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?

Barf.

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.

Eligibility

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 pridestudy.org. For more info on the study, check out this PDF.

Study: The Relationship Between Media & Sexuality

If you are between the ages of 18-35, please consider taking part in the following research opportunity.

This study examines the “relationship between media and sexual attitudes and behaviors.” It takes about 15-20 minutes to complete the study via Survey Monkey. There are no financial benefits or incentives related to this study.

If you have any questions or concerns about this research study, please feel free to contact Izabella Bagdasarian at izabella.bagdasarian at gmail dot com or Dr. Christensen at Jacquelyn.christensen at woodbuey dot edu.

The 411 on Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation is, super simply put, what type of person turns you on. This can be romantically or sexually but is generally used in a sexual sense.

There are many sexual orientations. These can change over a period of time or with experiences. Many people start out feeling forced into being heterosexual because that is the perceived norm in American society.

Let’s start with terms you may be more familiar with. Keep in mind that this is without taking one’s gender identity into consideration so some of these terms may not necessarily be operating how they would in the real world. When I say the opposite sex or same sex, I mean it as if this may be operating in a more gender binary world. Again, this is not reality, so please keep this in mind.

Heterosexual (straight): attracted to members of the ‘opposite’ sex (i.e., a man who is sexually attracted to women)

Homosexual (androsexual, gay): attracted to members of the same sex (i.e., men seeking men)

Lesbian: generally used for women or non-binary people who identify as attracted to women

Bisexual: the well-known term to say one is attracted to two or more genders

Pansexual: similarly to bisexual, this term basically means “I am attracted to everyone, regardless of their or my gender identity” (it’s more accepting in my opinion as someone who used to identify as bi personally, but that is not the case for all)

Bicurious: someone who is curious about experiences with multiple genders

There are layers here that aren’t explained well in a mass definition post like this. One can be bi/pan and more sexually attracted to certain people than others. As someone who has literally always been attracted to everyone, I personally believe that pansexual is a more inclusive term. You can read my story for National Coming Out Day to learn more about my experience. 

Skoliosexual: someone who is attracted to those who are not in the gender binary norm, such as transgender, non-binary, androgynous, etc.

Asexual (ace): someone who is not generally interested in sexual relationships – this is a spectrum in and of itself, though, because this can range from those who are asexual and aromantic (see below) to those who are asexual but are demiromantic (see below)

Aromantic (arrow): someone who is not interested in romantic relationships with others

Demiromantic/demisexual: someone who generally needs to have a very strong emotional connection to someone in order to feel attracted to them romantically (former) or sexually (latter)

Polyamorous: someone who is in a consensual non-monogamous relationship

Queer: this is a very broad term that can be used to describe the LGBTQ+ community; it can be used as a way to avoid labels that may not fit for long, too, since sexual orientations change

I’m sorry, but ‘ally’ is not a sexual orientation. Being an ally just means you’re a good person. You still have a separate orientation from that – generally straight.

What sexual orientations have I missed? Have one to add? Do it in the comments! Please note, though, that gender identity will come in its own post.

 

SYLK: a fun lube AND a contest!

You may have noticed that several of the posts in the last week have been about the wonderful world of lubrication.

There’s a reason for that!

Earlier this year, I was introduced to SYLK.

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SYLK is an all-natural lubricant made from the vine of the New Zealand kiwi. This ingredient means that SYLK is able to mimic the natural lubrication of the body thanks to polysaccharides. SYLK is made in the US, despite the location of the plant.

Remember some of the icky things we talked about watching out for in lube – parabens, silicones, and scents/flavors/dyes? Of those, SYLK only has glycerin and, even then, natural glycerin from the vine. This means it’s safe to use with just about any condom, dental dam, sex toy, and more!

It’s been being sold in New Zealand and Australia for over 30 years, and in Europe for 20. It’s also sustainable which is pretty badass.

why

After receiving positive and rave reviews on Amazon and elsewhere from people struggling with illness-related sexual issues, the company began to learn more about what we all go through with illnesses and sexuality. Recently, SYLK reached out to a number of people in the chronic illness blogging world across disease types from Lupus Chick to the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation and more.

I struggle with vaginal dryness. It’s like my body doesn’t respond to natural turn-ons anymore, like the connection between my emotions and my vagina is non-existent. Therefore, sex isn’t always comfortable for me simply because I don’t always practice what I preach and utilize lube.

Why?

Well, one of the problems that I have with lubes is that they get sticky. It may not always bother me, but definitely always bothers my partner.

It’s not sexy to feel like you fell into a vat of wet cotton candy.

When I got SYLK to try, then, I was excited to see how things went.

Real talk: it was a surreal moment to realize having sex was totally a part of my job, but I digress.

We really enjoyed the consistency of the lubricant and how effective it was. It also was more similar to my body’s own lubrication and didn’t leave the same sticky residue. In fact, any leftover stickies were easily taken care of with a wet washcloth or bathroom wipe.

As I went through the rest of my day, my vagina wasn’t sticky and it also didn’t feel like there was a glob of incompatible goo jammed up there.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winners will be chosen at random on Halloween by Rafflecopter and then contacted for their information, which will then be shared with our contact at SYLK for shipping. We do have samples of SYLK that will be included in future giveaways so stay tuned if you don’t win this round! Please also note: While I received SYLK for free in order to evaluate it, I received no other compensation for this post.