Sex Advice From An Amateur

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One of the perks of keeping a well-visited blog is that you get to spy on people using search engines. Extreme Tracking keeps a list for me of the latest search terms which have led people to Aard. It turns out that they’re always largely porn surfers. My entry about the German locksmith who has four children with his long-lost sister / common-law wife attracts continual interest from people who are probably really disappointed to find nothing prurient there. And there’s always the people who mistype “big booty” and end up at my entry about Iron Age war booty found sacrificed in bogs.

Before we move on to the sex advice, here are a few good search terms I’ve collected lately. Remember, all of these are actual phrases that somebody searched for, and which led them to Aard.

  • “statistically fucked” (What are my chances?)
  • “maximum times woman want be fucked” (The public demands to know!)
  • “rude photos of viking goddess freya”
  • “brother and sister together we’ll make sex”
  • “girl console oneself picture” (Lovely way to express it.)
  • “is sweden nude” (Yes)
  • “free orgies in medicine hat” (Is that a place or a garment?!)
  • “masterbation disembodied entities”
  • “why do humans have sex like animals” (Oh, why!?!)
  • “lego star wars girls having sex”

But the other day I happened upon a sex-related search term that was more about someone with a problem looking for help. And feeling that I should offer what assistance I can, I’ll give some free amateur’s sex advice. I’m placing it below the fold to enable you, Dear Reader, to skip it if you’re not interested in frank discussion of what bits go where.

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Drugs and Me

In the podcast liner notes to his new album (starting at 14:21), George Hrab talks to Milton Mermikidis for a space about how neither of them does any heavier drugs than caffeine. I realised that in close to five years of blogging, I’ve never talked specifically about my own drug abstinence, though I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m tee-total. So I thought I might say a few words on the subject.

The culturally accepted heavy drug in Sweden is alcohol, which is strongly mind-altering if used in a sufficient dose and lethal if overdosed. Drinking is so common here that if you don’t, then it calls for an explanation. The only other legal recreational drugs are nicotine, caffeine and theobromine. Illegal drugs are so rare in my circles that I can only recall encountering marijuana (let alone heavier drugs) three times in my life. One was in the Netherlands and one was when a prim American pop singer lit a small prim joint before a Stockholm gig.

Uppers and downers aren’t terribly interesting to me even as an observer. But I do take an interest in hallucinogens, to the extent that I love psychedelic music, film and art. I call psych music my vicarious high. But really, to me hallucinogens are just a chemical short cut to absurdism or surrealism, which I love. The Beatles famously did a lot of drugs. But they wrote all that (drug-) inspired music between trips. And the ground-breaking psychedelic studio tricks on their recordings were thought out in collaboration with a producer and sound engineers who had to be completely sober in order to achieve what they did with 1960s equipment.

So anyway, my not doing street drugs is no cause for surprise: we don’t in my circles. Still, people are surprised that I don’t drink. For instance, though I’m 38, my dad is still visibly peeved about it, which is kind of sweet. People my age aren’t expected to get drunk a lot, but most certainly shop at the liquor store one or two times a month, and knowing your wine and beer is sort of an expected cultural competence. So why don’t I, when most people do?

Finding out why a person does this and not that is complicated. You can go for the conscious reasons behind a decision, or some unconscious one, you can search for a cause in the past that has shaped a person to make her decide this and not that. Free will is a fuzzy thing. I’ll split the question in two.

Firstly, why didn’t I start drinking in my teens like everybody else? Well, I tried a few times, and I found that it tasted bad and had no effect on me in the doses I managed to down. I’ve never been inebriated. Also, I saw a lot of other kids drunk at parties, and I wasn’t impressed. Drunk people are stupid and boring. I like being smart, and drugs dull that edge, perhaps permanently.

Secondly, why don’t I start drinking now or try to get hold of street drugs? Well, the original reasons haven’t changed. Drink still tastes bad and I still prefer sober company. But I also have a feeling that people take drugs to still needs that I don’t have. Sung Marilyn Manson, “There’s a hole in our soul that we fill with dope”. There’s no hole in my soul that I’m aware of. I don’t feel any need to take a break from myself. I’m not shy, nor do I need anything to help me loosen up. On the contrary: I’m already all over the place. My friends have told me repeatedly that it’s a good thing that I don’t drink, bearing in mind how I behave when sober.

I should emphasise that though I (just barely) feel intellectually superior to drunk or stoned people, I don’t see myself as morally superior. If you can enjoy using recreational drugs in what for lack of a better term we might call a “responsible” manner, without screwing up your life or crashing your car or beating your spouse or bonking the neighbour, then why not? Most people do, after all. And if drugs do screw up your life, I tend to see it as a medical condition, not a sign of poor moral fibre (whatever that is). A drunk whose marriage collapses is not a bad person who gets what he deserves.

Now, Dear Reader, you most likely do use heavier drugs than caffeine. Please tell us why! Or you may not do so, like me and George Hrab and Milton Mermikidis. And if so, also tell us why!

Update same evening: I forgot to mention that I have no problem with people drinking in my home. We always have alcohol in the cupboard, mainly because my wife drinks very little too so we never run out. And we often offer dinner guests beer and wine. There was this one guy though that I never invited again after he brought a bottle of green Chartreuse liqueur to a party of ours, drank the whole thing (shudder) and got wasted…

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Swedish Autism & Vaccination Lawsuit

Yesterday the parents of a 17-y-o Malmö boy who suffers from autism lost a case in the Swedish court of appeal, Hovrätten. They had sued their insurance company for not recognising their claim for compensation. The parents blame the boy’s condition on common vaccines, which would have entitled them to insurance money, while the company holds that autism is almost always congenital and never caused by vaccines. The court found the science presented by the defendant convincing and ruled in the company’s favour.

I’m glad that the judicial system values scientific knowledge. But I am saddened that this already burdened family would now have to pay the costs of a lawsuit they entered into on the basis of medical misinformation spread by the alternative medicine movement. Luckily the insurance company, Trygg Hansa, has announced that it will remit the debt.

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2009 Enlightener & Obscurantist Awards

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The Swedish Skeptic Society‘s annual awards for 2009 were announced yesterday.

Professor emeritus of ecological zoology Staffan Ulfstrand receives the Enlightener of the Year award,

“… for his engrossing and pedagogical books about evolution [such as Savannah Lives: Animal Life and the Human Evolution of Africa] and his many pop-sci talks, particularly during the double Darwin jubilee of 2009. Staffan Ulfstrand frequently appears on nature shows, in Q&A columns and in debates about biology and behaviour. He has also frequently explained evolution in a pedagogical manner when it has been misinterpreted and misunderstood.”

Enlightener Ulfstrand receives a cash prize of SEK 25 000 ($3400, €2400).

Doctor Annika Dahlqvist, a former general practitioner who appears obsessed with Low Carbs High Fat, receives the Obscurantist of the Year anti-award,

“… for making particularly unsupported statements during the year about the link between diet and sickness. She has warned against swine flu vaccination and instead recommended a changed diet, without any scientific support at all. If her advice had been heeded, then the flu would have taken more lives.

Annika Dahlqvist has also published strange claims about links between diet and cancer. According to her, people who follow a diet rich in fat do not get cancer, which is not only ignorant but also lays blame on cancer sufferers. She sees industrial interests behind the healthcare authorities’ recommendations. She claims that the ‘establishment’s’ dietary advice causes cancer and that mammography is therefore useless.”

Update same afternoon: The Swedish Skeptics usually get quite a lot of national press coverage of our annual awards, but it seems that giving the anti-award to Annika Dahlqvist is getting us even more air time and print than usual. The tabloids like dieting and they like maverick doctors. Dahlqvist combines both traits, and so she’s been a lot in the tabloids over the past two years or so, bearing the epithet “The Doctor of Fat”. She also has a lot of altie fans reading her books and her blog. And now our anti-award is the main story on Expressen’s broadsheet and the alties are going nuts in the Swedish Skeptics’ executive-board in-box.

More coverage at Aftonbladet, Dagens Medicin, Radio Västernorrland, Sundsvalls Tidning, Sveriges Television.

Don’t miss TV4’s live debate between Dahlqvist and the chairman of the Swedish Skeptics!

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Gay Men Allowed to Donate Blood (in Theory)

AIDS was discovered in gay men and the virus is more easily transmitted through anal than vaginal intercourse. For this reason, gay men (defined as “men who have sex with men”) have long been forbidden to donate blood in Sweden. Likewise, people who go to bed with a new hetero partner must wait three months before donating blood again.

Now the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare has decided to change the rules. A bit. Gay men are now allowed to donate blood. If the last time they had sex with a man was more than a year ago. So you’re only allowed to donate blood if you’re gay in the abstract, not in practice.

I don’t know what to think here. The changed rules are certainly more symbolic than practical in effect. But the virus is much more common among gay men than among heteros. And among blood donors who have showed up as positive in HIV screening, gay men are also strongly over-represented. (But they’re not allowed to donate in the first place, so I don’t know where those data come from.)

Still, regardless of who has it more and who has it less, the virus is very uncommon overall in Sweden, and those infected get good treatment that keeps their infectiousness way, way down. I don’t know what’s the bigger risk here: people dying from lack of donated blood or people contracting HIV from an infected blood bag.

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The Rundkvists Have Taken Their Swine Flu Shots

My family and I just came home from our local vÃ¥rdcentral, the public medical centre, where we’ve taken our shots for epidemic H1N1/09 swine flu. It cost us nothing and we waited for only about 15 minutes. We got something called Pandemix, which appears to be Pandemrix mixed with another vaccine. They’re not sure if a second shot will be needed or not, but if so then we will take it at the same time as I get my annual non-swine flu shot. Juniorette cried a little after the jab but calmed down after eating two saffron buns. She then went with her mom to swimming class.

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Only Certain Humans Ever Have Sex To Reproduce

Ed Yong’s excellent post about fruit-bat fellatio received some even better, eye-opening comments from one Russell and Frog:

Russell: “Tan is falling into the fallacy that animals have sex for the purpose of procreation. Or of writing as if. Those bats are having sex because they’re horny, and the fellatio is somehow making their sex more satisfying. That might or might not enhance reproduction. But that is not on the little bats’ minds when they’re busy getting it on.”

Frog: “The bats aren’t making direct computations of relative reproductive success — they’re ‘feeling good’, and very often ‘feeling good’ is made better by making someone else ‘feel good’ (not assuming that the bats can actually model their partners mind like that).

Humans have sex for reproductive purposes — I would bet we’re the only ones who are that insane. Everyone else just does what they like to do.

This is like saying that animal X eats to keep their metabolism going — only a few crazy people do that. Everyone eats because they like eating.”

And of course. Animals take great pleasure from sex because it is adaptive to feel that pleasure. None of them is smart enough to understand that babies follow. And that obviates the entire discussion of what sexual behaviour counts as “natural” in humans.

The only rule we need to follow is “consenting adults”. (With the addition, of course, that if a person consents to having grievous bodily harm done to them, then this is a symptom of mental illness and places a responsibility of care, not exploitation, upon people around. But then someone who would feel inclined to exploit such a situation sexually is of course also nuts.)

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Fungal Research Tries To Surf MRSA Wave

Here’s a confusing press release from the University of Gothenburg. Researcher Jonas Warringer is trying to find ways to slow the rate of genetic adaptation in certain microbes down to keep them from evolving resistance to antibiotics. But look at this (and I translate):

Slowed-down evolution can counteract antibiotic resistance

The resistance of an infectious agent against antibiotics is particularly serious when it comes to drugs made from fungi, penicillin for instance. Fungal cells are similar to human ones, which makes it hard to develop drugs that hit fungal cells (and are effective) but leave human cells unharmed (thus avoiding side effects).

Evolution creates random variations in the traits of an organism, which shows in infectious agents as an improved resistance against the drugs they encounter. In the end we get completely resistant fungal strains — and the drug becomes ineffective.

What the press release fails to mention is that we usually use antibiotics against bacterial infections, not fungal ones. The research reported on is in fact irrelevant to the much-publicised concerns about MRSA and other bacterial strains that have evolved resistance to antibiotics. Looks like an attempt to ride the publicity wave of a separate issue.

Bruce Chatwin did have fungal trouble, though. Check out my homage.

Computing My Caffeine Habit

Strong black tea is my drug of choice. But I got fed up with caffeine addiction a few years back and started to limit my intake. Currently I’m at 1.5 litres every second day, which means that my system is used to going without caffeine for over 40 hours at a time — counted from afternoon tea on a Monday to morning tea on a Wednesday for instance. This regimen works out to an average daily intake of 190 milligrams of caffeine. Coffee has about 1.7 times the caffeine in strong black tea, which in turn has 2.7 times the caffeine in Coke. But I never have coffee and very rarely any caffeinated soda.

Dear Reader, what’s your caffeine habit like? Here are some figures:

Coke: ~100 mg caffeine per litre
Strong black tea: ~250 mg caffeine per litre
Coffee: ~425 mg caffeine per litre

(A litre is about 34.5 fluid ounces.)