In Contraceptive Tech, the Apps Guess Is as Good as Yours

Last year, a small Swedish startup made waves with what it called the world's first form of "digital contraception." The company's product, a smartphone app called Natural Cycles, pairs with a thermometer to track women's basal temperature every day, then uses that data to make predictions about ovulation. Rather than curbing ovulation, like an oral contraceptive, Natural Cycles gives women either a red light or a green light on unprotected sex depending on when they're most likely to be ovulating. The app promised a 21st-century update to contraception—one that used algorithms, not hormones; one that lived on an iPhone, not inside of a woman's body.

That promise is now under investigation, after a hospital in Stockholm reported last week that 37 out of 668 women seeking abortions since September had used Natural Cycles as their primary form of contraception.

That's just one hospital, in one city. The app reportedly counts over half a million subscribers across 160 countries. Chances are, more than just a few dozen women in Stockholm have been failed by the app and others like it.

The report from Stockholm is interesting because last year, Natural Cycles became the first app to be certified as a contraceptive in Europe. It raised millions of dollars in investments during a moment when interest in consumer health technology is staggeringly high. So the fact that women are reporting unwanted pregnancies from Natural Cycles already, not even a year after its certification, is not just alarming. It's a miner's canary for a much larger constellation of contraceptive technology.

The Algorithm Method

Before there was Natural Cycles, there was Clue, Ovia, Kindara, and dozens of other apps for charting one's fertility. Some of these apps look like digital calendars of menstruation: They provide a space on a woman's smartphone to log periods and track cycles over time. Others use period tracking, as well as data like basal temperature, to predict ovulation and suggest windows of peak fertility (for women trying to get pregnant) or low fertility (for women trying to avoid pregnancy).

"All these apps are really souped-up rhythm methods."

Reproductive clinician Mary Jane Minkin, also known as Madame Ovary.

It's true that ovulation is cyclical, and tracking data over time can help a woman predict when she's most likely to conceive. At best, apps like Natural Cycles give women space to log their own bodily rhythms and understand when they're most likely to get pregnant. At worst, they take folkloric advice about how to not get pregnant and make it seem more credible by dressing it up as a smartphone app.

"All these apps are really souped-up rhythm methods," says Mary Jane Minkin, a practicing gynecologist and reproductive clinician at the Yale University School of Medicine. "The term for the technique was known for years as 'Vatican roulette.' And the old joke was: 'What do you call women who use the rhythm method? Mothers.'"

Even still, it's not hard to find reasons why women would find a cycle-tracking app appealing. The burdens of contraception are high, and fall largely on women. Hormonal options can wreak havoc on the body, causing all kinds of unpleasant side effects. Without insurance, birth control pills are expensive, and often out of reach for young or low-income women. IUDs can be painful, condoms can be uncomfortable, emergency contraception can be fallible. So it's forgivable that a natural method—something that requires little more than monitoring your own body and downloading an app—seems appealing. Consider the group of women New York Magazine once called "the pull-out generation"—young females fed up with hormonal birth control and interested in understanding their bodies more deeply. Those women gave rise to an ecosystem of apps that claimed to hold all the information—and not just information, but technology, right there on your smartphone—needed to master one's own body.

It's an age-old impulse. Women have practiced "natural" family planning methods for as long as women have been fertile, as a way to avoid pregnancy when contraception wasn't attainable or easy to use. Today, the same methods are just dressed up with technology. Natural Cycles doesn't just follow the days of your period, but your temperature too! Other apps look at hormone levels, or vaginal mucus. Pair all that with an inviting design and a tab that cites research studies, and you've got something that looks more like science and less like folklore. When a technological solution is presented to us, we're more willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Quantified Fertility

Natural family planning, and apps that support the method, do have some credibility. Last September, Natural Cycles was the focus of a major study on natural contraceptive methods. The study followed 22,785 women through a total of 224,563 menstrual cycles and found that the app was 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy during "perfect use," and 93 percent effective during "imperfect use"—roughly on par with hormonal birth control and barrier methods like condoms.

With any gadget or app that relies on self-reported data, the margin for human error is extremely high.

The study results were followed by a surge of $30 million in Series B funding for Natural Cycles. But much of the hype surrounded the success from "perfect use," rather than "typical use." The expectation that women will reliably input data, or even collect that data accurately, on a daily basis in the app seems unlikely. Moreover, the app relies on slight variations in temperature to predict ovulation, but is still finding ways to take into account the many factors that can affect a woman's temperature—sleeping habits, sickness, mood. The app can suggest when a woman is most likely to be ovulating, but cannot accurately warn when ovulation comes a few days early. And, with any gadget or app that relies on self-reported data, the margin for human error is extremely high.

Minkin says the collected data in these apps can be tremendously useful for women who are hoping to get pregnant. But using them as contraception "depends on your acceptance of risk." The exact day of ovulation can be unpredictable—even with a log of past cycles, temperature measurements, and hormone levels—and that can make it difficult to know which days are safe to have unprotected sex. "Very few people consistently ovulate every cycle on day 14," says Minkin. "If you happen to ovulate on day 12 and you've had sex two days earlier, those sperm are going to be around. All you need is one guy hanging around and you're pregnant."

In a statement to WIRED, a spokesperson from Natural Cycles wrote that "no contraception is 100 percent effective, and unwanted pregnancies are an unfortunate risk with any contraception." The goal of the app, the spokesperson said, is to provide greater contraceptive choice to women who wouldn't otherwise be using contraception at all. "At first sight, the numbers [of unintended pregnancies] mentioned in the media are not surprising given the popularity of the app and are in line with our efficacy rates. We have initiated an internal investigation with our clinical department in order to confirm this. As our user base increases, so will the amount of unintended pregnancies coming from Natural Cycles app users, which is an inevitable reality."

For any type of birth control, "typical use failures are significantly higher for any method that involves timely intervention from the user," says Aparna Sridhar, an obstetrics and gynecology clinician at UCLA. That's why IUDs are less likely to fail than a birth control pill, and a birth control pill is less likely to fail than a natural planning method.

More information can certainly be useful: Women who track their menstrual cycles, basal temperature, or hormonal levels over time might have a clearer picture of their fertility than women who don't, and mapping out the expected days of ovulation can decrease the likelihood of conception. But as with so many health-focused apps, wearables, and devices, that information can only go so far. Relying solely on a smartphone app to prevent pregnancy might be like wearing a Fitbit to prevent a heart attack. The data can offer valuable information. But information alone can't change the outcome.

Correction appended 11-19-2018 at 2:15 PM EST: This story was updated to include a statement from Natural Cycles.

High-Tech Hype

Read more:

Police Release Evidence From Closed Rape Case Against Nelly And There Is A LOT!

The rape case against Nelly may be closed, but that doesn’t mean the controversy is over.

It seems that all of the evidence collected in the troubling case against the Hot In Herre artist has been released by the Auburn Police Department. In addition to photos of the alleged crime scene, surveillance videos from the night in question have also been released.

Related: Steven Seagal Accused Of Raping Native American Teen

As you may have heard, after law enforcers completed their investigation, prosecutors chose to drop the case as accuser Monique Greene refused to testify. With the case being closed, officials were able to release the visual footage which linked Greene and Nelly.

Per the video (below), the hitmaker and the Washington local can be seen leaving the Seattle-based nightclub where they met. Later, footage depicts the industry vet and the woman getting on to his tour bus. The final shot shows Moniqueexiting the vehicle and seemingly calling the cops to report the rape.

Greene has since filed a lawsuit against Nelly for sexual assault and defamation. This legal move came after the 43-year-old’s legal counsel announced their plans to sue the 21-year-old.

Police documents from the case shows that Monique and Nelly painted their encounter in VERY different lights. According to TMZ, Nelly told the police that the oral and vaginal sex they engaged in was totally consensual. He even noted that Greene removed her own clothing. During the statement, the recording artist said he used a condom and didn’t ejaculate.

The rapper even accused Monique of getting upset because she thought he was involved with one of his dancers, who was supposedly on the bus at the time.

Monique’s account couldn’t be more different, as she claimed that Nelly aggressively removed her pants and threw her onto the bed. He allegedly told her:

“You’re gonna take this dick.”

During the forced sex act, which reportedly lasted 30 minutes, Nelly said to Monique:

“That’s my pussy.”

She also told the police she believes Nelly ejaculated inside her, in addition to on her back and front.

She also says Nelly tried to buy Greene’s silence as he offered her $2,500 and asked her to stay on the bus with him until their next stop. Greene refused the money and told Nelly she wasn’t a “prostitute”

Per Greene’s account, someone else pushed her off the bus and Nelly threw a $100 at her. Nelly acknowledged that he gave Greene $100, but said he handed it to her.

We’re sure this is all information that’ll be used in Miz Greene’s suit against Nelly. Be sure to stay tuned for more updates from this troubling story.

[Image via WENN.]

Read more:

Serena Williams Shocking Near-Death Childbirth Experience Isnt as Rare as You Think

While feminism has made leaps and bounds in the last year, from feminism being dubbed word of the year to the success of#MeTooand the launch of#TimesUp, one thing hasnt changed. It is the stereotype that happy, healthy women must marry and have children to be happy and healthy. But perhaps more damaging than that stereotype is this one: that motherhood should be a non-stop, glamorous, pain-free joyfest. Which is why Serena Williams candor in discussing her health challenges after childbirth in a Vogue cover story is not just brave, but revolutionary, and may just save the lives, as well as sanity, of other women.

Celebrity moms are touted on magazine coversa week or two after giving birth, showing off their incredible post-baby body! (Usually looking better in a bikini right after giving birth than most of us do on an average day.) While my friends and family who have given birth bemoan sleepless nights, and barely enough time or energy to take a shower, celebrity moms are back on red carpets in stilettos looking like a million bucks in no time flat.

But just as postpartum depression used to only be whispered about until celebrities like Brooke Shields and Adele began bravely sharing their own stories, the physical toll childbirth takes is rarely discussed publiclyand certainly not by celebrities whose livelihood often depends on the illusion of perfection. Discussing the realities of childbirth is about as messy and imperfect as you can get.

While Serena Williams near-death experience following childbirth may sound extreme, its not as shocking as you may think it is in 2018. According to the CDC,approximately 700 women die in America annually from pregnancy or childbirth complications. Some researchers put estimates as high as900 (a lack of government funding for accurate compilation of data at the state level is an underacknowledged element of reproductive political and policy battles). This means America has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed nation. Black women are particularly vulnerable, with an analysis by NPR and ProPublica finding black women are 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than white women but 243 percent more likely to die from childbirth than white women. As tragic as those deaths are, far more women are injured, many permanently, by childbirth.

An analysis by Cosmopolitan magazine of a number of studies found childbirth injuries to be widespread. It noted that a study of 1,500 mothers published inthe journal PLoS One found that 49 percent had urinary incontinence a year after giving birth while 77 percent had ongoing back pain. Cosmo also cited a study of 1,200 women published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology that found that 24 percent reported lingering pain during intercourse a year after childbirth.

But those were just the most commonly reported long-term effects. Other women experience more serious problems from losing control of their bowels to ongoing pain when walking or exercising. A cottage industry has actually emerged to address some of the medical problems facing new mothers, including one recently dubbed a vaginal facelift.

Based on the numbers, some of the women injured are most likely celebrities. But if your job is to be glamorous for a living, discussing incontinence is probably not at the top of your to do list. Yet not discussing the messy and painful realities of childbirth means that most women end up suffering in silence, embarrassed, and believing they are aloneor worse: that there is something wrong with them if they cant make it through pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood with the physical and emotional ease that supermodels and superstars seem to.

Pretend for a minute that men could get pregnant. Do you think if Tom Brady had recently won a Super Bowl and was in the prime of his career, that any reporter would ask him when he was planning to get pregnant and have kids?

In the Vogue profile, Serenas husband refers to her body as one of the greatest things on the planet. Anyone whos seen her knows that is true. Which is why the fact that she is admitting that even she became physically vulnerable thanks to childbirth may give other women peace of mind. The fact that she came out on the other side, healthy, happy and radiant, on a Vogue cover no less, may give some women hope. But heres what Im also hoping her admission will do: change the way society, and men in particular, talk about pregnancy and motherhood.

Heres what I mean.

Pretend for a minute that men could get pregnant. Do you think if Tom Brady had recently won a Super Bowl and was in the prime of his career, that any reporter would ask him when he was planning to get pregnant and have kids? Im pretty sure the answer is no, because most men would think of it as insanity for him to even consider intentionally putting his body through such physical trauma at its peak. My guess is the judgment and whispers about certain female celebrities, accused of hiring surrogates, out of so-called vanity, would be a non-issue. Doing so would probably be hailed as smart business.

While Serena has clearly embraced the joys that motherhood has brought into her life, she did note in the interview that her peer Roger Federer has two sets of twins and hasnt skipped a beat career wise, something that would be unlikely for her, or although she doesnt say this, really any woman.

Which is why I find it so baffling that with all of the physical risks and dangers still associated with childbirth, citing physical well-being is still not viewed as a socially acceptable reason to eschew motherhood. When recently mentioning to a couple of educated feminist male friends of mine that this was among a number of reasons motherhood has never been on my bucket list one breezily said of the childbirth process, it doesnt last that long, clearly not realizing that the aftermath can last a lifetime.

I have had more than one female friend share that the impact on their bodies has been a key factor in their decision to limit their family size and yet they have said they have been scolded by othersincluding other womenfor this reasoning. As if the choice to forgo childbirth because you dont want to risk incontinence is somehow less worthy than forgoing it because you dont want to risk your financial security.

To be clear, Im not saying women should avoid motherhood. I am saying it should no longer be treated the way it long has been: as the default choice for all women. Instead it should be treated as what it is: a really serious choice that should involve consideration and contemplation because giving life is a big deala big, risky deal. So just as we applaud those willing to donate organs to save the life of a stranger but dont judge ones humanity on her decision to do so, we should stop judging womanhood on whether or not one embraces motherhood.

We should celebrate women brave enough to face the challenges of pregnancy and motherhood. But we should also celebrate women like Serena Williams who are brave enough to tell the truth about motherhoods pitfalls, and celebrate women courageous enough to make the decision to challenge societys definition of womanhood by saying motherhood isnt for me.

Read more:

Mesh risks not passed on to doctors

Image caption The mesh implants are used to ease incontinence and to support organs

One of the world’s biggest medical companies failed to tell doctors and patients of the full extent of some of the risks posed by mesh implants.

A BBC Panorama investigation has seen documents that show one of Ethicon’s own in-house doctors warned it had not updated information on complications.

Ethicon is wholly owned by pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson.

It said doctors were informed of the risks and that the company cared deeply about patient safety.

Over the past 20 years, more than 100,000 women across the UK have had transvaginal mesh implants, which are used to treat prolapse and incontinence, often after childbirth.

Chronic pain

The vast majority of women suffer no side effects but others have reported chronic and debilitating pain, with some being left unable to walk.

The plastic meshes, which are made of polypropylene – the same material used to make certain drinks bottles – are used to support organs such as the vagina, uterus, bowel, bladder or urethra which have prolapsed.

The Panorama investigation obtained insider emails that show Ethicon was warned repeatedly by one of their own in-house doctors, about the risks of mesh.

Post-market knowledge

In 2008, Ethicon’s associate medical director wrote to managers at the company with her concerns about the fact the information provided by Ethicon to surgeons had not been updated since 2005.

She said “post-market knowledge” of the products had provided much more information than was given to doctors.

Image caption Ethicon’s own in-house doctor advised updating the information for users

The associate medical director recommended updating the “potential adverse reactions” section of the Instructions for Use (IFUs) for all types of TVTs (tension-free vaginal tape) it had on the market at the time.

In January 2009, she wrote again to say the information for doctors had not been updated and still referred to several complications as “transitory”.

“From what I see each day, these patient experiences are not ‘transitory’ at all,” she wrote.

Constant pain

Image caption Claire Daisley says she is in constant pain

Claire Daisley, from Greenock, is 48.

She struggles to walk after a simple operation to treat a weakened bladder.

She is in constant pain.

Claire had the mesh surgically removed but it can be difficult to take out and after the operation her pain got worse.

She now faces having her bowel removed.

“I don’t want to be here any more,” she said.

“That’s how far it’s taken me because sometimes you don’t know if you can take the next day.”

She is one of 501 women in Scotland now taking legal action.

Image caption Dr Agur addressed the Scottish Parliament on the issue of mesh implants

Dr Wael Agur, a consultant urogynaecologist, told Panorama that the information for use leaflet was vital for doctors.

“It’s so important for me as a surgeon to understand full the risks of a medical device I’m about to implant during a surgical procedure and my first resource would be the instructions for use,” he said.

“I would expect the manufacturer to have a comprehensive list of the adverse events and the risks within the instructions for use so I fully understand these and communicate them.”

A spokeswoman for Ethicon said: “The risks associated with the use of a permanent mesh implant were properly identified in Ethicon’s Instructions for Use (IFUs).”

Clinical testing

Documents seen by Panorama also show that the clinical testing of the vaginal tape TVT Secur before it was put on the market only included trials in sheep and five weeks’ monitoring in 31 women.

Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University, said: “It’s just unacceptable and outrageous.

“It just blatantly says we don’t care about patients. We don’t care about safety, we just want to get out and start making money.”

Image caption Claire Daisley struggles to walk after surgery to remove the mesh

Ethicon said that it empathised with those women who had suffered complications but said the company had always had the best interests of patients at heart.

The firm said that all pelvic floor surgery came with a risk and that millions of women had benefited from having treatment for incontinence and prolapse.

Millions of women around the world have had transvaginal mesh implants.

For the vast majority, the surgery has been a success but thousands of women have suffered devastating consequences as a result of mesh surgery.

In some cases the damage is irreversible.

More than 100,000 women around the world are now suing the manufacturers, including Ethicon.

That includes more than 1,000 women in the UK – many of whom are also taking legal action against the NHS who they will claim failed to inform them of the potential risks.

Figures compiled for Panorama show that more than 6,000 women in the UK have had mesh surgery removals in the past decade.

BBC Panorama’s The operation that ruined my life can be seen on the BBC iplayer.

Related Topics

Read more:

4 WTF Lessons The World Teaches Us About Sexualizing Teens

I’m not surprising anyone by saying that the world sexualizes teenage girls. If I printed out all of the articles and books on that subject, we’d have to build a library on the moon to contain them. And now that I said that, I really want to Google “sexualized teen moon library” to see what comes up. But I’m not going to. I don’t think my brain could handle the results.

What fascinates me (and equally creeps me out) are the unspoken messages behind this sexualization. I mean, it’s bad enough on its own, but when you start breaking down the lessons girls are being taught, shit gets weird. Lessons like …


Young Girls Are Sexually Valuable Because They Are Virgins

Virginity is elevated and mystified in our society to the point of practically being a superpower. An innocent virgin is sacrificed in adventure stories to summon a demon or appease a god. An uppity unicorn only allows virgins to touch it because it’s the judgiest pointy horse in the universe.

Did you know there’s no solid, medical definition of virginity? It’s literally not a physical thing. It’s just a concept somebody came up with to add or subtract value from a woman. Because women used to be products, sold from one man to another for a couple of pigs and some farmland. “Virginity” is just a buzzword someone came up with to help advertise their product. “Girl: Now with 50 percent more virginity!”

We have this picture of women being hermetically sealed from birth until some lucky guy gets in there to pop the Lord’s soda tab, but that’s completely wrong. The hymen isn’t even a total seal — it’s just an extra bit of tissue that naturally has a hole in it, which can sometimes be stretched the first time someone has vaginal sex. Or riding a bike, using a tampon, a jousting accident … pretty much anything you do in a normal day.

Taking a woman’s virginity has always been coveted as an achievement for men, but with modern women actually getting to choose when they have sex, the best chance a man has to get with a virgin relies on him being the very first mistake a girl makes. That coveting and sexual value is one of the many disturbing reasons girls are pursued at such a young age.

To see it in action, you don’t even need to pull up studies or do heavy research or even go to a porn site. Just type “school girl” into Google. Not sexy school girl. Just “school girl,” as in “a girl who is in school.” I don’t even need to tell you what you’re going to get. Hell, most of you won’t type that in, because you don’t want the results on your search history. You didn’t ask it for a bunch of half-naked women, but like an insane tweet from Donald Trump at 4 a.m., it’s just inevitably there. The top web searches that come up for me are all for sexy schoolgirl costumes. The only outlier is a link to the “schoolgirl” hashtag on Instagram, which populates the same collage of young girls, porn, and anime porn. You know … classic school activities.

Are these portrayals meant to be graduate students of consenting age? Hell no, they’re not. They’re wearing a parody of the uniforms once worn by girls in religious middle and high schools. A uniform so highly sexualized that most religious institutions now require students to wear khaki pants. Try to make those sexy, creeps.


Girls Want To Look Pretty In Order To Attract Men

Recently, Stranger Things and IT have given us a crop of talented young actors entering the public eye, which can be a nightmare for those actors. Mara Wilson wrote a great piece for Elle about the way 13-year-old Millie Bobby Brown is discussed in the public. Here’s an article from The Today Show‘s website which pronounces Brown “all grown up” right in the title. But she’s not all grown up. She’s a 13-year-old girl who looks like a very pretty 13-year-old girl. She’s not a sex object; she’s a young girl who put on a nice dress and fun makeup for a movie premiere. She’s following the exact standards her industry demands. She’s wearing Hollywood’s version of a uniform.

So why do we feel the need to pronounce her “all grown up”? It’s because she looks good. There’s a problem with that, and it has nothing to do with her — it’s with us. We think that if a woman is dressing up, it must be to impress a man. So when teenage girls dress up, they must be impersonating grown women in an attempt to entice men. The reality is that there isn’t a separate clothing style for young girls that marks them as not being objects for sexualization. We’re supposed to do that with our grown, adult brains. That’s our job, not theirs. And apparently, we’re bad at it.

Take, for instance, school dress codes. For boys, the dress code is “Are you wearing pants? You’re good.” For girls, it involves a myriad of yeses, nos, and maybes that are almost always enforced by adult men. Even though teaching is a largely female-dominated profession, women are in leadership roles less than 25 percent of the time … which is actually a recent improvement.

This leads to an adult man telling girls in school that they have to go home and change their leggings because men can’t even think straight when they wear them. As if they are dressing with seduction in mind, and not comfort. Remember a few years ago when all those articles were being written about whether it was appropriate for girls and women to wear leggings in public? If not, Google it real quick, and then try not to punch the next human you see.

It was a debate that was quickly settled by women not giving a shit, because leggings are comfortable as hell. They weren’t popularized because they make us look good. Leggings are one of the few instances of comfortable, wearable fashion that have been coming into style lately, along with rompers and, yes I’ll say it, UGG boots. Every winter, people get up in arms about “basic bitches” in their UGG boots and leggings, but guess what? UGGs, and even the cheap knockoff UGGS that I wear, are essentially slippers. It’s winter. Women and girls are cold, and we want to be comfortable, so we dress accordingly.

Now you can essentially wear pajamas and slippers in public, and it’s acceptable. I’ve never loved fashion this much, and not one reason for the clothing I choose is “to entice men.” At any age, women are mainly dressing for our own comfort.


Romance Between An Older Man And A teenage Girl Is Just Sexy Forbidden Love

I’ve written before about the way teen shows portray teacher/student relationships as both super sexy and super not-problematic … but they’re not the only culprit. Let’s talk about music again for a second. What do you think these songs have in common? “You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful And You’re Mine,” “Sixteen Candles,” Happy Birthday Sweet 16,” “Sweet Little 16,” “Only Sixteen.” If you said that all of them are songs by grown men about how hot 16-year-old girls are, congratulations! Your prize is sadness.

What is it about 16 that makes it such a desirable age? Could it be because that’s the lowest age of consent in the United States? Let’s ask the lyrics of “Happy Birthday Sweet 16”: When you were only six I was your big brother. Then when you were ten we didn’t like each other. When you were 13 you was a funny valentine. But since you’ve grown up your future is sewn up. From now on you’re gonna be mine. That sounds like a threat the Riddler sends to Batman.

That’s not a song about a grown man looking back on teen romance fondly. It’s about watching a young girl grow into … a slightly older girl whom society now says it’s OK to fantasize about. It’s not a coincidence that all of these songs focus on this very young age.

Now, most Americans consider the age of consent to be 18 (even though that’s actually only the case for a fifth of the states). Remember the countdown clocks to when Emma Watson turned 18? Or how about this article from CNN, “Countdown For Kendall Jenner Turning 18: Gross Or Fair Game?” Let me go ahead and solve that Rubik’s Cube for you, CNN: It’s gross.

We’re obsessed with the age of consent because a relationship between a young girl and an older man is seen as romantic, forbidden love. The younger the better! But it has to be legal, of course. So we stick to that magic number and try not to be creeped out by the idea of a 33-year-old Benny Mardones promising a 16-year-old girl “a love like you’ve never seen.”


Men Just Can’t Help Themselves Around Attractive Women Of Any Age

The idea that men are incapable of controlling themselves around an attractive woman is disturbingly common. Look at any femme fatale in a spy movie. She uses her sexuality to get what she wants, because men just can’t resist her. Remember when Lucy Liu incited a riot with her butt in Charlie’s Angels?

If you’re not well-versed in Lucy Liu’s leather-clad butt, let me paint you a picture: Liu walks into an office building full of men who follow her around, even though no one has told them to. She then uses a riding crop to whip them up into a horny frenzy, and unleashes them on the company as a distraction so she can do spy things. The poor men can’t help themselves. It’s a butt! They are powerless to resist Liu’s command. Except they totally aren’t. There’s a surprising amount of movie problems that could be solved with masturbation.

This idea is just as insulting to men as it is to women. Of course they can control themselves! They’re people, not animals. It’s not difficult to tell a woman no. If it is a problem for you, practice by pretending she’s asking for equal pay.

This kind of logic isn’t just insulting; it’s dangerous. Liu is an adult woman in this case (and yes, I’m aware this this scene is supposed to be comedic), but even the core of the joke is “Men are powerless to resist.” But this seeps into the real world as a genuine belief. What if a man is attracted to a 13-year-old girl? He can’t help himself, right? He has no agency over himself if a woman he finds attractive is around, wearing clothes, and walking. What happens next is out of his control.

So if you’re one of those people who think women are overreacting to “beauty standards” or “objectification,” understand that this is why. It’s why we take offense to the word “overreacting.” Kids should be worrying about kid things, and not Benny Mardones.

Follow Lydia on Twitter.

Give your kids a leg up against society with some science, and have them try out a Circuit Kit to hone their electrical engineering skills.

If you loved this article and want more content like this, support our site with a visit to our Contribution Page. Or sign up for our Subscription Service for exclusive content, an ad-free experience, and more.

For more, check out 5 Horrible Life Lessons Learned from Teen Movies and 5 Problems in Movies You Only Notice If You’re Old.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out The Most Cringe-Worthy True Tales of Teenage Romance, and watch other videos you won’t see on the site!

Also follow us on Facebook, dudes.

Read more:

Vaginal mesh ban ‘a retrograde step’

Image caption The mesh is made of a type of plastic and surgeons routinely use it in hernia repairs

Banning vaginal mesh implants would remove an important treatment for some women suffering from a prolapse, says the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Some women benefit from the implants and should have a choice, it said.

The health watchdog NICE is expected to recommend that the implants be banned.

Around 800 women are taking legal action against the NHS and mesh manufacturers, saying they have suffered from painful complications.

When a prolapse occurs, doctors sometimes insert a mesh into the wall of the vagina to act as scaffolding to support organs – such as the uterus, bowel and bladder – which have fallen out of place.

Hundreds of women have reported problems with this plastic mesh, which is made of polypropylene.

Image caption Prof Linda Cordozo says banning vaginal mesh is not a good idea

However another smaller device made from the same material, called a tape, which is used to stem the flow of urine from a leaking bladder, has a much lower risk of complications.

Prof Linda Cardozo, a surgeon at King’s College Hospital in London, said there was a misconception that all types of mesh were a problem.

She explained that she was not in favour of banning the use of mesh for prolapses.

“I don’t think a total ban on anything is a good idea. It stifles the opportunity to offer the minority something that might benefit them,” she said.

Draft guidelines from NICE say the implants should only be used for research – and not routine operations.

But Prof Cardozo said that a ban would stop any further research as well.

“If mesh is banned, there will be no more clinical trials,” said the professor.

“Banning it is a retrograde step – we will go back to how we were a century ago when we couldn’t offer women a range of options.”

Creating anxiety

Prof Cardozo pointed out that artificial hips and knees were not perfect when they were first introduced, but thanks to further research and progress they ended up improving lives.

“We need to be very careful that [mesh] is used in the right women by the right doctors… who have explained the risk-benefit ratio and all other types of treatment,” she added.

Some doctors did not have the skills or training to put in vaginal meshes, and the devices have been overused, the professor has argued.

She also said the debate over vaginal mesh was making some women who had had surgery unnecessarily anxious.

“They are panicking because they believe something terrible may be happening inside their body as a result of tape or mesh, but most women are problem-free,” said Prof Cardozo.

Image caption Kathryn Taylor says her mesh implant has improved her life

Kathryn Taylor was just 35 when she suffered her first prolapse.

She was later diagnosed with a condition that had weakened the muscles around her uterus and bowel.

Last year she had a second vaginal mesh implant to help keep those organs in place.

“Mesh isn’t right for everyone, but it’s totally changed my life for the better,” Kathryn said.

“Without it I wouldn’t be able to work and lead a normal life.

“I’d have to have a colostomy bag attached to my leg,” she explained.

Image caption Stephanie Williams is waiting to have her mesh implant removed after being left in constant pain

However campaigners, like Stephanie Williams, are protesting against all types of vaginal mesh and tape.

They are calling for more research and say women have not been given the full facts about the possible side effects.

In her own case, Stephanie says she didn’t realise she was having a vaginal mesh implant and it has left her in constant pain.

“The word mesh was never mentioned,” she said.

“I would not have even known what mesh meant at the time and if it was mentioned beforehand we would have looked into it before,” she added.

She is now waiting to have her mesh removed.

Addressing concerns

John Wilkinson, the director of devices at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said: “Patient safety is our highest priority and we recognise some women do develop serious complications which can be very significant for the affected women.”

“We also know many women gain benefit from these surgical procedures for what can be extremely debilitating conditions,” he added.

Mr Wilkinson encouraged patients and doctors to report any complications linked with the mesh implants through the Yellow Card scheme.

The NHS has always insisted that the vast majority of procedures using mesh are a success and many women have benefitted from surgery.

The health watchdog – the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – is due to make its final recommendations next week.

Companies in the US have already paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation to patients.

Related Topics

Read more:

If Only All Tampon Ads Were This Honest

The fact that this tampon commercial has a male spokesperson already makes it a comedy.

The latest entry in Cracked’s “If ads were honest” series quickly racks up not-so-quaint terms for menstruation.

“We’ll never say period,” the spokesman confesses. “We’ll always use a slightly embarrassing or straight-up shaming euphemism for the thing that almost every fertile woman has to do.”

It’s honesty like that that just makes women want to run to the store for their “vaginal blood absorbency sticks.”

Read more:

The sound of mega orgasms: the female composers taking music into intimate places

A soundtrack to an erotic feminist film, the crunch of crisps in your own mouth, a composition for strap-on and electric guitar meet the women who are making music and telling stories on their own terms

In the early 1990s, the accordionist and musical improviser Pauline Oliveros wrote the soundtrack for a feminist porn film called The Sluts and Goddesses Video Workshop. The film is presented and co-directed by Annie Sprinkle, a sex worker turned academic whose lecture covers everything from deep breathing and vaginal bling to STD prevention and mega orgasms. Along the way, we get a spectacular sonic counterpart of drones, glitches, bleeps, twangs and pulsations.

Conventional porn music this is not: no sultry saxophones, no oily bass guitars. Instead, Oliveros made sounds that are fun, tactile and inquisitive. If Sprinkles mission was to confront industry standards of what erotic looks like, freeing viewers to define their own tastes, Oliveros reminded us that the power to decide what music means should ultimately belong to the listener.

This autumn, in the wake of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and others, a couple of things became urgently clear. We must listen more carefully to womens voices, and we must change the power structures that govern much of public and private life, including the arts.

A screengrab from The Sluts and Goddesses Video Workshop (1992) by Annie Sprinkle and Maria Beatty Photograph: Vimeo

Pauline was empowering her listeners, says the writer Ione, the late Oliveross partner and regular collaborator. Sluts and Goddesses was not pornography, not if you mean the word in any pejorative or sleazy sense. It was about sexual freedom, showing that sexuality is a natural and wonderful thing for women. The sounds Pauline made were deeply sensual because they related to the body. Her music was always about the Earth, the body, being human, the cosmos.

The film gets a rare public screening this week at the London contemporary music festival, in a section termed (brace yourself) New Intimacy. Contemporary music has a long and tetchy history of labels, schools and isms, almost all coined by programmers or academics rather than artists themselves. New Intimacy seems a cheeky throwback to the contentiously named New Complexity and New Simplicity movements of the 1980s.

Empowering listeners Pauline Oliveros. Photograph: Vinciane Verguethen

There is a particular irony to the new bit, given several of the works at LCMF are three or four decades old. But what about the intimacy? Modernism was about removing the body from art, says festival director Igor Toronyi-Lalic. About removing personal identity and prioritising science, abstraction and objectivity. With postmodernism, the body is reinserted into feminist art, queer theory. That is whats at the heart of the New Intimacy movement.

The series includes a work by Kajsa Magnarsson for strap-on and electric guitar; a piece by Claudia Molitor to be performed by audience members within their own mouths as they chew sweets, popcorn and crisps; and the 1965 film Fuses, in which Carolee Schneemann documents the most intimate moments of her relationship with composer James Tenney. Also in the mix is the pristine and ultra-sparse Second String Quartet by Wandelweiser composer Jrg Frey music so stripped back and delicate it can start to feel febrile, like the tender stuff left exposed after some kind of sonic disrobing. Aesthetically, its probably the diametric opposite to the sparkly dildos and nipple tassels of the film, but maybe the point is how these works share a potential to empower and turn the attention back on audiences.

Claudia Molitor has been exploring the haptic in music for nearly two decades, and welcomes the wide scope of New Intimacy. Its a provocation, right? Most of the time, women arent supposed to express ourselves in certain ways because its considered unbecoming, so maybe its good to put something out there that is unbecoming. If it makes people uncomfortable, thats all right. A lot of women spend quite a lot of their lives feeling uncomfortable. Anyway, its hardly new. Mozart said it with Cosi Fan Tutte: women have the same desires as men.

Eva-Maria Westbroek in the opera Anna Nicole by Mark-Anthony Turnage in 2014. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

Composer and performance artist Jennifer Walshe likewise uses her work to deal with gender and identity. Her confrontational 2003 music theatre piece, XXX Live Nude Girls, featured Barbie dolls in all manner of sexual positions and scenarios of abuse. If you want to privilege the female gaze, she says, you have to privilege it at every level of production, right down to technical crews. Think of an opera like Anna Nicole. This was a work by Mark-Anthony Turnage, about the Playboy star Anna Nicole Smith. The librettist is a man, the composer is a man, the director was a man. Why arent women allowed to write their own stories?

Walshe also questions the potential in New Intimacy for exploitation or plain voyeurism. Sometimes I feel that women are forced into a position where they are only permitted to have a voice by articulating their most intimate details, she says. Memoirs by musicians like Viv Albertine, Kim Gordon, Carrie Brownstein, Kristin Hersh all of which are books I love get very deep into the personal in a way many memoirs by male musicians dont.

Is there the expectation that in telling their stories, they have to get into these details? That their stories are only worth being heard if they are explicit? Or, as women, is part of dealing with life being forced to deal with gender or sexuality in a way many of their male collaborators dont have to, which means its only natural to talk about it?

One lesson from Weinstein is that his alleged victims didnt speak out because the industry granted him a power that robbed them of their agency. We need to trust ourselves, wrote Mona Chalabi in the Guardian. The sickening allegations have reminded me just how important it is that we trust our instincts.

This also applies to the danger of glorifying artists. For centuries, we built up personality cults around composers made gods out of men like Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Britten and Stockhausen. These genius narratives might have let us believe we were accessing the divine when listening to Tristan und Isolde or Mittwoch aus Licht and so feel somehow aggrandised by proxy but if composers were supposed to be superhumanly talented, their means of production remained unattainable to the rest of us, and their behaviour potentially unaccountable. It was a recipe for alienation, for too much licence, for abuse.

Red Note Ensemble perform 13 Vices by Jennifer Walshe and Brian Irvine at the New Music Biennial in Hull. Photograph: James Mulkeen

Pauline was very much not into all that, Ione says. All that genius crap. Just look at the collaborative, collegial, supportive way she worked with Annie and the group of women who made Sluts and Goddesses. Look at the way she improvised with anybody.

It seems contemporary music is moving increasingly in that direction. Gone are the towering iconoclasts of the 20th century. Instead, programmers from Huddersfield contemporary music festival to Glasgows Counterflows to LCMF are looking to provide nimbler, more personal experiences.

Its about getting us to relate to ourselves better, says Molitor, whose piece 10 Mouth Installationsincludes an instruction sheet suggesting the best order in which to eat the sweets, popcorn and crisps (Hula-Hoops to be precise). Its about not going for a big public statement where one person declares something and the audience laps it up. Its more of a negotiation: Im an individual, youre an individual, so lets all acknowledge our bodies and our presences in this space.

If contemporary classical music seemed a branch of the avant-garde too erudite for everyday gender politics, too esoteric to deal with the erotic, think again. With its flexible forms, exploratory sound worlds and playful intellectual provocations, this music is proving to have a special potential to redress the way we relate to status, to each other, to ourselves not only for those making music, but also for those listening.

Read more:

Get out and get married: Life as a young woman with HIV in Uganda

(CNN)In 2013, Jenipher Mukite’s whole life changed in an instant.

It was her mother’s answer to a question both she and her siblings had feared asking that altered her present, past and future in one sweep.
While their mother was bedridden, unable to move or eat yet refusing to go to the hospital to seek medical help, they finally mustered the courage to ask.
    “Do you have HIV?”
    Worse still for them, she had been living with the virus since before Jenipher, then 18, and her brother and sister, then 14 and 10, were born — and had not been on treatment.
    Her mother confessed that the drugs had been too big and difficult for her to consume.
    My mother had kept it a secret, Mukite said through an interpreter. Soon, their whole village in the Bugiri district of Eastern Uganda gossiped about their mother and the fact that her whole family must also be infected.
    She said it was a challenging time.
    When a pregnant woman is HIV-positive and not taking antiretroviral drugs, she has a 15% to 45% chance of passing the virus on to her baby, according to the World Health Organization. With treatment throughout pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding, this risk falls below 5%.
    Most countries, including Uganda, readily offer HIV testing when women come in for pregnancy checkups and offer treatment on-site for those found to be infected. But this was not the case when Mukite was born.
    After disclosing her HIV status, Mukite’s mother was kicked out of their home by their father, but with nowhere to go and no one to care for her, returned home and died a few weeks later.
    All three children and their father soon found out that they too were HIV-positive.
    With the death of her mother, Mukite’s main confidante and carer, everything changed.
    She said she wanted to commit suicide. She knew she had no one who would take care of her anymore.

    Punishment without a crime

    Their father saw no benefit in caring for girls with HIV, according to Mukite.
    Mukite was soon shipped off to his mother’s home, where she lasted just over a year facing hatred and abuse, largely aimed toward her deceased mother and the fact she had kept the virus a secret. Mukite says she was not given fees to go to school and not provided with the same meals as others.
    Her younger sister had stayed home but soon ran away to stay with an aunt, she said.
    Their brother remained home, Mukite saw when she returned there over a year later. She also found that her father had remarried.
    She had a new mom, or at least she had hoped so, but Mukite explained that the change came with no maternal care. Instead, the lack of education and food continued, and she was required to do most of the housework.
    In late 2016, her father began arguing that it was time for Mukite to get married. In fact, it was possibly too late, as in his eyes, the 21-year-old was old, she said.
    He feared that she would never get married and bear children, according to Mukite.
    “This is so common, especially with adolescent girls living with HIV,” said Allen Kyendikuwa, program lead for the Uganda Youth Coalition on Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health and HIV. “Many girls are told to drop out of school and go get married.”
    Mukite turned to a project within this organization for advice.
    People say you are old at 20 and need to have a child, Kyendikuwa added, especially when you are HIV-positive.
    Kyendikuwa further highlighted that grooms’ families are often required to give money when their sons get married, but she more stronglybelieves it’s a matter of passing over responsibility.
    “When you get married, you are no longer under (your family’s) care,” Kyendikuwa said. “It happens a lot.”
    International AIDS Society President Linda-Gail Bekker adds that “there is much more marriage (in general) in East and Central Africa” compared with southern Africa. Being in a relationship could “reduce stigma in some way, by being seen to be in a stable relationship.”
    Rather than giving in to this pressure, Mukite sought the help of a local social worker, who put her in touch with a pastor whom she now lives with. She is studying hairdressing at the New Life Skills Center in Bulesa village in her home district of Bugiri and has been on antiretroviral treatment since she learned of her infection.
    She wants a husband and child but first wants to finish her studies.
    “We need a generation that is more independent and educated,” Kyendikuwa said. In 2015, African youth accounted for 19% of the total global population in that age group. “If you want to make a change, this is the generation you should target.”

    Disproportionate rates in young women and girls

    In sub-Saharan Africa, young women ages 15 to 24 are at more than twice the risk of having HIV than males the same age, according to a recent study.
    Globally, 65% of HIV infections among 10- to 24-year-olds are in females; in sub-Saharan Africa, this number goes up to 75%. Every day, 1,000 adolescent girls and young women are infected in this region, according to the US President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief.
    “The epidemic puts young women and girls at a particular disadvantage,” Bekker said. “Girls are at risk earlier … but you can’t ignore men.”
    There are many routes of infection, with heterosexual transmission being the primary mode in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Bekker.
    That’s true for young women in Uganda for a variety of social reasons, including exposure to sex with older men at a younger age, Bekker said. But Infection from mother to child also remains a risk.
    An estimated 6% of women receiving prenatal care in Uganda are infected with HIV, according to the Strengthening Uganda’s Systems for Treating AIDS Nationally project. Through programs to prevent transmission to children, UNAIDS data show that transmission rates to children had fallen to 2.9% in 2015 — down from 29% in 2009.
    Bekker believes the priority to end HIV in young women and girls is to prevent new infections: by targeting both girls and men.
    “This continent has a very patriarchal approach,” she said. Efforts need to be made to understand men and the gender norms and to impact males in society, she said.

    See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

    When it comes to young women, “they need self-initiated protection” through education and awareness but also products, such as contraceptive vaginal rings that also release antiretroviral drugs.
    The International HIV/AIDS Alliance is now tapping into women’s willingness to speak out using social media and giving them a platform with a focus on HIV. Its project, #ReadytoDecide, aims to highlight links between gender inequality and HIV.
    “It’s an opportune time,” alliance Executive Director Christine Stegling said. “Gender-based violence is a societal norm and needs to be addressed.”
    Stegling also believes that after decades of focusing on finding and treating people with HIV, there needs to be focus on prevention. Girls should have better choices about their bodies.
    “We see a time for young people to speak up.”

    Read more:

    The Sex Robots Are Coming: seedy, sordid but mainly just sad

    The sex-doll industry is going from strength to strength in the drive to make the figures more lifelike, but where will it end?

    People say theres no such thing as loving an inanimate object, says James, solemnly. I dont necessarily think thats true. James is a 58-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, and the owner of four life-size dolls. Every morning he carefully gets them dressed and puts on their makeup. One day he might take them for a picnic; on another theyll stay in and watch television. The latter involves a painstaking process where he must bend the dolls into a sitting position and adjust their eyeballs. But thats OK, because theres nothing James wouldnt do for his synthetic companions, with whom he shares a bed and has sex up to four times a week.

    James is among the protagonists of The Sex Robots Are Coming (30 November, 10pm, Channel 4), an investigation into the development of animatronic, AI-enabled silicone sexbots, and part of C4s Rise of the Robots season. While Jamess silicone sweethearts remain resolutely inert, change is afoot in the world of sex dolls, with a drive to make them ever more lifelike. First stop is Realbotix, the throbbing heart of the sex doll industry in San Marcos, California, where on workstations spilling over with custom-made nipples and wobbling artificial labia researchers are utilising new technology to persuade their dolls to smile, pout, flutter their eyelashes and tell jokes. Down in the dolls nether regions, heating and lubrication systems are in the early stages of development for a more authentic sexual experience, along with muscle spasms to simulate female orgasm. Pubic hair is making a comeback, offers company owner Matt, running his hand through some plastic pubes.

    Bad hair day Matt McMullen, CEO and creative director of Realbotix.

    Matt sees a glittering future in which sex robots are as commonplace as porn and rejects the notion that his dolls are damaging to women, reducing them to body parts that can be modified to suit the quirks of their owners. Its not for everyone, he shrugs, while clearly praying that it is.

    This is, its fair to say, not your average dystopian future doc: its less an AI-style vision of evil robot hordes than a fascinating if dispiriting glimpse of what can happen when dysfunctional men are left to their own devices. Still, there are scenes here that are the stuff of nightmares: from the headless plastic bodies each large of breast and tiny of waist that dangle helplessly from the Realbotix walls, to chief engineer Susan reaching roughly inside a doll to remove an eight-inch vaginal insert, prompting women everywhere to cross their legs in agony. And theres James bending one of his dolls, naked save for her pants, face down over a workbench in his garage (to adjust a screw in her shoulder, you understand).

    James, it turns out, also has a wife, Tine, who is a living, breathing human, and is the very definition of long-suffering. Two years ago, she left the marital home for nine months to care for her mother; she returned to four new lodgers, distinguishable by their caramel complexions, slim-line figures and willingness to remain silent at all times.

    James looks pained when asked what he would do if he had to choose between his wife and his favourite doll, April. I honestly dont know, he says. If, when the cameras ceased rolling, Tine ripped off one of Aprils beautiful limbs and beat her husband to a pulp with it, the makers of The Sex Robots Are Coming have wisely kept stumm.

    Read more: