Showing posts with label Life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Life. Show all posts
05 April 2012

Why Men Can't Stop Looking At Women


Why men can't – and shouldn't – stop staring at women
Before we discuss why it is men can't and shouldn't stop looking at women in the street, I'd like to explain about the girl in the miniskirt on the bicycle.

It was the first of the warm spring days that inflated Toronto this week. I was on my way to work on my bicycle. Two blocks from my house, I turned right and found myself 10 feet behind a young woman.
I use the word “behind” hesitantly.

She might have been 20. I am 58. She had long blond hair, and was wearing a short putty-coloured jacket, nude hose – I didn't think anyone wore nude hose any more – and a white miniskirt, trim but straining, tucked primly beneath her.

My first sight of her felt like a light blow to the chest. Her body held my interest, but so did her decision to wear a miniskirt on a bike, along with her youth, her loveliness, even the fleetingness of the six blocks I kept her company – she turned right, and she was gone. We owed each other nothing.

The inevitable backwash of guilt arrived, as all men know it does. I have a daughter her age. I am married but spent several minutes gazing at a pretty girl's backside. I could hear the charges: objectifier, perv, pig, man.

But it was such a beautiful day. And so I decided to spend the rest of it cruising the city, investigating the famous male gaze, to find out just how ashamed we lads ought to feel. These days, with women charging so fast past us, we're happy to feel anything.

***
Details that catch my attention: lively calves, French blue puff skirts with white polka dots, red shoes, dark skin, olive skin, pale skin, lips (various shapes), curly hair (to my surprise). A pretty girl with too much bottom squeezed into her yoga pants – and, mysteriously, twice as sexy for the effort. A slim blond in enormous sunglasses carrying a banana peel as if it were a memo. An expensively dressed and tanned woman climbs out of a taxi, so vivacious I panic and can't look at her. Slim girls, curvy girls; signs of health, hints of quiet style. Coloured headbands. A rollerblader in white short shorts does nothing for me: Her look is the sexual equivalent of shopping at Wal-Mart.

But each woman makes you think, parse her appeal. The busty brunette in her 20s is wearing a rich emerald-green ruffled blouse, but it's sleeveless and obviously not warm enough to wear outside. Is she a bad planner? Would she be a sloppy mate?

I ask a woman sitting in an outdoor café if she minds being looked at by men. Her name is Ali – a 26-year-old student with an Italian boyfriend who looks at everyone. That used to bother her but doesn't any more. “Just looking, I don't think it's offensive. But I think it's offensive if there's comments.”
Every woman I speak to says the same thing, without exception. So why does girl-watching have such a terrible reputation? Maybe because it's an act of rebellion.

***
X meets me for lunch at Ki, a downtown sushi restaurant frequented by brokers and lawyers. A big-time lawyer married to the same woman for three decades, he's father to three children – the opposite of a player. But he, too, spends hours gazing at women. He claims he spots at least two stunners a day. We've been discussing the girl on the bicycle.

“I don't get this complaint that you can't look at an attractive woman who's the same age as your 20-year-old daughter,” X says.

I'm having a hard time concentrating: Ki's waitresses are brain-stopping. Cleavage seems to be the prix fixe. One of them catches me looking at her, and then catches me looking sheepishly away, my store of hope fading the way a car battery dies. But a little bit of shame is good: you can't take your gandering for granted.
“It's because you could be her father,” I finally manage to say.

“Yeah,” X replies. “But you're not.”
He pauses. “I read that 26 is the peak of a woman's sexual attractiveness. I've got a daughter who's 26 – so I can't find someone that age attractive? That strikes me as a creepy argument. Women might not credit that a man can look at someone of that age without lust, but as the father of someone that age, I can.”
X believes men look at attractive women because attractiveness means the women are healthy, an evolutionary advantage.
“That's still seems unfair to the less attractive,” I point out.
“And it bites women a lot harder than it bites men. I'm conscious of it being unfair. But there's nothing I can do about it.”
“We could stop looking.”
“Would that help anything?”
“That's not an answer. Could you stop looking?”
“You'd have to pretty much turn out the lights.”
The trick is to look and keep what you see to yourself.
***
There are people sunning themselves all over downtown Toronto, glades of flesh and sunglasses. Ninety per cent of them are women. It's not as if they're hiding.
On the co-ed-strewn quad of Victoria College at the University of Toronto, I run into K, a businesswoman I know. She's here studying for a night course. She just turned 50, and is still attractive. But she admits looks from men are rarer. “Leering hasn't happened in years,” she adds wistfully. Visiting Italy 20 years ago with friends, “we were furious that the Italian men pinched your bum. When we went back, in our early 40s, we were furious that no one was pinching our bums.” This makes me as sad as it seems to make her.
She points out there is a difference between a look and a leer and disagrees with X's rule that eye contact with a passing woman can last no more than one second.
“Well, I'd say two or three seconds. A lingering look, especially if it's from an Adonis –that's, oooh. And you never see them again. A passing encounter. Or a bus encounter, glances and sidelong looks until one of you gets off the bus? That's the best.”
The first time she stepped out of the library this morning into the quad of semi-clad women, “I thought to myself, oh my god, do you remember what it was like to be able to expose your legs? It wasn't even sexual. But it was liberating.”
This is another thing that made the girl on the bike so appealing: she was free. It would be nice if we all were. Y, a 35-year-old married friend who still flicks his gaze at passing women the way other people flip channels, blames our national earnestness. “The problem for us as men is that we're in the wrong culture, and we're men at the wrong time. We're not a culture that empowers men with casual sensuality.”
He holds up his BlackBerry. “I don't see what's wrong with it. In a world where, thanks to this thing, I am only two clicks away from double penetration and other forms of pornographic nastiness, the act of merely looking at a girl who is naturally pretty – I mean, we should celebrate that.”
***
It's nearly dinnertime when I make my last stop at L'Espresso, an Italian café near my house. Even here, on a quiet patio at the end of the day, I can see five women I want to look at. It's almost, but not quite, exhausting.
Then I notice W and Z at the patio's corner table – the best view in the place. Both men are in their early 60s, both married. They're surprisingly keen to discuss the male gaze.
“Yes, I look at girls still, incessantly and unavoidably,” says W, the taller of the two. He still has a full mane of tossed-back hair. “And it's one of my greatest pleasures in life.”
“I concur,” Z says. Z is shorter, less ephemeral. “But I look and gaze at all women in the street, whether they're beauties or not. They're all interesting. And different men gaze at different women.”
“And what goes through your mind when you look at them?” I ask. “Do you think, would I sleep with her, and what does that say about me?”
“Yes, there is a question,” Z says, “but for me the question as I look at them is a little more modest: Would they sleep with me?”
“Beautiful women are like flowers,” W interjects. “They turn to the sun. But if they don't receive a certain amount of attention, they wither.” The simile has an 18th-century feel, like the conversation: It's about manners, after all, which are always most complicated in times of equality.
“I concur again,” Z says. “The most attractive women expect an attentive gaze that doesn't imply anything other than someone saying, ‘You're attractive enough to gaze at.' And the most rewarding thing is if that gaze is returned.”
“What does a returned glance imply?” I ask.
“It implies, as they say in the New York State lottery: You never know.”
I'm about to leave when Z tosses me a last thought. “Some women assume the male gaze is sinful and hurtful and evil, that men can never look at women in a different way. But that's not what the gaze is about. Because a sophisticated man would not hesitate to gaze, and then he might be filled with regret and loss, and therefore gain self-knowledge.”
Longing makes us sad, but at least it proves we're still alive. Which is why men like spring so much, for the short time it lasts.
Ian Brown is a Globe and Mail feature writer.

Captive Virgins, Polygamy, Sex Slaves: What Marriage Would Look Like if We Followed The Bible Literally

How many so-called Biblical literalists have actually read the whole Bible? Let's see what God really has to say about marriage.
 
 
Traditionally, Republicans tend to run on a platform of God, guns and gays. This time, it’s God, gyne-policy and gays – a set of urgent priorities straight from the mouths of conservative bishops and evangelists who call themselves Bible believers.

There’s no way to understand politics anywhere without understanding religion, but to an outsider American Christianity -- and so American politics -- can seem almost incomprehensible. Over the last 2,000 years, Christians have quarreled themselves into 30,000 different denominations. On top of that, American Christianity, like American culture more broadly, tends to flout hierarchy and authority, which means that a sizeable number of American Christians consider themselves “nondenominational."

The ever faster splintering of denominations and non-denominations, from crystal cathedrals to house churches gives a particularly elevated status to the Bible, which is why, along with the Catholic bishops and charismatic preachers we find the Good Book in the middle of our public policy debates. “Bible-believing” Christians, also called “biblical literalists,” believe the Bible is the literally perfect word of God, essentially dictated by God to the writers. Thanks to the determined work of historical revisionists like David Barton, many of them also believe (very, very wrongly) that America’s Constitution and legal system also were founded on principles and laws drawn from the Bible.

Not all Christians share this view. Biblical literalists are at the opposite end of the theological spectrum from modernist Christians, who see the Bible as the record of our imperfect spiritual ancestors who struggled to understand what is good and what is God and how to live in moral community with each other.
A Christian’s view of the Bible often dictates social and moral priorities, which brings us back to the current political context. The Catholic bishops are well organized and so, under the banner of "religious freedom" (for institutions, not women), they have lead the charge against women's reproductive rights. But they have been able to limit contraceptive and abortion access in this country for decades only because FEB (fundamentalist/evangelical/born-again) Bible-believing Christians rally to the cause. In my home state of Washington, conservative Catholics and Bible believers rallied by the hundreds this week to protest against universal contraceptive coverage. As I write they are gathering signatures to reverse our historic gay marriage legislation.

Even though divorce and teen pregnancy rates are lower in more secular parts of the country, Bible believers see both as problems caused primarily by America’s loss of faith. To hear them tell it, from the time of America’s founding until the 1970s (when gays, atheists and bra-less women began tearing down the social order) this country prospered because we attended church and lived as God commanded, and our courts protected the righteous institution of biblical marriage. Now gay marriage laws are creeping across the nation, threatening the last shreds of our moral fabric.

Let me tell you a secret about Bible believers that I know because I was one. Most of them don’t read their Bibles. If they did, they would know that the biblical model of sex and marriage has little to do with the one they so loudly defend. Stories depicted in the Bible include rape, incest, master-slave sexual relations, captive virgins, and more. Now, just because a story is told in the Bible doesn’t mean it is intended as a model for devout behavior. Other factors have to be considered, like whether God commands or forbids the behavior, if the behavior is punished, and if Jesus subsequently indicates the rules have changed, come the New Testament.

Through this lens, you find that the God of the Bible still endorses polygamy and sexual slavery and coerced marriage of young virgins along with monogamy. In fact, he endorses all three to the point of providing detailed regulations. Based on stories of sex and marriage that God rewards and appears to approve one might add incest to the mix. Nowhere does the Bible say, “Don’t have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you.”
Furthermore, none of the norms that are endorsed and regulated in the Old Testament law – polygamy, sexual slavery, coerced marriage of young girls—are revised, reversed, or condemned by Jesus. In fact, the writer of Matthew puts these words in the mouth of Jesus:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke or a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law [the Old Testament] until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)  
The Law of which Jesus speaks is the Law of Moses, or the Torah, and anyone who claims the Bible as the perfect word of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God should have the decency to read it carefully—and then keep going.
Polygamy is a norm in the Old Testament and accepted in the New Testament. Biblicalpolygamy.com has pages dedicated to 40 biblical figure,s each of whom had multiple wives. The list includes patriarchs like Abraham and Isaac. King David, the first king of Israel may have limited himself to eight wives, but his son Solomon, reputed to be the wisest man who ever lived had 700 wives and 300 concubines! (1 Kings 11)
Concubines are sex slaves, and the Bible gives instructions on acquisition of several types of sex slaves, although the line between biblical marriage and sexual slavery is blurry. A Hebrew man might, for example, sell his daughter to another Hebrew, who then has certain obligations to her once she is used. For example, he can’t then sell her to a foreigner. Alternately a man might see a virgin war captive that he wants for himself.

In the book of Numbers (31:18) God’s servant commands the Israelites to kill all of the used Midianite women who have been captured in war, and all of the boy children, but to keep all of the virgin girls for themselves. The Law of Moses spells out a purification ritual to prepare a captive virgin for life as a concubine. It requires her owner to shave her head and trim her nails and give her a month to mourn her parents before the first sex act (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). A Hebrew girl who is raped can be sold to her rapist for 50 shekels, or about $580 (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). He must then keep her as one of his wives for as long as she lives.

A man might acquire multiple wives whether he wanted them or not if his brother died. In fact, if a brother dies with no children, it becomes a duty to impregnate his wife. In the book of Genesis, Onan is struck dead by God because he fails to fulfill this duty – preferring to spill his seed on the ground rather than providing offspring for his brother (Genesis 38:8-10). A New Testament story shows that the tradition has survived. Jesus is a rabbi, and a group of scholars called Sadducees try to test his knowledge of Hebrew Law by asking him this question:
Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?” (Matthew 22:24-28).
Jesus is too clever for them and points out that in Heaven, that place of perfect bliss, there is no marriage.
Having a brother act as a sperm donor isn’t the only biblical solution to lack of offspring.  The patriarch Abraham is married to his half-sister Sarah, but the two are childless for the first 75 years or so of their marriage. Frustrated, Sarah finally says, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her." Her slave, Hagar, becomes pregnant, and then later Sarah does too and the story gets complicated (Genesis 16).  But that doesn’t stop Abraham’s grandson Jacob from participating in a competition, in which his two wives repeatedly send in their slaves to get pregnant by him, each trying to get more sons than the other. (Genesis 19:15-30)
These stories might be irrelevant to the question of biblical marriage were it not that Bible believers keep telling us that God punishes people when he dislikes their sexual behavior. He disliked the behavior of New Orleans gays so much, according to Pat Robertson, that he sent a hurricane to drown the whole city – kind of like Noah’s flood. And yet, according to the Bible story, both Abraham and Jacob were particularly beloved and blessed by God. 
The point is that marriage has changed tremendously since the Iron Age when the Bible was written. For centuries, concubines and polygamy were debated by Christian leaders – accepted by some and rejected by others. The nuclear family model so prized by America’s fundamentalist Christians emerged from the interplay between Christianity and European cultures including the monogamous tradition of the Roman Empire. As humanity’s moral consciousness has evolved, coerced sex has become less acceptable even within marriage while intertribal and interracial marriage has grown in acceptance. Today even devout Bible believers oppose sexual slavery. Marriage, increasingly, is a commitment of love, freely given. Gay marriage is simply a part of this broader conversation, and opposition on the part of Bible believers has little to do with biblical monogamy.
Since many Christians haven’t read the whole Bible, most “Bible believers” are not, as they like to claim, actually Bible believers. Bible believers, even those who think themselves “nondenominational,” almost all follow some theological tradition that tells them which parts of the Bible to follow and how. Yes, sometimes even decent people do get sucked into a sort of text worship that I call bibliolatry, and Bible worship can make a person’s moral priorities as archaic and cruel as those of the Iron Age tribesmen who wrote the texts. (I once listened, horrified, while a sweet, elderly pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses rationalized the Old Testament slaughter of children with the same words Nazis used to justify the slaughter of Jewish babies.)
But many who call themselves Bible believers are simply, congenitally conservative – meaning change-resistant. It is not the Bible they worship so much as the status quo, which they justify by invoking ancient texts. Gay marriage will come, as will reproductive rights, and these Bible believers will adapt to the change as they have others: reluctantly, slowly and with angry protests, but in the end accepting it, and perhaps even insisting that it was God’s will all along.
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of "Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light" and "Deas and Other Imaginings." Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

Do Shaken Or Stirred Cocktails Make You Drunken?

By Brent Rose 

Shaken or Stirred: Which Gets You Drunker? A Scientific Exploration

Some bartenders have a chip on their shoulders when it comes cocktails. Shaking waters it down, they say. Stirring is better. James Bond is a pussy.
We wondered—what's the scientific difference? Does one way or the other produce a pour that's more warm or watery? Do the fluid dynamics in the darkness of a shaker lead to other intangibles that make our favorite drinks so delicious? Prepare to have your faith shaken, because we have reached some stirring conclusions.

It's Friday afternoon, you've made it through the long week, and it's time for Happy Hour.

The Question

What inebriates better: a cocktail that is shaken or stirred?

The Methodology

We've seen subjective tests of the shaken vs. stirred debate before—the Mythbusters confirmed that you can taste the difference. But is that due to temperature, alcohol by volume (ABV), or something else? What about all those ice chips you see in a shaken drink—do they matter?

We began the test by measuring all the ingredients by weight, starting with the ice. Different sized ice cubes have larger or smaller surface areas, and thus melt differently. So we made 14 identical ice cubes in the same tray, each using exactly 25 grams of water.

For the alcohol, I measured out 70 grams of terrible, cheap, 80-proof vodka (40 percent ABV). A digital thermometer indicated the vodka's temperature to be 73 degrees Fahrenheit.

To calculate the contents of the shaken and stirred samples, we used a digital scale to measure how much water weight the solution gained, and a distilling hydrometer—called a Proof and Tralle Hydrometer—to measure proof. This thing is pretty cool: It floats in a vial of liquid, with preset levels corresponding to the solution's ABV. We tested the hydrometer's accuracy by checking still water, then uncut Georgi vodka, and it dialed up dead-on measurements of 0 proof and 80 proof, respectively. Excellent.

The Experiment

To create solution A, our shaken sample, we poured 70 grams of vodka (just under 2.5 fluid ounces) into a standard metal cocktail shaker. We added five 25 gram ice cubes all at once, slammed on the lid and shook the hell out of it for a stopwatch-timed 30 seconds. We immediately strained the drink into a dry, room temperature glass and inserted a digital thermometer. We set the drink aside, covered it, and allowed it to get back to room temperature for an accurate hydrometer reading. Then, to the scale for a weight check. To make the stirred solution B, we repeated the previous steps—70 grams of vodka, five 25 gram ice cubes—and then gently but thoroughly stirred with a long spoon for 30 seconds. The drink was strained into a separate, identical glass, then checked for temperature, proof, and weight.

The Results

• Temperature: This was the first dramatic difference. The shaken drink dropped down to a frosty 29 degrees F, whereas the stirred cocktail measured only 38.1 degrees. The ice cubes couldn't have transferred all that heat without melting and therefore diluting the solution. Time for a weigh-in.

• Weight: Both solutions started at exactly 70 grams of pure vodka. After stirring the liquor with the ice cubes, solution B gained 16 grams of water weight, coming in at 86 grams. That sounds significant, until it is compared to the weight of shaken solution A: 116 grams! It gained a whopping 46 grams—more than half its original weight—from trace amounts water knocked off of the ice cubes.

• Proof: Now, for the hydrometer—the moment of truth. Once both solutions had reached a temperature of exactly 72.4 degrees F, I tested them, twirling the hydrometer to free any lingering bubbles. The stirred drink had dropped down from 80 proof to a count of 60, or 30 percent ABV. Now, listen to this: The shaken drink's purity had plummeted, with the hydrometer hovering between the lines marking 45 and 46 proof—around 23-percent ABV. In other words, shaking just ice and alcohol can cut a spirit's potency nearly in half, and which dilutes a drink 1.75 times more than stirring it does.

We cross-checked this with the amount of water weight gained, and it adds up. According to the weight, the stirred Solution A is now 32.6-percent ABV (65.2 proof) and the the shaken Solution B is now 24.1-percent ABV (48.2 proof). In other words we're within a two percent margin of error, which ain't bad at all.

I passed the glasses around the office for a subjective taste test, and everyone agreed that the stirred drink tasted much stronger. And this crowd knows what a cup of lukewarm Georgi is supposed to taste like. So there you have it.

So should I shake or should I stir?

Economical drinkers usually want the most booze for the buck, so it would seem stirring is the way to go. Savvy readers may remember that last week's Happy Hour on booze myths stated that diluted drinks actually get you drunk faster than straight drinks. But a martini glass is only so big. In bars, what doesn't fit into a glass gets poured out. A 4-ounce martini that's 30 percent water simply has less vodka in it than a 4-ounce martini that's 15 percent water. So forget James Bond and his "shaken, not stirred" mantra. He was probably just pacing himself so he could fight/screw someone in the next scene.

But there is a time to shake a drink. Most bartenders go by this general rule: Cocktails that have juice, dairy, or egg whites should be shaken. Shaking aerates these cocktails in a pleasing way, creating a nice frothy effect. It's almost like making a meringue. In contrast, cocktails that only use spirits—such as martinis and Manhattans—should be stirred. A stirred Manhattan is strong, clear, and beautiful. Have you ever seen a shaken Manhattan? It looks like sewage.

Of course, there's no accounting for personal taste. Some people will ignore this hard-earned data. Barbarians.

Check back next Friday afternoon to see new variables plugged into our favorite equation:
Booze + Science = Happy Hour.
01 March 2012

Naga Chilli Vodka is Enough to Make Grown Men Cry

While it’s not quite the as hot as the insane 2 million SHU Scorpion Pepper, the Naga Chilli Vodka is still criminally hot.

In fact, it’s so hot it almost took Philip Schofield off air when he tasted the spicy tipple – it even comes with a health warning.

It’s produced by infusing the vodka with Naga Jolokia chillies – so many in fact that it’s turned the vodka a kind of fire-orange colour.

The resulting poison ranks at 100,000 scovilles, substantially hotter than even most “hot” chilli sauces; a Jalopeno pulls in at a pathetic 5,000 SHU by comparison. It’s the kind of thing you’d normally see coming out of Mexico or South America, but it’s actually a crazy British creation.

Master of Malt, a Tunbridge Wells-based fine liquor retailer, has its creation up for just £31.95 a bottle – that’s only for 700mls though, so you might need a couple, especially if you want to prove your manhood to your avid party invitees. You are mega-chilli hard, right?
22 February 2012

Now You Can Check Your Sperm Count At Home

http://img1-cdn.newser.com/image/868944-6-20120221134218.jpegIt's the first kit to win FDA approval If you've ever questioned your sperm count but weren't thrilled with the idea of dropping by a clinic, worry no longer: For the first time, you can get an FDA-approved home test.

The $30 to $40 SpermCheck Fertility Home Sperm Test, available at CVS.com and Walgreens.com, says it's 98% accurate.

"Sure, it's funny to talk about, but it could also truly change the way couples (and singles) approach conception," writes Brent Rose at Gizmodo.

While nearly half of conception problems are on the male side, men are far more reluctant to head to a clinic for a checkup, he notes.
01 February 2012

How To Get Smokey Eyes in 5 Easy Steps

How to get smokey eyes in 5 easy steps

The classic smokey eye has come a long way from black and grey.For the warmer months, a coloured version is the fashion-forward the way to, and we love how pink is this Spring's pretty pick.

To get you started, Vogue.in teamed up with Lancome Head Makeup Artist, Stafford Braganza who broke it down to five easy steps - easy as pie!

Step 1: After prepping your eye with concealer and a dust of translucent powder, trace your upper lash line with a black eyeliner pencil. With a flat brush smudge the color for a softer look. We love the Lancome Le Crayon Khol for its soft texture and ease of use.

Step 2: Go over your waterline with the black eyeliner so your eyes look defined. A gel eyeliner works best for all day wear.

Step 3: With a fluffy blending brush, apply a black eye shadow along the outer half of your eye blending into your eye socket. Start off with a very little amount of color on the outer corner of your eye moving inwards along your crease, so the density of color reduces half way in. Remember not to pull it all the way into the inner corner or you risk creating a circle around your eye.

Step 4: Using your clean finger gently tap a pink satin or shimmer shadow onto your eyelid. Blend it into the black shadow along moving upwards and outwards.

Step 5 : Finish off with a healthy coating of mascara for long lush lashes. Vogue.in recommends the Lancome Virtuose Black Carat Mascara for dramatic lashes that pair very well with a smokey eye look.

Aliens Ignoring Earth?

Why aliens haven’t reached Earth yet?

Washington: If aliens exist, they should have reached our planet by now.
Why aliens haven’t reached Earth yet

According to a new study, calculations indicate that either we are alone in the galaxy, or ET is ignoring us.

"We're either alone, or they're out there and leave us alone," the Discovery News quoted mathematician Thomas Hair, with Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers as saying. Hair based his estimate of what he believed to be extremely conservative estimates for how long it would take a society to gather the resources and technological know-how to leave its home world and travel to another star.

Even at the comparatively sedate pace of 1 percent of light-speed, the aliens would land at their nearest neighbour star in around 500 years. "They've either passed us by, or they stay around their home star systems and contemplate their navels," Hair said. There could be quite a lot of reasons why we are not listed in intergalactic Yelp.

Perhaps most important is that we do not have anything that aliens require. "Any ancient civilization is probably not biological. They don't need a place like Earth. They don't need to come here and steal our water. There's plenty of it out in the outer solar system where the gravity is not so great and they can just take all they want," Hair said.

Or maybe modern-day extraterrestrials are following routes laid out long ago, all of which bypass Earth, he added.
26 January 2012

How To Deal With Insomnia Or Sleep Disorders

By Hema Subramanian insomnia

I sincerely hope you haven’t come across this article in the middle of the night. For many of us, it is troublesome to get the recommended dose of 8 hours of beauty sleep. These episodes of sleepless nights  may come and go, last up to weeks, or be long-lasting (chronic) for many of us.

Insomnia is trouble falling asleep or staying awake through the night.

 How do I know if suffer from a sleep disorder?
 If you’ve have any of the following conditions you might suffer from a sleep disorder:
  1. Trouble falling asleep on most nights
  2. Feeling tired during the day
  3. Not feeling refreshed when you wake up
  4. Waking up several times during sleep
 What might cause insomnia?
  1. Hormones – Changes in the internal physical condition like hormonal changes or a physical ailment may cause sleeplessness. Also with age sleep patterns tend to change. You might have heard older people say that they wake up more often at nights. Medical conditions, such as thyroid disease, are known to be triggers.
  2. Physical pain or discomfort – Obviously, any type of pain will cause lack of sleep and affects one’s healthy functioning and mental state. 
  3. Lifestyle habits – Regular night-outs or late night parties, high amounts of junk food (especially at night), irregular eating, sleeping at odd hours, working late nights or working the night shift triggers a random response in the “Circadian Cycle” (responsible for maintaining natural processes) and may eventually cause insomnia.
  4. Medications and drugs – One of the side effects of medication for ailments may be sleepless nights. If you have been taking sleeping pills, withdrawal symptoms may cause rebound insomnia.
  5. Mental health – Any form of mental distress like anxiety,  sadness and severe disorders like depression and bipolar disorder can cause insomnia. Such times call for professional help.
  6. Stress - Mind affects body and body affects mind. Stress takes its toll, whether it is short-term or long-term. This vicious cycle of stress affecting sleep and vice versa causes chronic insomnia.
What you can do to sleep better
  1. Sleep time – Each one of one is unique, even with our sleep patterns. Some people feel refreshed with only 6 hours of sleep; others might need 9 – 10 to 11 hours. Know what your body needs. Fix up your sleep time accordingly. Always maintain regular sleep and waking up times to regularize your sleep patterns.
  2. Visit the doctor – Your physician can help to review any drugs, medical conditions or stressful situations that may be causing your insomnia or making it worse.
  3. Lifestyle management – Maintain a routine that is not extreme. If your work demands it, balance it by other factors like diet and a healthy mental state. Meditation, creative visualization may help you be calmer and restful.
  4. Daytime sleepiness – Stop those afternoon naps. 2 p.m.to 6 p.m. is the most susceptible zone for naps. Indulge in some physical activity that requires you to move about during that time.
  5. Physical activity – Physical exercise or a walk before bed time is ideal for chronic insomnia. Team up with someone or even with soothing music to help you maintain it as a habit.
  6. Diet – Have a healthy dinner, drink warm milk or herbal tea with camomile. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco to help you sleep quickly.
  7. Pamper yourself to sleep with warm bath with bath salts, massages, soothing music or chants, stomach rub or a hot water bottle.
  8. Avoid any engaging activity like watching TV or reading a book just because you cannot sleep.
  9. Do something monotonous – Count sheep or try to chant the alphabet backwards. Keep at it till you sleep out of sheer boredom. 
Follow these simple rules and realize that your body needs rest and therefore it is absolutely imperative that you get enough sleep. Research suggests a lot of diseases, conditions, stress-related disorders, etc. can be avoided by ensuring you get a good night’s sleep.
22 December 2011

5 Types of Condoms For Great Sex

By Biben Laikhuram
5 Types of condoms for great sexIt's a lot of fun to choose the right condom before a steamy love making session. Today there are many varieties of condoms available in the market, from flavoured condoms to dotted condoms. It's always safe and feels good to wear condom while having sex.

If you are not on a baby-making mission and want to arouse and stimulate your partner like never before, we list down 5 varieties of condoms for great sex.

1. Flavored condoms
Such condoms are best for oral sex. They are available in a wide range of flavors such as chocolate, coffee, strawberry, mint, vanilla and many more. If you are using it for vaginal or anal sex, always make sure they are sugar-free in order to avoid yeast infection.

2. Dotted condoms
If you want that extra pleasure this is the right condom for you. Textured or studded condoms are meant for increasing pleasure for both the partners. These condoms have slight bumps that run through the length of the condom on both the sides.

3. Super thin condoms
If you want to use a condom and still get the same kick as condom-free sex, this one will suit you fine. This type of condom is transparent with a thin layer made of sheerlon material that acts like a second skin. It is highly effective against pregnancy and STDs.

4. Pleasure-shaped condoms
This type of condom heightens sensitivity for both the partners. It has loose and enlarged tip.

5. Glow in the dark condoms
If you want to experience kinky sex, this is the right choice. When exposed to light for 30 seconds, it glows in the dark. It is non-toxic and has three layers. The inner and the outermost layers are made up of latex and the middle one contains a safe pigment that makes it glow.

Even with condoms one needs to take precautions. So, next time you are buying one don't forget to check the label if it is FDA approved for use against unplanned pregnancy and STDs.

19 December 2011

Unveiling Dark Times

ayel Dutta Chowdhury

The Muddy River
P A Krishnan
Tranquebar
2011, pp 245, Rs 250

Literature about North-East India abounds in tales of the troubled political climate, violence, backwardness, underdevelopment and poverty. The unique geographical positioning of the seven states and their equally different political, economic and social situations from the rest of the country have resulted in the rise of a body of writing that is onsidered to be different from mainstream Indian English literature.

P A Krishnan, in his latest book, The Muddy River, chooses Assam as the central location where the entire story unfolds. Krishnan also dwells on grounds of politics and corruption in narrating the story of Ramesh Chandran, a bureaucrat on a mission to rescue a hapless engineer who had been kidnapped by militants.

The author has juxtaposed considerable amounts of facts with fiction in portraying the different machinations of politics and corruption in the public sector of the state. Drawing from his personal experiences of being a bureaucrat, Krishnan lends authenticity to his narration of the kidnapping and the tangled web of politics surrounding it.

In representing the North-East scenario, the author brings to light the various intricate problems of the common people of the region, who are the ultimate sufferers. The suffering of the common man at the hands of the local police as well as the militants finds expression in the author’s ruthless unveiling of the different hands involved in terrorism and corruption. However, unlike many other books which dwell on such issues, Krishnan gifts the readers with a breath of fresh air, through his mastery of handling multiple themes, instead of giving them an overdose of typical problems of the North-East.

Although it isn’t a part of the main story, the narration gains its momentum and interest in the representation of Chandran’s relationship with his wife, Sukanya. Like any other husband and wife, their relationship also has its own ups and downs. After the death of their only child, Priya, life comes to a momentary stop for both.

The absence of the child has a profound effect on their marriage as well. Sukanya torments herself by withdrawing into a cocoon and Chandran attempts all the while to come to terms with reality, as well as his own marriage.

Chandran’s relationship with the other characters in the book, and his keen observation of them, makes the narration interesting. As he proceeds with his mission of rescuing the engineer, he encounters Bhuyan, a cynical police officer; Anupama, another officer torn between professional integrity and her love for Assam; the engineer’s wife; the ex-chief minister of Assam, a Gandhian; Khasnobis, a senior correspondent for an international news channel, and many others who either help him in his search or, as in most cases, make matters worse for him. “

The author scores his points by involving each and every character, even the peripheral ones, in unfolding the final mystery. While the rescue drama reaches its climax, Chandran also exposes a massive financial scandal in his company and pays the price for ignoring warnings that he might be pushing too far for an unashamedly corrupt society’s comfort. Without regard to his devoted service and unwavering courage in rescuing the engineer, he is given a notice of suspension!

Krishnan’s interesting narrative also dwells on Gandhianism in the form of Chandran’s father, a complete believer in the great leader’s philosophies as well as Rajbankshi, an ex-chief-minister of Assam reputed for being “the cleanest politician” of the state.

The author’s belief that “no person who is embarking on a life of struggle and service can ignore Gandhi’s methods” finds poignant expression in the book. The followers of the great leader may seem to offer no nstant solutions and the practitioners often stare at defeat and humiliation, still, Krishnan maintains that “mankind hasn’t yet come out with a better weapon against violence and bloodshed.”
The author, amidst all the tension and mystery, impresses his readers by bringing forth many under-represented, yet beautiful aspects of the region. Chandran’s visit to the Kamakhya Temple in the Neelachal Mountain and to Jatinga, “a charnel house of birds” with his wife, brings forth to the readers the fact that the North-East is not only about its seemingly unending problems, but also many other praise-worthy aspects.

Readers who are familiar with Krishnan’s first novel, The Tiger Claw Tree (1998), will find that he has evolved as a more mature narrator in his recent work. He breaks free from conventional narrative techniques and experiments with diverse story-telling methods, such as the epistolary form and the flashback technique. The Muddy River promises to be worthwhile and intelligent reading, filled with practical wisdom and humour. A must read.

13 December 2011

2012's Hottest Color Is ...

orange-dress

Orange is bold and upbeat—but may not last

Orange is making a comeback in everything from dishware to dresses to eyeliner in 2012, the Wall Street Journal reports. Don't quite believe it? Well, Sephora is designing orange eyelashes from feathers, and Pantone is calling "tangerine tango" the color of the year.

It apparently boosts sales, too: "If you've got a bunch of products on a shelf, it can't hurt to have an orange one," says a color expert who advises retailers on how to make products stand out.

So why orange? A paint manufacturer says it's a "powerful mood modifier, reflecting passion, power, and festivity"—in other words, an antidote to the recession.

But orange was hot in the 1920s, '60s, and '80s, all economically heady times. Perhaps it's part of a renaissance of Asian colors, says one analyst.

Either way, buyer beware: It may be too loud to last. "Our thing is to provide quality fashions that will last a long time," says one California boutique owner. "Orange might not be around" for long.

15 November 2011

Your Best Snap Won't Fool Her

Women Can Detect Your Hidden 'beauty' Online

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London, Nov 15 : Trying to woo a woman just by posting your best-looking snap alongside an online profile may not be the best idea after all -- a study has found that women can identify a physically attractive man just by reading his profile.

According to the university study, good-looking men were able to convey their confidence and attractiveness in their written self-description and the women volunteers were able to recognise their beauty without being shown the man's photograph, the Daily Mail reported.

Men whose photos were rated as attractive had written profiles that were also deemed to be attractive, despite words and images being rated by different judges, the study conducted by Villanova University in Philadelphia, US, found.

As part of the study, 100 men's profiles were divided into four sets of 25 with each of the 50 female rating one subset of 25 photos and a different subset of 25 profile texts.

As many as 50 female university students were asked by academics to examine profiles and pictures of 100 men aged 22-25 who had posted on a popular dating website.

Each of these students was given 25 photographs and advised to rate how attractive they found each man if they were to consider him for a date, short-term sexual encounter or long-term relationship. They were also asked to observe how confident and masculine he seemed from the picture.

The women were then given written profiles of 25 different men and again asked how attractive each seemed for a date, for sex and for a long-term committed relationship. In addition to this, they were also asked to rate each candidate on how kind, confident, intelligent, funny or humorous he seemed from his profile.

07 November 2011

$1,000 A Haircut: Most Expensive Hairdresser

Rossano Ferretti could be the world's most expensive hairdresser

 

Rossano FerrettiRossano Ferretti

In the world of costly cuts where a barber is a hairstylist, the $1,000 price tag is certainly hair raising but not unheard of. For some time now, stylists in the West have demanded, and got, anything upwards of $500 for a haircut. Names like Sally Hershberger, Fredereic Fekkai are almost as famous as the heads they tend to. Add Rossano Ferretti ahead of the pack as he set the bar high at $1,000.

In your world, Rs 50,000 could have fetched you an F1 premium seat last week or a laptop, three months' grocery or a sharply tailored designer suit. But in the world of affluence, it is barely a percentage of the latest de la Renta gown or a vintage bottle of French wine. Ferretti, who has styled Lady Gaga, Salma Hayek and even Princess Diana, is unapologetic about his price tag.

In India to launch his second salon at The Oberoi in Gurgaon, the first being at the Four Seasons in Mumbai, Ferretti doesn't cut hair here. He instead lends his name to L'Oreal and its premium hair-care brand Kerastase with which he's been associated for four years now. The staff at the salons is trained by the 51-year-old Ferretti himself with the salon director, Dimitri Lafiandra in this case, having worked with the Italian haircutting honcho for six years.

Today the man, a humble barber from Parma (a place he still calls home "where my wine and whisky cellars are") in Italy, runs 20 salons globally, including Milan, Paris, Madrid, New York and Los Angeles.

The Man, the Method
Buzz has it that it's 'the method' that lets Ferretti set his bar high. 'The method' is the patented haircutting technique - Metodo Rossano Ferretti - that he developed to cut hair.

How can one patent haircutting, you ask. Well, you think of a method that fits the madness, says Ferretti. Working as the stylist for Armani in his early days, he loved the way he could change people's lives through their haircut. For the record, it was he who gave supermodels Linda Evangelista her iconic bob and Christy Turlington her first bangs. The Metodo represents Ferretti's "philosophy and respect for the natural movement of hair".

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"It (Metodo) respects hair, the beauty of the person and is all about the natural fall of the hair," he says. Each strand of hair has its own structure and movement: Metodo is based on this fundamental principle. When Ferretti cuts hair, he lets them dry naturally, so that the fall of the hair is wash and go.

According to him, a haircut should have more value than a suit, after all you wear it all the time. But why a haircutting technique patent, you ask again? To gain respect for the profession.

India Uncut

It's been three years since Ferretti cut the ribbon of his Mumbai salon and has been travelling to India every six months. "It's a new country every time," he exclaims. The changes he has noticed: the fascination for long hair is diminishing, there's trust in colour and there's global exposure that's shaping their choices. The haircut at the salon in Oberoi will start at Rs 2,000 for men. The maximum is Rs 6,500 for a style change for women and from a senior stylist.

It's better priced than Kim Robinson India at The Aman in New Delhi where chief stylist Rod Anker charges Rs 10,000 for a cut. The Ferretti salon in Mumbai has already developed a faithful clientele of Bollywood names, politicians and industrialists. Tanya Dubash, Lara Dutta and Jacqueline Fernandes are regulars now.

Now, the Men
Like all Ferretti salons, this salon too has a private room for one-on-one consultations. The Beverly Hills property in the US is built like an apartment with a separate entrance and parking for the celebrity client where no paparazzi can enter. But Ferretti doesn't like talking about his celebrity clients. "I can't mention one without offending the other by not talking about her," he says, maybe alluding to frail celebrity egos.

But as he insists, every woman he styles (and he only styles women except when he shaved the head of his two boys as kids) is a celebrity for him. And now the men are catching up too. "Nearly 25% of my income from Mumbai salon comes from men's styling," he says.

And worldwide too, Ferretti says men are the key drivers of growth contributing nearly 30% towards his earnings, making him wonder if he should start styling men. "This is the fastest growing segment. And once, men have been to a stylist, they will never go back to a barbershop."

30 October 2011

Karmasheetra: Need We Say more?

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The beauty of the Kama Sutra has always been that it comes with pictures, but now the couple looking to mix things up can enjoy the naughty side of Twister with the wisdom of the ages thanks to the Karmasheetra.

'Some say the Karmasheetra is the lost linen of an ancient Indian civilization, linked to the Kama sutra, which will enable the user to master the subtle art of sensual love making and allow you and your partner to participate in sheer unadulterated pleasure...

...although, some say it’s just a white sheet covered in pink and blue hands and feet!'

Just in time for the holiday season…

Full story at Karmasheetra via Geekologie.

14 October 2011

Floh–A Singles-Only Network in Bangalore

By Suma Nagaraj

If you’re in Bangalore, single and are looking for a social circle that doesn’t involve married friends, here’s a great new place to hang out. Floh (Find Life Over Here) is a start-up that aims to bring together urban professionals in their twenties and thirties not with the ambition of setting them up, but to give them a platform to mingle and find interesting people outside their immediate social circles.

Siddharth Mangharam, entrepreneur and founder CEO, hit upon this brainwave after meeting his wife at a cheese-tasting event, an interest they both share. Having realized how increasingly difficult it has become for urban, well-settled single men and women to venture out and meet other singles outside of work and the comfort of friends, Siddharth and his wife decided to pitch this idea to singles within their personal networks, i.e., friends and professional contacts who had hit a dead end in dating.

Having said that, Siddharth is quick to assert that Floh is not a dating site or even a matrimonial one even though it has been instrumental in bringing some singles together. His business model works on the premise that singles have as much right to a happening social life as married people do – in fact, being free from rigid commitments and obligations, singles should find it an active social life easier than their not-single counterparts. There is no matchmaking involved, though. Every member is vetted and personally interviewed by a Floh founder and ‘determined’ whether they’d fit in with the network and enjoy interacting with its existing members before they gain entry.

There is also a very thoughtful right-of-admission reserved – access to Floh is on an invite-only basis, where only an existing member can invite you and refer you to Floh. Siddharth insists he doesn’t want this to balloon to unmanageable sizes and says that it’s not at all about the numbers. Considering the number of women members trump the number of men in the Bangalore venture currently, this ‘security’ measure is much welcome.

S, (name withheld on request), a marketing professional in her thirties, vouches for this. Having been a member since its inception, she’s still single, but welcomes the opportunity to meet like-minded people (or otherwise) outside her hectic corporate life once in a while and let her hair down. Her work and lifestyle have included a lot of travel so far, but she’s now in Bangalore for a good while and highly recommends Floh to single women in Bangalore.

Though this network is open to people in their twenties, Joe, an artist in his mid-twenties, found the  evening event to cater mostly to the 30+ crowd, something Siddharth says depends on the event you attend, since the network caters to people in the 25-40 age bracket. Floh events are bracketed into 4 categories – food (cook-outs), beverages (trips to vineyards, cocktail events) outdoors (nature sports, heritage walks) and cerebral/artsy (theatre workshops, photography). One can choose the event based on their likes and preferences. This way, the chances of meeting like-minded singles increases dramatically, says Siddharth. He tries to organize at least 4-8 events a month and covers a wide variety of interests including the recently concluded and hugely successful paint ball event for the perennially-young-at-heart populace.

With experience at McKinsey & Co. and Microsoft, Siddharth with his latest initiative seems to be poised on the edge of hitherto uncharted territory in urban India. His mantra is perfectly summed up in his own quote: “Emotions are best expressed when two people meet in a no-pressure, natural environment.”

He hopes to expand this to Delhi and Mumbai soon.

Bangalore’s Floh already has close to a 1000 members in 6 months of existence, but they’re handpicked and have to go through the Floh screen to gain entry. Floh’s only requirement is that if you find someone you’d like to date in their network, you’ll have to quit the network – a small ask for a terrific opportunity to meet interesting people and to skip the odious matchmaking ritual by well-meaning but largely irritating relatives and/or having to register on matrimonial sites with no surety of authenticity of profiles.

Note: Visit the Floh blog for write-ups and articles by members.

Eating a Ghost Chili Pepper with severe consequences

SAP Hmarcha
Eating Sap Hmarcha (Naga Mircha/ Bhut Jalokia) has severe consequences

19 September 2011

How To Wear A condom

How to wear a condom

Using a condom while having sex protects you from becoming infected with sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. At the same time it also prevents unwanted pregnancy.

Selecting the right condom...

There are several types of condoms available in the market that you can choose from.

1. Most condoms are made of either latex or polyurethane. Latex condoms are more effective in terms of providing protection as chances of tear or leak are less. However, latex condoms will easily tear if an oil-based lubricant is used. Some people may also be allergic to latex.

2. Polyurethane condoms are thinner, which may give some users better sensation and pleasure.

3. Some condoms contain a spermicidal chemical called Nonoxynol 9. Till recently it was  thought that adding it would provide better protection against pregnancy and the transmission of HIV and other STDs, but recent studies have shown no added advantage.

4. Size of the condom should generally not be a concern as most condoms fit most men. The definition of regular, large, and extra-large is not consistent across brands. It may be a good idea to try a few products to figure  out what works the best for you. The basic idea is that it should not be so tight that it pinches or so loose that it slips off.

How to use a condom

1. Check the expiry date on the condom packet. Do not use the condom if the expiry date has passed.

2. Tear open the condom package carefully. Do not use scissors or your teeth to open the package as you may damage the condom in the process.

3. Remove the condom from the package, but do not unroll it right away. It is tough to put on an unrolled condom and it also makes it  more likely to tear.

4. See if the condom has a reservoir tip. If it does not, pinch the tip of the condom to leave a half inch space for semen to collect.

5. Now place the rolled condom over the tip of the erect penis. Uncircumsied men should pull back the foreskin before rolling down the condom.

6. Gently unroll the condom over the penis with the other hand all the way down to the base. Smooth out air bubbles as they can cause the condom to tear.

7. You may apply some water-based lubricants such as KY-Jellly or Durex Play on the outer surface of the condom for extra lubrication. This is helpful if you or your partner are having intercourse for the first time. Do not use oil-based lubricants such as vaseline, cold creams and lotions because these can cause the condom to tear.

Proper usage entails...

1. Not putting the condom on too tight at the end, and leaving about 1.5 cm (3/4 inch) room at the tip for ejaculation. Putting the condom on too snug can and often does lead to failure.

2. Wearing a condom too loose can defeat the barrier.

3. Avoiding condoms made of substances other than latex or polyurethane, as they don't protect against HIV.

4. Avoiding the use of oil based lubricants (or anything with oil in it) with latex condoms, as oil can eat holes into them.

5. Using flavoured condoms for oral sex only, as the sugar in the flavouring can lead to yeast infections if used to penetrate.

6. Withdrawing the penis soon after ejaculation while the condom is still firmly in place and removing the condom only when you have completely withdrawn from your partner.

7. Using a new condom every time you have sexual intercourse. Never use the same condom twice, whether or not you have ejaculated into it.

01 September 2011

Puritan Pundits Should Chill Out -- Here Are 5 Reasons I'm Happy I've Had Lots of Casual Sex

By Greta Christina

Things don't have to be permanent to be valuable. A fleeting moment can have as much value as a stone monument.

The phenomenon of women who have sex for its own sake seems to baffle many people. It's widely believed that women have sex for love, commitment, poor self-control, to manipulate men, to please men, to make babies, to sooth their low self-esteem, and just about any reason at all other than their own pleasure. (While men, of course, are rutting horndogs who just want to stick it in the nearest wet hole available.) Sex, according to this trope, is by its nature a commodity that women possess and men are trying to obtain... and the phenomenon of women who are "giving it away," who are defying these assumptions and treating sex as a pleasurable interaction between equals, is making the media piss all over themselves.

Mark Regnerus, Slate: "If women were more fully in charge of how their relationships transpired, we'd be seeing, on average, more impressive wooing efforts, longer relationships, fewer premarital sexual partners, shorter cohabitations, and more marrying going on."

Rachel Simmons, relationship advice columnist for Teen Vogue: "These letters worry me. They signify a growing trend in girls' sexual lives where they are giving themselves to guys on guys' terms. They hook up first and ask later. "

Bill O'Reilly: "Many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex."

Susan Walsh, Hooking Up Smart: "They cannot see that as she [self-proclaimed proud-and-happy slut Jaclyn Friedman] proclaims her detachment from sex, she gets emotionally wounded every single time. They take heart from her proclamation that sluthood is a healing thing. Ms. Friedman is a hot mess. Craiglist Casual Encounters was not a miracle, it was a disaster that broke her heart again. I hope she does find Love, the whole enchilada."

Laura Sessions Stepp, author of Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both... oh, just look at the title.

Then there's the piece that got me staying up until four in the morning writing about this in the first place: Christian author Don Miller, who recently asked his female readers (and his male ones, in a separate post) if they've ever had casual sex, and if so, why. Miller doesn't ask this in a neutral way, a way that expresses a genuine desire for an honest answer. He asks in a way that makes it obvious what he thinks the answer will be -- whatever the reason is, it must be bad, bad, bad. In fact, he's asking in a way that totally slants the answers he's likely to get. He's asking "why some girls give up sex easily" (as if sex for women is always a surrender) and "do you use sex for some kind of social power or to make yourself feel good?"

It's like a push-poll -- a political poll designed to elicit a particular response, so you can shape people's opinions and make your position seem more popular than it really is.

And this push-poll tendency is shared by many of those who ask, "Why on earth would women want casual hookups?" They're not asking, "Why do some women have casual sex?" They're asking, "Why on earth would some women have casual sex, when it's so clearly a bad idea that will do them and other women harm and is obviously not in their best interest?" And they're doing this despite research showing that casual sex isn't, in fact psychologically harmful for young adults. They're basing their questions on the common assumption that women's natural state is to keep their legs closed unless they've got their hands on marriage or commitment... and that women who don't are some sort of baffling phenomenon that needs to be explained.

So I thought I'd try to explain it.

I've had a lot of experience with casual sex. It's been a while, and I'm not particularly interested in it anymore. But for many years, pretty much all the sex I had fell somewhere on the "casual" spectrum. Personal ad hookups; occasional sex with friends; sex clubs and sex parties; ongoing sexual friendships... that's what my sex life looked like for a long time.

And needless to say -- but I'm going to say it anyway -- a lot of this casual sex was a good idea. A wonderful idea, in fact. A lot of it was done for excellent, healthy reasons. And the effect it's had on my sex life and my love life has been overwhelmingly positive.

You want to know why I had it? Here's why.

1: Fun. This is first and foremost. In fact, all the other answers I'm about to give ultimately boil down to this one: Sex is fun. Sex feels good. Sex is its own justification. And that was every bit as true when I was single as when I've been coupled. I had sex for the same reason billions of other people have sex: Pleasure. Period.

We evolved to enjoy sex. We are descended from thousands of generations of ancestors who really, really liked to fuck. Asking why people have sex casually is like asking why people eat food casually. Eating feels good. Food is fun. It's often more fun when it's meaningful and done with people we love. But that's not always an option, and it can still be pretty darned fun when it's grabbed on the fly with acquaintances and strangers. We evolved to want to eat food. And we evolved to want to have sex. Like, duh.

2: Experimentation. When I was having casual sex with a lot of different people, I was also having lots of different kinds of sex. There are lots of reasons for that: some obvious, some not so obvious. The most obvious one is that my partners liked different things, so I tried the things they liked, to see if I might like them too. Plus, at the time, I felt more comfortable asking for and trying some of my freakier desires with fuckbuddies and casual hookups than I had with long-term romantic partners. I do wish that hadn't been true -- I wish I'd been less shy about experimenting with my LTR partners in my younger days -- but the whole stupid virgin/whore thing can get pretty deeply embedded, and it took many years of screwing around to get it (mostly) hacked out of my brain.

And that experimenting was awesome. I figured out an immense amount about my sexuality during my casual sex years. I learned a huge amount about which of my fantasies were really things I liked, and which were things I just liked thinking about. I figured out that yes, I really was a dyke, and yes, I really was kinky. And I discovered things about my sexuality that I never would have imagined if I hadn't tried them. My sex life is about a billion times more satisfying now that I know what I do and don't like in bed... and now that I have the courage to ask for it. Like, duh.

I haven't stopped learning and experimenting now that I'm married. And plenty of people do plenty of experimenting with just one partner, and do it entirely happily. But that's not how it played out for me. And when I think about who I was in my twenties, I'm not sure it could have played out that way for me. When I think about who I was in my 20s, I think casual sex with a large-ish number of people was the only way I was going to get those experiments under my belt. As it were.

3: Pleasure without unwanted commitment. As you may have figured out from this piece, I was single for a long time. After my divorce and before I fell in love with Ingrid, I was single for 12 years. And they were good years. Most of them, anyway. Staying single for so long was a conscious decision, and it was one of the best decisions I've made in my life. After my divorce, I was pretty confused, with some seriously messed-up ideas about love and relationships, and I had a strong tendency to be attracted to needy, fucked-up drug addicts. Staying single for 12 years gave me a chance to get my head screwed on straight; to re-train myself to be attracted to people who had their act together; to wait for the right partner instead of jumping into commitment with whoever was available; to learn that I could be happy and fulfilled on my own. In fact, my relationship and marriage with Ingrid wouldn't be nearly as strong if I hadn't been single -- and happily single -- for so long.

But if I'd tried to be celibate during all those years, I would have gone bananas. I never would have stuck it out.

Not everyone wants to be in a relationship. Not everyone should be in a relationship. Some people are better off single: temporarily, or indefinitely. I was one of them, for over a decade. And casual sex let me stay single... while still having the pleasure and confidence and connection and other yummy things that sex provides.

4: Independence and confidence. Catting around made me feel like a million bucks. And not just in the obvious way. It made me feel powerful, self-reliant, curious and playful, free and fun. It taught me the value of adventure. It taught me that awesome surprises can be around any corner if I'm open to them. It taught me that even crummy experiences can make for a really great story. It taught me strength and self-confidence. It taught me that saying "No" didn't make me a selfish jerk. It taught me that being told "No" didn't make me a pathetic loser.

I still feel that way. I haven't forgotten those lessons. And I am deeply grateful for everything in my life that got me there. Including casual sex. Casual sex wasn't the only thing that helped me feel powerful and self-reliant, adventurous and playful, independent and confident... but it was one of the things, one of the most crucial things, and I am profoundly thankful for it.

5: Intimacy and connection. Casual doesn't necessarily mean impersonal. A lot of the casual sex I had was fairly nonchalant. But a lot of it wasn't. A lot of it was very intimate indeed. It came out of a moment of feeling connected with another human being, and wanting to expand that connection. I didn't want romance or marriage with these people. But I cared about them, and I felt close with them, and I wanted to experience that closeness in a sexual way.

Some of those people started out as casual hookups, and became good friends over weeks and months. Some of them started out as friends, and the sex -- whether it happened semi-regularly or was just one many-splendored night -- deepened those friendships, and gave them a little extra sparkle and tingle. But they all have one thing in common... which is that I still feel affection towards them, and still have fond memories of the sex we had, and don't regret it for a minute.

I realize that this is a very atheist/ humanist philosophy of life, and one that a Christian writer like Don Miller is unlikely to respond to. But things don't have to be permanent to be valuable. A fleeting moment can have as much value as a stone monument. And that includes moments of sexual intimacy and connection

It Gets Better

I realize that I'm only one person, telling one person's story. And I realize that the plural of anecdote is not data. My experiences are largely supported by the data, but they aren't universal. I had a lot of things going for me that loaded the "casual sex" dice in my favor -- among other things, I was mostly having all this casual sex with other women, so the gender imbalances and weird sexual/ romantic power dynamics between women and men were a non-issue. And I realize that not everyone shares my experience. Some people go into casual sex for good, healthy reasons, and some people do it for bad, unhealthy reasons, and many people do it for a combination of the two. And some people have good outcomes from it, and some have crummy outcomes, and some have outcomes that are a mixed bag.

You know. Just like people go into marriage and committed relationships for good reasons and bad reasons and combinations of the two... with good, and bad, and mixed results.

And I'm not going to pretend that my casual sex was always perfect and awesome. It wasn't. Some of it was boring and pointless; a little of it was icky and sad. I'm not even going to pretend that my reasons for having it were always entirely healthy. I sometimes had casual sex, in part, to bolster my self-image as a nonconformist, or because that's what everyone else in my social circle was doing (yes, those two things are contradictory -- what's your point?), or as a salve for feeling lonely and unattractive, or because I didn't want to hurt someone's feelings by saying "No." Especially in the earlier days. Like most things in life, I got better at it as I went along.

But you know what? That was true of sex in relationships, too. Especially in my younger days. I didn't always have it for healthy reasons, and it wasn't always that great. But it got better as I went along. Much, much better. Sex at 49 is so much better than sex at 23, I can't even tell you.

And it got better, in large part, because of my years of casual sex. It's better because of the independence and confidence I got from casual sex... independence and confidence that strengthens me to this day. It's better because of the experiments I carried out during casual sex... experiments that helped me map out my sexuality and enjoy it to its fullest. It's better because of the moments of genuine connection I had during casual sex... moments that taught me how to pursue intimacy and make myself open to it. It's better because of all the sheer pleasure I got from casual sex... which helped me to value pleasure, and embrace it, and make it a priority in my marriage. It's better because of the years of being happily single which casual sex made possible... years that enabled me to wait for the right person, and turn myself into the right person, to make our love and our marriage work.

Sex, and marriage, and life, are better because of casual sex. For me, anyway. And no stupid push-poll in the world is going to change that answer.

Read more of Greta Christina at her blog.

20 August 2011

What Women Think When Men Are Naked

Dr Pam Spurr

Uncovered: what she really thinks of your body

Behaviour expert Dr Pam Spurr shares the inside scoop on what women are thinking when they see you naked.

Uncovered: what she really thinks of your body(Getty Images)

Guys know that when you see a woman naked there are often plenty of thoughts racing through their mind, some which might be in conflict. For example, "she looks hot... but is she really up for it? And with me?" But they are your thoughts, so at least you know your own mind.

Equally, her mind can be a hive of activity when she catches sight of your body, whether it's the first time or further down the line. But what is she thinking exactly? You might be surprised by some of what goes on in the female mind.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about 10 things she's thinking when she sees you naked.

So that's what he wears underneath...

So that's what he wears underneath... (Getty Images)

So that's what he wears underneath... She will have been wondering if you're a briefs-or-boxers type of guy. Women read so much about your personality - or try to - from the style and colour/pattern of your underwear. She's already been having a lot of fun guessing who you are and what you're about from the way you speak and from your body language. What type of underwear you sport is one of the next pieces of the puzzle in her assessment of you. Whatever brand they are, or what style, just make sure they're clean!

Oh my, let's take a look at his private package...

Oh my, let's take a look at his private package... (Getty Images)

Oh my, let's take a look at his private package... Yes, she looks at the 'whole package' but she also looks at 'the' package. Some surprising research from the Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience in 2007 found that women take a peek at your genitals very quickly indeed, in fact quicker than when your eyes wander 'down below' on her. It's thought that this is a natural biologically-based response, particularly if she's at the fertility peak of her cycle. Be confident, relax and let her take a good look!

So he's got a few lumps and bumps...

So he's got a few lumps and bumps... (Getty Images)

So he's got a few lumps and bumps... Women aren't by nature overly critical and although her eyes might skim over any excess weight that you're carrying, as long as you're confident in the bedroom it won't matter. Overwhelmingly women find confident men a turn on. She'll be picking up subtle cues from the way you move and speak that signal you feel good about what is going on between you. These are far more important to her than if she notices a spare tyre around your middle.

Your scent of seduction...

Your scent of seduction... (Getty Images)

Your scent of seduction... Stale sweat is a definite turnoff and a subconscious message of poor hygiene and maybe even poor health. But - and it's a big 'but' - fresh sweat is chock-full of your pheromones and MHCs** - the manly smells that women love and that can influence levels of attraction. It goes without saying that you don't have to greet her straight from the gym but don't overuse shower gels and aftershaves either. A little goes a long way and stick with the more masculine smells that mimic pheromones.

** Research reported in Behaviour Ecology 2003

He has soft areas too...

He has soft areas too... (Getty Images)

He has soft areas too... As she gets to know your body through exploring your erogenous zones she'll be surprised to find that you have soft areas too. Women are so much more used to the rougher feel of your hands and your five o'clock shadow that it's a nice surprise discovering your lower abdomen, the inside of your thighs and that your wrists are smooth and soft. She may want to spend time gently kissing and caressing these erogenous zones too, particularly with your encouragement.

Can he tell I'm nervous too...

Can he tell I'm nervous too... (Getty Images)

Can he tell I'm nervous too... Women are great at picking up male nervousness and as long as it's not extreme nerves she'll breathe a sigh of relief. She'll feel a warm sense of empathy towards your nerves and wonder if you can tell she's also nervous. This can deepen a fledgling emotional bond that you and she are equals when it comes to wanting things to go well. This ultimately can lead to a better sexual bond.

Please hold me tight...

Please hold me tight... (Getty Images)

Please hold me tight... If she has any nerves - particularly if this is your first time together - when she sees you naked she may feel in need of some big, affectionate cuddles. Take your time before you get into serious foreplay and make sure your foreplay includes some good, loving affection. A new boyfriend standing there big-and-in-the-buff and who wants to jump straight into a quickie can be daunting for some women.

I love his shoulders...

I love his shoulders... (Getty Images)

I love his shoulders... A key physical cue of your masculinity is knowing that your shoulders are wider than hers. Her eyeline is drawn to them even if you don't feel that they're particularly broad. Your broad shoulders immediately give her a sense of your physical differences - and vive la différence when it comes to the bedroom! Make sure she gets a good look as you peel off your shirt slowly and confidently.

The 'windows' to your soul...

The 'windows' to your soul... (Getty Images)

The 'windows' to your soul... Keep your eyes focused on her while at the same time keeping the lighting low if and when you are seducing her. University of Edinburgh researchers in 2009 showed that women are attracted to men with large pupils. Subconsciously she picks up that you're sexually attracted to her as enlarged pupils are a natural physical reaction when you find someone attractive. As the heat in the bedroom rises with foreplay she'll notice if you're giving her good eye contact - which is attractive anyway despite pupil size. Or if you're avoiding eye contact, she might read this as a lack of confidence.

I hope he's not comparing me to his ex

I hope he's not comparing me to his ex (Getty Images)

I hope he's not comparing me to his ex... As you two get naked - particularly if it's at your place and she knows your ex used to hang out there - she wants you to only have eyes for her. She wonders if the two of you together, in your bedroom, brings back other memories of your ex.

Focus entirely on her, ask what she would like and what you can do to please her and she'll soon forget such niggles.

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