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.

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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
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.

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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.

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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: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/dec/06/sound-of-mega-orgasms-female-composers-london-contemporary-music-festival-new-intimacy

If you’re not having period sex, you’re missing out

Listen, typically I wouldn’t tell you what to do, but typing some variation of “should I have period sex” into Google tells me you’re looking for input. Here’s mine: Have period sex. If you are in any way on the fence about that, I think you should just go ahead and do it.

Why you should have period sex

Period sex is extremely similar to regular sex, except, yes, OK, it can get a little messy. But such is sex. Your sheets end up flecked with sweat and spit and maybe semen—unless, oh God, you bought this product—and none of those secretions stop any of us from doing it.

Perhaps you are saying to yourself, “But with period sex, there will be blood, and blood is so gross! Especially menstrual blood, with its occasional clots and tissue clumps! And it’s going to be everywhere, my entire bed smeared with rusty streaks like a crime scene someone forgot to clean up!”

Cool it: The average period means about one to one-and-a-half ounces of blood lost, with a heavy period likely clocking in under three ounces. That’s over the course of days, mind you. There may not even be any blood at all, but its specter often eclipses the fact that, for many menstruators, period sex feels extra good.

Oh, you remark, eyebrows pricking up in interest. Why’s that?

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Sex on your period could feel better

At that time of the month, one’s undercarriage is—duh—flooded with blood, and that elevated circulation can make the clitoris, labia, and vagina more sensitive and potentially more responsive. In addition to experiencing hormonal surges that often up the libido, a person might also be more aware of their vagina than usual—because it’s leaking blood, and because all that blood might make things feel heavier than the norm. More full. Certainly more lubricated. All of which may well mean that, from the outset, a menstruating vagina is primed for sex, should its owner feel so inclined.

Photo via Pixabay (CC-BY)

On top of the very compelling reason that sex is better, orgasms might also help relieve menstrual pain and shorten the length of a period. Orgasms cause uterine contractions, speeding along the uterus’ process of shedding its lining and flushing out the chemicals that cause menstrual cramping.

The Sex MD speculates that the menstruating uterus’ hyper-sensitivity can translate to more intense orgasms (yes, please) but orgasms of any magnitude cue the brain to release oxytocin, a hormone that both encourages bonding and acts as a strong natural pain reliever. Would you rather slap a heating pad on your crampy uterus and weather the storm, or climax your way to a lighter period?

Sex on your period is sex is still sex, period

What’s most important is that you and your partner are comfortable and communicating. Getting your period can make you feel lethargic and cranky and very, very reticent to move. This is fine. Your partner can do the legwork, unless your partner is also menstruating, in which case you can strike a compromise. If you’re having penetrative vaginal sex, though, just make sure to use a condom, because, yes, you can get pregnant while on your period, and, yes, your open menstruating cervix is more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections.

Photo via Max Pixel (CC-BY)

Period sex shouldn’t be taboo

Those two minor provisos aside, period sex serves another oft-overlooked purpose that bears mention. The reason most people Google “should I have sex on my period” is likely rooted in some sense that sex while menstruating is gross, if not for the menstruator, then for their sexual partner. At the heart of that sentiment is the widely held view that menstruation is, in itself, disgusting—something shameful and embarrassing that should be kept separate from sex. This is a stigma that needs to be broken.

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Worldwide, culturally constructed taboos around menstruation keep too many women and girls out of school, out of work, and sometimes out of their homes for roughly one week each month, if not always engendering tragedy, then holding those girls and women back. Without inflating your sex life into a human rights issue, I’d argue that it’s important to do the daily work of eroding those taboos—normalizing the period so that it’s viewed as the deeply average biological function that it is, rather than a barrier to work or education or any other part of daily life.

When it comes to recasting menstrual blood as just another bodily fluid, as unsurprising as sweat or spit or semen, sex seems as good a means as any. Better even, considering all the aforementioned benefits.

Photo via Pixabay (CC-BY)

Of course, the sanguine-averse may find reversing their feelings harder than simply listening to a stranger’s advice. But according to science, the revulsion you’re anticipating might not even surface when you’re actually doing the deed: A 2012 study out of the Netherlands found that women were a lot less bothered by generically disgusting things when sexually aroused. Who knows, maybe you will get so lost in all the sensations that you’ll find yourself finger painting blood hearts on your partner, just like this man did.

No one is saying you need to go that far, but truly, you have nothing to lose; unless you’re a person who faints at the sight of blood, a little period sex won’t hurt you. So what are you waiting for? Put a towel down and hop to it.  

Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.

Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/irl/period-sex/

Teenage boys wear skirts to school to protest against ‘no shorts’ policy

Dozens of pupils at Isca academy in Exeter stage uniform protest after school insists they wear trousers despite heatwave

Some had borrowed from girlfriends, others from sisters. A few had gone the extra mile and shaved their legs. When the Isca academy in Devon opened on Thursday morning, an estimated 30 boys arrived for lessons, heads held high, in fetching tartan-patterned skirts. The hottest June days since 1976 had led to a bare-legged revolution at the secondary school in Exeter.

As the temperature soared past 30C earlier this week, the teenage boys had asked their teachers if they could swap their long trousers for shorts. They were told no shorts werent permitted under the schools uniform policy.

When they protested that the girls were allowed bare legs, the school no doubt joking said the boys were free to wear skirts too if they chose. So on Wednesday, a handful braved the giggles and did so. The scale of the rebellion increased on Thurday, when at least 30 boys opted for the attire.

Quite refreshing was how one of the boys described the experience, pointing out that if even Royal Ascot had allowed racegoers in the royal enclosure to remove their jackets, then the school ought to relax its dress code. Another said he rather enjoyed the nice breeze his skirt had afforded him.

A third, tall boy said he was told his short skirt exposed too much hairy leg. Some of the boys visited a shop on their way to Isca the name the Romans gave to Exeter to pick up razors to make sure they did not fall foul of any beauty police.

Ironically, the temperature had dropped in Exeter to a more manageable 20C, but some boys said they had enjoyed the freedom afforded by the skirts and that they might continue.

The school said it was prepared to think again in the long term. The headteacher, Aimee Mitchell, said: We recognise that the last few days have been exceptionally hot and we are doing our utmost to enable both students and staff to remain as comfortable as possible.

Shorts are not currently part of our uniform for boys, and I would not want to make any changes without consulting both students and their families. However, with hotter weather becoming more normal, I would be happy to consider a change for the future.

It was too late. The revolution was picked up by media organisations across the globe, and Devon county council was forced to help the school out with inquiries. A spokesperson said: About 30 boys arrived at school this morning wearing school skirts. None of the boys have been penalised no one was put in isolation or detention for wearing a skirt.

The mother of one of the boys who began the protest said she was proud of him. Claire Lambeth, 43, said her son Ryan, 15, had come home earlier in the week complaining about the heat. He said it was unbearable. I spoke to a teacher to ask about shorts and she said it was school policy [that they could not be worn]. I did say this was exceptional weather, but they were having none of it. If girls can wear skirts, why cant boys wear shorts?

Ryan came up with the idea of wearing a skirt, so that evening we borrowed one. He wore it the next day as did five other boys. Then this morning I didnt expect it to take off like that. The school is being silly really this is exceptional weather. I was very proud of Ryan. I think it was a great idea.

Another mother said: My 14-year-old son wanted to wear shorts. The headteacher told them: Well, you can wear a skirt if you like but I think she was being sarcastic. However, children tend to take you literally, and because she told them it was OK, there was nothing she could do as long as they were school skirts.

A third mother said: Children also dont like injustice. The boys see the female teachers in sandals and nice cool skirts and tops while they are wearing long trousers and shoes and the older boys have to wear blazers. They just think its unfair that they cant wear shorts in this heat.

There were signs that the revolution might be spreading. The Guardian has heard of at least one more school in Wiltshire where one boy turned up in a skirt, although it did not go down quite so well with his friends.

And schoolboys were not the only ones making controversial dress choices because of the heat. Michael Wood, who works as a porter at Watford general hospital, claimed he was facing disciplinary action from his employers Medirest for rolling his trousers up to try to cool down. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment on the case, but said: The health and safety of our colleagues is always our number one priority.

What happened to summer school uniforms? Matthew Easter, managing director of the schoolwear supplier Trutex, said they had become less popular for reasons of economy. Its really up to the individual school to decide, but the headteacher is in a difficult position. A decade or so ago, summer wear was more popular, but theres been a change recently to try to make uniforms as economical as possible. Summer uniforms are only worn for a matter of weeks.

If parents havent bought uniform shorts, then some children may feel disadvantaged, so perhaps the decision in this case is simply down to fairness.

It may be that the weather will solve the problem for the school. The Exeter-based Met Office situated up the road from the school predicts pleasant, but not searing, temperatures over the coming week.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/jun/22/teenage-boys-wear-skirts-to-school-protest-no-shorts-uniform-policy

Incredible Animation Shows How Surgeons Turn A Penis Into A Vagina

Gender reassignmentis quite a major transformation, so making the necessary alterations requires a fair bit of skill. This eye-opening video,uploaded bythe European Society of Urology, provides a detailed look at the key surgical procedures involved in male-to-female gender reaffirmation, whereby the penis and testicles are used to create a vagina that is not only convincing to the eye, but is also capable of orgasm.

As the animation below shows, the procedure begins with the opening of the scrotum in order to remove the testicles, followed by the separation of the glans or head of the penis from the main shaft. Since this is the part of the penis that contains the most sensory nerve endings, it is later used to create a neoclitoris.

The skin of the shaft and scrotum are then used to create the labia and vaginal canal, with many patients going on to enjoy an active and fulfilling sex life.

Of course, a male-to-femaletransformation involves more than just the conversion of the penis and testicles into a vagina, and begins with a series of emotional and lifestyle readjustments.The prospective patient is often required to live as a woman for a period of time before undergoing surgery. This is followed by a course of hormone therapy, using estrogen and anti-androgens (androgens are male sex hormones like testosterone)in order to alter the patient’s musculature and fat distribution, as well as their body hair,thus creating a more feminine figure and appearance.

Uniklinikum Tbingen: Sex-Reassignment: Male to Female Surgery 2009 from Azraels-Art on Vimeo.

Uniklinikum Tbingen: Sex-Reassignment: Male to Female Surgery 2009 from Azraels-Art on Vimeo.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/how-do-surgeons-turn-penis-vagina

‘The system’s violating everyone’: the Canadian trans parent fighting to keep gender off cards

Baby Searyl has a health card with no gender marked but for trans parent Kori Doty it is a small win in a broader battle

A parent whose baby has been given a health card that does not specify a gender believed to be a world first has said the aim is to allow the child to discover their gender on their own.

I think were starting to understand that gender identity is not directly attached to genitals, Kori Doty, a non-binary trans person who does not identify as male or female, told the Guardian in an interview.

I dont want to put them in a box where they only get to wear pink and ruffles or they only get to wear blue and trucks. Im just trying to leave that space open, so that when they can say who they are, that they dont have to say your guess was wrong.

Canadian authorities have issued baby Searyl Atli a health card that does not specify male or female in what campaigners describe as a victory in the fight to have gender omitted from government documents.

But since giving birth to Searyl at a friends home in November, Doty is still fighting to have the babys gender kept off the birth certificate. The fight is part of a broader, years-long push. Doty is one of eight trans and intersex individuals who have filed a human rights complaint against their home province of British Columbia, pointing to their personal experiences to allege that it is discriminatory to publish gender markers on birth certificates.

At the heart of their complaint is the presumption that only two genders exist and that babies must be slotted into one of these at birth, regardless of what gender identity they might develop later in life. Doing so leaves some struggling to contend with incorrect assumptions made about them at birth while others face a logistical nightmare of carrying identification that fails to accurately reflect who they are. In 2015, the human rights tribunal of British Columbia agreed to hear their complaint.

I think really this is about recognising a structure, or a system, that is violating everyone, said Doty, 31. The binary gender system causes problems for everyone, including people that find ways to fit and conform in it. It is a disservice to all.

Doty would instead like to have gender seen as part of a spectrum a view that would not only benefit trans and intersex people but also every boy who is cut off from their emotional wellbeing and told to suck it up and not cry and enculturated into toxic masculinity, said Doty. It also serves every girl who is told she shouldnt want to make things or be good at math or be strong.

After Searyl was born, the province refused to issue the child a birth certificate, pointing to the requirement that gender be noted on the document. In response Doty filed a legal challenge, citing the protection of gender expression in the provincial human rights code as well as in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Recently the province issued Searyl a health card marked with a U for gender assumed by Doty to mean undetermined or unassigned allowing the child access medical care. Despite the card arriving without explanation or comment from the ministry, Doty described it as a victory but noted: Its just not the end of the game.

Without a birth certificate, Searyl is listed as a non-citizen in the provinces system. The court case is expected to be heard in late autumn, said barbara findlay, a human rights lawyer who chooses to spell her name without capital letters and is working with Doty on the court challenge.

There used to be a reason to put sex on birth certificates. You used to need to know that because only men could vote, only men could own property, only men could sit in the Senate, and so on. Those days are long gone, said findlay. And just as we used to have race on birth certificates, but we dont any more, its time to take sex off birth certificates and treat it, like race, as a private matter.

As Doty pushes forward with the case, the parent has heard from both supporters and detractors. I know that Im being discussed in mens rights activist forums, I know that there are articles written about me and the way that my parenting practices are tantamount to abuse.

But the cost of doing nothing is too high, said Doty, pointing to polls that suggest as many as 40% of transgender people in the US have attempted suicide at some point in their lives. I want to raise my kid in such a way that whatever their gender is, it doesnt have to give them angst.

While the health card was a step forward, the ultimate goal is to have gender markers taken off all government documents, said Doty. Were talking about what is essentially a large-scale systemic change. Not just in the way that offices that issue documents function, but also in the way that our culture understands who we are, to ourselves and to each other, Doty added. That kind of change, it isnt a one-step game.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/06/the-systems-violating-everyone-the-canadian-trans-parent-fighting-to-keep-gender-off-cards

Are women really stronger than men? | Angela Saini

When it comes to longevity, surviving illness and coping with trauma, one gender comes out on top. Angela Saini meets the scientists working out why

Four years ago, completely spent, blood transfused into me in a frantic effort to allow me to walk, I lay on a hospital bed having given birth the day before. To the joy of my family, I had brought them a son. Blue balloons foretold a man in the making. Not just the apple of my eye, but the one who would one day open jam jars for me. The hero who would do the DIY and put out the rubbish. He who was born to be strong because he is male.

But then, physical strength can be defined in different ways. What I was yet to learn was that, beneath our skin, women bubble with a source of power that even science has yet to fully understand. We are better survivors than men. Whats more, we are born this way.

Pretty much at every age, women seem to survive better than men, says Steven Austad, an international expert on ageing, and chair of the biology department at the University of Alabama. For almost two decades, he has been studying one of the best-known yet under-researched facts of human biology: that women live longer than men. His longevity database shows that all over the world and as far back as records have been kept, women outlive men by around five or six years. He describes them as being more robust.

Robustness, toughness or pure power whatever its called this survival ability cracks apart the stereotype. The physically strong woman is almost a myth. We gaze upon great female athletes as though theyre other-worldly creatures. Greek legend could only imagine the Amazons, female warriors as powerful as men. They break the laws of nature. No, we everyday women, we have just half the upper body strength of men. We are six inches shorter, depending on where we live. We wield power, but its emotional and intellectual, we tell ourselves. Its not in our bodies.

Not so, says Austad. He is among a small cadre of researchers who believe that women may hold the key to prolonging life. In extremely old age, the gap between the sexes becomes a glaring one.

According to a tally maintained by the global Gerontology Research Group, today, 43 people around the world are known to be living past the age of 110. Of these supercentenarians, 42 are women. Interviews with the worlds current oldest person, 117-year-old Violet Brown, who lives in Jamaica, reveal she enjoys eating fish and mutton. She once worked as a plantation worker. Her lifestyle betrays few clues as to how she has lived so long. But one factor we know has helped is being a woman.

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Grey power: 42 of the 43 people over the age of 110 are women. Photograph: Phil Fisk for the Observer

Yet there is bizarrely little research to explain the biology behind this. What scientists do know is that this edge doesnt emerge in later life. It is there from the moment a girl is born. When we were there on the neonatal unit and a boy came out, you were taught that, statistically, the boy is more likely to die, says Joy Lawn, director of the Centre for Maternal, Adolescent, Reproductive, and Child Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She explains that, globally, a million babies die on the day of their birth every year.

But if they receive exactly the same level of care, males are statistically at a 10% greater risk than females. What makes baby girls so robust remains mostly a mystery. Research published in 2014 by scientists at the University of Adelaide suggests that a mothers placenta may behave differently depending on the sex of the baby, doing more to maintain the pregnancy and increase immunity against infections. For reasons unknown, girls may be getting an extra dose of survivability in the womb.

Wherever it comes from, women seem to be shielded against sickness later on. Cardiovascular disease occurs much earlier in men than women. The age of onset of hypertension [high blood pressure] also occurs much earlier in men than women. And theres a sex difference in the rate of progression of disease, says Kathryn Sandberg, director of the Centre for the Study of Sex Differences in Health, Ageing and Disease at Georgetown University.

Austad found that in the United States in 2010, women died at lower rates than men from 12 of the 15 most common causes of death, including cancer and heart disease, when adjusted for age. Of the three exceptions, their likelihood of dying from Parkinsons or stroke was about the same. And they were more likely than men to die of Alzheimers disease. Once I started investigating, I found that women had resistance to almost all the major causes of death, he says.

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Age of reason: Violet Brown, centre, the worlds oldest person, was born in Jamaica in 1900. Photograph: Raymond Simpson/AP

Even when it comes to everyday coughs and colds, women have the advantage. If you look across all the different types of infections, women have a more robust immune response, adds Sandberg. If theres a really bad infection, they survive better. If its about the duration of the infection, women will respond faster. One explanation for this is hormones. Higher levels of oestrogen and progesterone could be protecting women in some way, not only by making our immune systems stronger, but also more flexible. This may help maintain a healthy pregnancy. A womans immune system is more active in the second half of her menstrual cycle, when shes able to conceive.

On the downside, a powerful immune response also makes women more susceptible to autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. The body is so good at fighting off infection that it attacks its own cells. And this may explain why women tend to report more pain and sickness than men. This is one of the penalties of being a better survivor. You survive, but maybe not quite as intact as you were before, says Austad. Another factor is simply that men are dying more. Part of the reason there are more women than men around in ill health is to do with the fact that women have survived events that would kill men, so the equivalent men are no longer with us, he adds.

When it comes to biological sex difference, though, everything isnt always as it seems. At least some of the gaps in health and survival may be social, reflecting gender behaviour. Women may be more likely to seek medical help, for instance. Men may have less healthy diets or do more dangerous work. Nonetheless, Austad and Sandberg are convinced that nature accounts for a good deal of what we see.

If they are right, this raises a deeper scientific conundrum. Our bodies adapted over millennia to our environments. So what could it have been in our evolutionary past that gave the female body a little more of this magical robustness? How and why would one sex have developed a survival edge over the other?

Studies of hunter-gatherer societies, who live the way we all may have done before fixed settlements and agriculture, provide a few clues. Many anthropologists studying tribal communities in Africa, South America, Asia and Australia believe early humans lived fairly equal lives, sharing responsibility for food, shelter and raising children. The Flintstones model, with wife at home and husband bringing back the bacon, just doesnt stand up. Instead, the evidence shows that women would have done at least the same physical work as men, but with the added burden of bearing children.

Theres a general consensus now that hunting-gathering societies, while not perfectly egalitarian, were less unequal, particularly with regard to gender equality, says Melvin Konner, professor of anthropology at Emory University in Atlanta, who has spent years doing fieldwork with hunter-gatherers in Africa. Because of the scale of the group dynamics, it would be impossible for men to exclude women.

The more research that is done, the more this is reinforced. Even hunting that prototypical male activity is being recast as a female one, too. Anthropologist Rebecca Bliege Bird, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, offers me the example of the Martu, an aboriginal tribe in Western Australia. When Martu women hunt, one of their favourite prey are feral cats. Its not a very productive activity, but its a chance for women to show off their skill acquisition.

Paula
Keep on running: Paula Radcliffe continued to train through her two pregnancies. Photograph: Getty Images

Indeed, women are known to be particularly good at endurance running, notes Marlene Zuk, who runs a lab focusing on evolutionary biology at the University of Minnesota. In her 2013 book Paleofantasy, she writes that womens running abilities decline extremely slowly into old age. Theyve been known to go long distances even while pregnant. In 2011, for example, Amber Miller ran the Chicago marathon before giving birth seven hours later. World record holder Paula Radcliffe has trained through two pregnancies.

Why, then, are we not all Amazons? Why do we imagine femininity to mean small, waif-like bodies? The lives of most ordinary women, outside the pages of magazines, destroy this notion. Visiting Indias cities, I see female construction workers lining the streets, hauling piles of bricks on their heads to building sites. In Kenya, I meet female security guards everywhere, patrolling offices and hotels. Out in rural areas, there are women doing hard physical labour, often hauling their children in slings. Our ancestors would have done the same.

In evolutionary terms, these were the circumstances under which our bodies were forged. For an enormous chunk of early human history, as we migrated through Africa to the rest of the world, women would also have travelled hundreds or thousands of miles, sometimes under extreme environmental conditions. Just reproducing and surviving in these conditions, talk about natural selection! Im told by Adrienne Zihlman, an anthropologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, when I visit her at her home in San Francisco.

Zihlman has dedicated her career to understanding human anatomy, and in particular the evolution of womens bodies. Women have to reproduce. That means being pregnant for nine months. Theyve got to lactate. Theyve got to carry these kids. Theres something about being a human female that was shaped by evolution. Theres a lot of mortality along the way that really can account for it.

When I gave birth to my son, I did the most physically demanding thing a human can do. Yet I am considered the weaker sex. Zihlman reminds me that my body was made strong by the struggles of countless generations of women who went before. There is something about the female form, the female psyche, just the whole package, that was honed over thousands and thousands, even millions, of years to survive, she smiles. I happen to remember, in that moment, that at home I do all the DIY.

Myths and misses: five more things you didnt know about women and men

Separate symptoms Women and men present different symptoms for the same medical conditions. Women are more likely to have insomnia and fatigue in the weeks before they have a heart attack, rather than the chest pain commonly experienced by men.

Changes of life Women in India, Japan and China experience far fewer menopause symptoms than western women who commonly report hot flushes, night sweats, depression and insomnia. Scientists at Kings College London argue this could be due to women lumping together their experience of growing older with the menopause.

Casual sex Women are choosier but not more chaste than men. A study by two German researchers, Andreas Baranowski and Heiko Hecht, found that women want casual sex just as much as men and were as likely as males to have sex with a stranger, as long as it was in a safe environment.

Boys toys A 2010 study by Professor Melissa Hines at the University of Cambridge found that girls on average were genetically predisposed to prefer dolls while boys liked to play with mechanical toys such as trains.

Risky business Testosterone is associated with higher levels of optimism, rather than aggression. Saliva samples taken from traders on the London Stock Exchange confirmed they had higher than average testosterone levels. Scientists from Britain, the USA and Spain concluded this increase made the traders more optimistic so more likely to take big financial risks.

Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research Thats Rewriting the Story by Angela Saini is published by Fourth Estate

Main photograph: Acrobats JD and Nikki; Stylist Hope Lawrie; special effects make-up Julia Bowden

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/11/the-weaker-sex-science-that-shows-women-are-stronger-than-men

The vibrators and sex toys for her pleasure

Its no secret that a good bedroom toy is a girls best friend. But if youre a woman browsing the internet for a new self-pleasure device, the wealth of options these days could set your head spinning. And not in the cute, made-my-toes-curl and sent-me-to-another-planet kind of way.

Thats why weve scoured the options to find you the best of the best. Whether you want some light tickling, deep vibrations, or kinky new sensations, here are the best toys for all your pleasure needs.

The best sex toys for women

The Classics

The Hitachi Magic Wand is an old standby that many women still swear by. Its a simple massager that you can use all over and it delivers powerful vibrations. And the price cant be beat. You can snag one on Amazon for about 50 bucks. And if you want to jazz it up, Hitachi offers a variety of attachments.

Magic Wand Massager

Another old favorite is the Rabbit. You know, the one from that Sex and the City episode where Charlotte refuses to leave her apartment because she loves her new toy a little too much. That one. The Rabbit is a terrific toy if you want both clitoral stimulation and dynamic penetration. The original Rabbit Habit toy has a rabbit that stimulates your clitoris while tumbling beads create a motion in your ocean. And at just over $40 on Amazon, its a real bargain.

The Rabbit

If you feel like an update on an old classic, the Lelo Ina Wave reimagines the Rabbit’s style with higher-quality materials and a sleeker design. Its a bit of a splurge at $199, but Lelo frequently offers discounts, and users report that its well worth it.

Lelo The Intent

The Innovators

Its no secret that many women prefer external stimulation when trying to achieve an orgasm. If youre looking for a toy that will give your clitoris all of the attention, then Jimmy Janes Form 2 could be your dream come true. The Form 2 has two flexible ears that you can manipulate to squeeze, tickle, and surround the clitoris with a range of vibrations from soft and gentle to deep and intense. It retails for $149.

Form 2

One of the most exciting options on the market is the Womanizer. The wave of the future might just be the Womanizer, a toy with a rather unfortunate name that uses suction to create indirect clitoral stimulation. Users report intensely satisfying results and orgasms that are a new sensation. Most models will run you about $200, but the Womanizer Pro40 is currently available for $129 (down from $299), and the Womanizer2Go, an adorably discreet mini version that looks like a lipstick, is available for pre-order at $169.

Womanizer Pro40

Fun and Flirty

For all-over play, we love Je Joues Mimi. The versatile, intuitive shape allows you to stimulate the labia and clitoris at the same time, or apply pin-point precision wherever you want it. The Mimi Soft offers users a uniquely pleasing texture and, at $95, just a few bucks more than the regular Mimi ($89), it’s an upgrade you won’t regret.

Je Joue MIMI 5

For a cute vibe that travels well, the brightly colored WeVibe Tango cant be beat. Its lightweight, waterproof, and charges up quickly. We love the flat tip which offers users versatile stimulation. And at just $79, it wont break the bank.

We-Vibe Tango
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Down and Dirty

If youre looking to explore, Lelos Billy is the perfect toy for vaginal or anal stimulation. Lelo markets the Billy ($139)for male prostate stimulation, but its actually a great toy for women and its vibrations are more intense than its female counterparts. The Billy is a comfortable just right size for beginners and experienced users alike, and offers a variety of pulse settings. Its vibrations progress from gentle foreplay to rapid-fire intensity and are sure to leave you satisfied.

LELO BILLY

And lets not forget, toys dont need to vibrate to offer exciting stimulation. The Njoy Pure Wand is perfect for deep penetration and a crowd favorite for G-spot stimulation. Its made of stainless steel, has a sleek and elegant design, and is sure to become a lifelong friend. You can get one for $110.

Njoy Pure Wand

Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/irl/best-vibrators-sex-toys-for-women/

Here are all the dudes who want to cut maternity care from your health insurance

Republicans like to insist the war on women is nothing more than hysterical liberal outrage.

Sure, the left uses the phrase to occasionally score political points, but sometimes Republicans make it so easy. Like when they appear to be casting aside women’s needs without a second thought or even purposely targeting rights and policies that many women consider fundamental to their well-being and freedom.

Case in point: When Vice President Mike Pence tweeted a photo on Thursday from a meeting with a group of very conservative Congressional Republicans who want to eliminate maternity care from a set of required health insurance benefits, people couldn’t help but notice a glaring omission: women.

Men sat at the table. They sat in chairs against the wall. They stood near the doorway. They just weren’t joined by any women. Not even the administration’s token woman Ivanka Trump made a cameo for the meeting (she was skiing in Aspen), though adviser Kellyanne Conway does appear in one photo with President Trump.

The scene looked awfully like when Trump, again surrounded almost exclusively by men, signed an executive order reinstating the global gag rule, which directly affects the reproductive health of women around the world.

The House Freedom Caucus, the group using its voting leverage to pressure the White House on repealing Obamacare, doesn’t currently seem to have any female members at all, though retired Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis once belonged, according to Pew Research Center.

That a few dozen men chose to use their enormous power over millions of Americans to negotiate the elimination of maternity care, along with nine other essential benefits currently required to sell health insurance, ignited outrage across the internet. So did the prospect of losing additional required benefits, which include mental health treatment, lab tests, pediatric services and prescription drugs. Coverage for preventive care, which includes FDA-approved birth control, is yet another benefit Americans stand to lose.

Those in favor of dumping the essential benefits argue that consumers should be able to choose plans tailored to their needs rather than paying higher premiums so everyone can access a universal set of covered services. In the past, that approach has made it possible for insurers to sell skimpy health plans with consumers paying a much steeper price for preventive care or life-saving treatment.

The average vaginal birth in the U.S., for example, costs $8,775 in the U.S. not exactly pocket change if your insurance isn’t required to cover it.

The debate over essential benefits has brought out the worst in some folks. When Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) was asked about scrapping the required coverage, he told a TPM reporter, “I sure don’t want my mammogram benefits taken away.”

When the mocking response ricocheted across the internet, Roberts issued an apology, but not before liberal and independent voters had one more data point to prove the war on women theory.

Republicans have at least one more shot at changing the optics, if not the focus, of their proposed legislation. By Thursday afternoon, GOP leadership couldn’t come to an agreement on the bill and postponed the vote. Maybe next time they’ll think twice about attempting to gut maternity care coverage in a room full of men.

UPDATE: March 24, 2017, 2:56 a.m. PDT This story was updated to clarify that the preventive services benefit includes birth control.

WATCH: Paranoid like ‘Snowden’? Here’s where to put cellphones

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/03/23/photo-house-republicans-who-want-to-cut-maternity-care/