Venereal diseases are primarily passed from one infected person to the next through sexual contact. Some STIs, such as pubic lice, can also be spread through skin-to-skin contact or sharing clothes, towels or bedding.

In many cases direct contact of skin or genitals or other bodily fluids with infected people is required for successful infection to occur. Urine usually cannot carry STI, so toilet seats are safe on that count. Besides, most STI agents cannot survive outside the human body for a long time.

  1. You need a big penis to orgasm

A recent study shows that the average human penis is 13.12 cm long and 11.66 cm in circumference. The idea that a big penis automatically means satisfactory sexual experience for a woman is a fallacy.

Most women orgasm by stimulation to clitoris rather than inside the vagina. A woman can either experience clitoral orgasm or G-spot orgasm. A deep-penetrating penis is irrelevant to clitoral orgasms.

  1. You can’t get an STI from oral sex

You are more likely to get infected with an STI through sexual intercourse than through oral sex. However, some infections are spread much easily through oral sex. The most commonly passed on are herpes simplex, gonorrhoea and syphilis.

The best way to help protect yourself during oral sex is to use a male or female condom or a dam to cover your genital area or anus.

  1. Menopause kills a woman’s sex drive

Menopause, the age when a woman loses reproductive vigour, is often accompanied by symptoms such as hot flushes. However, losing the ability to procreate does not affect one’s sex drive. A woman well past menopause can experience good libido and also have a fulfilling sexual life.

  1. Birth control pills make you gain (or lose) weight

Tens of studies covering this subject have been conducted all over the world but none of them is yet to prove a correlation between oral contraceptives and weight gain, this is still a common belief among women of all ages.

Specifically, a review article published in 2006 analysed 44 previous trials and found that while some participants did gain weight during their studies, there was no evidence that their birth control was to blame.

  1. You have to use a cleaning agent to clean the vagina effectively

It is common behaviour that a proper bath is often accompanied by use of soap or shower gels. This has led to the belief that the vagina (especially internal walls) need to be cleaned with a cleaning agent like soap. It is from this belief that practices such as douching started being practiced.

On College Campuses, Students Push For Free Condoms

On College Campuses, Students Push For Free Condoms

2018-04-18

Only about 13 percent of colleges have condom dispensers or vending machines that allow young people privacy and better access, says one researcher.

When Boston College student Connor Kratz came out as a freshman, he realized he didn’t have any tools available on campus to learn more about sexual health and staying safe.

“I didn’t have the resources to have those discussions on my campus,” he explained. He then joined Students for Sexual Health, a group that had previously received pushback for handing out contraceptives on the Catholic campus.

That experience “helped me realize this is what I wanted to share with other people, these resources. Everyone deserves and has a right to sexual and reproductive health care.”

Kratz is one of 1,000 college students participating in the Great American Condom Campaign (GACC), an Advocates for Youth project providing each student with a box of 500 condoms to hand out in their community during a semester. The GACC has existed for several years—but now many students are advocating for their schools to be the ones handing out condoms instead.

ecause young people are a population with relatively high sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates, and contraceptives are a right like any other form of health care, these students are pushing their campuses to put up free condom dispensers as part of the campaign.

Young people have the right to lead healthy lives and make their own choices about their futures. There are proven links between a person’s ability to decide if and when to become pregnant and their academic achievement and rates of attending and completing college.

Of the estimated 20 million new STIs infections reported in the United States each year, people between the ages of 15 and 24 make up more than 50 percent of new gonorrhea cases and more than 60 percent of new chlamydia cases. When Kratz and his group surveyed nearly 400 Boston College students about condom use, they found 80 percent of students on campus were sexually active, yet 60 percent of those surveyed did not always use protection during sex. Demonstrating how useful it would be if the school provided condoms, more than 70 percent of respondents said they would use resources if they were provided by a student group or the university. Almost 45 percent didn’t know where to find sexual health resources and treatment near campus.

A majority of colleges do make condoms available. But where condoms are available, they’re often not used as much as expected, given the sexual health needs of college students, said Scott Butler, assistant director of the School of Health and Human Performance at Georgia College.

Butler is one of a few academics who has done studies about condom availability in colleges, and according to his research, 85 percent of colleges in the United States distribute free condoms somewhere on campus. Butler said that “most colleges that give out condoms—about 96 percent—do so at their college health center.” But one reason this isn’t effective is because “people associate going to the health center with when they are sick or ill. You need to make condoms available in different places within the student’s environment, so they have them when they need them.”

As Butler explained, “colleges only give out an average of 1 condom per student per year. It’s clear that that’s not enough to meet the sexual health-care needs of students.” But Butler is not sure that colleges have “realized that the number they were giving out was low in comparison to the student population.”

This makes sense to me: I manage the Great American Condom Campaign, and thousands of students apply to hand out 500 condoms themselves in their free time without any compensation or additional incentives, aside from knowing that people on their campus really need these sexual health resources and a desire to help people have the reproductive care they deserve.

Stephon Camp, a junior at Indiana University Southeast and a leader in an LGBTQ group on campus, is collecting petition signatures for his school to put free condom dispensers in public places. “Not everybody always knows where these resources they can get are, and some people are still going through embarrassment to even go to the store and buy them, or think it’s not important until something happens,” he said. “We’re trying to get a condom dispenser … and figure out if we can possibly have them in bathrooms.”

While distributing condoms with the GACC, Camp has noticed a high demand while giving out condoms at his school. “Outside our club office, people can grab condoms, and that’s been going really well since I’ve had to fill that up numerous times,” said Camp.

Camp noticed a lot of shame around needing condoms while handing them out at Indiana University Southeast. “With the free condom dispenser that we are working on, I know that would help with the privacy part because people do get really hesitant, especially with it being a small campus. We’ve got paper bags if people want privacy,” said Camp, as he’s overheard groups of students making snarky comments about others who are grabbing condoms.

Some of the stigma around condom distribution also concerns ideas about youth and sexual activity. Opponents of condom distribution often claim that giving people free condoms will make them have more sex than they already do. On the other side, the American Academy of Pediatrics has statedthat condoms should be made widely available in schools and to teens. There is no evidence that increased access to condoms or contraceptives increases young people’s sexual risk taking.

Having free condom dispensers in campus bathrooms would also normalize condom use and safer sex, as well as reduce the stigma around the need for condoms.

Only about 13 percent of colleges have condom dispensers or vending machines, added Butler.

Free condom dispensers have been a success at American University in Washington, D.C., where they were installed last year. Those machines cost $75 to $100 each (condoms are provided free from the local health department)—definitely a worthy and inexpensive investment in young people’s health and safety.

Mickey Irizarry, the director of the Wellness Center at American University, realized that the 9-to-5 hours of her office, which provided condoms, were a barrier for students. “We had heard, especially from students that live on campus, that they were frustrated that they couldn’t get condoms in their residence halls.”

With help from students, she began exploring location options. They wanted “somewhere that was easily accessible, and public space in the halls, but that wasn’t so in your face, in case some students who aren’t sexually active were not going to be comfortable with it, but also not so private that it would be hard to get to or that they wouldn’t know where it is.” They ultimately ended up placing them in three residence halls, where they “were having to fill up the dispensers about every week or two.” The campus plans to put up more free dispensers in residence halls.

Although the movement for free condoms is a new and growing one—and faces uphill battles on some religious campuses—some students have succeeded in getting their schools to give out free condoms. Jasmine Wilson, who’s a part of Advocates For Youth’s Student Organizing team, advocated for her school, Kenyon College in Ohio, to provide free internal condoms (sometimes called female condoms) last semester.

“I began organizing for free condoms on my college campus because I believe that people should not be restricted [from] living a safe and healthy life. Condoms are a form of protection and safety,” said Wilson.

She added another reason: economic equity. Cost is a major barrier to condom access for some young people.

Free condom distribution “would eliminate the large income gap, where affluent students can afford better health care and therefore afford things like contraception …. I know all too many people who do not use condoms because they could not afford to purchase them, and that should not be the case. Condoms should be available for free to everyone.”

Interested in joining the movement for free condom dispensers on college campuses? Email kinjo@advocatesforyouth.org to learn more. Students can apply here

Lesbian sexual health neglected by healthcare and education, researchers find

Lesbian sexual health neglected by healthcare and education, researchers find

2018-01-18

Due to the AIDS crisis and the HIV epidemic, sexual-health initiatives within LGBT communities have historically been heavily geared toward addressing men who have sex with men (MSM). Meanwhile, sex education in schools has used opposite-sex partners as its primary focus.

Unfortunately, research is revealing that several groups have been neglected in the process.

A new study led by researchers from the University of British Columbia reveals that although lesbian and female-bisexual teens face a higher risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than their heterosexual counterparts, raising awareness of safe sex between women has been overlooked.

In the study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health on December 28, 160 U.S. girls aged 14 to 18 participated in online focus groups based on whether or not they were sexually experienced.

What the researchers discovered was related to the exclusion of LGBT issues from mainstream sexual-health programs and preconceived ideas about gender.

The researchers identified four main themes as to why participants did not use latex barriers during sex.

A recurring theme was a concern about sexual pleasure or mood being reduced by awkwardness or discomfort. The study’s authors pointed out that sexual-health-promotion interventions have faced challenges in raising awareness of how pleasure can be increased by some STI–prevention methods, such as female condoms that stimulate the clitoris or lubrication on the underside of a dental dam.

Despite these issues, participants did express a willingness to use barriers in the future. Nonetheless, many participants preferred to use STI testing as a safe-sex strategy to determine whether or not they needed to use barriers. For instance, if both partners tested “clean” or “STD-free”, participants didn’t feel they needed to use barriers.

Another reason for avoiding barriers was the idea that sex with another female is low-risk due to the impossibility of impregnation. Several participants also stated that they trusted their female partners more than male partners regarding STIs.

However, the researchers pointed out that the exchange of vaginal fluid by mouth, fingers, or sex toys can transmit STIs; the human papilloma virus (HPV) can be spread by skin-to-skin contact; and genital HPV has been found on fingers, sterilized forceps, and surgical gloves (making transmission via sex toys possible).

The researchers also found that the participants often lacked awareness of safe-sex practices for sexual activity between women and lacked knowledge of the risks involved.

One 18-year-old participant said that when she started having sex, she couldn’t find any online information about safe sex for lesbians. A 15-year-old girl pointed out she had never been taught about STI transfer between female partners. Meanwhile, others were unaware of dental dams (for use during oral sex) or where to obtain them, and still others mentioned that LGBT sex was excluded from heterosexual-based sex education at school.

The researchers noted that the bias toward focusing on men as transmitters of STIs was prevalent within health-care systems, as female-to-female transmission of STIs was only considered once male-to-female transmission was ruled out.

The findings of this study recalls themes of a 2016 UBC–led research paper about transgender youth and sexual activity that pointed out similar gaps due to preconceived notions about which sexual issues are relevant to LGBT people. That study revealed—contrary to assumptions that pregnancy concerns were not relevant to transgender youth—that trans teens and their cisgender counterparts were equally at risk of being involved with pregnancy.

Consequently, such analyses highlight the need to rectify these areas of omission and oversight in both health care and education in order to achieve equality in treatment within health-care systems.

Cycling Won’t Sabotage a Man’s Sex Life: Study

Cycling Won’t Sabotage a Man’s Sex Life: Study

Men who are avid cyclists needn’t worry that hours spent on the bike will translate into problems in the bedroom or bathroom, new research claims.

Reportedly the largest study of its kind involving bikers, swimmers and runners, the findings buck prior reports that cycling could harm sexual or urinary function due to prolonged pressure on the buttocks and the perineum (the area between the scrotum and the anus).

The results provide some reassurance that cycling doesn’t harm the perineum any more than swimming and jogging do, said study author Dr. Benjamin Breyer, a urologic surgeon at the University of California, San Francisco.

“Those athletes [swimmers and runners] also have erectile dysfunction,” he explained. “The truth of the matter is, many men develop erectile dysfunction, but I think if you ride safely the health benefits of cycling are tremendous. The benefits to overall health far outweigh other concerns.”

Cycling, whether done for leisure or transportation, has become increasingly popular, Breyer said. But the activity has received much attention for its potential effects on sexual and urinary health.

“I think a lot of effort goes into cycling from some men to protect their perineum by wearing padded shorts and using different seat types,” he said.

The new research on men surveyed 2,774 cyclists, 539 swimmers and 789 runners. All completed several research-validated questionnaires about sexual health, prostate symptoms, urinary tract infections, genital numbness and saddle sores, among other factors.

Cyclists were also asked about their bike type, saddle (seat) type and angle, frequency of wearing padded shorts, percentage of time spent standing out of the saddle, handlebar type and type of surface on which they usually ride. The cyclists were split into a high-intensity group (cycling more than two years more than three times weekly and averaging more than 25 miles per day) and a low-intensity group.

Notably, high-intensity cyclists logged better erectile function scores than low-intensity cyclists.

Also notably, cyclists did experience more than twice the incidence of scarring or narrowing in the urethra — a condition known as urethral strictures — compared to swimmers or runners. The condition can affect the flow of urine from the body. But cyclists’ sexual and urinary health was comparable overall to the other athletes.

Among cyclists, those standing more than 20 percent of the time while cycling significantly cut their odds of experiencing any genital numbness. Additionally, having handlebar height lower than seat height increased the odds of genital numbness and saddle sores.

Urethral strictures “are such an uncommon event that I wouldn’t keep people from riding,” Breyer said. “I would try to avoid riding habits that result in really significant numbness in the perineum for really long periods.” Instead, he suggested men adopt more of these practices: getting out of the saddle, wearing protective shorts, using a seat that has a cutout, and getting an appropriate bike fitting.

Other urologists praised the study design, saying the comparison between cyclists and other athletes added strength to the findings.

“In my experience with bicyclists, this really reflects what I see,” said Dr. Brian Miles, a urologist at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas. “Erectile dysfunction, of course, happens to men as they age for various reasons, but with cyclists, their rate seems to be no different in my experience.”

Dr. Aaron Katz is chairman of urology at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. He said the findings were a little surprising, “because as a urologist who’s been in the field for many years, we’ve had this notion that prolonged cycling can have an effect on sexual function.

“But those studies were older and didn’t use a [similar] cross-sectional analysis,” Katz added. “I was really happy to see this study. I think it will allow men who are cycling to continue and not be so worried about it.”

The study is published in the March issue of The Journal of Urology.

More information

The American Sexual Health Association offers more on men’s sexual health.

6 Things That Can Cause Penis Allergies After Sex

6 Things That Can Cause Penis Allergies After Sex

2018-01-04

Pains on the surface of the penis, redness or itchiness are some common symptoms of a penis allergy and it can have a huge impact on a couple’s sex life.

All couples seek a healthy relationship with a satisfying sexual life. But no matter how sexually compatible they are, there are always chances that allergies or side-effects of the products used while sex, come in the way of happy couple who are having great sex. One such condition is men having penis allergies immediately after having intercourse. Pains on the surface of the penis, redness or itchiness are some common symptoms of a penis allergy and it can have a huge impact on a couple’s sex life.

While an expert medical attention is required to treat the condition, there are some steps that men can take in order to prevent having such allergies.

Here are some common triggers of penis allergies:

1. Diabetes

Rashes and red spots can develop on the skin because of high blood sugar level. An unusual sign of diabetes, this causes burning sensation and redness on the skin. Antibiotics or anti-allergens too seem to show no results. It is a clear symptom of balanitis and patient must get their blood sugar levels checked if this happens.

2. Latex condoms

Many men are allergic to condoms and may develop itchiness or redness on being exposed to condoms. People who work in the healthcare industry are most prone to such allergies as they wear latex gloves all day long. The spermicides that are present on the lining of the condoms and the dyes that are used to colour these products can cause allergic reactions in some men. There are latex-free condoms available in the market, which are slightly more expensive. But these are an effective rash-free solution.

3. Allergies

In some rare cases, some allergic reactions cause burning sensations, pain and itchiness on the penis. These allergies can be aggravated by pubic hair, female secretions or pubic lice.

4. Infections

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are another possible reason for penis allergies after sexual intercourse. These include trichomonalis vaginalis (red spots on the penis), syphilis (boils on the penis after a few days of sexual intercourse with a person suffering from syphilis) and herpes (red spots on the genital area).

5. Products used by women

Many men are under the misconception that vaginal secretions are to be blamed for their penis allergies. But it is actually some of the products that women use which may be triggering these allergies. These products include creams, lotions, lubricants, perfumes, powders and soaps to name a few.

During sexual intercourse, the delicate skin of the penis might come in contact with these irritants, thus leading to rash or redness of the skin. To get the condition properly treated, medical attention is required. But if an emergency situation rises in the odd hours of the night, you can opt for hypoallergenic products or products which mention they are free of allergens and perfumes.

6. Lack of Lubrication

When couples indulge in sex in a hurry, it often leads to lack of lubrication in women. This causes red spots and abrasion of the skin on penis. However, this kind of sexual intercourse is more painful for women than men.

Ways to deal with penis allergies

Wearing breathable fabrics can go a long way in terms of preventing penis allergies. Also, prevent using lotions or creams as they can cause an adverse allergic reaction. You can penis health creams that are available in the market.

However, we do suggest taking medical assistance for treating penis allergies as a long-term method to prevent them.

Indian start-up ‘Buttalks’ is helping men buy better underwear

Indian start-up ‘Buttalks’ is helping men buy better underwear

2017-11-14

At a time when internet-based companies are changing the way Indians pay bills, buy groceries, and commute, three Chennai-based entrepreneurs (Brijesh Devareddy, Surej Salim, and Manish Kishore) are using an e-commerce platform to help Indian men buy better underwear.

The start-up, called Buttalks, went live in August 2017, and already boasts of 1,400 customers, of whom 30% are annual subscribers.

What are their unique offerings?

India has had other innerwear start-ups like Zivame and Pretty Secrets, both of which preceded Buttalks. However, Buttalks is the first subscription-based, personalized innerwear start-up focusing solely on men’s innerwear.

Habits of Indian men with regard to underwear shopping

Despite the proliferation of e-commerce platforms, underwear shopping habits of Indian men remain backward, for the most part.

Buttalks’s initial research found that most men buy underwear in a somewhat mechanical manner without paying attention to what they exactly require.

Indian men also often do not know when it’s time to replace their underwear.

The size of the Indian innerwear market

The Indian innerwear market is expected to reach a valuation of Rs. 68,270 crore by 2024. According to consultancy firm Technopak, the men’s innerwear segment is currently worth Rs. 7,450 crore.

Health implicationsHealth implications of underwear habits

Apart from causing discomfort, ill-fitting and old, worn-out underwear has several health implications for men, implications which are often ignored and played down in Indian society.

According to Rajan Bhonsle, a professor and consultant in sexual medicine, wearing right-sized underwear has direct benefits for a man’s sexual health, while a proper fit helps reduce issues related to infertility.

Men’s health issues need to be highlighted too

“I see that there is so much ignorance about something as basic as this [choosing the right underwear]. This is something that’s never spoken about…women’s health issues have their space, but men’s issues lag behind. All these have to be highlighted,” added Bhonsle.

PackagesThe packages offered by Buttalks

Buttalks works through a subscription model wherein subscribers get periodic doorstep deliveries of underwear from the start-up.

The start-up offers three differently priced sampler or annual subscription plans starting at Rs. 999, the prices of which differ based on the brands that are included in a package.

Customers using the annual plan get three pairs of briefs four times a year.

What about Buttalks’s funding?

However, owing to the as yet unsuccessful subscription model, Buttalks faces many challenges in terms of funding. Although the start-up is set to close its first funding round soon, it remains boot-strapped so far. The co-founders also declined to share details of investors and revenues.

PersonalizationHow Buttalks personalizes underwear for a user

Regardless of one’s subscription plan, the briefs which go into boxes are personalized as per a user’s preferences.

Users have to fill out an exhaustive questionnaire while signing up so that Buttalks knows every customer’s preferences.

The questions range from a user’s preferred choice of fabric, colors, styles, and brands, to even users’ lifestyles.

10 Questions Men Should Definitely Ask Their Doctors About Testosterone

10 Questions Men Should Definitely Ask Their Doctors About Testosterone

2017-11-03

Before you buy into the myth that “real men” have high testosterone levels, make sure you know the facts. 

Perhaps you’ve tried natural ways to boost your libido and they haven’t worked. Or maybe you’re concerned about aging and are tempted by the “miracle cure” testosterone booster that will keep you young forever (we’ve all seen the ads). But it’s important to look beyond clever marketing campaigns if you’re considering testosterone medication. Before you self-diagnose with low testosterone, here are the questions you need to ask yourself.

What is testosterone?

Derived from cholesterol, testosterone is a steroid hormone, called an androgen, mainly secreted by the testicles in men but also (in much smaller amounts) by the adrenal cortex and ovaries in women. A male fetus begins to produce testosterone as early as seven weeks after conception. Testosterone levels rise during puberty, peak during the late teens to early 20s, and then level off. After age 30 or so, it’s normal for a man’s testosterone levels to decline slowly, but steadily, each year. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), testosterone is an important male hormone, regulating sexual development, muscle mass, and red blood cell production. Synthetic testosterone was first used as a clinical drug as early as 1937, and is now widely prescribed to men whose bodies naturally produce low levels.

The levels at which testosterone deficiency becomes medically relevant still aren’t well understood, according to the NIH, though it’s not just an issue for older men: Testosterone is one of the eight sexual health conditions millennial men need to be talking about. Normal testosterone production varies widely in men, and levels of the hormone fluctuate throughout the day—they’re usually highest in the morning. Although there is no standard definition of “low” testosterone—commonly referred to as “low-T”—the Mayo Clinic says a healthy range for an average adult male (30-plus) is between 270 and 1,070 nanograms per deciliter of blood. Possible symptoms of low-T, according to the NIH, include reduced sex drive, erectile dysfunction or impotence, increased breast size, lowered sperm count, hot flashes, depression, irritability and inability to concentrate, shrunken and softened testes, loss of muscle mass or hair, and bones becoming prone to fracture.

How is low-T diagnosed?

Most men have more than enough testosterone, but in some men, the body doesn’t produce enough of the hormone, which leads to a condition called hypogonadism. A blood test can tell your doctor how much free testosterone is circulating in your blood, and also show the total amount of the hormone in your body. However, according to the Endocrine Society in clinical practice guidelines published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, low-T should be diagnosed “only in men with consistent symptoms and signs and unequivocally low serum testosterone levels.” The guidelines advise against screening men in the general population to avoid labeling—and medicating—otherwise healthy men “for whom testing, treatment, and monitoring would represent a burden with unclear benefit.”

Is low-T an inevitable part of aging?

When women go through menopause their estrogen levels plummet and stop almost completely. However, the decline in testosterone levels in men works differently. Typically, levels fall by only 1 to 2 percent per year after the age of 40, and low-T is certainly not inevitable. According to the June 2010 issue of the British Medical Journal’s Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, about 80 percent of 60-year-old men, and half of those in their 80s, have testosterone levels within the normal range for younger men.

How do you treat low-T?

There are real health risks for men with low-T. The condition can be treated with testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which requires a doctor’s prescription and careful monitoring. Medications come in the form of gels, topical solutions, transdermal patches placed on the skin, buccal patches applied to the upper gums, injections, and pellets implanted under the skin. The products are available under numerous brand names, including Androderm (marketed by Actavis Pharma), Androgel (AbbVie Inc.), Axiron (Eli Lilly USA), Fortesta (Endo Pharmaceuticals), Striant (Actient Pharmaceuticals), Testim (Auxilium Pharmaceuticals), and Testopel (Auxilium). If you’re thinking of taking testosterone to improve strength, atheltic performance, or physical appearance, or to prevent aging, note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the drug’s use on those grounds. A 2004 report from the Institute of Medicine, Testosterone and Aging: Clinical Research Directions, called TRT for age-related testosterone decline a “scientifically unproven method.”

What are the side effects of taking testosterone?

There are some scary ones, including an increased risk of heart disease. (Here are signs you might be headed for a heart attack.) If you’re considering TRT, make sure you understand all the possible risks. According to the Mayo Clinic, these include the development of acne or oily skin, fluid retention, possibility of increased urinary symptoms (e.g., urinary urgency or frequency), aggressiveness and mood swings, worsening of sleep apnea, reduction in testicular size, breast enlargement, and increased risk of blood clots. In 2014, the FDA revised testosterone product labels to warn about a possible increased risk of heart attacks and strokes in patients. The FDA recommends that patients using testosterone should seek medical attention right away if they experience chest pain, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, weakness in one part or on one side of the body, or slurred speech.

Can I boost testosterone naturally?

Obese men have lower testosterone, as do men who smoke, are physically inactive, or consume more than 28 drinks per week. So losing weight, being more active and drinking less booze may boost your levels without prescription meds. (Here are 17 simple tips to cut back on alcohol.) According to findings presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in 2012, obese men who lost an average of 17 pounds saw their testosterone levels increase by 15 percent. A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that high intensity interval training (HIIT) can boost testosterone levels.

Are there bad candidates for testosterone?

Men with normal testosterone levels should not consider testosterone therapy, and no one—men or women—should use any testosterone product if they have breast cancer. The belief that testosterone may increase the risk of prostate cancer or worsen the symptoms of enlarged prostate has been debated in the medical community for many years. A 2016 study by NYU Langone Medical Center and New York University School of Medicine, reported on ScienceDaily, found that testosterone therapy does not raise risk of aggressive prostate cancer, however it is advisable to tell your doctor if you have a history of prostate cancer before starting therapy.

Are there dangers to taking testosterone?

There’s a black-box warning on testosterone medication packages for a reason. Children who are accidentally exposed to the hormone are at risk of penis or clitoris enlargement, pubic hair growth, increased erections and libido, aggression, and aging bones, warns the FDA. So it’s really important not to apply the product to areas of the body that may come in contact with kids or pregnant women. Once the product is applied, the area should be covered with clothing, and hands should be washed with soap and water. (Check out the five ways you’re washing your hands wrong.) The area should be washed before any skin-to-skin contact with another person. Your bed sheets, pillows, and clothing may have testosterone on them, so warn anyone who comes into contact with them of the risk of exposure.