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Secrets Between the Sexes

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Men and women are in a constant struggle to better understand the complex inner workings of one another's minds. Science has done its part to help us separate the fact from fiction, and some of the results may surprise you. Do men actually like skinny women with long legs? What makes a woman like a man who appears masculine over a feminine-looking man, or vice versa? Read on to find out.

Does (Body) Size Matter?

While some women think men are obsessed with skinny, waifish women, men seem to be more attracted to curvy girls like Christina Hendricks and Marilyn Monroe. This has been backed up by a number of studies, including one performed by Scotland's St. Andrews University that showed men don't like skinny women nearly as much as more average-sized women, and many seemed to think size zero women look unhealthy.

As for curvy women, it seems that men's brains respond to hourglass figures like they are a drug. While it has long been said that shapely hips have been attractive to men because they are better for carrying children, a study by Georgia Gwinnett College showed that curvy women's bodies activate parts of the male mind that are associated with rewards and parts of the brain that are activated by drugs and alcohol.

[Image courtesy of ·S's Flickr Stream.]

The Skinny on Showing Skin

Women often think that the more skin they reveal, the more attention they will get from men, but this may not be true. A study by the University of Leeds watched social interactions between men and women at one of the most popular clubs in London.

The researchers considered the arms to be 20% of the body, legs to be 30% of the body, and the torso to be 50% of the body, and they concluded that men found women who covered up too much of their bodies to only be half as attractive as those who displayed around 40% of their skin. The most interesting part of the study, though, was that men felt women who showed more than that were "too available," and were often overlooked for those who seemed a little more modest.

[Image courtesy of rockabillyboy72's Flickr stream.]

Hard to Get Men by Playing Hard to Get?

Along those same lines, the stories about men wanting a girl who's hard to get are somewhat true"¦but not completely. Men want someone who's hard for anyone to get, but they don't want a woman who is hard for them to get. University of Wisconsin researchers showed men photos of women and told them that the girl already saw and reviewed images of the participant and three other men. Each girl was presented as not being interested in any of the men, being interested in all of the men, only being interested in the test subject, or no information was provided about her woman.

Men were overwhelmingly uninterested in both the women who were interested in all participants and none of the participants. The great majority of men were interested in the woman who was only into them. They seemed to think she would have the good qualities of the easy-to-get women and the good qualities of the hard-to-get women, believing she was warm, easygoing and not demanding or difficult.

[Image courtesy of  Denis Malka's Flickr stream.]

Long Legs, Less Love?

For years we've been told that men love long, long legs. But according to a study performed by the University of California and the University of Westminister, men like women who have legs proportional to their body. Men and women were shown images of computer generated body images of women and asked to rate them on their attractiveness. The further the length of the legs got from an ideal 1:1 ratio of body to leg length, the less attractive men judged them to be.

Stereotypes held fast when it came to what women believed men would like, and they seemed to consistently agree that the men would find longer legged women attractive.

[Image courtesy of Lovro67's Flickr stream.]

Little More Than a Pretty Face

When people start looking for long-term mates, research says the body becomes less and less important -- for both sexes. University of Japan researcher Tomas E. Currie noted that while there have been hundreds of studies evaluating how men and women evaluate the importance of specific body parts, there were relatively few examining the importance of one feature over another. He decided to also examine if these factors changed based on what type of relationship the person was looking for.

The results showed that men cared a lot about bodies when looking for a short term relationship, but they cared more about faces when looking for something long term. Women seemed to consistently look for attractive faces whether looking for a short or long term thing. The body was just an extra bonus in either case.

[Image courtesy of Sugaro Pictures' Flickr stream.]

What Women Want, Based On Healthcare

Speaking of what women want, this is a very gray area and is said to change from woman to woman and even be inconsistent among a single individual. Unsurprisingly, there have been tons of studies trying to figure out exactly what the softer sex is interested in.

One study, completed by Wake Forest University psychologist Dustin Wood and Claudia Brumbaugh of Queens College, even confirmed the fact that while men are largely in agreement about who they find to be attractive, women have no consensus with one another. While men would largely agree about how attractive a given image of a woman was, the scores from women would be all over the board.

Perhaps the real reason for these major differences is the reason women seem to prefer masculine or feminine men. A study by the University of Aberdeen recently showed women located throughout the world images of men and asked them to evaluate based on attractiveness. Each set of images contained two pictures per male subject. In one of them, he was digitally altered to look more masculine and in the other, he was altered to look more feminine. The researchers noticed that women who had access to better healthcare preferred feminine men, while those who had less-quality health services were attracted to more masculine men.

Researchers speculated that historically women have liked masculine men with a square jaw and low brow because they were more likely to help produce healthy offspring. On the other hand, more effeminate-looking men seem more likely to help raise the children. It seems that once health concerns are out of the way, women tend to shift their interest to those men who appear to be more nurturing.

[Image courtesy of SpreePiX - Berlin's Flickr stream.]

Problems With The Pill

Of course, healthcare isn't the only thing that affects how a woman sees men. As it turns out, women may also notice a striking difference in their attraction to men after going on the birth control pill.

Men and women are largely attracted to one another due to pheromones and scent, but a study by the University of Liverpool shows the pill can drastically alter the scent a woman is attracted to. Additionally, once she quits taking the pill, she may revert to her old sensory guides and start finding her existing partner to be less attractive.

[Image courtesy of Blmurch's Flickr stream.]
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Of course, it's important to remember that these studies just take into account the overall feelings of a group of men or women and there are always going to be people who disagrees with the general populace.

Now, there are plenty more studies about men and women -- way too many for me to read, let alone include in this article -- but I'm sure many of you have seen some interesting ones. So let's hear them. What's the most surprising study you've heard about?

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The Body
7 Essential Facts About the Pelvis
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The human body is an amazing thing. For each one of us, it’s the most intimate object we know. And yet most of us don’t know enough about it: its features, functions, quirks, and mysteries. Our series The Body explores human anatomy, part by part. Think of it as a mini digital encyclopedia with a dose of wow.

The pelvis, which crooner Elvis was famous for thrusting around in ways that raised eyebrows, is not actually a single body part but a term that refers to a collection of bones, muscles and organs below the waist. We spoke to Katherine Gillogley, department chair of obstetrics and gynecology with Mercy Medical Group in Sacramento, California, for these seven facts about the pelvis.

1. SO WHAT IS THE PELVIS, EXACTLY?

"The pelvis refers to the lower abdominal area in both men and women," Gillogley says. "An important function of the pelvis region is to protect organs used for digestion and reproduction, though all its functions are crucial," she says. It protects the bladder, both large and small intestines, and male and female reproductive organs. Another key role is to support the hip joints.

2. THE PELVIC BONES FORM A BASIN.

Four bones come together to form a bowl-like shape, or basin: the two hip bones, the sacrum (the triangle-shaped bone at the low back) and the coccyx (also known as the tailbone).

3. YOUR PELVIC FLOOR IS LIKE A TRAMPOLINE.

At the bottom of the pelvis lies your pelvic floor. You don't have to worry about sweeping it, but you might want to do Kegel exercises to keep it strong. The pelvic floor is like a "mini-trampoline made of firm muscle," according the Continence Foundation of Australia. Just like a trampoline, the pelvic floor is flexible and can move up and down. It also creates a surface (floor) for the pelvic organs to lie upon: the bladder, uterus, and bowels. It has holes, too, for vagina, urethra, and anus to pass through.

4. IT PLAYS A KEY PART IN WALKING.

Anyone who has ever broken a pelvic bone or pulled a pelvic muscle will know just how key a role the pelvis plays in such functions as walking and standing. "The pelvis also acts as a solid foundation for the attachment of the spinal column and legs," says Gillogley.

5. THE FEMALE PELVIS STARTS OUT LARGER, BUT NARROWS OVER TIME.

Gillogley says that the female pelvis "tends to be larger and wider" than the male, most likely to accommodate a baby during pregnancy and to make childbirth possible. However, women's pelvises narrow as they age, suggesting that they start out wider to accommodate childbearing and then shift when that is no longer necessary. A shifting pelvis shape is thought to be a key part of our evolutionary history, as it changed as when we began walking upright.    

6. PREGNANCY CHANGES THE PELVIS FOREVER.

During pregnancy the body secretes a hormone known as relaxin to help the body accommodate the growing baby and soften the cervix. However, what happens is, "the joints between the pelvic bones actually loosen and slightly separate during pregnancy and childbirth," Gillogley says. Sometimes, however, relaxin can make the joints too loose, causing a painful syndrome known as symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), causing the pelvic joint to become unstable, causing pain and weakness in the pelvis, perineum and even upper thighs during walking and other activities. Many women with the condition have to wear a pelvic belt. It usually resolves after pregnancy is over, though physical therapy may be necessary.

7. IT'S ACCIDENT PRONE.

According to the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, about 8 to 9 percent of blunt trauma includes pelvic injury, Gillogley says. "These accidents include falls, motor vehicle crashes, bicycle accidents, and pedestrians being struck by moving vehicles. With these serious injuries, pelvic bones can fracture or dislocate and sometimes bladder injury even occurs." So take care with your pelvis—in worse-case scenarios, breaks of the pelvic bones can require pins, rods, and surgery to fix.

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science
10 Little-Known Facts About Alfred Kinsey
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Alfred Kinsey grew up in early 20th century America, in a cultural climate that regarded concepts like homosexuality, masturbation, and the female orgasm with ignorance at best and revulsion at worst. He died in 1956 just as the Sexual Revolution was poised to take hold of the nation. Today many historians credit Kinsey with setting the event in motion. Here are some things you may not know about the controversial figure.

1. HE WAS AMONG THE FIRST EAGLE SCOUTS.

Alfred Kinsey joined the Boy Scouts of America in 1911 when he was about 17. At the time, the club was barely a year old. After just two years of participation, he had earned the ranks required to become one of the young organization's first Eagle Scouts—the program’s highest achievement.

2. HE GREW UP IN A RELIGIOUS ENVIRONMENT.

Kinsey was raised in a devout Protestant household. Every Sunday the Kinsey clan attended Sunday school followed by a church service in the morning and a prayer meeting at night. His father’s religious beliefs were so strict that he forbade his family, including visiting relatives, from doing any work on Sundays that didn't involve eating or going to church. Kinsey’s upbringing did little to dissuade him from publishing sex research later in life that directly contradicted the conservative principles he learned in Sunday school.

3. HE CONSIDERED BECOMING AN ENGINEER, A CONCERT PIANIST, AND A YMCA EMPLOYEE.

A career in human biology wasn’t always what Kinsey had in mind for himself. In high school, he was a dedicated piano player and even dreamed of becoming a concert pianist as an adult. But his father had other aspirations for him: He insisted his son go to college to study engineering. Alfred complied but never warmed up to the idea of working as an engineer full-time. Even as he was earning his degree, he entertained the idea of going to work for the YMCA (something he’d done in his youth) after finishing school. All of these plans fell through when he ultimately switched his educational focus to entomology, the study of insects

4. HE COLLECTED MILLIONS OF WASPS.

Before Kinsey revolutionized our understanding of human sexuality, he studied the reproductive habits of gall wasps. The two subjects have some major differences: As just one example, gall wasps breed by embedding eggs into plants, causing growths to form that offer shelter and nourishment to their young. While his wasp work was a far cry from his later studies, it did help him develop his obsessive research style. Kinsey collected 7.5 million wasps during his time as an entomologist. Today those specimens are housed in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology of the American Museum of Natural History.

5. HE TAUGHT A COURSE ON MARRIAGE.

During his wasp days Kinsey worked as a professor at Indiana University. There, he made the academic leap from insects to humans when he was asked to lead a class on marriage. In addition to covering subjects like family relationships and economics, he guided his students through the practical sciences of sexual stimulation, intercourse, and contraception. Kinsey sought empirical evidence to explain familiar sexual conventions and social mores, but he found little that was scientifically sound. He sensed a new challenge—one that would confront the repressive sexual attitudes he had experienced in his own family. As he had in his studies of insects, Kinsey launched a rigorous method of inquiry into the dynamics of human sexuality outside the classroom.

6. HE ASKED THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE ABOUT THEIR SEX LIVES.

To conduct the groundbreaking sexology research, Kinsey and his colleagues interviewed more than 18,000 men and women. Their questions touched upon subjects like sadomasochism, extramarital relations, frequency of masturbation, and number of partners of the same or opposite sex. Once all the data had been gathered, Kinsey was able to break down sexual trends by age, socioeconomic status, and religion to assemble a portrait of human sexuality. The study demonstrated that some practices (like homosexuality, for example) that were considered socially unacceptable were actually quite common. Alfred Kinsey became a household name following the release of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953), two books that are together known as the Kinsey Reports.

7. HE HAD AN OPEN MARRIAGE.

In an era when divorce and premarital sex were judged harshly, Kinsey veered from the norm in his own life. He encouraged the scientists who worked for him to have open marriages, and he was no hypocrite. After he and his wife Clara wed in 1921, the couple agreed to open up their relationship to outside sex partners. In addition to being polyamorous, Kinsey was bisexual, having affairs with both men and women during his lifetime.

10. HE LEFT HIS MARK ON POP CULTURE.

Thanks to the salacious nature of his work, Kinsey achieved pop icon status. One example of his fame is the tongue-in-cheek song “Ooh, Dr. Kinsey!” by comedian Martha Raye. The tune, whose lyrics include “Ooh Dr. Kinsey, I just read your essay on men’s behavior today, and men are great … like a hole in the head,” sold half a million copies. The Kinsey Reports are also mentioned in the song “Too Darn Hot” from the musical Kiss Me Kate, and a fictional portrayal of the scientist made an appearance on The Jack Benny Program.

9. HE WAS NO STRANGER TO CONTROVERSY.

Despite his success (or perhaps because of it), Kinsey attracted more than his fair share of angry critics during the 1950s. Scandalized conservatives claimed he was supporting a communist agenda by eroding sexual morality and family values in America. The controversy surrounding his name hasn’t let up since Kinsey’s death in 1956. One area of research in particular, his findings on sexual behaviors in children, remains the subject of intense scrutiny today. He gathered the information used in these sections from interviews conducted with a serial child rapist. The man agreed to speak with Kinsey under the condition that he wouldn’t be turned in for his crimes. In a possible move to protect his subject’s identity, Kinsey credited his data on children to many sources instead of just one, undermining the integrity of his work in the eyes of many scientists.

10. THE KINSEY SCALE INSPIRED OTHER WAYS TO MEASURE SEXUALITY.

Kinsey was one of the first scientists to suggest that sexual identity exists on a spectrum. According to his scale, people are either a zero (totally straight), a six (totally gay), or some number in between based on past socio-sexual interactions. The scale was radical for its time, but in the years since, many sexologists have taken the concept and expanded upon it. In 1980, psychologist Michael Storms introduced a two-dimensional grid that includes asexuality. Even more variables were introduced with Fritz Klein’s sexual orientation grid, including erotic fantasies, emotional preferences, social preferences, and self identity.

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