Thursday, March 31, 2011

More college 'hookups,' but more virgins, too

More college 'hookups,' but more virgins, too

It wasn't until the second semester of her senior year at Fordham University in New York that Kathleen Adams had a college boyfriend.

Kirsten Ellermann and Ryan Fitz attend Iowa State university and have been dating for over a year. Ellermann says hooking up is very common among those who are single and not in a relationship.

"You just don't date at colleges," says Adams, 23, now a Fordham graduate student in urban studies.
But there's no shortage of casual sex on campus, she says — in part because Fordham, like many colleges, has significantly more women than men. Adams says that means guys have the upper hand when it comes to intimacy.
"It's kind of like a competition," she says. "The guys have their choice of whoever they want. So they think, 'Why would I date?' "
The relationship game among college-aged adults today is a muddle of seemingly contradictory trends. Recent studies indicate that traditional dating on campuses has taken a back seat to no-strings relationships in which bonds between young men and women are increasingly brief and sexual. (A new website to arrange these encounters that began at the University of Chicago last month now is expanding to other campuses.)
But even as casual sex — often called "hookups" or "friends with benefits" — is a dominant part of campus life, a new report by the National Center for Health Statistics indicates the percentages of men and women 18-24 who say they are virgins also are increasing.
It all reflects an emerging paradigm that is altering the nature of sex and relationships among young adults: fewer men than women on campuses; a more openly sexual society that often takes cues from media, and a declining desire to make relationship commitments early in life.
Adams' experience is the reality for many of today's college students, says Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas-Austin.
His research suggests that the higher proportion of women on campuses has contributed to the ascent of the hookup culture. Overall, women made up more than 56% of the college population in 2009, according to the recent Census data on enrollments; more women are found on many campuses that serve both sexes.
"The women wind up competing with each other for access to the men, and often, that means relationships become sexual quicker," says Regnerus, co-author of Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think About Marrying, released earlier this year. It is based on an analysis of four national studies representing a total of 25,000 young people ages 18-23 and more than 200 additional interviews.
"Men don't have to work as hard as they used to, to woo a woman," he says. "I've talked to various interviewees who had never been on a date, which doesn't really make sense, given they're pretty attractive. It's just that less seems to be required to be in the company of a woman."
Justin Garcia, a State University of New York doctoral fellow at Binghamton (N.Y.) University who conducts research on hookups, says this general lack of dating means many young adults don't even know how to get a relationship started.
"For the majority of students, they're not going to dinner and a movie unless they've hooked up with someone. Some physical interaction comes before the dating," he says. Often, "dates happen after a relationship, rather than before."

Avoiding commitment

Many young people are eschewing relationships as too much hassle, especially when they plan to study abroad, leave town for internships or go to graduate school, says sociologist Teresa Downing-Matibag of Iowa State University.

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Young adults today want to have their freedom and are not always interested in committed relationships, according to researchers.
"They want to have their freedom and are not always interested in these committed relationships. At the same time, they'll tell you they will not be in a relationship without sex being an important part of it," she says. The down economy has forced many students to work because their parents aren't as capable of funding their education; that means they're juggling school and work and are less likely to have time to devote to a relationship, she adds.
"With the people that I know, there is a fair share of hooking up just to have sex, and the intention is to only do it once and possibly never see that person again," says Rachel Curtis, 22, an Iowa State grad student. "I know a few girls who would like to hook up every weekend, but sometimes the opportunity doesn't present itself. They call that an 'unlucky night.' "
The cryptic nature of what a hookup involves appeals to many young people: They deliberately want to be vague so they can exaggerate or hide their actions from their friends, analysts say.
" 'Hookup' leaves it to the imagination. The ambiguity is intentional," says Michael Bruce of San Francisco, co-editor of College Sex: Philosophy for Everyone: Philosophers with Benefits.
"Hooking up is very vague. It can be anything from kissing on the dance floor to you go back and have sex in the room and sleep over," says Leah Reis-Dennis, 19, a Harvard University sophomore from Eugene, Ore.
"It's called hanging out, but it's really hooking up," adds Kirsten Ellermann, 20, a junior at Iowa State University who has been in a relationship for more than a year. "You know what it means when a guys says he wants to come over and hang out. He's not taking you to dinner."
"In a big way, hookups have kind of taken the place of — not exactly eclipsed — relationships, but hooking up is kind of an easier way for college students to act on their sexual desire without making a big commitment," says Reis-Dennis, a history and literature major.
Even so, "it's not like everyone is having casual sex all the time," says sociologist Paula England of Stanford University, whose ongoing research since 2005 has surveyed more than 17,000 students from 20 colleges and universities. "Some people are hooking up a bunch of times with the same person but are not calling it a relationship. Others are never doing anything you would call a hookup."
Her latest data finds that by senior year, 72% of both sexes reported having at least one hookup, with the average of 9.7 for men and 7.1 for women. Just under one-quarter (24%) of seniors say they are virgins, she says.
The percentage of those who claim virginity appears to be increasing, according to a National Center for Health Statistics study released this month of 2006-08 data. Among 18- and 19-year-olds, about one-quarter of men and women said they hadn't had sexual contact with another person, up from 17% of women and 22% of men in 2002. Among those ages 20-24, 12% of women and 13% of men said they were virgins, up from 8% for both sexes in 2002.
"Friends my age have not said they have chosen to be virgins," says Ashley Thompson, 23, who will receive her master's degree in public health from Ohio State University-Columbus in June.
Thompson, of Perrysburg, Ohio, is engaged, but "a lot of my peers, as women, have got a lot of other things going on. I think the fact that young women are able to focus on other life goals such as school or career could change the way they form relationships, which inherently would impact their sexual activity."
Some studies find virgins in even higher numbers. Responses collected from 1,500 Duke University freshmen and seniors at the Durham, N.C., campus in 2007 found that about 53% of women and 40% of the men said they were virgins, says Wendy Brynildsen, a Duke doctoral student who will share that data in a paper at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in August.
"Many people think I'm crazy" for not having sex, says Jon Haron, 21, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., a part-time college student studying aviation technology and air-traffic control. He also works part-time as a flight instructor.

Matthew Staver, Freelance
Jon Haron, 21, is part of a group of friends who have made the decision to not have intercourse until marriage. He says some friends have decided that other forms of sexual actiivity are OK.
"My core group of guy friends — my close friends — we've all made the decision to not have (sexual intercourse) until we're married," Haron says. But several friends, he adds, think it's OK to engage in other sexual activity.
Although the government data offers no explanations for the growing percentage of virgins, there has been plenty of speculation, ranging from more open discussion about the health risks associated with casual sex to the busy lives of young people. Some cite the rise of the abstinence movement, while others point to easy access to Internet porn and an overtly sexualized culture that has made young people somewhat blas about sex.

Choosing abstinence

"We're seeing that the choice to remain abstinent is increasingly resonant," says Valerie Huber, executive director of the non-profit National Abstinence Education Association, which will launch a campaign next year to "rebrand the cultural message" and tell young people that "sexual activity as a rite of passage" is no longer an expectation for teens and young adults.
While sexual experimentation is a part of life for many young people, Reis-Dennis, a history and literature major, says there also are many who don't want to have a "throwaway sexual experience."
"Personally, a lot of my friends at school have had sex," she says. "As many, if not more, haven't."
Haron says his circle of friends, which includes about 15 guys, some with girlfriends, all have looked at porn and are trying to stay away from it. "Porn is easy," he says. "I think that's why a lot of guys are drawn to that. It's so easy to get and they're not going to be rejected, so why try with a girl?"
Researchers are well aware how the Internet has made porn and sex websites so accessible and appealing; Downing-Matibag says her students have shown her websites for virtual sex.
"They can go to those websites and have sexual relationships watching a webcam. They can still be a virgin and have 100 different partners online through chat rooms or webcams," she says. "Young people have avatars (on-screen characters representing themselves online) and enter these virtual worlds that involve sexual encounters."
But some of those who work to educate young people about sex say the new data about more virgins could signal change.
"The hookup culture seems to be predominating, but there might be the beginning of a pushback and relationships playing a much stronger role," says James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a Washington-based non-profit.
Still, most young people are having some kind of sexual contact.
"Humans are biological beings," Garcia says. "We have a sex drive. To not recognize that in talking to young adults is foolish."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Status: In a relationship with…my cyber girlfriend

Status: In a relationship with…my cyber girlfriend

By Eleanor Stanford

In a bizarre twist to our continuing preoccupation with online identity, a new start up company is claiming to uniquely improve a man’s cyber credentials. For a small fee Cloud Girlfriend promises to connect you with your own imaginary ‘perfect woman’ whom you can communicate with publicly on social networking sites and – crucially – be attached to in your relationship status. Rather than operating as an online dating service, Cloud Girlfriend deals in ready made ‘public long distance relationships’ and will employ real women to play these fictitious girlfriends. The site’s tagline is “The best way to get a girlfriend is to already have one’, or as co-founder David Fuhriman explains, having a ‘girlfriend’ post on your wall is more likely to make real women think ‘someone else thinks highly enough of this person to date him, so maybe I should too’.” How that impressionable woman would react to the knowledge that her cyber Lothario paid for a fictitious girlfriend is yet to be seen.

Status: In a relationship cyber girlfriend, editors choice

Cloud Girlfriend’s conception arrives alongside further suggestion that our interaction with online identities is less than healthy. The emphasis in the product is on appearance; there is little suggestion that the ‘perfect woman’ will fulfil any romantic role save that of online trophy.

The importance of perception in the online community is also considered in a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published next month. AAP found that teen depression could be encouraged by Facebook’s friend stream and the distorted positive impression of peers’ lives it offered. Apparently the pressure to compete when presenting life online in photos and exciting statuses could be distressing, a sentiment shared by those signed up to Cloud Girlfriend’s email list.

It is often assumed that an online profile represents the sum of a person and there is a fear that you are defined (online and offline) by the photos, tweets and comments that make up these profiles. Networking websites supposedly created to facilitate social interaction have in some ways added a further layer of strain to our communication. A real friend – who does indeed have over a thousand friends on Facebook – once remarked that you are only as good as your last profile picture and another made an account just so he wouldn’t miss out on any more party invitations. Small though these anecdotes may be, they are also representative of the extent to which virtual communication has infiltrated our daily lives. AAP’s survey also found that 22% of teens log onto their favourite social media site more than 10 times a day and the propensity to communicate carelessly online, in a way to which a phone call or face to face meeting is not equivalent, is found among internet users of all ages.

Many people in the public eye use Twitter as a means of breaking down public or ‘celebrity’ identity and allowing them to connect directly with Joe Public. A stream of digital thought interrupted only by the 140 character limit has lead to extraordinary revelations from Charlie Sheen in recent weeks whilst Katie Price consistently tweets on her unfair portrayal in the media. By choosing to only follow student Steven Holmes, Kanye West transformed the Coventry resident into an online star who quickly attracted 3,000 followers. Uncomfortable with the disparity between his online and human selves, however, Steven tweeted “This has been completely surreal and I really have no desire for this attention i’m just a normal person.” A recent study found that a mere 20,000 Twitters users court almost 50% of the tweeting spotlight and Steven felt the burning focus of stepping inadvertently into this spotlight. If you don’t fall into the tweeting ‘elite’ of media, celebrities, organizations and bloggers and Kanye West doesn’t suddenly decide to follow you, the preconception that the world is listening to your online voice is enticing, but deceptive.

The joys of social networking sites are clear and together with the burgeoning success of smart phones and iPads they have helped to launch a revolution in the way we communicate. However, if fears over the state of your web cred are making you pay for a fictitious girlfriend, it’s probably time to switch off the computer and go for a walk in the fresh air.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How to Prevent Divorce

How to Prevent Divorce

Every marriage will go through difficult times. Unfortunately, sometimes, one or both people in the relationship will want to call it quits. Divorce is one of the most painful things an individual can go through. The process can cost thousands of dollars, and the pain that results from it is indescribable. Luckily, there are steps you can take to make sure you never have to go through a divorce. Knowing how to avoid and deal with conflicts is the key.


  • Deal with problems as they occur. One reason divorce happens is that people allow things to bottle up inside. When the inevitable blowup occurs, things are often said that cannot be taken back.

  • 2
    Always communicate with your spouse about both the good and bad things in the relationship. Probably the biggest reason for divorce is a lack of good communication between both parties. Spend at least 1 hour every day conversing with your spouse. Simply talking about your day is a great way to remain close.

  • 3
    Share in at least some of your spouse's interests. Every "expert" will tell you that you must do things with your spouse in order to keep the relationship going. Chances are, your spouse won't like to do all of the things you do. But watch some of the TV shows she likes or take her out to her favorite restaurant once in a while. Going out of your way is a key to preventing divorce.

  • 4
    Surprise your spouse every now and then with special gifts and events. Many people get divorced because they get "bored" with the marriage, or feel as if their spouse doesn't care anymore. Send flowers to your wife for no reason on a weekday. Get front row \-seats to the ballgame without telling your husband. These may seem like little things, but you can never overestimate how much such gestures can mean to the health of a marriage.

  • 5
    Know when to give your spouse some space. Some people get divorced because they feel their spouse is always around, and they never have any alone time. Let your spouse read a book quietly or watch a movie without being disturbed. Even in the best marriages, a person sometimes simply needs to be alone.

  • 6
    Remain intimate with your spouse throughout the marriage. Couples sometimes get caught up in everyday life and simply forget about about having a sex life. This is the probably the biggest cause of adultery, which almost always leads to divorce. Make time for intimacy between you and your spouse--and be spontaneous about it at times, as well. Keeping things interesting is a good way to ensure your spouse will never want something or someone else.

  • 7
    Get marriage counseling if you feel you need it. Every couple should try this before even thinking about getting a divorce. Counseling may make you nervous, but seeing a licensed professional could be very beneficial, and may even save your marriage.

  • Tips & Warnings

    • Talk with friends and family members about any problems you are having in your marriage. Getting insight from a third party can help you resolve conflicts and thus prevent divorce.
    • Don't "let yourself go." Physical appearance is important to intimacy, which in turn is important to preventing divorce. Realize that divorce sometimes happens regardless of what you do. There is no 100-percent guaranteed way to prevent divorce. If you've tried everything and the marriage still isn't working, you may have to face the fact that the two of you just aren't meant for one another anymore.

    Monday, March 28, 2011

    The Rules of Engagement: Dating in America

    The Rules of Engagement: Dating in America

    With more than 105 million singles in the United States, or one-third of the population, the singles scene remains a competitive playing field., the leading online dating network, has taken an in-depth look at the behavior of singles and uncovered new dating habits based on a groundbreaking study of more than 5,000 single Americans.  This unprecedented research has found that, while some traditional dating do's and don'ts still exist, the playing field has definitely changed.

    "It's important for singles to know that the dating rules have changed," says Whitney Casey, Relationship Expert for  "This study finds that dating behaviors drastically differ between the ages.  Younger singles are more likely to friend their date on Facebook, communicate by text after a date, and be evasive about their availability if they're not interested in a second date. Whereas older singles are more cautious when it comes to dating in the digital era."
    Specific highlights include:
    • Tradition Still Applies Men, women still expect you to make the first move and ask a lady out, and although 41% of women would offer to pick up the check on a first date, a majority of men (37%) still feel they should foot the bill.
    • Bailout Plan – Both men and women agree that 15 minutes into the date is long enough to tell if there is chemistry (31%). However, if the date isn't going as planned, only 12% of singles would actually call it a night and leave within the first 30 minutes of the date.
    • Thanks, but No Thanks - If your date isn't getting the hint that you aren't a match made in heaven, most singles feel that honesty is the best policy.  52% of those surveyed agree you should politely explain you aren't interested, followed by 24% of singles who recommend being evasive about your future availability. However, younger singles are most likely to ignore your calls and send you straight to voicemail.
    • Too Fast on a First Date? - 6.5% of singles claim they have frequently had sex on the first date, while 80% of singles disapprove of ending the date between the sheets.  
    • Making the Call – 48% of women prefer men to make the follow up call after the first date. Only 6% of men follow up within the first 24 hours, while the majority of men (68%) will play it cool and pick up the phone between one to three days after the date.
    • There'NPlace Like Phone - Although 64% of singles are open to having post-date conversations via text and email, more than 80% of singles still prefer conversations on the phone.  
    • To Friend or Not to Friend? - Younger singles (ages 21-34) think it's OK to add a date as a Facebook friend after 2-3 dates (26%), while 11% of singles between the ages of 35-44 wait to friend a date on Facebook until it becomes an exclusive relationship.
    • Meet the Guys - Yes, it is OK to introduce your new romantic interest to the ones who know you best.  Men are more likely to introduce someone they're interested in to their friends within the first month of dating than women are, regardless of their age group (nearly 50% of men vs. 35% of women).

    Sunday, March 27, 2011

    7 Things Not to Do When Kissing

    7 Things Not to Do When Kissing 

    Kissing is always fun to do – I still remember my first kiss – I think those are things that you will never forget. My husband and I like to talk about our first kiss (with each other, of course). Kissing is romantic and it can really set the mood. Of course, there are some things that you should avoid doing or saying when the two of you are engaged in this intimate moment. Below, I am going to give you 7 things not to do when kissing …

    7. Don’t Charge with Your Tongue Sticking Out

    This one could actually gross the person out. Instead, put your lips together, then insert the tongue. I know, it sounds funny, but that is how it is done. This way, we don’t actually see the tongue.

    6. Don’t Keep Pulling Away

    Of course, this if you want to be kissed. If you don’t want to be kissed, then you pull away and if that doesn’t work, smack them. Now, if you actually want to be kissed by that person, then don’t keep pulling away.

    5. Oxygen

    People hate it when you push too hard, shove your tongue down their throat and don’t give enough oxygen. You should do it gently and give room for oxygen. While I said do not keep pulling away, there is a time you need oxygen, so use that time to gently kiss the neck.

    4. Don’t Make Jokes

    While you are kissing and in an intimate hold, don’t keep making jokes. I think this is a bit childish and guys could get turned off by this one. Especially, if you are making jokes about salvia or something gross.

    3. Don’t Belch

    Oh goodness, if you feel that you are about to belch, please don’t do it in their mouth. By all means, ignore number 6 and pull away before you belch!

    2. Don’t Pass Your Gum

    Unless your partner specifically asks for you to give the gum from your mouth to their mouth, don’t do it. This could totally gross them out.

    1. Don’t’ Say Someone Else’s Name

    While you are kissing, I know things get in the heat of the moment, but you should avoid saying someone else’s name. You definitely should not say your ex girlfriend or boyfriend’s name. Also, don’t go and mention how they used to kiss – this is not the time or the place to do something like that and sometimes, things are better off not said.
    Those are 7 things not to do when kissing. If you do these things, then your partner may not respect you so much the next time the two of you kiss. They may also try to avoid giving you kisses from then on out. Oh and as a reminder, before you kiss, make sure you clean your nose, because you would hate to introduce your partner to whatever may be inside your nose. I think I about covered it – do you have a terrible kissing story you would like to share with us?

    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    Polyamory: Just the three (or four) of us

    Polyamory: Just the three (or four) of us

    We can't escape Charlie Sheen lately, which got us wondering. Sheen's got two ladies living with him.

    New "Dancing With the Stars" contestant Kendra Wilkerson was once one of three women living with Hugh Hefner.

    So is polyamory - being in an intimate relationship where you know you're not the only girlfriend/boyfriend - becoming more accepted? Do these relationships work?

    Pamela says: Yeah, polyamory works if you're young or if you're a celebrity living on the wild side. But not for very long.

    I'll give you a woman's perspective. When I was in my early 20s, I wasn't thinking long-term when it came to dating. I was having fun. That's what you should do when you're young.
    The two girlfriends - excuse me "goddesses" - living with Sheen are in 23 and 24, according to recent reports. They're probably not thinking about getting married or having children of their own. They're just having a good time. Is Sheen going to end up marrying one of them? I doubt it.

    He said himself, "These women don't judge me. ... They don't lead with opinion. They don't lead with their own needs all the time," Sheen told the media last week.

    That means they let him get away with anything and everything he wants.

    A mature woman who wanted a real relationship would say, "Charlie, I'm nobody's side dish. By the way, shut up and take out the garbage."
    And even celebrities eventually get tired of sharing.

    Wilkerson was sharing Hef with Holly Madison and Bridget Marquardt when she was 20. At 25, she's married with a kid.
    The Midwest girl in me thinks that eventually, either one or two things happen in a polyamorous relationship: Someone gets tired of partying and leaves willing or he/she gets traded in for a newer model.

    But hey, maybe I'm a stick in the mud. So I talked with relationship expert Roy Sheppard, author of the book "How to be the One" and he had a different take.

    "I don't think it matters if there's two, three or even four people involved in a relationship," he said.

    Sheppard's philosophy is, if it makes you happy, and you're an honest, respectful, consenting adult, why not?

    Yes, problems will arise in these relationships, but monogamous relationships aren't perfect either - if they were, he said, divorce wouldn't be so common.

    Good point.

    Still, Sheppard said, don't look at Sheen as the model of successful polyamory.

    "He's a man that doesn't understand the concept of enough."

    Damon says: Charlie Sheen is a one-man carnival. It's become apparent recently that his best trick is juggling buxom, 20-something blondes, porn stars and sound bite-laced interviews. It's gotta be. Everyone keeps buying tickets for his shows.

    This must be what tiger blood does for you. I have no real clue about it, polyamory or open relationships, save for that they are becoming more common every day. But I can't knock Charlie or those people who engage in these kind of relationships. That's your life's lot. Just know that I'm not looking to park there.

    I don't consider them to be the safest relationships. The more people you involve yourself with at once, the more risk you accept when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases and, in general, potential breaches of trust. That's not the way I choose to live.

    Sure, open relationships can work. I'm certain that they have their benefits - like never running into that issue of being bored with sexing the same person again and again. But really, it's hard enough trying to stay STD-free and maintaining trust in one person. Why in the world would you want to juggle two or more?

    Two heads may be better than one, but in this case, three-plus heads - all of which will likely be influenced by feelings -can't possibly be better than two. That's my logic.

    But then again, I don't have tiger blood (and I've never been a good juggler). I'm assuming that if I did (and was), I'd be winning somewhere with a couple of model-like, live-in blondes fawning over me like groupies. More power to those of you who can live your lives that way.