Would you try the new male contraception method?


English: Electron microscope image of sperm.

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New research suggests that ultrasound can zap sperm. But does it really work, and what other alternatives might there be for men?

It was news that made many men cross their legs and click quickly away to another story.

A new study has revealed that ultrasound may, in future, be a reliable form of male contraceptive. The research – from scientists at the University of North Carolina – found that a short zap of high-frequency sound waves, directed at the testicles, killed a significant number of sperm in rats.

If the results were repeated in humans, the ultrasound blast would reduce sperm levels, “far below levels normally seen in fertile men,” said lead researcher Dr James Tsuruta.

More research is needed, but could this be the cheap, reliable, reversible and side-effect-free contraceptive men have been waiting for? And would you be man enough to try it?

False dawns
It’s fair to say that science has been searching for a male equivalent to the female contraceptive Pill for decades, with any number of false dawns along the way. Newspapers regularly report that a hormonal male Pill is just around the corner, but none has so far made it into the pharmacy.

That’s partly because using hormones to stop billions of sperm is a trickier undertaking than stopping one monthly egg. Using hormones to make men temporarily infertile is a tough ask and it could also be an unpopular one. As women have found, hormonal contraceptives have unpleasant side effects. Knowing that, do men really want a hormonal Pill?

“We don’t need to put men through what women went through for pill development in the 1960s,” says Elaine Lissner, director of the Male Contraception Information Project (MCIP). “Men won’t put up with it, and they shouldn’t. Times have changed.

“Hormones are not one-size-fits-all. You see this with the pill. Women often go through several attempts before they find one that’s just right for them – or at least tolerable! Why manipulate a system that affects nearly everything from A to Z – acne, blood pressure, cholesterol, you name it – when you can take a more targeted approach?”

The ultrasound method is a good example of just such a targeted approach.

The question is, will it work?

In fact, the North Carolina study is just the latest of a string of studies on the efficacy of ultrasound as a male contraceptive dating back to the 1970s. Studies have been completed on rats, dogs and monkeys. The equipment is readily available. Ultrasound does appear to zap sperm.

“It’s clear now that ultrasound works, once you get the settings right,” says Lissner. “That said, it will take a lot more research before the average man will feel comfortable with it for temporary contraception.”

And that’s the problem. There are two serious questions that need to be answered before ultrasound is accepted as a bona fide male contraceptive. Put simply, if ultrasound zaps sperm, how long does it take for fertility to recover? And what effect will repeat doses of ultrasound have on sperm quantity and quality in future?

“How well will fertility return after many uses in a row? And would there be issues with sperm quality, and possibly birth defects, while it is wearing off?” asks Lissner. At the moment, she believes ultrasound may have more potential as a permanent method, a nonsurgical alternative to vasectomy.

That might change with more research, but research requires funding, and the problem with ultrasound – and other non-hormonal contraceptives – is that there’s little profit to be made. Companies would prefer to sell men (and women) an endless supply of pills than a one-off ultrasound machine. The search for reliable male contraceptive options is a long road.

Other options
The ultrasound study does at least show is that there may be realistic alternatives to a hormonal pill many men would be reluctant to take, and the less-than-ideal methods – condoms, vasectomy, withdrawal – currently available.

According to Elaine Lissner, a different, plant-based pill called Gandarusa is in advanced clinical trials in Indonesia and could be available there soon. “But the first new method to win regulatory approval in the west may be Vasalgel, a polymer gel with a microscopic mesh structure that directly filters out the sperm as they flow through the vas deferens tube,” she says.

Another promising method is a pill being developed by a team at Kings College, London, which prevents the vas deferens (the tube sperm pass through) from contracting and pushing the sperm out during ejaculation. “It has a side benefit that ought to be of great interest to AIDS funders but has so far escaped notice: it could greatly reduce the male-to-partner transmission of HIV,” says Lissner.

The future
None of these options – or indeed a hormonal male pill or patch – is likely to be available in the very near future, however. The makers of Vasalgel – a non-profit organisation – hope to have it on the market in the west within four years.

But there is some cause for optimism. For many years policymakers didn’t think men were interested in contraception, but even with current options, men now cover more than a third of contraception in developed countries.

That may be the most important message from recent developments. Whether it’s ultrasound or anything else, young men want more of a say in the contraception they and their partners use, and they also want more – and better – options.

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Secrets of the female mind revealed


Struggling to understand her reasoning and behaviour? Let science explain the intricacies of the female mind.

Go to a busy pub in any town or city in Britain tonight and there’s every chance you’ll overhear a bunch of blokes talking about the mysteries of the female mind.

“I just don’t understand her,” one might say. “She’s so emotional,” another might pipe up. “She’s a slave to her hormones,” a third might interject.

These are all cliches, of course, but within each lies a nugget of truth. For sound biological or evolutionary reasons, men and women do think differently. Here are some of the scientifically verified secrets of a woman’s mind, because forewarned is forearmed.

Are women more jealous?

It’s a widely held view that women are more jealous than men. They are more possessive (the theory goes) and more likely to fly off the handle at any sign of interest from competing females.

Research has found that it’s not quite that simple. In fact, men and women both get jealous, but over subtly different things. A study published last year in the journal Personality and Individual Differences discovered that when men suspect infidelity, they’ll ask more questions about sex. When women suspect it, they’ll ask more questions about emotions.

That chimes with earlier research and evolutionary theory. We men are more jealous about physical infidelity because it calls into question our paternity (this is all deep down in our subconscious), and our biological raison d’etre is to pass on our genes.

A woman doesn’t have that worry, of course. She knows the child is hers. Instead, she is more concerned with emotional infidelity, because it threatens the protective family unit she needs to bring that child up securely.

That might explain why your partner can get jealous over what you consider to be a supportive, friendly, but sexually innocent relationship with a female friend.

Are women more emotional?

This is another old chestnut. Women are more emotional. They shed tears at every opportunity. They always know how to turn a minor drama into a major crisis.

According to the latest research, there’s a nugget of truth in that. Women are not more emotional, but they are more prone to ’emotional stress’. That might explain why she gets mad at you for your more laid-back attitude to being late, or getting lost, or financial difficulties.

In the study, levels of a stress hormone that barely registered in male rats excited the brains of female rats. And though the subjects were rodents, researchers say the results may well explain the difference in human male and female attitudes to stress.

“This may help to explain why women are twice as vulnerable as men to stress-related disorders,” said study leader Dr Rita Valentino, of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Men’s brains tend to cope better with stress hormones, making them less likely to turn that drama into a crisis.

But it’s just as true to say that men are too unemotional, rather than women are too emotional. One neuro-imaging study found that men are simply less equipped to read emotion than women, which might explain why we consider women over emotional.

Are women more moody?

A man who has forgotten to put the toilet seat down or take the rubbish out and received a verbal volley from his partner in return will often mutter about her irrational moodiness. And those poor put-upon males may have a point.

Aside from the hormonal changes associated with the female menstrual cycle (see below) new research also suggests that women may be naturally the moodier gender. Scientists at the University of Montreal found that men make 52% more of a hormone called serotonin than women. Serotonin is also known as the happy hormone, which might give you a clue as to what low levels can lead to.

Are women slaves to their hormones?

Women may make less serotonin, but in fact both sexes are slaves to their hormones. If you don’t believe us just visit a prison for violent male offenders. You’ll find an awful lot of testosterone swilling about in there.

That’s an extreme example, but it shows what hormones can do. Both men and women are affected by hormones, but on an everyday level (away from the prison yard) female hormonal imbalance can be more acute than its male equivalent. That’s why women suffer from the sometimes severe mood swings associated with PMS.

It’s also true that women interfere with their hormones more than men, principally through the contraceptive pill. Scientists at Stirling University claimed last year that the pill affects women’s choice in men. They found that women who took the pill were more likely to go for caring, steady men, rather than bad boys and dangerous, macho types.

Nobody’s quite sure why that should be, but there’s no doubt that hormones play a huge part in male and female personality. It’s just that the peaks and troughs of the female cycle tend to be more noticeable to the men in their lives.

Are women more illogical?

It’s certainly true, according to evolutionary psychology, that women should be more illogical. Simon Baron-Cohen, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge, has suggested that women’s thinking is more likely to be characterised by ’empathising tendencies’, and male thinking by ‘systemising tendencies’.

Or to put it more simply, women are people people, and men thing people. Women are better at empathising with other people, understanding them and figuring out character and personality traits. That’s because these skills were more useful to them in our evolutionary past.

Men had to be better at making tools and working out strategies for tracking and killing prey. So men are more likely to be ‘things’ people. We work things out, master them and then apply them to our advantage.

And that’s why, to us, women can seem a bit flaky and illogical, while to them, we can seem too practical and unemotional. It’s why we try to solve their problems for them, when they only want a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.

Of course, we should add that this doesn’t apply to everyone all the time. You get some very practical women and some very emotional men. It just means that, on average, women might be a little less practical than men.

What all this shows is that – surprise surprise – men and women really do think differently, some of the time. But there’s no right or wrong, better or worse. Both genders are the way they are for good reason, and it can be useful, and reassuring, to know what those reasons are.

How to decode her flirting


Experts believe the way she flirts is a clue to her personality. But what is her flirting style telling you?

You might have just met her at a bar, or you may have known her for years. Whichever it is, you’re pretty certain you’ve noticed a flicker of sexual or romantic interest.

But what, exactly, has she done to give you that impression? It’s an important question because, according to research, her flirting style can give you a major clue about what to expect in the next few hours, days or weeks – and even what you can expect in a long term relationship (if it gets that far).

In fact, one recent study from the University of Kansas in the US identified five flirting styles and even suggested the types of relationships those styles might lead to. So here’s what her flirting might be telling you.

The physical flirt

She may ostentatiously look you up and down. She may punctuate her conversation with a playful hand on your arm or an obvious flick of her abundant blond locks. According to the psychologists at Kansas University, she’s a physical flirt, and her body language speaks volumes.

What it probably doesn’t say, however, is that you have bagged yourself a guaranteed one-night stand. You haven’t. Physical flirts might be happy to show their sexual interest, but that doesn’t mean they’re promiscuous.

She may well fall for your charms, though. According to the research, physical flirts fall head over heels quite easily, and quickly develop an emotional and – when the time comes – sexual connection.

And don’t be blinded by prejudice. Physical flirts can make for good relationships, even in the long term. Two of the key ingredients of a lasting relationship are sexual chemistry and a strong emotional bond, and physical flirts tend to develop both in abundance.

The traditional flirt

If you think you’ve seen a flicker of interest from a traditional flirt, it’s probably only a flicker. If you’re getting anywhere at all it might be because you’ve known her a long time and you’ve done all the pursuing.

In other words, the traditional flirt believes men should do the asking and women should wait to be asked. If you try other flirting techniques on her – particularly the physical kind – you’re likely to put her off. If she flirts at all it will probably be subconsciously and you’ll have to be aware of some very subtle clues, from a very brief glance in your direction to the shy, nervous fidgeting that can at least indicate interest.

How will a relationship play out? Well, you won’t have to worry about her flirting with other men. Aside from that, she’ll value the security you offer and may well be quite introverted, preferring a cosy night in with you to raucous parties or nightclubs.

The polite flirt

The polite flirt knows the rules. You’re more likely to have to approach her and you’re unlikely to feel the spark of sexual chemistry if you do. It might be there, but she’ll be careful not to let it show.

She probably won’t be cold or standoffish, mind, particularly if she likes you. She’ll engage in lively conversation. She’ll laugh at your jokes. She may swap numbers or email addresses at the end of the night.

But her flirting is likely to be non-sexual in the first instance, and she may seem a little reserved. Her manners will be impeccable but telling her that her eyes sparkle like the brightest stars in the firmament is unlikely to do you any favours. She doesn’t flirt ostentatiously and she’s not flattered by the ostentatious flirting of others.

The good news is that, according to the Kansas research, polite flirters “do tend to have meaningful relationships”. She might be hard work at the outset, but she may well be a loving and loyal partner.

The sincere flirt

There’s no game-playing with the sincere flirt, and no danger that her interest in you will only be sustained until you stop buying the drinks. If you’ve known her a while and she’s said yes to a date, it’s unlikely that she’s agreed on a whim or that she’s going into it half-heartedly. She’s checking you out as serious potential mate material.

So how do you identify a sincere flirt? Well, she might show a lot of interest in your life, work and interests. She will ask questions and be attentive to answers.

She wants to make an emotional connection and will let you know that she’s interested (if she is). So expect her to be open, honest and straight down the line. Her flirting style might not be playful or full of sexy hints and innuendo, but it will be genuine. She won’t do anything purely for effect.

Happily, she may carry that emotional honesty into any ensuing relationship. So if you don’t mess her around, she won’t mess you around, either.

The playful flirt

She’s great fun to be around and her playful, sexy flirting style can send a young man’s imagination into overdrive. You may be very glad – at first – to have chanced upon the most playful female flirt in the bar.

But be warned, the playful flirt is the diametric opposite of her sincere counterpart. She may very well flirt with you or say yes to a date on a whim. She may laugh at your jokes and compliment your style without even considering you as boyfriend material. Her flirting might suggest otherwise, but you’d be wrong to think there’s any future to your encounter beyond the next 10 minutes.

The fact is, playful flirts enjoy flirting. It’s not a means to an end (be that sex, a romance or a relationship), it’s an end in itself. They find it a fun way to spend an evening, partly because of the boost it gives to their own self-esteem. She’ll love your obvious sexual interest, but perhaps not in the way you’d hope.

And any ensuing relationship? Frankly, it’s highly unlikely there’ll be one. If there is, it will probably be fleeting and shallow. Which is fine, of course, as long as you’re not expecting a whole lot more.

If the scientists are right, you really can gauge her wants and desires from the way she flirts. Pick up on the clues early and you could save yourself a lot of heartache, or stop your own flirting style from driving a potential long-term lover away.

Source: http://him.uk.msn.com/sex-and-dating/how-to-decode-her-flirting

Can men and women ever be just good friends?


In the enlightened 21st century you probably have a female friend or two. But can men and women really get past the sex thing?

Many men still think Harry (from When Harry Met Sally) had it right. Men and women can’t ever be true friends, because sex always gets in the way.

That piece of throwaway celluloid wisdom has almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Men and women can’t be friends because their red-blooded desire is bound to get the better of them sometime. And even if it doesn’t, bona fide romantic partners will come to view the friend as a potential rival, leaving one relationship or the other floundering on the rocks.

Many men still think Harry (from When Harry Met Sally) had it right. Men and women can’t ever be true friends, because sex always gets in the way.

That piece of throwaway celluloid wisdom has almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Men and women can’t be friends because their red-blooded desire is bound to get the better of them sometime. And even if it doesn’t, bona fide romantic partners will come to view the friend as a potential rival, leaving one relationship or the other floundering on the rocks.

You have to admit that it’s a shame. A female friend can give you things that your male friends just can’t, and we’re not talking about sex. Female friends can be an unrivalled source of comfort and feminine wisdom.

So with that in mind, we ask: can men and women ever really be friends? Here are the pros and cons.

The pros

There are very few male/female friendships portrayed in films and on TV, and those that are invariably lead to romance. The friendship is just a stage the characters have to get through before realising how very much in love (and lust) they are.

Friendships devoid of lust are possible

But that’s not necessarily true off-screen. A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships looked at different kinds of friendships and found that a friendship bond between a man and woman devoid of lust was possible, and that was as true for men as women. A man could find a female friend attractive, but not always want to sleep with her.

Some experts also believe that the idea that men and women can’t be platonic friends – which originates long before When Harry Met Sally – should be consigned to the past.

In an era when men went out to work and women stayed at home, both genders only tended to mix romantically. These days, we comfortably mix at work, at home and in our recreational activities, so male/female friendships are a natural and welcome consequence.

All of which is great, because a female friend can be a boon for men. In fact, in one study men rated their friendships with women as some of the best they had.

That’s because female friends give men the chance to share their feelings and get advice on personal matters, things they don’t often do with male mates.

“Men might find it easier to open up to a female friend about emotional problems than they would to another man,” says Kate Taylor, relationship expert for Match.com. “Women might be more supportive and encouraging than men, and less likely to tease.”

Research by Kathy Werking, author of We’re Just Good Friends, showed that the most positive thing both men and women get out of platonic friendships is the chance to talk one-to-one. She found that many male/female friendships are highly mutually supportive. Both parties get a lot out of them.

Cons:                                                                                                                                 One friend might start to want more

On the other hand, it’s certainly true that platonic friendships with women can be more testing than all male friendships, and that’s at least partly because of the possibility of unrequited sexual tension.

“It’s mainly that one of the friends will start to want more than the other,” says Taylor. “When this happens, things can get strained. There can be jealousy towards your friend’s dates, which is often displayed as moodiness, or unfair criticism towards the third party. If you feel that one of your platonic friends seems to dislike all your partners, it may be they secretly care about you romantically.”

Watching the friend you secretly fancy swan around with other men can be tough. In the study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 62% of the respondents admitted to sexual tension in their male/female friendships.

Mixed signals are always a danger

Sheepish couple in bed (© Image Source_Getty Images)

Women, in particular, disliked the fact that a supposedly platonic friend might misinterpret a supportive hug. Friends of different genders often have to walk a fine line between being playful, supporting and flirty, in the knowledge that physical contact, in particular, can be easily misconstrued.

They also have to put up with the nudge-nudge remarks of same-sex friends. If you’re friends with an attractive woman, expect a relentless examination of the relationship by mates in the pub. “You’re not really just friends are you?” won’t be the half of it.

Girlfriends and dates might get jealous

Finally, a close female friend will most probably attract the jealousy of dates and girlfriends.

“Partners can sometimes feel threatened by a close friendship you have with someone of the opposite sex,” says Taylor. “They might start questioning if it really is truly platonic.”

But she also suggests a solution. “If that happens, you can erase a lot of the doubt by introducing your partner to your friend. Let them see for themselves how distinctly unromantic you are together,” she adds.

The verdict:                                                                                                                     Male/female friendships are hard work, but worth it

So can men and women be friends? The answer is yes, of course, and as the genders mix more than ever, mixed gender friendships are becoming more common. But they take work, an acceptance of boundaries and the strength of mind to put up with the barracking of the boys in the pub. But they’re almost certainly worth it. As well as everything else, says Taylor, “female friends will give you great dating advice.”

Source : http://him.uk.msn.com/sex-and-dating/can-men-and-women-ever-be-just-good-friends