Are You Tired of Cishet Studies on Relationships and Pain, Too?

I was really excited to see a new study come out saying that a touch from our partners can help relieve pain. It’s one of those obvious things, especially to anyone who knows about how our brains release oxytocin. The hormone has long been known to relieve pain as well as being the ‘love’ hormone.

It increases bonding between people, especially when they’re physically close to each other. For example, it’s released during sexual activity!

I wanted to know more about the study, so I turned to their free journal article on NCBI.

Write-ups don’t tell the whole story

One thing I found interesting was that the study is also heavily focused on empathy. Sure, a loved one hugging you while you’re in pain may help – but it helps more if they care you’re in pain, too.

Additionally, they studied both respiratory and cardiac response in both partners as well. Heart and breathing rates in the non-pain partners tended to try to match those of the pain partners when touch was involved. When pain happened without touch, this didn’t happen.

Anyway, I was excited to see that someone verified something a lot of patients and providers have known for a long time…

Until, you know, I realized this study was only done on cishet couples.

Why are studies always on cishet couples?

From the study write-up:

Dr. Goldstein and colleagues gathered 22 heterosexual couples for their study, who were all aged between 23 and 32.

The researchers asked the couples to participate in a range of tests that replicated the experience of being in a delivery room.

The female participants were assigned the role of “pain receiver,” while the men were “pain observers.”

There’s some good ol’ fashioned sexism in here, too, right?


In their limitations section in the journal article, researchers discuss how only females underwent pain and males were the outside partner. They do suggest that there need to be similar studies on same-sex couples, but neither address any other LGBTQIA+ community nor why they chose only cishet couples to begin with.

It’s 2017. Why is it that LGBTQIA+ people still aren’t being involved in research? How meaningful is research when it leaves out an increasingly sizeable chunk of the population?

We need inclusive research

KLB Research logo with tagline: valuing diversity in academic research

I had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Karen Blair of KLB Research speak at the Guelph Sexuality Conference.

Karen was in college when she discovered she was a lesbian. As a result of taking sexuality courses, she began wondering why cishet couples were always the ones in research and books. So, like all great innovators, she started doing the research that needed to happen.

Dr. Blair even did a study right after the Pulse massacre to understand how this was affecting the LGBTQIA+ community. Listening to her speak about the Pulse study was incredibly profound. There’s even a follow-up study accepting participants.

What can we do?

We need more people like Karen – and more awareness of the work she and others do on inclusive research.

Share studies looking for participants whenever you can. Support or participate in The Pride Study. Stay tuned for when ORCHIDS gets going.

Demand more representation. When studies come out and don’t include anyone other than white cishet abled middle-class Americans, we have to speak up and share that this is not reality. This is not inclusive research.

Edit: Our pals over at Clara Health just wrote about the lack of LGBTQQIA2+ representation in studies. Check it out.

What is the Pride Study?

The Pride Study is the first large-scale and long-term study of health in the LGBTQIA+ population.

In the end, doctors and scientists at the University of California-San Francisco are going to use the Pride Study to better understand – and then work to improve – the health of the LGBTQIA+ community at large.

One of the biggest problems in tracking health within our community is that gender identity and sexual orientation are often removed from our data – if they’re even collected. That means there’s just no way to find those in our community and track their health over time.


To be eligible, you have to live in the United States and identify as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. You can check your eligibility status here. If you know someone who would qualify but does not have internet access, they can call 855-421-9991 to sign up.

What do I have to do?

All you have to do is fill out a survey that takes about half an hour once a year. That’s it!

If you are not a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and would like to support this study financially, please visit their donate page. If you live in the United States and want to volunteer for Pride Net – regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation – check out their volunteer page.

How easy is it?

I signed up since I’m genderqueer and pansexual. I found that it was really easy and very accessible. You can even connect a FitBit, Withings, or Jawbone Up to provide even more data.

Your dashboard also gives you statistics on how the research participant pool looks right now in relation to your own identities. As of June 3rd, 16% of people in the study identified as genderqueer and 15% identified as pansexual.

I have to say, though, 77% of participants as of that date are white. Let’s get some diversity!

You can learn more about PRIDENet, the team, and find answers to many questions at For more info on the study, check out this PDF.

Survey: Experiences Related to Sexual Orientation

Emma – a friend of a friend – is working on her Ph.D. She’s currently researching how our sexual orientation affects our life experiences. This particular survey asks questions about sexual orientation, stigma around that, and health.

I took this and it was really easy. This survey takes about half an hour to finish. It’s anonymous and. At the end, you can enter your email to win an Amazon gift card!

Click here to help out with this academic research.