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109 Women's Sexuality News Articles
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12-29-17 The shame of Afghanistan's virginity tests
"My life has been turned upside down. I used to have a good life. But now everything has changed for me." Neda sits on a threadbare Afghan rug. A shy 18 year old from Bamiyan in central Afghanistan, she adjusts her headscarf as she recalls the day doctors forcibly subjected her to an intimate and degrading "virginity test". It was 2015 and she had just finished a late-night theatre rehearsal. The walk home would have taken nearly two hours. So, together with another girl, she accepted a lift from two male friends. Coming from a working-class background, Neda says her weekly pocket money didn't cover her everyday costs. Her mother often asks her to go without lunch if she has to pay for a ride back home. "Even to this day, I sometimes blame myself for being in this situation… for getting in a car with men. I blame myself for bringing shame upon my family. But I also know that was my only way of getting home". After receiving a complaint, Bamiyan authorities suspected that they had engaged in premarital sex on their journey back home. Neda and her friend were taken in for questioning. "I was accused of debauchery and sent to the medical centre for a virginity test," Neda says as she clasps her hands around her tea cup. The doctors reported that her hymen was still intact. Her case, however, is still travelling through Afghanistan's judicial hierarchy. Neda has been cleared of the charges by the local prosecutor's office. But, astonishingly, her case now has to be ruled on by the state Supreme Court. It is yet to make a decision. Despite the absence of official statistics in Afghanistan, anecdotal evidence suggests that the tests are a common occurrence. Bobani Haidari, a gynaecologist practising in Bamiyan Province, told the BBC that she can be asked to carry out 10 virginity tests in a single day. Some women are reported to have undergone multiple tests.
12-28-17 Should we test new medications on pregnant women?
Women need answers on drug use during pregnancy. Here's how to improve research.For decades, it's been taboo to test medications on pregnant women. But doctors, patients, and public health officials are increasingly arguing that it's unethical not to include them in research. So new ideas for changing the research culture are emerging. Doctors, ethicists, and drug industry leaders laid out several concrete suggestions for addressing the problem in interviews with STAT and in presentations to a federal task force studying the issue. The scope of the problem is clear: Of the thousands of research studies in the U.S. recruiting women right now, just a few dozen specifically include pregnant women. And while the other trials technically could enroll pregnant women — after meeting certain requirements — they often don't. "It's absolutely possible to do studies in pregnant women," Dr. Catherine Spong, an obstetrician who is leading the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development task force. The task force will present its recommendations to the federal health department next year. In the meantime, here's what experts have suggested might help.
- Make clear it's ethical to do research in pregnant women
- Assume women should be included, not excluded
- Launch more retrospective studies on pregnant women
- Make the most of pregnancy registries
- Incentivize the drug industry to include pregnant women
12-21-17 The Indian woman using her body to fight for equality
Imagine a young woman beginning a performance standing naked on a stage. In conservative Indian society, it is very hard to imagine but for playwright and actor Mallika Taneja, the body is the most powerful tool in the battle for women's equality. She told the BBC's Ayeshea Perera what motivates her. "The first time I performed naked in a truly public space ...it was great fun. "There was a camera person there and if you watch his footage you can see a jerk when the lights come on because he literally fell over in shock. And someone in the audience said 'Aiyo!'," Mallika Taneja recalls, laughing. But although it is the most talked about aspect of her play, the 33-year-old says nudity is not the point of her piece. Thoda Dhyan Se (Be a little careful) is meant to provoke people into thinking about whether women's clothing really has any correlation with sexual violence. It is also, in a sense, an expression of something she says motivates a lot of her work - the impact of a single body in any given situation. "What does it take for a group to be dispersed? Just one person dissenting. "A single body can stand in the middle of a crowd and bring it to a halt," she says. "For example, if a group of people are running one way, all it takes is just one person running the other way to disrupt the flow." The opening scene - where she stands naked and looks at her audience for a full eight minutes - is an example of that. In every performance she has done in the last four years, she says, those first minutes have been met with a silence that "fills the room". In that moment, Ms Taneja adds, as she watches her audience watch her, she is aware that although outnumbered, she is the most powerful body in that space. But she is also the most vulnerable. "As a woman in particular, I find the entire concept fascinating. What is it about our bodies that terrifies people so much, that it always has to be hidden away and regulated?"
12-15-17 Helpful ideas
Helpful ideas, after Australian army Capt. Sally Williamson proposed having sex workers “service” troops in combat zones to ease their loneliness and “help combat veterans with PTSD.” After complaints from outraged spouses, the suggestion was withdrawn.
12-12-17 Investors see big money in infertility
And they're transforming the industry. Investors searching for a new way to make big money in medicine have hit upon an age-old problem: infertility. The money isn't just in treating older women who have spent years trying to conceive. It's in persuading younger women, still in their 20s, to start worrying about their future fertility now — and to pay for pricey tests and services, such as egg freezing, as a hedge against problems down the road. Sensing a lucrative market, private equity firms are pouring money into building national chains of fertility clinics. Some are spending on splashy advertising and a deliberate strategy of reaching out to young women who are not yet trying to conceive. Venture capitalists are getting into the business, too; this year alone, PitchBook has tallied more than $178 million flowing into startups developing fertility products, such as a test that promises a credit-score-style rating of a woman's fertility. The new investors say they leave decisions about clinical practice to physicians. But they're nonetheless transforming an industry that has long been dominated by standalone clinics. Fertility experts see real benefits for patients: Clinics united into national chains have been sharing best practices, Introducing newer technologies, and offering more flexible payment plans for customers. But some doctors see potential drawbacks, too. They worry that the new ethos of treating fertility medicine as a cash cow may lead to clinics pushing patients toward unnecessary tests and services. And some are concerned about the ethics of aggressively promoting fertility care such as egg freezing — which can cost between $14,000 and $18,000 per cycle in some cities — to healthy young women who may never need it. The procedure carries some risks to the woman and is no guarantee of a future pregnancy; IVF using frozen eggs has just a middling success rate.
12-9-17 100 Women: 'Disabled women have sexual needs too'
Up to 10 million people in Iran are living with disabilities, campaigners say, but the culture surrounding the issue is largely one of shame, writes BBC Near East Women's Affairs journalist Feranak Amidi. One area which is particularly taboo in the socially conservative country is sex, and more so the sexual needs of disabled women. Here, 41-year-old Mitra Farazandeh, who lives with disabilities in a small village in northern Iran, describes her own experience - and frustrations. I am a woman. I am a woman with 75% physical disability. Yes, I have experienced love. I always say that a person who hasn't experienced or felt love is like a scarecrow on a farm - lifeless. I was 11 when I realised I had a special feeling about our neighbour's son. This feeling didn't make sense to me. In those days, I didn't consider myself human. Because of my disability and deformity, I didn't believe I deserved to live. I was waiting for the unwanted moment of death. For 14 years, I buried this love within me. I kept it to myself. After 14 years, I decided to bow down to this love and confess to him and my family. He welcomed my love but my family didn't approve. This made my life hell for a few years. But my love for him taught me how to also love myself - it moved something within me. I have loved that man for 30 years, although we have never been together. The truth is that, regardless of my disability, I am a woman with all the needs and feelings that a woman has. I want to have my lover hold me in his arms at night and stroke my hair. Unfortunately, many people in our culture believe that women like me don't deserve to love or be loved. This causes me pain. The fact that my father doesn't allow me to be with someone I love pains me. Many other disabled women like me suffer because our sexual and emotional needs are suppressed. I believe the most important change needs to come from within ourselves. We are the ones who need to accept our sexual abilities and limitations. We need to believe we deserve to live life to the fullest and enjoy it regardless of our disabilities. Once we believe in it, people around us will also start to respect our needs.
12-7-17 5 science-backed ways to improve your relationship
Proven methods for strengthening that romantic bond How do you get to crazy love — or get crazy love back when it's gone away? Forget the silly relationship books, let's look at the real science and get some answers.
Here are 5 shortcuts to bonding deeply with a romantic partner:
- Kill the boring dates. Do new exciting stuff. Dancing, suspenseful movies, learning new things together.
- Don't fix the negatives. Build on the positives. You can't fix most problems. Double down on what works well.
- Really get to know them. Use Arthur Aron's questions. And ask about the best part of their day, celebrate it, and share the high point of your day. Touch. Stare into their eyes.
- Reminisce about the times you laughed. Emphasize similarity.
- Pretend you're on your first date again. Make an effort. Put your best face forward.
12-5-17 Artificial ovary may fine-tune treatment for menopause symptoms
Many women experiencing menopause have mood swings, forgetfulness and weight gain. Could an implant be a safer alternative to hormone replacement therapy? What’s the best way to relieve the symptoms of menopause? An artificial ovary may be the answer. Many women experiencing menopause struggle with weight gain and a loss of bone density. Hormonal replacement therapies can help, but getting the doses wrong can raise the risk of heart disease or breast cancer. Emmanuel Opara at Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina thinks this is because HRT is too simple; it only supplies oestrogen, progesterone or testosterone, or a combination of these. His team has created capsules of ovarian tissue that, once implanted, can supply the full range of ovarian hormones. The capsules are about half a millimetre wide and are made of layers of ovarian cells that mimic the structure of an ovarian follicle. To see if they work, the team implanted them into rats that have had their ovaries removed – a process that mimics menopause. Removing the ovaries led to a drop in oestrogen and progesterone, but soaring levels of other hormones. Giving rats HRT boosted oestrogen and progesterone, but didn’t bring these other hormones down. However, rats with a bioengineered follicle had more normal levels across the range of ovarian hormones (Nature Communications, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01851-3). This seemed to benefit their health. Both groups of rats gained less fat and lost less bone mass, but the effect was stronger in those given follicles. Opara thinks these results suggest a similar implant could help women.
11-29-17 Fertility clinics are fudging IVF stats to look more successful
Would-be parents seeking IVF treatment use published success rates to choose a clinic – but the stats don't reflect the real chance of getting pregnant. IVF is more popular than ever. As the average age of first-time parents has increased, so has the demand for fertility treatments. To help those who are choosing where to have a procedure, organisations in the UK and US collect data from all fertility clinics in those countries, providing success rates for each. Prospective patients say these stats are the most important factor in their decision-making. They also influence whether those clinics receive hospital contracts or business from health insurance companies in the US. But those success rates aren’t all they seem. Evidence suggests that at least some clinics are finding ways to boost their scores – even if it means “hiding” some IVF cycles, changing the way they treat patients, or turning away people with a low chance of success. In other words, clinics are giving us a false impression of how successful their procedures are – potentially leading to huge financial losses and years of physical suffering and heartbreak for many individuals. So who can you trust? The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compiles annual reports on fertility clinics. The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology collects and reports the same data from the 80 per cent of US fertility clinics that are SART members. Over in the UK, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which oversees and regulates fertility treatments, performs the same function. All three organisations have been taken to task over the way they report “successes”. Until very recently, both the CDC and SART didn’t factor in IVF cycles in which eggs and embryos were frozen, rather than implanted right away.
11-29-17 Does it matter if my child is not genetically related to me?
Egg and sperm donation bring a sharper edge to an age-old debate: whether nature or nurture is more important to a child’s development. SOMEWHERE out there is a wonderful woman who has donated 10 of her eggs to help me create a family. If I decide to use them, I could give birth to a child with whom I do not share a genetic history. This inevitably makes me wonder: how much does that genetic bond matter? We’ve all heard stories of twins who were separated at birth and reunited as adults, only to find their personalities bear uncanny resemblances. Over 20 years of looking at such stories, the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart came to a remarkable conclusion: the personalities of identical twins raised separately are just as similar as if they had been raised together. A suite of genetic studies supports this finding, showing that our DNA helps shape all aspects of our identities from intelligence to risk-taking and even our political beliefs. “The genetic influence on individual differences in psychological traits is so widespread that we are unable to name an exception,” says Robert Plomin, a behavioural geneticist at King’s College London. That isn’t to say that biology is destiny, says Laura Baker, who studies human behaviour at the University of Southern California. We know, for example, that warm and supportive parents are more likely to raise better-adjusted adolescents, and that children who experience early trauma are more likely to develop depression or anxiety, or show antisocial behaviour. Studies consistently attribute around half of the differences in our personalities to genetic effects. Plomin, for instance, recently found that genes account for 52 per cent of the differences between children’s exam scores. But it’s not that simple.
11-22-17 I'm pregnant. Here are the awful things other parents have said to me.
Stop telling me how terrible new motherhood is going to be. I'm almost seven months pregnant, and in the past 30 weeks, people have issued the following warnings to me, often unsolicited, about what my new life as a mother will be like:
- "A good day will be one when you can shower."
- "Does your husband know he's about to completely lose his wife?"
- "Your body will never be the same."
- "Say goodbye to sleep."
- "Don't expect to travel like you do now for another 18 years."
- "You won't have time to read the newspaper."
No doubt, there is some truth to these admonitions. After all, we live in a society with abysmal and expensive childcare options, and often parents are left with little time or resources. When I was being charitable about these comments, I could see they were rooted in good intentions. These people wanted to prepare me for the realities of motherhood, I thought. They were trying to give me the armor and mental framework I'd need to cope, I reasoned. They just wanted me to know what they wish they had known. How generous and considerate, right? Don't shoot the messenger! I kept saying to myself. But despite my best efforts, I haven't been able to shake the feeling that some of these scare tactics were truly intended, well, to scare the living daylights out of me.
A recent cover story for Time magazine, titled "The goddess myth: How a vision of perfect motherhood hurts moms," offers a pretty bleak portrait of parenting today. Readers are reminded that 90 percent of Americans are not offered paid maternity leave, which is nothing short of a national embarrassment. And according to a study conducted in conjunction with the story, almost three-quarters of mothers surveyed said they felt at least some pressure to do pregnancy, birth, and feeding "a certain way."
11-21-17 Egypt singer held for 'inciting debauchery' in music video
An Egyptian singer has reportedly been detained for a week after she appeared in a music video in her underwear while suggestively eating a banana. Shaimaa Ahmed, a 25-year-old known professionally as Shyma, was arrested by Egyptian police on Saturday on suspicion of "inciting debauchery". It came after the racy video for her song, I Have Issues, sparked outrage in the socially conservative country. She has apologised to people who took the video "in an inappropriate way". "I didn't imagine all this would happen and that I would be subjected to such a strong attack from everyone," she wrote on her now-deleted Facebook page. In the video, the singer appears in a classroom with several young men. Standing in front of a blackboard bearing the phrase "Class #69", she proceeds to eat an apple, banana and some crisps in a sexually suggestive manner. The scene is interspersed with pictures of her wearing lingerie. "Shyma presents a lesson in depravity to youths," wrote the Youm al-Sabaa newspaper after the video was released. On Monday, two days after her arrest, the public prosecutor's office ordered that Shyma's detention be extended for a week, Youm al-Sabaa reported. Arrest warrants were also issued for the directors of the video, it said. (Webmaster's comment: We'll have no sex in Egypt! The country with one of the highest percentages of Female Genital Mutulations at 95%.)
11-15-17 Bening: 'We need more films about older women and sex'
Annette Bening is delighted about her latest film - and a big reason for that is because she gets to showcase a real-life story of role reversal not often featured on the big screen. Bening plays fading Hollywood starlet Gloria Grahame, who embarks on a romance with a much younger British actor, played by Jamie Bell, in Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool. Grahame was a big name in her heyday, starring in films such as Oklahoma!, It's a Wonderful Life and winning an Oscar for The Bad and the Beautiful in 1953. The film is based on the memoir of Peter Turner (Bell) and has been brought to life with the help of Bond producer, Barbara Broccoli, who knew Peter and Gloria when they were together. Bening says playing an older woman in a relationship with a younger man was refreshing. "It was wonderful. When I started (acting) when I was 30-something, I was always playing alongside men who were much older than I was - Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, my husband (Warren Beatty). Wonderful actors, I'm not complaining, I loved it - but that is the norm and so to have it turned the other way, in a way that's loving and sophisticated [was great]." The film, directed by Paul McGuigan, looks back on the pair's relationship as Gloria, now suffering from cancer, turns up at Peter's family home in Liverpool years after the couple split up.
11-10-17 Pesticides may affect IVF
Eating pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables could reduce women’s chances of getting pregnant through in vitro fertilization, reports Time.com. Researchers at Harvard followed 325 women undergoing IVF, giving them detailed questionnaires about their diet and other factors that could affect the success of their fertility treatment, such as age and reproductive history. The team then used a Department of Agriculture database to calculate the average pesticide residues on specific fresh fruits and vegetables. They found that the women who ate more than two servings of produce with the most chemical residues—including conventionally grown strawberries, spinach, and peppers—were 18 percent less likely to conceive than those who ate less than one serving of these high-risk fruits and vegetables. Lead author Jorge Chavarro says more research is needed but admits he is “more willing to buy organic apples than I was a few months ago.”
11-4-17 The sex workers starring in their own musical
It is the musical where sex workers help actors to sing their own song. Half of the cast of the Sex Worker's Opera have worked in the profession. Here two of them, Melina Antunes and Charlotte Rose, discuss what the musical means to them.
11-1-17 Can your time zone increase your risk of breast cancer?
The 2017 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was recently awarded to three researchers "for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm." The circadian rhythm is an innate, approximately 24-hour cycle in physiology found in almost all life on Earth. The prize adds a new prominence to the study of how disruption of circadian physiology might compromise human health. An innovative new approach is based on location within a time zone, which affects the clock time of sunrise, and thereby has circadian implications for residents. On this basis, Mikhail Borisenkov from the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Science predicted that risk of cancer would increase the farther west people lived in a time zone. Neil Caporaso and colleagues at the National Cancer Institute tested the same prediction within the United States in a paper published in August. In the absence of electric light, our transition to nighttime physiology begins at sunset, and to daytime physiology begins at sunrise. Electric light can disrupt this cycle when it occurs at the wrong time of day and thereby delays, truncates, or otherwise disrupts our nighttime physiology. We have some control of lighting in our home, but on a societal level, an unavoidable aspect of the timing of electric light is position in a time zone. That's because the position within a time zone affects how early a person must turn on the lights in the morning.
11-1-17 Australia to cut cervical cancer risk with less regular tests
From 1 December, instead of the 2-yearly Pap smear – also known as a Pap test or smear test – Australian women will have a 5-yearly human papillomavirus (HPV) test instead. So long, smear test. Australia is about to become one of the first countries to introduce a new cervical screening program that will reduce cancer rates and require fewer tests. From 1 December, Australian women will transition from a 2-yearly Pap smear – also known as a Pap test or smear test – to a 5-yearly human papillomavirus (HPV) test. The new test is expected to reduce cervical cancer risk by 22 per cent because it detects the disease at an earlier stage. The Netherlands was the first country to switch to the new test in January. The UK and New Zealand have announced they will follow shortly and Italy and Sweden are considering it. Women in the US can pay to have an HPV test but no organised screening program exists. Unlike the smear test, which looks for abnormal changes in cervical cells that can lead to cancer, the HPV test detects the sexually-transmitted papillomavirus that causes over 99 per cent of these abnormalities in the first place. The new test can be done every 5 years because it takes many years – usually 10 or more – for HPV infections to cause cancer. Like the smear test, HPV screening still requires a sample of cells to be collected from the cervix using a special brush. If the sample tests positive for HPV, the patient will be monitored for any abnormal cell changes that can be treated before they potentially turn cancerous. In most cases, the HPV infection will clear up on its own.
10-31-17 What a Facebook experiment did to news in Cambodia
Until recently, video blogger Catherine Harry was a Facebook success story in Cambodia. Her page, A Dose of Cath, featured a series of outspoken first person videos on taboo topics like virginity and menstruation that never got airtime on TV. Then, on 19 October, Facebook tweaked its News Feed in Cambodia and five other small countries. Instead of seeing posts from Facebook pages in their general News Feed, users in the test had to go to a new section called Explore Feed to see the content. And so when Ms Harry posted a new video on Facebook on Saturday, just 2,000 of her fans saw it in the first hour, compared to about 12,000 who normally watched. "Suddenly I realised, wow, they actually hold so much power," she said. Facebook "can crush us just like that if they want to". Ms Harry, who quit her job to focus on vlogging, isn't just worried about her livelihood. Cambodia is in the throes of its most severe government crackdown in years ahead of a national election next July that could test the durability of Prime Minister Hun Sen, one of the longest-serving heads of government in the world. The crackdown has already claimed two NGOs, more than a dozen radio stations, and the local offices of two independent media outlets, Radio Free Asia and The Cambodia Daily. Hun Sen's main opposition, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), could be dissolved entirely at a Supreme Court hearing on 16 November. "Out of all the countries in the world, why Cambodia?" Ms Harry asks of Facebook's experiment. "This couldn't have come at a worse time." (Webmaster's comment: Seems like Facebook is biased against women's subjects because of its male dominated culture.)
10-27-17 'Sugar daddy' site targeting university students in Paris is removed
'Sugar daddy' site targeting university students in Paris is removed
An advert for a dating site offering to help students in Paris find a "sugar daddy" to fund their studies has been removed by police. A mobile billboard was advertising the RichMeetBeautiful site in the grounds of Sorbonne University. It featured a couple cuddling with the message to students - "romance, passion and no student loan, go out with a sugar daddy". Since then police have seized the billboard. A tweet from City of Paris official account said it "strongly condemned the shameful advertisement" and would "work with police to make it disappear from our streets". Deputy mayor of Paris, Helene Bidard, said the advert was a form of prostitution. "As well as the public order problems caused by an advert that can be seen by minors, this site is an offence against women," she said. She later said an investigation had been opened on the website for pimping and police had seized the truck for displaying without authorisation. The site's founder, Norwegian Sigurd Vedal, said the site aims to put people in contact with each other, like any other dating site. He previously denied any similarity to prostitution when he was criticised for advertising in Brussels last month. "It's a classic misunderstanding. We are like a normal dating site, but financial is part of the checklist," he told a television station in Belgium. In France, student association FAGE has also lodged a criminal complaint about pimping. And lots of other people were outraged too.
10-24-17 Why does the US have so many child brides?
Why does the US have so many child brides?
Angel was 13 when her mother forced her to marry and start a family. "I felt like a slave," she says of her childhood. While countries like Zimbabwe, Malawi and El Salvador have recently banned child marriage, it remains legal in the US - and half of states have no set minimum age below which you cannot get married. For the BBC's America First? series the BBC's Aleem Maqbool is exploring health and social issues where the US, the richest country in the world, does not perform well in international rankings. (Webmaster's comment: America's child marriage rate is about 5 per thousand marriages (17 or less, often as low as 13). In many many countries it is illegal, BUT NOT IN THE UNITED STATES!)
10-19-17 Pussycat Dolls deny prostitution claims
Pussycat Dolls deny prostitution claims
The Pussycat Dolls have issued a joint statement denying allegations that the pop group was a "prostitution ring". Kaya Jones, who left the band before they became famous, claimed that she and other members were regularly subjected to sexual abuse. "We are all abused," she said on Twitter, claiming the group were made to "sleep with whoever they say". The band, led by Nicole Scherzinger, said they "were not aware of Kaya's experiences" and offered her support. However, they firmly denied that the remaining members had been abused. "We cannot stand behind false allegations towards other group members partaking in activities that simply did not take place," they said. "To liken our professional roles in The Pussycat Dolls to a prostitution ring not only undermines everything we worked hard to achieve for all those years but also takes the spotlight off the millions of victims who are speaking up and being heard loud and clear around the world," the statement continued. "We stand in solidarity with all women who have bravely spoken publicly of their horrific experiences of abuse, harassment and exploitation."
10-19-17 Against sex
Nearly two weeks after the publication of stories in The New York Times and the The New Yorker on Harvey Weinstein's use of his vast fortune to silence numerous women who had accused him of sexual assault, we are still consumed with the millionaire film producer and other cases involving alleged abusers in Hollywood and the music industry. An exhaustive list of all the women and men in the world of entertainment who have come forward to report everything from unwanted advances to groping and forced kissing to drugging and rape would require a lengthy column in itself. These revelations are unsettling, but the conversations they inspire — about how and why all of this was possible — are a good thing. It would be better to have no films or television programs or albums or singles — no entertainment at all — than to sit back and enjoy knowing that all of this is only possible thanks to the systematic exploitation of vulnerable people by lawyered-up sexual predators. What no one seems willing to admit, however, is that part of the problem is also our all-consuming cultural obsession with "sex." I employ quotation marks because there is, in fact, no such thing. Sex as a catch-all noun that refers not only to what used to be thought of as "the marital act" but to any feelings or actions motivated by lust is an invention of late 19th-century psychologists. As that brilliant historian and renowned pervert Michel Foucault shows us in his monumental History of Sex, it is as dated and redolent of its era — when prostitutes were treated as subhuman and same-sex attraction was considered a disease indicative of criminality — as phrenology. Why are we still trying to make sense of the world with the help of this dated cultural framework?
10-18-17 Animal study reveals how a fever early in pregnancy can cause birth defects
Animal study reveals how a fever early in pregnancy can cause birth defects
In chicken embryos, a rise in incubation temperature alone can disrupt normal development. Certain birth defects of the face and heart can occur when babies’ mothers have a fever during the first trimester of pregnancy, a crucial time in an embryo’s development. Now scientists have figured out the molecular players that make it so. In an experiment with chicken embryos, a temporary rise in incubation temperature — meant to mimic feverlike conditions — was enough to produce defects to the face and heart. The elevation in a growing embryo’s temperature, called hyperthermia, impacts the activity of heat-sensitive channels that are present in cells necessary for an embryo’s development, researchers report online October 10 in Science Signaling. Although a connection between fever and these birth defects has been known for decades, says coauthor Eric Benner, a neonatologist at Duke University School of Medicine, there has been some debate as to whether the fever itself or an infectious agent behind the fever is the culprit. The new work shows that “hyperthermia in and of itself can cause these birth defects, and on a molecular level, here’s how it happens,” Benner says.
10-13-17 How Kentucky is succeeding in addiction care for pregnant women
How Kentucky is succeeding in addiction care for pregnant women
Other states should take note. When Christy discovered last year that she was pregnant, she panicked. She had finished a detox program for an opioid addiction just a few months before, but was still smoking pot and taking prescription painkillers from time to time. She knew she needed more help if she were to deliver a healthy baby. "I needed a safety net," she says. "I didn't want to use when I was pregnant." Christy wasn't just being cautious; she was speaking from experience. Eight years ago, she was 21 and deeply addicted to opioids, abusing prescription pills such as Lortabs and Xanaxes even though she was attending a methadone clinic, which was supposed to help her with her addiction. It was during that time that she gave birth to her first daughter, whom she named Shelby, and whom she lost custody of to her own mother, Shelby's grandmother. "An addiction is stronger than a mother's love for her children," Christy says. Losing custody of her daughter didn't change much for Christy, at least not right away. Despite the popular rhetoric about drug users "hitting rock bottom" and then turning their lives around, that's not the reality for many. "I didn't think about her," Christy admits. "I just thought about myself." Over the next decade, however, Christy slowly started making progress. She had years-long periods of recovery, even becoming an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor to other women. Though she relapsed when her stepfather died, one year later she went back into a clinic for treatment. When she found out last year that she was pregnant again, she looked for help right away. "I just didn't want it to happen again like with my oldest daughter," she says. The gynecologist Christy went to referred her to PATHways, an innovative, new program housed in a small University of Kentucky HealthCare clinic in Lexington, Kentucky. PATHways provides both prenatal and addiction care to mothers with substance use disorders. Women start with PATHways when they're pregnant; they stay in the program for at least two years after they give birth.
10-12-17 Women don’t need to ‘switch off’ to climax, orgasm study shows
Women don’t need to ‘switch off’ to climax, orgasm study shows
The most detailed study yet of orgasm brain activity has discovered why climaxing makes women feel less pain, and shown that ‘switching off’ isn’t necessary. The most detailed study yet of orgasm brain activity has discovered why climaxing makes women feel less pain and shown that ‘switching off’ isn’t necessary. It’s not easy to study the brain during orgasm. “A brain scanner like fMRI is the least sexy place in the world,” says Nan Wise at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. “It’s noisy, claustrophobic and cold.” There is also the problem of keeping your head still – movement of little more than the width of a pound coin can render data useless. Despite these hurdles, Wise and her colleagues recruited 10 heterosexual women to lay in a fMRI scanner and stimulate themselves to orgasm. They then repeated the experiment but had their partners stimulate them. Wise’s custom-fitted head stabiliser allowed the team to follow brain activity in 20 second intervals to see what happens just before, during, and after an orgasm. Back in 1985, Wise’s colleagues Beverly Whipple and Barry Komisaruk, both at Rutgers, discovered that, during self-stimulation and orgasm, women are less likely to notice painful squeezing of a finger, and can tolerate more of this pain. They found that women’s ability to withstand pain increased by 75 per cent during stimulation, while the level of squeezing at which women noticed the pain more than doubled. Now Wise’s team has explained why. At the point of orgasm, the dorsal raphe nucleus area of the brain becomes more active. This region plays a role in controlling the release of the brain chemical serotonin, which can act as an analgesic, dampening the sensation of pain.
10-11-17 Female dolphins have weaponised their vaginas to fend off males
Female dolphins have weaponised their vaginas to fend off males
Bottlenose dolphins have evolved complicated, folded vaginas that make it difficult for unwanted males to fertilise their eggs. Some female dolphins have evolved a secret weapon in their sexual arms race with males: vaginas that protect them from fertilisation by unwelcome partners. Penises come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, especially in dolphins and other cetaceans. That seems to imply a similar diversity in vaginas, but Dara Orbach of Dalhousie University, Canada, says there is “a huge lag” in our understanding of female genitalia. That is partly because it is tricky to visualise vaginal structure. To overcome this problem, Orbach has created silicone moulds of cetaceans’ vaginas, revealing complex folds and spirals. “There’s this unparalleled level of vaginal diversity that we had no idea existed before,” Orbach says. Similarly complex vaginal structures are found in several species of duck. Orbach’s collaborator Patricia Brennan of Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, has previously found evidence that duck vaginas have evolved to make it harder for males to force copulation. So Orbach wondered if female cetaceans’ unusual vaginas had also evolved to keep out unwanted sperm. Orbach, Brennan and their colleagues obtained genitals from marine mammals that had died of natural causes: common and bottlenose dolphins, common porpoises and common seals. They inflated the males’ penises with saline to see how they looked when they were erect, and compared them with the vaginal moulds. They also took CT scans of penises inserted into the corresponding vaginas, to determine whether they fitted in easily and the best positions.
10-6-17 Trump rolls back access to free birth control
Trump rolls back access to free birth control
Donald Trump's government has issued a ruling that allows employers to opt out of providing free birth control to millions of Americans. The rule allows employers and insurers to decline to provide birth control if doing so violates their "religious beliefs" or "moral convictions". Fifty-five million women benefited from the Obama-era rule, which made companies provide free birth control. Before taking office, Mr Trump had pledged to eliminate that requirement. The mandate requiring birth control coverage had been a key feature of so-called Obamacare - President Obama's efforts to overhaul the US healthcare system. But the requirement included a provision that permitted religious institutions to forgo birth control coverage for their employees. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on Friday it was important to expand which organisations can opt out and deny free contraceptive coverage. "We should have space for organisations to live out their religious ideas and not face discrimination because of their religious ideas," said one HHS official, who did not wish to be named. (Webmaster's comment: Keep them barefoot and pregnant. Make sure they have to bear the fruit of a man's loins. This is treating women like breed stock!)
10-6-17 A surge in STDs
A surge in STDs
New cases of three common sexually transmitted bacterial diseases—chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis—reached a record high in the U.S. last year, reports CNN?.com. Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 2 million new infections were reported in 2016. About 1.6 million were chlamydia, representing a 5 percent increase from last year, while gonorrhea and syphilis both surged by about 18 percent, to 470,000 and 28,000 cases, respectively. These STDs can be cured with antibiotics, but drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea are on the rise. Complicating matters, gonorrhea and chlamydia are often “silent” infections that produce no symptoms but can lead to infertility and life-threatening complications if left untreated. “Clearly we need to reverse this disturbing trend,” says the CDC’s Gail Bolan. “We need to get the word out that everyone needs a yearly checkup.”
10-6-17 Human dignity
Human dignity, after excited male visitors so badly molested a realistic new “sex robot” at an electronics festival in Austria that she needed extensive repairs. “People can be bad,” said inventor Sergi Santos. “They treated the doll like barbarians.” (Webmaster's comment: Why am I not surprised.)
9-21-17 Why is a condom advert with Sunny Leone angering Indians?
Why is a condom advert with Sunny Leone angering Indians?
A condom company has been forced to pull down an advertisement promoting their popular Manforce brand ahead of the major Hindu festival of Navratri in the western state of Gujarat after protests by some Indians. The BBC's Geeta Pandey in Delhi explains the controversy. Just days before the nine-day festival was to begin on Thursday, huge billboards went up in several cities in the state in which the Canadian actress of Indian origin Sunny Leone is seen advising people to "Play this Navratri, but with love [Aa Navratriye ramo, paraantu prem thi]". A former porn star who has made a successful transition to the role of leading lady in hit Bollywood movies, Ms Leone has a massive fan following in India and is the brand ambassador for Manforce, the country's biggest condom company. The advert outraged some conservative Indians who accused the contraceptive firm of "taking marketing to an all-time low". Many took to social media sites to criticise the "offending advert" and the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) even lodged a complaint with the government, calling for an immediate ban on it. "This is an irresponsible and immature attempt to boost sales by putting all our cultural values at stake," the organisation said in a petition to Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan. Speaking to the BBC on Wednesday, CAIT general secretary Praveen Khandelwal said: "Navratri is a pious festival which symbolises the strength of women and linking condoms with the festival is highly objectionable." (Webmaster's comment: So promoting safe sex and preventing unwanted pregnancies is a bad thing to do in the backwards nation of India!)
9-20-17 Old fathers pass on more mutations to kids than old mothers
Old fathers pass on more mutations to kids than old mothers
A huge study of Icelanders suggests that older men pass on four times as many new mutations to their kids than women. Older fathers pass on more genetic mutations to their children than older mothers do, according to study that investigated the genomes of thousands of Icelandic parents and children. The researchers behind the work hope to understand how such mutations put children at risk of rare diseases. New mutations are genetic alterations that appear for the first time in eggs rather than being carried for generations. They are key drivers of evolution but some can be harmful. “An extraordinarily large percentage of rare diseases in children are rooted in mutations that are not found in their parents,” says Kári Stefánsson of deCODE genetics, a genetics company based in Iceland. “It’s important to figure out where these mutations are coming from.” To find out, Stefánsson and his colleagues sequenced the genomes of 14,688 Icelanders. The team used two different approaches that involved comparing the genome sequences of individuals with those of their parents, children and siblings. “If a sequence is not present in the parents but is present in the child, then it’s new,” says Stefánsson. They discovered that 80 per cent of new mutations come from the father, and that the number of mutations increases in line with the age of the parents. It makes sense that age affects the sex cells of men more than women. Women are thought to be born with all the eggs they will ever have. Although these cells age, they are not thought to divide. Men, on the other hand, are continually making sperm – and every cell division carries the risk of creating a new genetic mutation.
9-3-17 This young entrepreneur created a board game about arranged marriage
This young entrepreneur created a board game about arranged marriage
For many young women and their families across the globe, marriage isn't a game. In fact, it's taken so seriously that matches are arranged sometimes years in advance. Often, not much thought is given to how the young women feel about their partners. Well now, such marriages are a game. A board game called, fittingly, "Arranged!" "The game play involves a matchmaker running around, and trying to chase down three teenage girls, while they're trying to avoid her and a loveless marriage," the game's creator, 24-year-old Nashra Balagamwala, explains. The Pakistan-born graphic designer says she had just finished art school at the Rhode Island School of Design and had been working at a major games company in New York City when she came up with the idea for the game. Balagamwala says she was inspired by the pressure she felt from her own family to submit to an arranged marriage. "I tried everything to avoid it," she says. "I have worn fake engagement rings. I have worn skin tanning lotions" because in Pakistan, dark skin is considered unappealing. "I made sure I was seen in public with my male friends." And now, all of those creative machinations have become material for her board game. Players avoid "aunty," the nosy matchmaker, by drawing cards with commands like "You were seen at the mall with boys. The aunty moves 3 spaces away from you." Other cards that keep aunty away include "You were seen wearing a sleeveless shirt in public," "your older sister married a white man," and "the aunty finds out you used tampons before marriage" — which is also a no-no in Pakistan. Balagamwala raised the seed money for the game on Kickstarter. Now it's in pre-production. She already has more than 500 orders. She says the game is getting a great reception. Better yet, it's sparking some much needed conversation. (Webmaster's comment: If I can get it in English I'm going to buy this game! And bring it to a meetup.)
9-1-17 Bumps, boobs & bouncing back
Bumps, boobs & bouncing back
An athlete's path through pregnancy. Bounce back. It sounds so easy. As if inflating your tummy to 20 times its normal size, growing an actual human being in there and then delivering all 8lbs of it safely into the world through a small hole leaves your body exactly the same as it was nine months earlier. As simple as chucking a new football against a wall and watching it bounce back as perfectly round as when it left your hands. When, in fact, you’ll be lucky if it comes back even remotely looking like a battered rugby ball. With Serena Williams having had her baby, attention is now focused on when the former world number one will return to tennis and start adding to her 23 Grand Slam singles titles. She has been training through pregnancy and there are plenty of examples of athletes winning less than a year after having a baby - such as Jessica Ennis-Hill’s world heptathlon gold and Paula Radcliffe’s New York Marathon victory. But how exactly do they get to that point if their well-honed bodies have been stretched, torn and flooded by hormones? This is not about juggling night feeds, nappies and a career - the things a male athlete who is a parent can also go through. This is about running while being kicked in the ribs, dashing to the loo during training and swapping a six-pack for a big balloon while still managing to do squats. This is about having stitches in your nether regions and wet patches on your vest that haven’t come from sweat. This is about keeping your mind focused on a gold medal while you can’t see your toes over your belly.
8-25-17 Pregnant, HIV positive, and scared
Pregnant, HIV positive, and scared
In South Africa, sexism plays a huge role in the spread of HIV to young girls. The nurse at the clinic stood there explaining. Nhlanhla sat in silence. What was there for her to say really? Nhlanhla was 16. Pregnant. And she had just tested positive for HIV. This, she thought — this is how you die. "I wanted to hold myself and not to cry," Nhlanhla explains. "But you know, I didn't make it. I cried, and then I cried enough." She needed to get out of that clinic. In a daze, she picked up her prescription for antiretrovirals — the combination of drugs that suppresses the virus for herself and protects her unborn baby. That night at dinner, she said nothing; she just stared at the food, her eyes welling up. She excused herself. "The tears were all over my eyes," she says. "I didn't know what to do. I just ate a little bit, and then I went to the room and slept. I didn't even drink the medication." Nhlanhla is part of South Africa's great mystery. How does a girl this smart, outgoing, and ambitious, not protect herself from HIV? Especially because this country has the highest number of infected people in the world — more than 7 million. That's 19 percent of adults. And, there is sex education. Nhlanhla got it in school. There is birth control. Clinics offer it for free. South Africa even has home kits so you can test yourself for HIV. People know how to prevent this. But young women are getting infected, at a rate twice as high as men. "We still have a patriarchy in its worst form in Africa ... throughout Africa actually," says radio talk show host Criselda Kananda Dudumashe. Dudumashe is also HIV positive. She hosts a show in which she regularly talks about living with the disease. She says it boils down to sexism. You can tell a young girl about the importance of condoms, or abstinence. But that young girl might not feel like she can tell her boyfriend to wear protection or to stop. "Sometimes you telling a boyfriend that feeds you how to enjoy sex — oftentimes that doesn't sit well. Either he's going to beat you up, or you are going to get infected," Dudumashe says.
8-24-17 'The greatest gift you can give is forgiveness': Growing up a sex worker’s daughter
'The greatest gift you can give is forgiveness': Growing up a sex worker’s daughter
A group of Indian girls who grew up in Mumbai's notorious red-light district, Kamathipura, have brought their stories to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Laal Batti Express (Red-light express) explores the struggles faced by 15 girls - whose mums are sex workers - and how after leaving the red-light area, they have found success in the power of forgiveness. (Webmaster's comment: It's a job, a means of making a living, and it can pay very well. There is nothing morally wrong with it. And given many men's total weakness the job will be around for a long, long time.)
8-24-17 Chechen leader Kadyrov presses divorcees to reunite
Chechen leader Kadyrov presses divorcees to reunite
Chechnya's authoritarian leader Ramzan Kadyrov is spearheading a campaign to reunite divorced couples, involving Muslim clerics who preach Sharia law. A commission appointed by Mr Kadyrov claims to have reunited 948 couples in six weeks. He has espoused conservative Islam in the Russian Caucasus republic. But some ex-wives have complained of unfair pressure to reunite. One woman called the initiative "violent". An official said a man could have two wives if that benefited the children. Rasul Uspanov, secretary of the Chechen "headquarters for harmonising marital and family relations", said there were cases where, after divorce, the children were living with their father, who had remarried. "After our commission's work, he got his first wife back, and now lives with two wives, because under Islam a man can have four wives," he said. Men under those circumstances "understand that it's better for the birth mother to live with her children, instead of watching from the sidelines and suffering", he said. But a woman called Bariyat, quoted by BBC Russian, said she had been divorced for 12 years and "if the commission approaches me I'll refuse". "It's violence against people," said Bariyat, who lives in the capital Grozny. "If a couple got divorced, most likely it was a definite decision." She noted that sometimes in Chechnya, couples got married without knowing each other, but on the basis of recommendations. "They got married but were incompatible - so why force them into it?" she said.
8-22-17 Birth control research is moving beyond the pill
Birth control research is moving beyond the pill
Contraceptive tactics include stopping sperm from developing and saving eggs for later. After decades of research, reproductive biologists are on the verge of developing new birth control options that stop sperm from maturing or save a woman's eggs for later. Mention “the pill,” and only one kind of drug comes to mind. The claim that oral contraceptives have on that simple noun testifies to the pill’s singular effect in the United States. Introduced in 1960, the pill gave women reliable access to birth control for the first time. The opportunity to delay having children opened the door to higher education and professional careers for many women. More than 50 years later, the most commonly used form of reversible contraception in this country is still the pill. Additional methods have been developed for women — such as implants, patches, vaginal rings and injectables — but most do basically the same thing as the pill: use synthetic versions of sex steroid hormones to suppress ovulation. The method has proved its merit, but the current crop of contraceptives doesn’t work for everyone. Some women can’t tolerate the side effects stemming from manipulation of the hormones. Others can’t use hormonal contraceptives at all, because of underlying health conditions. And what’s new for men? Their main mode of contraception, the condom, has been around for at least 400 years, perhaps longer. Alternatively, men who want to take the lead on family planning can go the surgical route with a vasectomy.
8-18-17 ‘We were guinea pigs’: Jailed inmates agreed to birth control
‘We were guinea pigs’: Jailed inmates agreed to birth control
In a small county in rural Tennessee, inmates were offered 30 days off their sentences in exchange for a vasectomy or a long-acting birth control implant. County officials say it was a tool in the fight against opiate abuse - opponents call it eugenics. This spring, Deonna Tollison found herself in Judge Sam Benningfield's courtroom in Sparta, Tennessee - a large, neon-lit room filled with wooden pews for the public. Tollison was accused of violating the conditions of her house arrest, the latest issue in a lifetime of trouble, which at its worst saw her living in her car, addicted to opiates. On the stand, Tollison testified she'd been trying to get her life on the right track - she was off the drugs and raising her two youngest daughters, as well as the daughter of a sister who died in a car wreck. Relapses and run-ins with the law, however, kept stalling her progress, and here she was again, accused of making unsanctioned trips to the grocery store and allowing the batteries on her ankle monitor to die. She faced the possibility of another stay in the local jail. "I'm a single mother of three beautiful girls and a brand new grandson. My mother is disabled. My sister is disabled," Tollison pleaded on the stand. "Each and every one of them depend on me because I'm the only one with a [driver's] license. I love my family very dearly...the last four years I've done everything in my power to get my life back." The hearing did not go well for Tollison. Judge Benningfield ruled that her continued missteps and her lack of employment made her unfit for home arrest. He ordered her to serve out the rest of her sentence in the county jail. Shortly afterward, Benningfield made a surprising announcement to the entire courtroom: a new programme would allow inmates like Tollison to shave time off her sentence - 30 days - if she agreed to sign up for a free long-lasting form of birth control. For the male inmates, Benningfield's new order would offer free vasectomies. Not long after Tollison arrived to the jail, sign-up sheets started going around to have an implant called Nexplanon inserted, which prevents pregnancy for up to four years. Tollison signed up, along with at least 30 other women. Over on the men's side, 38 men signed up for vasectomies. With an average daily population of 221 inmates, that represented a sizeable portion of the jail.
8-17-17 Does the pill actually cause weight gain?
Does the pill actually cause weight gain?
The myth that won't go away. Most women have probably heard the stories: Someone says they put on 10 pounds in three months after starting the pill; someone else says they dropped a dress size not that long after they went off it. Anecdotes about gaining weight while taking birth control are commonplace enough that they largely drown out the underlying science: Many doctors insist there's no correlation between the two. Research hasn't uncovered any meaningful relationship, either. In 2014, an analysis of 49 separate trials, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, concluded that oral contraceptives are not associated with weight gain. Another 2014 study, this one in the Journal of Women's Health, found that use of the pill is not associated with weight gain or changes in fat composition for either normal-weight or obese women. So what gives? As it turns out, the link between the pill and weight gain is more complicated than just saying that one does, or doesn't, cause the other — and it has to do with more than just biology. Here are a few of the main reasons why a not-quite-accurate idea refuses to go away.
- Because women are retaining fluid.
- Because they're gaining weight for other reasons.
- Because they might actually be gaining weight.
- Because it's grounded in an old truth.
8-11-17 Why UK midwives are back-pedalling on natural childbirth
Why UK midwives are back-pedalling on natural childbirth
For decades, women have been encouraged to give birth naturally – that means avoiding all medicines and interventions. Now the Royal College of Midwives is changing its position. or decades, women have been encouraged to give birth naturally – that means avoiding all medicines and interventions, including continuous monitoring of the baby’s heart rate and caesarean sections. But now, several events suggest the pendulum is swinging back the other way. In May, the UK’s Royal College of Midwives (RCM) quietly cancelled a long-standing campaign to promote natural births. Separately, doctors are beginning their own more proactive approach to ensuring interventions happen as soon as they are needed. And campaigners have formed a new pressure group called “Maternity Outcomes Matter” to ensure all healthcare staff prioritise safety over the process of childbirth. What’s behind this sudden backlash? Isn’t natural birth a good thing? While it is sensible to avoid medical interference where possible, take this approach too far and childbirth becomes more dangerous, leading to brain-damaged babies and avoidable deaths. Some of these occurred when women were denied caesarean sections even after begging for them. The natural childbirth movement within the UK health service is mainly driven by midwives, who oversee the care of all women at low risk of complications, and vastly outnumber obstetricians. That means midwives are often the ones who decide whether to call in doctors when a birth seems to be going wrong. If the midwife overseeing your care has a natural-birth agenda that is at odds with your own, you may be overruled.
8-10-17 Cam-girls: Inside the Romanian sexcam industry
Cam-girls: Inside the Romanian sexcam industry
Interactive webcamming is the fastest-growing sector of the global pornography business. In Romania, thousands of women work as "cam-girls" from studios and from home. It is a 24/7 market, the majority of clients logging in from North America and Western Europe. In the heart of Bucharest on the pavement outside a tall apartment building a group of young women smoke, talk and laugh. It is an unremarkable scene. Except that in the bright morning sunlight, their heavy makeup, sky-high heels and shiny, revealing clothes contrast with the sensible, summer dress of passers-by. Inside the building, Studio 20 occupies the first and second floors. Forty rooms open off pristine, white corridors, their walls adorned with pictures of women in states of glamorous undress. A closed door means business. Inside that room a woman is live and direct via webcam with international clients - and as long as she is alone in the room, it is entirely legal. In this world of virtual relationships and cybersex, those in front of the camera are "models" and the men who watch are "members". Lana works in Room 8. It is dominated by a circular bed with cushions. There is a wardrobe containing some of her clothes. "I usually go for dresses, lingerie, or leather," she says. In a corner of the room there is a large computer screen, an expensive camera and behind them, professional photographers' lights. Dozens of pairs of eyes may view Lana in her room online in real time via dedicated adult websites. But she does not make any money until a member asks her to "go private" in a one-to-one webcam session. Working an eight-hour day, she earns close to 4,000 euros ($4,700) per month - nearly 10 times the Romanian average wage.
8-10-17 Nepal criminalises banishing menstruating women to huts
Nepal criminalises banishing menstruating women to huts
Lawmakers in Nepal have passed a law criminalising a practice that forces women from their homes during menstruation. Under the law anyone who makes a woman observe the custom faces a three-month jail sentence and a $30 (£23) fine. The practice, known as chhaupadi, has been in the spotlight recently after two women died while sleeping in sheds. Campaigners say the legislation must be properly enforced, but say behaviour also needs to change. Under the ancient Hindu practice, women who have their periods or who have just given birth are seen as impure or as bringers of bad luck, and can be forced to sleep in huts or cattle sheds.
8-4-17 The dangerous risks of putting motherhood on a pedestal
The dangerous risks of putting motherhood on a pedestal
What a rare disorder says about "bad mothers". Mothers have been the target of intense scrutiny and control throughout history. But during the 20th century this attention underwent a major shift. Motherhood was increasingly understood in medical, psychiatric, and psychoanalytic terms, particularly in Britain and the United States. One of the most disturbing examples of this transition is the concept of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP). This is an extremely rare form of abuse in which a caregiver, usually a mother, fabricates illnesses for those in her care, often by inducing symptoms and interfering with test results. Now, MSbP's classification as a psychiatric disorder is controversial. The Munchausen name has fallen out of favor, with many professionals preferring Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII). I should say straight away that I'm not claiming that MSbP is or is not real, or even weighing into that debate. What I'm arguing instead is that the history of MSbP shows how hypervigilance about motherhood creates the conditions in which medical and psychiatric phenomena can take root. It's worth recapping some social history. In Britain, which is the focus of my research, concerns over children flourished after the First World War, and manifested in the growth of child guidance and social work. Professionals drew firm links between the domestic environment (long considered a "feminine sphere"), the quality of the mothering on offer, and the future prospects of children. Fathers weren't exempt, but mothers bore the majority of the concern and criticism.
7-30-17 President's daughter sparks breastfeeding debate with photo
President's daughter sparks breastfeeding debate with photo
A picture of the Kyrgyz president's youngest daughter feeding her baby dressed in her underwear has sparked a debate about breastfeeding and sexualisation. Aliya Shagieva posted the photo on social media back in April with the caption: 'I will feed my child whenever and wherever he needs to be fed.' She took the post down after being accused of immoral behaviour, but in an exclusive interview with the BBC she said the row was a result of a culture which hyper-sexualised the female form. "This body I've been given is not vulgar. It is functional, its purpose is to fulfil the physiological needs of my baby, not to be sexualised," she told BBC Kyrgyz. It wasn't only some social media users who disapproved. Her parents, President Almazbek Atambayev and his wife Raisa, were also unhappy. "They really didn't like it. And it is understandable because the younger generation is less conservative than their parents," Ms Shagieva said, speaking at her home on the outskirts of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. Ms Shagieva posts actively on social media, including her own artwork and carefully stylized portraits of herself and her husband and baby, often set against the backdrop of wide open landscapes. Breastfeeding is a recurring theme. "When I'm breastfeeding my child I feel like I'm giving him the best I can give. Taking care of my baby and attending to his needs is more important to me than what people say about me," Ms Shagieva said.
7-28-17 Gates’ education in Africa
Gates’ education in Africa
Melinda Gates’ charity work has made her rethink some of her Catholic beliefs, said Alice Thomson in The Times (U.K.). The philanthropist has traveled the world with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, trying to eradicate polio, tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases. But in doing so, she discovered that for many women in Africa and the developing world, the greatest fear is yet another pregnancy. “I would go to these dusty villages or slums. When I stayed long enough, and the men had faded away, the women would finally ask me questions, and they would always bring up contraceptives.” Distributing condoms, she found, wasn’t a solution, because men objected to them. “Women would tell me, ‘I can’t negotiate a condom in my marriage. It would look like either I had AIDS or my partner had it.’ They needed more covert methods and were prepared to walk 100 miles for them.” The foundation is now developing injectable contraceptives—and Melinda, who attended a convent school, refuses to feel guilty. “Without contraceptives, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I do. I went to graduate school, I had a nine-year career at Microsoft; I could plan my life…. In the U.S., 96 percent of married Catholic women use contraceptives. It shouldn’t just be a rich Catholic’s privilege.”
7-27-17 Malaysia MP: 'Denying husbands sex is abuse'
Malaysia MP: 'Denying husbands sex is abuse'
A Malaysian lawmaker has come under fire for saying that women denying sex to their husbands was a form of "psychological and emotional abuse". Che Mohamad Zulkifly Jusoh from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition was addressing a domestic violence debate during a parliamentary session. Malaysia is in talks to amend existing laws against domestic violence. The 58-year-old politician from Terengganu state said men "suffered emotional rather than physical abuse". "Even though men are said to be physically stronger than women, there are cases where wives hurt or abuse their husbands in an extreme manner," he said. "Usually, it involves wives cursing their husbands: this is emotional abuse. They insult their husbands and refuse his sexual needs. All these are types of psychological and emotional abuse." Mr Che made the comments during a parliamentary debate on amendments to domestic violence legislation. Politicians and activist groups have expressed hopes that the new bill will offer more protection for victims of domestic abuse. It also remains legal in Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country, for Muslim men to have as many as four wives as long as they obtain permission from a Sharia court. Mr Che touched on this in a speech to parliament, saying that denying a Muslim man the chance to marry a second wife also amounted to "abuse". (Webmaster's comment: It's all about satisfying a man's drive to breed isn't it. Nothing else matters.)
7-25-17 HIV-prevention ring a hit with teen girls
HIV-prevention ring a hit with teen girls
A vaginal ring to prevent HIV infection is popular with teenage girls, US scientists say. Women and girls aged 15-24 account for a fifth of all new HIV infections globally. Nearly 1,000 are infected every day in sub-Saharan Africa. Infused with microbicides, the ring, which sits on the cervix, has been shown to cut infections by 56%. Experts say it frees women from relying on men to wear condoms and allows them to protect themselves confidentially. Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the BBC: "If you can give women the opportunity to protect themselves in a way that is completely confidential - that's a long and big step to helping them. "In societies where women are, unfortunately but true, somewhat second-class citizens, that makes women extremely vulnerable to getting infected with HIV." The flexible ring, similar in size to the contraceptive diaphragm, releases an antiretroviral drug called dapivirine for a month. But scientists were unsure it would work in teenagers, who can be notoriously difficult when it comes to health advice. The six-month US trial gave the ring to 96 sexually active girls aged 15 to 17, who had not used it before. Data presented at the IAS Conference on HIV Science, showed:
- 87% of the girls had detectable levels of the drug in their vagina
- 95% said the ring was easy to use
- 74% said they did not notice the ring in day-to-day life
There were some concerns before the trial that the girls' partners would not like the feel of the ring, but it reportedly enhanced pleasure. (Webmaster's comment: Notice how this got turned around to become concerned about men's pleasure. Why is that do you suppose?)
7-13-17 Women with worse endometriosis pain have more fertility problems
Women with worse endometriosis pain have more fertility problems
Although around 10 per cent of women have endometriosis, little is known about the condition. Now severe pain has been linked to increased infertility. Period pain isn’t always normal – excruciating pain can be a sign of endometriosis. Now it seems that the severity of pain is a sign of how extensive the condition is, with very bad pain linked with fertility problems. Although around 10 per cent of women have endometriosis, little is known about the condition. It involves uterus cells turning up elsewhere in the body, where they bleed every month, which appears to cause scar tissue and pain. These out-of-place cells are usually found on the ovaries or fallopian tubes, but they have also been found on the intestines and even on the lungs and the brain. Over time, endometriosis might lead to fertility problems; around a third of women with the condition may be infertile. And while some people experience only a little pain, for others it can be much worse. No one knows why the symptoms of endometriosis can vary so much between women, says Mathilde Bourdon at Descartes University, Paris. “Some women have little or no symptoms, while others have major impairments to their quality of life,” she says. (Webmaster's comment: Many men see this as a "female problem" and therefore not as a real problem as long as they can have sex with her and the woman can be impregnated.)
7-7-17 The obstetrician who changed childbirth
The obstetrician who changed childbirth
In the 1970s, most obstetricians worked in noisy, brightly lit operating rooms, and checked newborns’ breathing by picking them up by the ankles and smacking them on the bottom until they screamed. Frédérick Leboyer changed that. Arguing it was time to take into account the infant’s needs and sensitivities, the French obstetrician called for the delivery room to be quiet and dimly lit and for the newborn to be welcomed into the world with a short massage and a warm bath. The medical establishment scorned Leboyer’s natural-birth method, in which the umbilical cord could be cut only when it stopped pulsating. But parents loved it, and many of his ideas became common practice. “A newborn and his mother need a loving artist’s attention,” he said. “Not the impersonal manipulation of a highly trained engineer.”
7-2-17 Most US women won't dine alone with opposite sex, survey suggests
Most US women won't dine alone with opposite sex, survey suggests
Many eyebrows were raised when it emerged US vice-president Mike Pence would not dine alone with a woman who was not his wife. How old fashioned, the internet cried. Only, now it seems he is not alone. A surprise poll for the New York Times has discovered more than half of women agree with him - as well as 45% of men. And as for a drink? Forget about it. Just 29% of women think that would be appropriate in a one-on-one situation. However, the poll - conducted by Morning Consult, surveying 3,500 people - found the numbers shift considerably according to your politics: the more liberal your views, the more likely you were to mix with a member of the opposite sex, one on one. Just 62% of Republicans found it acceptable, compared to 71% of Democrats. Similar divides can also be seen according to religion - the more devout you are, the less appropriate you view it - and to education: almost a quarter of those who did not reach college think it is inappropriate, compared with 18% who got a bachelor's degree or higher. (Webmaster's comment: Seems half of America thinks dining or drinking alone with a member of the opposite sex is a potential prelude to sex. So much for friendship between the sexes.)
6-29-17 Film exposes London's sex industry underworld
Film exposes London's sex industry underworld
In 2009, a Chinese woman called Anna killed herself near London's Heathrow Airport. Her friends later learned that she had been working as a prostitute in an illegal massage parlour. One of those friends, Jenny Lu, a Taiwanese art school graduate, began a journey to find out about her secret life. It resulted in Lu's first feature film, The Receptionist, which premieres in Taiwan on Friday and at the Edinburgh Film Festival in the UK next week. Some readers may find aspects of this story upsetting. "I met Anna in Chinatown at a dinner gathering. She looked really normal," recalls director Lu. "She came from a little village in China. She went to London because she wanted a better life. But she ended up living a double life that no-one knew about. "I felt really sad. How come no-one knew about this and no-one was able to help?" Through a mutual friend, Lu tracked down women who had worked with Anna at a massage parlour. They were immigrants from mainland China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Other parlours employed women from well-off economies including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea or Japan. Like some of the women, Anna arrived in the UK on a fake marriage. (Webmaster's comment: As soon as this film is released on DVD I will provide the description and link on the Feminist website.)
6-26-17 Pregnancy is not a disease
Pregnancy is not a disease
About once a week, I have to dump a half gallon of cold water on my face and remind myself that in this country pregnancy is considered a disease. Only seven years ago, this grotesque perspective was maintained by health insurance companies, who were free to deny coverage to expectant mothers or "women likely to become pregnant" (whatever that means) with impunity the way they would a heavy smoker. It's nice to know that the Republican paste-up job revision of the Affordable Care Act will probably not set us back in this regard. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's unwillingness to participate in the legal fiction that what we call "health insurance" is, like flood or auto insurance, some kind of scheme that guarantees compensation in the event of a catastrophe rather than the only way millions of people are able to receive care, is most welcome. It even looks possible that women who would not have been eligible for treatment under Medicaid before the Obama-era expansion will be able to hold on to their coverage. Yay. But the necessary — I will not stoop to calling a step so blinkeringly obvious and morally necessary "humane" — revision of the law governing the provision of medical insurance has not changed the view of Americans on the right and the left, who see the miracle of birth as at best an unfortunate if not quite wholly unjustifiable expense and at worst an easily preventable illness.
6-26-17 Living near noisy roads could make it harder to get pregnant
Living near noisy roads could make it harder to get pregnant
Women who live near noisy roads are more likely to take 6 to 12 months to get pregnant, even when factors like poverty and pollution are taken into account. Living near a noisy road seems to affect couples who are trying get pregnant, increasing the likelihood that it will take them between six to 12 months. That’s according to an analysis of 65,000 women living in Denmark. Jeppe Schultz Christensen of the Danish Cancer Society Research Center in Copenhagen and his team made this discovery by analysing data from the Danish National Birth Cohort, a project that ran from 1996 to 2002. They selected women who had tried to get pregnant during the project if traffic noise data was available for where they lived. Previous research has suggested that 80 per cent of women who are actively trying to get pregnant usually do so within six menstrual cycles. But Christensen’s team found that for every 10 decibels of extra traffic noise around a woman’s home, there was a 5 to 8 per cent increased chance of it taking six months or longer. This link persisted even when factors like poverty levels and nitrogen oxide pollution were taken into account. However, their statistical analysis showed that this association did not hold for women who took more than 12 months – perhaps because these couples may have had other factors affecting their fertility. “Road traffic noise may affect reproductive health,” says Christensen.
6-23-17 Magufuli ban on pregnant schoolgirls angers Tanzanians
Magufuli ban on pregnant schoolgirls angers Tanzanians
Many Tanzanians have condemned President John Magufuli's comments that schoolgirls who give birth should not be allowed to return to school. An online petition has been set up to get the president to reverse his comments. Mr Magufuli warned schoolgirls at a rally on Monday that: "After getting pregnant, you are done." A law passed in 2002 allows for expulsion of pregnant schoolgirls. The law says the girls can be expelled and excluded from school for "offences against morality" and "wedlock". Mr Magufuli, who was speaking at a public rally in Chalinze town, about 100km west of the main city Dar es Salaam, said that young mothers would be distracted if they were allowed back in school: "After calculating some few mathematics, she'd be asking the teacher in the classroom: 'Let me go out and breastfeed my crying baby.'" He said that men who impregnate the schoolgirls should be imprisoned for 30 years and "put the energy they used to impregnate the girl into farming while in jail".(Webmaster's comment: Right out of the dark ages!)
6-21-17 Kenya's schoolgirls to get free sanitary pads from government
Kenya's schoolgirls to get free sanitary pads from government
All Kenyan schoolgirls are to get free sanitary pads, the government has said. It is hoped the move will improve access to education in a country where many cannot afford sanitary products like pads and tampons. The high cost has led to an estimated one million girls missing six weeks of school every year, according to the ZanaAfrica Foundation. But now the onus has been put on the Kenyan government to provide free sanitary towels to every schoolgirl. The amendment to the education act, signed into law by President Uhurru Kenyatta this week, states "free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels" must be provided to every girl registered at school, as well as providing "a safe and environmental sound mechanism for disposal".
6-21-17 Reality Check: Should pregnant women shun meat and lust?
Reality Check: Should pregnant women shun meat and lust?
The claim: The Indian government is advising pregnant women to exercise, avoid eggs and meat, shun desire and lust, and hang beautiful photos in the bedroom. Reality Check verdict: Some of the advice is good, some bad, and some downright ridiculous. India's Ayush ministry, which promotes traditional and alternative medicine, last week distributed a tiny 16-page booklet on Mother and Child Care to journalists. It's three years old but it's been dominating news since its re-release just ahead of the annual International Yoga Day, which is being celebrated on Wednesday. Produced by the Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy, which is a part of Ayush, the booklet dishes out advice on the yoga exercises that pregnant women should - and should not - do; lists of food they should - and should not - eat; and also offers suggestions on what to read, what sort of company to keep, what sort of photos to look at, and so on and so forth. Doctors in India say though there is merit in some of the advice, it would not be wise to follow the guidelines in their entirety. (Webmaster's comment: More advice for women from one of the most backward nations on the earth where they still burn women alive when their husbands die, more than 8,000 of them in 2015.)
6-19-17 The Tunisian women who want to be virgins again
The Tunisian women who want to be virgins again
In Tunisia, young women are expected to be virgins when they marry, leading to a growing trade in hymen reconstruction surgery. Yasmine (not her real name) looks nervous. She's biting her nails and checks her mobile phone constantly. "I consider this to be deception and I'm really worried," she says. We're on the fourth floor of a private clinic in Tunis - the gynaecology service. Around us in the pink waiting room, other women wait patiently to be seen. Yasmine confides in me that she is having a hymenoplasty, a short procedure that promises to reconstruct her virginity surgically. Her wedding is due to take place in two months' time and the 28-year-old is worried that her husband will find out she is not a virgin. She has come here to turn back the clock but is concerned that at some point in the future the truth may come out. "I might one day inadvertently betray myself in a conversation with my husband," she says. "Or my husband may have... suspicions." We claim to live in a modern society... but there's not much modernity when it comes to women's sexuality and freedom - Samia Elloumi, Sociologist.
6-9-17 Birth control: Ending the Obamacare mandate
Birth control: Ending the Obamacare mandate
If your boss takes away your birth control, “blame President Trump,” said Jamie Peck in The Guardian.com. The Trump administration has drafted a new Health and Human Services regulation, leaked to Vox.com, that rolls back the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive care mandate—allowing any employer to opt out of covering the cost of birth control by citing either a moral or religious objection. Obamacare already exempts houses of worship, said Amanda Marcotte in Salon.com, and even provides a work-around for religiously affiliated nonprofits and closely held for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby. Not content with those accommodations, the Trump administration would give bosses of any company, from huge public corporations to secular universities, “unprecedented” power over their female workers’ intimate lives on a whim. “If an employer thinks only sluts use birth control, he can simply refuse to let a woman’s insurance plan cover it.”
5-26-17 Pregnant teenager banned from graduation ceremony
Pregnant teenager banned from graduation ceremony
A pregnant US teenager branded "immoral" by her school and barred from its graduation ceremony is to have her own event, organised by her parents. Maddi Runkles, 18, who attends a small private Christian school in Maryland, has been told she is not welcome at the event, on 2 June, because she must be "accountable for her immorality". Instead, her parents have decided to organise a special party for their daughter the following day. The decision by the board of governors of the Heritage Academy, in Hagerstown, has drawn criticism on social media from those who say the school is showing no Christian compassion to the teenager. (Webmaster's comment: Back to the dark ages. Let's have an inquisition in America and burn pregnant teenagers at the stake!)
5-26-17 TV show triggers Chinese virginity debate
TV show triggers Chinese virginity debate
"He asked me whether I am a virgin," says Qiu Yingying, bursting into tears. She has just found out her relationship with boyfriend Ying Qin is over, after he found out she had had sex in the past. The scene from China's biggest soap opera right now, Ode to Joy, has triggered much discussion on whether virginity is still a prized asset for women in modern China. Ode to Joy, now in its second season, tells the stories of five beautiful women from different walks of life who live in the same floor of an apartment complex in Shanghai. The show, a less risque version of Sex and the City, is popular among women for its focus on romance, careers, friendships and the difficulties women face in the big city. (Webmaster's comment: But is HE a virgin? The sexual double standard is alive and well!)
5-21-17 The struggles of war babies fathered by black GIs
The struggles of war babies fathered by black GIs
About 100,000 black GIs were stationed in the UK during the war. Inevitably there were love affairs, but US laws usually prevented black servicemen from marrying. So what happened to the children they fathered? Fiona Clampin met two such children in Dorset, now in their seventies, who have not given up hope of tracing their fathers. A bottle of champagne has sat on a shelf in Carole Travers's wardrobe for the past 20 years. Wedged between boxes and covered with clothes, it'll be opened only when Carole finds her father. "There's an outside chance he might still be alive," she reflects. "I've got so many bits of information, but to know the real truth would mean the world to me - to know that I did belong to somebody." The possibility of Carole tracking down her father becomes more and more remote by the day. Born towards the end of World War Two, Carole, now 72, was the result of a relationship between her white mother and a married African-American or mixed-race soldier stationed in Poole, in Dorset. Whereas some "brown babies" (as the children of black GIs were known in the press) were put up for adoption, Carole's mother, Eleanor Reid, decided to keep her child. The only problem was, she was already married, with a daughter, to a Scot with pale skin and red hair. "I had black hair and dark skin," says Carole. "Something obviously wasn't right."
For the first time in recorded history, more than half (54 percent) of American women ages 25 to 29 are childless, according to the U.S. Census Fertility Report. A record 31 percent of women ages 30 to 34 also haven’t given birth.
5-17-17 Battling taboos to sell sex toys in India
Battling taboos to sell sex toys in India
Strict laws and conservative society have made selling adult products like sex toys in India a delicate matter. We've been to meet a business trying to excite the local consumer.
5-15-17 A sex doll that can talk - but is it perfect Harmony?
A sex doll that can talk - but is it perfect Harmony?
Harmony is a new type of sex doll - one that can move and talk. Her head, eyelids and lip movements are fairly crude and her conversation is even more limited. But she is part of a new robotics revolution that is seeing artificial intelligence incorporated into an extremely human-like body. Some think that it will revolutionise the way humans interact with robots while others believe that it represents the very worst in robotic advancement. The uncanny valley - the idea that the closer we get to replicating the human form, the more scared we become of our creations - seems to have come to life in this unassuming factory on the outskirts of San Marcos, California. Even on reception, two lifelike characters - in business suits rather than underwear, like the rest of the dolls - wait to greet visitors. And the lobby wall is full of photos of beautiful women which, only on very close inspection, reveal themselves to be of dolls. Matt McMullen, the chief executive of Abyss Creations, which makes RealDoll, comes from an art and sculpture background. Adjusting Harmony's wig ahead of my interview with her, he is clearly very fond of the way she looks. She is, he says, the natural next step for sex dolls. "Many people who may buy a RealDoll because it is sexually capable come to realise it is much more than a sex toy," he said. "It has a presence in their house and they imagine a personality for her. AI gives people the tools to create that personality." (Webmaster's comment: But it really doesn't care about you. It feels nothing. It is a machine!)
5-10-17 Australian politician becomes first to breastfeed in parliament
Australian politician becomes first to breastfeed in parliament
Australian Senator Larissa Waters has become the first politician to breastfeed in the nation's parliament. Ms Waters, from the left-wing Greens party, fed two-month-old daughter Alia Joy during a vote on Tuesday. The lower house last year joined the Senate in allowing breastfeeding, but no MPs in either house had done so. It followed a backlash in 2015 when Kelly O'Dwyer, a government minister, was asked to consider expressing milk to avoid missing parliamentary duties. Ms Waters told the BBC World Service: "It's frankly ridiculous, really, that feeding one's baby is international news. Women have been breastfeeding for as long as time immemorial. "I had hoped to not only be able to feed my baby but to send a message to young women that they belong in the parliament." Earlier on Facebook, she called for "more family-friendly and flexible workplaces, and affordable child care, for everyone".
5-4-17 Could this bra detect breast cancer?
Could this bra detect breast cancer?
A teenager in Mexico has invented a bra to detect breast cancer. But does it work? And if so, how? Julian Rios Cantu, 18, has made a bra that he says will be an early warning system for breast cancer symptoms. The Eva bra, made by him and three friends who formed a company together, is only at the prototype stage. But they have raised enough money to start tests and, this week, won the top prize at the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. Their company, Higia Technologies, beat young entrepreneurs from around the world to win $20,000 (£15,500) to develop their idea. This is in the really early stages. It hasn't been fully tested yet and there would need to be medical trials before cancer experts started recommending it as a way to find cancer.
5-2-17 German male escort's data hidden from paternity suit woman
German male escort's data hidden from paternity suit woman
A woman who got pregnant after having sex with a male escort in a German hotel has failed in a legal battle to find out his name. The hotel where they spent three nights in 2010, in the city of Halle, does not have to tell her the man's name, a court in Munich ruled. The man's right to privacy outweighed the woman's claim for child support payments from him, the ruling said. She knew him as "Michael" but three other Michaels were also at the hotel. Each of the four Michaels had a right to "control their own data and protect their own marriage and family", the ruling said. The case was heard at the Munich District Court because the hotel chain is based in the Bavarian city. Halle is in eastern Germany. The woman - not named in the case - said she had got pregnant after staying with "Michael" in a room on the second floor. She now has a seven-year-old son called Joel.
4-29-17 Banished for bleeding
Banished for bleeding
The women forced to move out of home when they have their periods. The landscape of Nepal is a geographical staircase, descending from snow-capped Himalayan mountains, through steep middle hills, to the lush flat plains of the south. In the middle step, in the remote far west of the country, life has changed little over the decades. For 18-year-old Ishwari Joshi, this means doing as her mother and grandmother did before her and leaving her home when she has her period. The practice is called “chhaupadi” - a name for menstruation which also conveys the meaning that a woman is unclean when she is bleeding. “The first time I had my period I was 15. I had to stay out for nine days,” she says. When a woman starts her period, she has to leave this warmth for the seclusion of a specially built hut. These are tiny spaces, shared by several families, without proper beds or bedding. When the women are isolated here, they can't cook, eat nutritious food, drink from or bathe in the village water source. They are forbidden from touching plants, cattle or men. “It is said that if we touch a cow, they will not give milk,” says Ishwari's friend Nirmala. “We've never seen anything like that happen, but our elders say we must not touch the cows.” A few metres away is the village toilet Kalpana helped build as part of a government drive to stop open defecation. It's out of bounds to her because it's believed she will pollute the water supply. “We're not allowed to touch the toilet because it's the same water we use at home,” she says. “We have to go to the fields far away from the house where nobody can see us.” After four days in the hut, the village women bathe in a stream an hour's walk away and are “purified” with cow urine. Only then can they return to normal life.
4-25-17 Faux womb keeps preemie lambs alive
Faux womb keeps preemie lambs alive
Lungs, brain developed normally during four-week trial. A lamb at 107 days of gestation — equivalent to about a human fetus at 23 to 24 weeks gestation — matured normally in an artificial womb. Right is the same lamb 28 days later. Such devices may one day help premature babies survive outside the bodies of their mothers. Premature babies may one day continue developing in an artificial womb, new work with sheep suggests. A fluid-filled bag that mimics the womb kept premature lambs alive and developing normally for four weeks, researchers report April 25 in Nature Communications. Lambs at a gestational age equivalent to that of a 23- or 24-week-old human fetus had normal lung and brain development after a month in the artificial womb, the researchers discovered. A similar device might be ready for use in premature human babies in three to five years if additional animal tests pan out, study coauthor Alan Flake estimates. But this is not the science fiction scenario of Brave New World, in which humans were grown entirely in tanks, says Flake, a pediatric and fetal surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “I don’t view this as something that’s going to replace mothers.” Technical and biological hurdles would prevent doctors from using an artificial womb to rescue premature babies younger than about 23 weeks, he says.
4-25-17 Artificial womb helps premature lamb fetuses grow for 4 weeks
Artificial womb helps premature lamb fetuses grow for 4 weeks
A fluid-filled plastic bag can help extremely premature lambs to develop and grow – and will be used to support premature babies in three years’ time. Extremely premature lambs have been kept alive in an artificial uterus for four weeks. The system uses a fluid-filled plastic bag and could be used for premature babies within the next three years. “We’ve developed a system that, as closely as possible, reproduces the environment of the womb and replace the function of the placenta,” says Alan Flake at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, who led the study. “It is fascinating,” says Neil Marlow, at University College London. “People have been trying to do this for ages.” But he says the system will have to undergo years of testing to be sure it is safe for babies. Flake and his colleagues developed their system with babies in mind. Being born extremely prematurely is the most common cause of death in babies. Infants born at 22 to 24 weeks, instead of the full 40 weeks, have only a 10 per cent chance of survival, says Flake.
4-25-17 Premature lambs kept alive in 'plastic bag' womb
Premature lambs kept alive in 'plastic bag' womb
Scientists have been able to keep premature lambs alive for weeks using an artificial womb that looks like a plastic bag. It provides everything the foetus needs to continue growing and maturing, including a nutrient-rich blood supply and a protective sac of amniotic fluid. The approach might one day help premature human babies have a better chance of survival, experts hope. Human trials may be possible in a few years, according to researchers. First, more tests in animals are needed to check it is safe enough to progress, the researchers say in the journal Nature Communications. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia team insists it is not looking to replace mothers or extend the limits of viability - merely to find a better way to support babies who are born too early. Currently, very premature infants, born at around 23 weeks of gestation, are placed in incubators and put on ventilators to help them breathe, but this can damage their lung development.
4-25-17 Scientists are making cyborg sperm to attack women's cancers
Scientists are making cyborg sperm to attack women's cancers
Men's little swimmers could do more than make a baby some day — they might fight off cancer and other diseases too. At least, that's the tantalizingly bizarre possibility floated by a small group of German scientists. Researchers at the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences in Dresden, Germany say they've found a way to weaponize sperm cells into drug missiles that can target a woman's cervix, which is hard to reach with conventional drugs. In their latest research, they doused sperm cells with anticancer drugs, then squeezed them into a flexible, laser-printed harness made out of iron. Afterward, they guided the sperm around using magnets, colliding them into tumor-like cells and masses. The sperm, with the help of four bendable arms attached at the top of the harness, then offloaded its delivery straight into the cancer cells, killing them. The harness did slow the sperm down, by around 40 percent, but not to the point of ruining their ability to deliver the drugs. Though only a proof-of-concept experiment, the team wrote that their sperm-driven hybrid micromotor, as they've coined it, "could lead to a new dosage strategy that allows high local doses of anticancer agents while reducing systemic toxic effects."
4-20-17 New evidence in France of harm from epilepsy drug valproate
New evidence in France of harm from epilepsy drug valproate
A drug given to pregnant women for epilepsy and bipolar disorder caused "serious malformations" in up to 4,100 children, a French study suggests. Mothers treated with valproate for epilepsy were up to four times likelier to give birth to a malformed child, the preliminary study found. Introduced in France in 1967, valproate is prescribed widely worldwide. Doctors in France are now advised not to give it to girls, women of childbearing age and pregnant women. The drug's manufacturer, Sanofi, responded in a statement that it had been "totally transparent with health authorities". "We are aware of the painful situation confronting the families of children showing difficulties that may have a link with the anti-epileptic treatment of their mother during pregnancy," it said. Some of those affected say France and the company were too slow to warn of side-effects. The risk of birth defects associated with valproate, marketed as Epilim, Depakine, Depakote and Stavzor among other names, has been known since the 1980s, especially for spina bifida. In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) issued an alert earlier this month saying valproate should only be given to girls and women of childbearing age under specialist supervision and only when other medications had been found not to work.
4-12-17 Unprotected sex may disrupt the microbiome in vagina
Unprotected sex may disrupt the microbiome in vagina
Women who have unprotected sex with men seem to have more bad types of bacteria in their vaginas, which may make them more prone to infection and disease. Having sex with a male partner can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the vagina – which might put women at risk of infections. The bacterial communities of healthy vaginas tend to be dominated by one type of bacteria. Women with higher levels of other bacteria are more likely to get urinary tract infections, or even give birth prematurely. So far, though, it has been unclear if the bacteria are a cause of these problems or a result of them. To find out if sexual activities could shape the vaginal microbiome and, potentially, women’s health, Lenka Vodstrcil at Melbourne Sexual Health Centre in Australia and her colleagues tracked the bacteria living in 52 volunteers’ vaginas. Each woman was asked to swab their vaginas every three months for a year, and to keep a record of any sexual activities. The women were all young students, and 19 had not yet experienced penetrative sex at the start of the study. “It was a very diverse group.”
4-6-17 'My fertility app made me too stressed to conceive'
'My fertility app made me too stressed to conceive'
When Kathy Beaumont started trying for a baby two years ago, she turned to the many fertility apps on the market to discover when would be the best time of the month to conceive. She took her temperature every day and logged it in an app called Fertility Friend, but soon found herself succumbing to a fertility-obsessed frenzy. "I constantly analysed the analytics section of the app to see how my month looked and whether there was a temperature spike that indicated I was ovulating," says Kathy, 32, a freelance travel copywriter. "I based when we actively tried for a baby solely on when the app and ovulation kits told me I was ovulating." But after six months of "trying", Kathy still hadn't fallen pregnant. "Some months I think we must have missed the window of opportunity entirely," she explains, "either because I'd built up to it so much that the pressure made me too stressed to conceive, or because the app wasn't accurate." She decided to quit using the apps "for the sake of my sanity" and became pregnant the following month.
4-6-17 50 years ago, contraception options focused on women
50 years ago, contraception options focused on women
Men’s birth control options haven’t changed much in 50 years. One potential option on the horizon is a gel injection that blocks sperm from traveling through the vas deferens, a duct in the male reproductive system. The pill is a sledgehammer approach to contraception.... A second-generation of [drugs] is being designed to do the job without upsetting a woman’s normal cycle of ovulation and menstruation.... A contraceptive administered to the man can be given only for a short time without actually affecting the development of sperm … and, therefore, is not being considered for actual clinical use. Contraceptives have come a long way since 1967. Women can choose low-dose pills, hormonal rings, implants and intrauterine devices — effective methods that can be less disruptive to normal menstrual cycles. Men have far fewer options, but that may eventually change. A long-acting gel injected into 16 adult male rhesus monkeys’ reproductive tracts completely prevented pregnancy in their partners over one to two breeding periods. The gel works like a vasectomy but is less invasive and can be reversed more easily, researchers report February 7 in Basic and Clinical Andrology.
4-5-17 US cut to United Nations Population Fund 'devastating' for vulnerable
US cut to United Nations Population Fund 'devastating' for vulnerable
The US has been warned its decision to withdraw its support from the United Nations Population Fund will be a disaster for the world's most vulnerable families. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it will have "devastating effects" for the health of women and girls. In total, $32.5m (£26m) will be withdrawn for the 2017 financial year. This is the first of the promised cuts to US financial contributions to the UN by the Trump administration. (Webmaster's comment: Trump attacks women and girls worldwide.)
4-4-17 US withdraws funding for United Nations Population Fund
US withdraws funding for United Nations Population Fund
The US says it is withdrawing funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an agency that promotes family planning in more than 150 countries. The state department says the agency supports or participates in a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation in China. But the UNFPA says this is an "erroneous claim", and that its work does not break any US laws. In total $32.5m (£26m) in funds will be withdrawn for the 2017 financial year. This is the first of the promised cuts to US financial contributions to the UN by the Trump administration.
4-4-17 Saving Mosul's mothers-to-be
Saving Mosul's mothers-to-be
Many of the civilians fleeing their homes in Iraq are women with children. The US has withdrawn $32.5m (£26m) in funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an agency that promotes family planning in more than 150 countries. The state department believes the UNFPA "supports or participates in" coercive abortion programmes. But the agency says all of its work protects the rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of discrimination. Some of their most important projects help women give birth safely in war zones like IS-occupied Mosul, where maternity care has been crippled.
4-3-17 Eggs get less fertile with age because of chaotic cell division
Eggs get less fertile with age because of chaotic cell division
Mouse experiments suggest disordered cell division makes eggs become less viable as females age, hinting there might be a way to counteract this in women. Women hear the loaded reminders far too often: if you want to have children, you’d better do it before it’s too late. But why is it that eggs get less fertile as time passes? “Even if a woman is still ovulating, the quality of the egg decreases with age,” says Greg Fitzharris at the University of Montreal, Canada. “The best proof of that is that if you have donor eggs from younger women, all of a sudden fertility is increased.” Women are thought to be born with all their eggs, but these undergo several further cell divisions to create an embryo. Previous studies have shown that in ageing eggs, chromosomes stick together less well. This reduced cohesion causes them to prematurely separate during cell division, creating eggs that don’t have the right number of chromosomes – a state called aneuploidy – which usually renders them infertile. “When loss of cohesion was suggested as a cause of female infertility, people thought, that’s it, we found the one cause,” Fitzharris says. “But there are certain types of aneuploidy that are well explained by cohesion loss. And there are other types that are harder to explain.”
3-29-17 How an ambulance became a place for safe sex
How an ambulance became a place for safe sex
A second-hand ambulance has been converted into a place where sex workers can meet their clients in Copenhagen. The aim is to help people at risk of violence and exploitation and it is the latest in a long list of ideas by a Danish social entrepreneur. Michael Lodberg Olsen invites me into an old ambulance, long out of service. "So what happens in here?" I ask. "Sex," he quickly answers, eyes flashing with laughter. It's not very inviting as I step inside. It still looks very medical - grey walls, blue seat. And it's cold - it's -1C and snowing outside. But this old ambulance - called "Sexelance" - is a safe space for Copenhagen's sex workers. They can bring clients here with the knowledge that volunteers are around to step in if things get ugly. And the stats show that often things do. "Sex workers in Denmark are violated or threatened 45% of the time, but at a brothel this figure is only 3%," Michael says, using figures from the Danish National Centre for Social Research.
3-28-17 Mini reproductive organs in a dish mimic 28-day menstrual cycle
Mini reproductive organs in a dish mimic 28-day menstrual cycle
Connecting clumps of tissue from ovaries, the womb, and other organs in the lab has led to ovulation happening in a dish, but the system cannot menstruate yet. It’s ovulation in the lab. A simulated female reproductive system behaves almost like the real thing over 28 days. “Menstruation in a dish is one of my goals,” says Julie Kim of Northwestern University in Chicago. Kim works with organoids – small 3D clumps of tissue that behave more naturally than traditional, flat cell cultures. Linking different organoids together enables researchers to study complex organ systems in miniature, an approach that could lead to new insights and less animal testing. Now Kim’s team has hooked up tissue from the ovaries, uterus, cervix and fallopian tubes, as well as the liver, which makes compounds that help to transport hormones. The tissues responded to hormones made by the mini ovary: oestrogen in the first two weeks, then progesterone for the next two weeks. In the first half of the cycle, eggs grew and burst out of the ovary – mimicking ovulation. Tiny hairs in the fallopian tube began to beat faster, as if to waft the egg along, while cells in the uterus proliferated. But the uterine cells didn’t die and break away during the progesterone phase, which normally triggers menstruation – probably because the uterine organoid had no blood vessels. Kim is now introducing these, but she hasn’t yet managed to get them to break down, which should prompt the uterine cells to die off.
3-28-17 Menstrual cycle recreated 'in a dish'
Menstrual cycle recreated 'in a dish'
US scientists say they have made a mini working replica of the female reproductive tract using human and mouse tissue. Although the palm-sized device looks nothing like a womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries, the researchers say it should help with understanding diseases of these organs and tissues. It also provides a novel way to test new treatments. The work is part of a project to create the entire human "body on a chip". The ultimate goal would be to take cells from any given individual in order to create a personalised model of their body to test drugs and treatments on, Nature Communications reports.
3-28-17 'I was sterilised against my will'
'I was sterilised against my will'
After an emergency caesarean, Victoria Vigo found she had been sterilised - despite not having given her consent. Like many others who endured the same treatment, she is demanding justice. "I wanted to have more children, but that choice was taken away from me without my permission - that was my decision to make not theirs." In April 1996, mother-of-two Victoria Vigo was living in the hot, coastal city of Piura in north-western Peru. "I was 32 weeks pregnant and I wasn't feeling very well, so I went to see my doctor," she says. "He sent me to hospital where I ended up in accident and emergency. They evaluated me and decided to carry out an emergency caesarean." Vigo's baby was born with breathing difficulties, his premature lungs weren't properly developed and he died soon after. "There was a doctor trying to console me saying: 'Don't worry, you are still young, you can have another baby.'" But Vigo, who was then aged 32, then overheard another doctor say: "No, she can't have any more children, we've sterilised her."
3-28-17 “They said I was peri-menopausal. It’s a miracle I got pregnant”
“They said I was peri-menopausal. It’s a miracle I got pregnant”
After several miscarriages and six unsuccessful IVF attempts, a woman in Germany is six months pregnant following an experimental ovarian rejuvenation treatment. A 40-year-old woman in Germany is one of two women to become pregnant after trying an experimental fertility treatment to reverse menopause and peri-menopause. “The doctor said I was peri-menopausal,” says WS, who would prefer to remain anonymous. “I was ovulating, but the follicles were empty most of the time. He told me that my chance of getting pregnant was less than one per cent.” Ever since her first child was born in 2009, WS has been trying for another. Doctors told WS that her levels of a hormone called AMH, which is released by eggs, were way below normal. One of her ovaries looked shrunken, and was no longer ovulating. She was advised to try IVF as quickly as she could. “I had six rounds of IVF over two years,” says WS. “At the beginning I was full of hope, but after the third attempt, you start crying and questioning yourself.” After the sixth attempt, WS was advised to give up on trying to have a baby using her own eggs, and to consider egg donation instead. “We were really done with IVF then,” says WS. “We sold all of the baby stuff.” But last year, WS came across an article about an experimental fertility treatment, offered by a clinic in Greece. At the Genesis Athens Clinic, Kostantinos Sfakianoudis and his colleagues draw blood from a patient, centrifuge it to isolate plasma that is rich in platelets, and then inject it into the woman’s own ovaries or uterus. The team think the treatment has rejuvenating properties.
3-27-17 Exclusive: menopausal women become pregnant with their own eggs
Exclusive: menopausal women become pregnant with their own eggs
Two women thought to be infertile seem to have had their fertility restored using a technique to rejuvenate their ovaries, and one is now six months pregnant. Two women thought to be infertile have become pregnant using a technique that seems to rejuvenate ovaries, New Scientist can reveal. It is the first time such a treatment has enabled menopausal women to get pregnant using their own eggs. “I had given up hope on trying to get pregnant,” says one of the women, WS, who is now six months pregnant. “To me, it’s a miracle.” The approach is based on the apparent healing properties of blood. Kostantinos Sfakianoudis and his colleagues at the Genesis Athens Clinic in Greece draw blood from their patients and spin it in a centrifuge to isolate platelet-rich plasma. This has a high concentration of the cell fragments usually involved in blood clotting, and is already used to speed the healing of sports injuries, although its effectiveness for this purpose is unclear. The clinic is attempting to use this plasma to repair women’s reproductive systems, injecting it directly into the ovaries and uterus. So far, the team has given this experimental treatment to more than 180 women, many of whom sought treatment because they have a disorder that damages the lining of the uterus. But the team has also used the treatment in an effort to rejuvenate the organs of 27 menopausal and peri-menopausal women, between the ages of 34 and 51.
3-27-17 Young and pregnant in Sierra Leone
Young and pregnant in Sierra Leone
Pregnant girls in Sierra Leone are prevented from attending school, as they are thought to be a bad influence on their peers. In April 2015 - just as schools re-opened after the Ebola crisis - the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology issued a statement banning pregnant girls from mainstream education and from sitting exams. The ban was enforced through invasive physical examinations of the girls. Just under two years on, and the ban is still in place. Learning centres typically specialising in skills such as catering, tailoring, and hairdressing act as alternatives to school and are open to pregnant girls. Olivia Acland photographed these girls, collecting their stories, and discovering that girls very rarely return to mainstream education after being pushed out of it.
3-25-17 Do baby boxes really save lives?
Do baby boxes really save lives?
It's been claimed that Finland's baby boxes, given to every newborn in the country, help reduce cot deaths. But what evidence is there that they lower infant mortality rates, asks Elizabeth Cassin. In June 2013, the BBC News website published an article entitled Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes. It's been viewed over 13 million times and sparked global interest in the idea. The article explained Finland's 75-year-old policy of giving every pregnant mother a cardboard box filled with baby products, such as clothes, sleeping bag, nappies, bedding and a mattress, and how the box itself could be used as a bed. One reason it attracted such attention is that Finland has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world - two deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with a global rate of 32 in 1,000, according to the UN. Over the past three years, companies selling the boxes have popped up in the US, Finland and the UK. And they're incredibly popular not just with individuals but - more significantly - with governments. The promise of lower infant mortality rates is something to aim for. But if you stop and think about it for a minute, this is a bold claim. How does getting a baby to sleep in a box and a few baby items bring down infant mortality rates? In theory, the boxes offer a safe sleep space for babies.
3-20-17 The ballad of Hannah and Adam
The ballad of Hannah and Adam
"I'm tired of gray areas," Hannah tells famous author Chuck Palmer (Matthew Rhys) in "American Bitch," the third episode of Girls' sixth and final season. It's an unexpected announcement coming from a show that lived in gray areas for so long, and which looks likely to be on the cusp of trading in its trademark ambiguity to tell us, in its final season, what it really thinks. In good old black and white. From its premiere, the buzz around Girls has revolved around what the show intends: Is Girls parody? Oblivious? Crushingly self-aware? All of the above? It felt like the point was partly not to pronounce; the show was strikingly resistant to narratively disciplining its interesting but infuriating protagonists. Phil Maciak once described Girls as operating "with a persistent unresolved chord at its foundation," and he's right: This is a show built on withholding narrative as well as moral resolution. It's cagey about how it's judging its protagonists, and while many viewers have spent seasons longing for these characters to get their comeuppance, the show has refused to gratify that punitive impulse. For all their mistakes, the girls (and boys) have avoided major consequences: Marriages dissolve without too much trouble, and babies are born and vanish conveniently offscreen. That line of Hannah's about gray areas, then, names the series' biggest departure in its final stretch: Having wearied of indefinite suspension, the show is ready to finally close some of its open narrative and moral brackets. That's happening in several ways. For one thing, the consequence-free New York in which these characters have lived is gone: People are getting pregnant and dying so much that a show where little normally happens is starting to feel like a soap opera.
3-10-17 UAE releases 'unlawful sex' couple and drops charges
UAE releases 'unlawful sex' couple and drops charges
A couple jailed for a month in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over "unlawful sex" have been released and the charges against them dropped. Ukrainian Iryna Nohai and her South African fiancee Emlyn Culverwell were arrested in Abu Dhabi after a doctor discovered Ms Nohai was pregnant. Sex outside marriage is illegal in the religiously conservative Gulf nation. Mr Culverwell's mother had pleaded for their release, saying "the only thing they did wrong was fall in love".
3-5-17 Afghanistan: The only gynaecologist for hundreds of miles
Afghanistan: The only gynaecologist for hundreds of miles
Fed up with what she felt was mismanagement at her hospital, gynaecologist Homa Amiri Kakar had walked out of her job in a remote part of Afghanistan and returned to the capital. But just a week later she agreed to go back, guilt-stricken about the women she had deserted, as the BBC's Sarah Buckley and Asif Maroof report. "I am deeply unhappy that I left behind patients, especially female patients in remote villages - they are not in a condition to explain all types of their sickness to male doctors - so it would be very difficult without a female doctor," she says. Religious and cultural mores mean that women rarely visit male doctors for any condition, never mind a gynaecological one, and Dr Kakar, 39, realised that leaving her post in Paktika province left her patients dangerously vulnerable. "Many times if there is not a female doctor many symptoms will remain untold by females and could cause a big problem, and even lead to their deaths," she told the BBC. If the patient's husband, father or other male relative cannot or will not find a way of transporting her to an area where there is a female doctor on hand, then she will simply not receive treatment, says ex-health minister Soraya Dalil, now Afghan ambassador to Switzerland. "In Afghanistan the decisions are usually made by men... if they are a female patient then it depends on the male member of the family if they want to take the female to the doctor, or to take her to another area of the country where there is a female," she said. One woman on the other side of Afghanistan - in Herat province - told the BBC a neighbour died in childbirth before her eyes because she needed medical help and there were no female doctors available in her district. Her husband was too poor to arrange transport to a hospital which did have a female doctor.
3-4-17 Indian young people offered progressive advice on sexuality
Indian young people offered progressive advice on sexuality
An Indian government resource kit on adolescent health has received acclaim because of its progressive stance on sexuality. The resource kit by the National Health Mission, written in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund, is aimed at "peer educators" - young girls and boys who will be responsible for reaching out to adolescents and discussing issues relating to their physical and mental health and development. The handbook covers a variety of topics ranging from same-sex attraction to sexual abuse and mental health, all of which are considered taboo topics for discussion in India. The peer educator programme is expected to be rolled out across India soon.
Here are some of the topics it covers.
- Same-sex attraction
- The menstrual cycle
- Boys don't cry
- Encouraging girls to play outdoors
3-1-17 In defense of wanting to have a C-section
In defense of wanting to have a C-section
I have never wanted to give birth vaginally — or, as it's so often and condescendingly called, "naturally." My birth plan consisted of two things: 1. Find a doctor who would perform my C-section. 2. Turn up on time for my operation. And that's exactly what I did. The operation was a success. Still, I found the process traumatic. Not because of the physical effects of the surgery — but because I found myself having to justify my decision to have a C-section to everyone around me: family, friends, acquaintances, and every doctor and midwife I saw. It was exhausting. In the U.K., where I live, you can choose where you give birth — in a hospital, birthing clinic, or at home — but you can't choose how you give birth. Despite the National Health Service's declaration of "patient choice," that particular choice belongs to the doctors, not the pregnant person. Indeed, in some places, it's easier to get an abortion than it is to get a C-section. Some women never even try for a baby because they fear childbirth — even if they want children. It didn't matter that I'd thought carefully about my decision, or that I knew all the stats about risk factors and the health problems that befall women whose vaginal deliveries don't go according to plan. I explained to doctors and midwives the information I had amassed about everything from prolapse to incontinence to fourth-degree vaginal and anal tear, to babies born with brain injuries from forceps, or broken collar bones and dislocated shoulders.
3-1-17 Facebook blocks nude painting by acclaimed artist
Facebook blocks nude painting by acclaimed artist
Facebook has blocked an Australian auction house from advertising an acclaimed artist's painting depicting nude figures. Charles Blackman's oil work Women Lovers features two nude women resting on a bed beside a cat. Art broker Mossgreen tried to promote it on Facebook, but the social media network rejected it for "advertising adult products or services". Mossgreen chief executive Paul Summer said the decision was "ridiculous". "This is a very beautiful image that is not overtly sexual in any shape or form," he told the BBC. "It's like going back to the 1950s. It's ridiculous to censor this sort of thing." Facebook said its decision was final, although Mossgreen has since reposted images of the work. "Such ads lead to negative user sentiment and we have zero tolerance towards such advertisements," Facebook said in a message. Last month, a French teacher took Facebook to court after it suspended his account for posting an image of a nude woman painted by 19th Century artist Gustave Courbet.
2-23-17 Sweden proposal to allow sex on government time
Sweden proposal to allow sex on government time
"It's just three little letters," said Per-Erik Muskos jovially, brushing off a suggestion that he is interfering in people's private lives. "S-e-x." Mr Muskos, a councillor in a small Swedish town, hit the headlines this week after proposing that municipal employees should be allowed a break from their working day to have sex. "We need to look after each other," he told the BBC. "If it can make relationships better it is worth it." Mr Muskos's lively idea is only the latest example of officials pushing procreation, as countries around the world find their birth rates in the doldrums. He is confident his proposal will be approved when put to his fellow councillors in a couple of months' time. If it does, the municipality's 550 workers, who already get an hour a week paid time to do fitness or wellbeing activities, will also be allowed to go home for some private time with their spouses or partners. Mr Muskos said there had been some hostility to his idea. "People think we shouldn't talk about it, they say people can fix this by themselves," he said. But he is unapologetic.
2-13-17 Timing when you get pregnant could prevent a miscarriage
Timing when you get pregnant could prevent a miscarriage
A quarter of pregnancies end in miscarriage. A new explanation suggests there’s a window of opportunity when it’s best for some women to conceive. Miscarriage could be caused by too many ageing cells and a fluctuating immune response. This finding suggests that carefully timing a pregnancy could prevent miscarriage and increase a woman’s chances of delivering a baby. “All the ‘treatments’ we’ve been giving to women who miscarry haven’t been effective at all,” says Roy Homburg at Homerton University Hospital in London. “We haven’t been getting to the root of the problem,” he says. “But this idea is particularly clever.” A quarter of pregnancies end in miscarriage within the first 23 weeks. There are some known risk factors, such as being older or overweight, and some embryos miscarry because of genetic abnormalities. But we don’t really understand what causes miscarriages, especially in the 1 per cent of women who experience three or more in a row. It’s not that these women are infertile – some women who’ve had as many as 12 miscarriages in a row still go on to have a perfectly healthy baby, leaving researchers wondering what’s going on. Jan Brosens at the University of Warwick, UK, thinks the balance between stem cells, ageing cells, and immune cells could be to blame.
2-8-17 Women with a thicker brain cortex are more likely to have autism
Women with a thicker brain cortex are more likely to have autism
The outer layer of the brain is usually thicker in men than in women. Brain scans have found that having a thicker cortex is linked to autism spectrum disorder. Having a thicker outer layer of the brain is linked to an increased likelihood of having autism. The cerebral cortex is the wrinkled outer layer of the brain that is responsible for many of our most human traits, including thought, language and consciousness. This layer is typically thicker in men than in women, and its structure has been linked to differences in personality. Now brain scans have shown that women who have a more male-like brain structure are three times more likely to have been diagnosed with autism. The study compared the brains of 98 men and women with high functioning autism with those of 98 people who don’t have autism. These findings provide new insights into the brain’s role in sex differences in autism, according to the team that did the study. Autism is thought to be two to five times more common in men than in women, and some think the condition is caused by having an “extreme male brain”.
2-2-17 Fake news has been targeting women's reproductive rights for years
Fake news has been targeting women's reproductive rights for years
"I can't think of any other form of medicine where we are told to make things up." These days, nearly everyone is crying "fake news!" Not least of all President Trump, who may have been the beneficiary of certain untrue news stories during the campaign, but has perhaps awoken to the potential nightmare of living in a world in which baseless claims, unhinged from facts, or demonstrable reality, can pass for truth. But for many in the medical and scientific communities, the preponderance of fake news predates not only Golden Shower Gate, but the 2016 election itself. Bad information about women's health — especially around sexual health, abortion, and reproductive care — has been making the world worse for women for years. While I was reporting a recent feature on reproductive health care access in the United States under Trump, several of the doctors and historians I spoke to talked about about the damage done by the pervasive anti-scientific attitude that has worked its way not just into conversation but into law and medical policy. Five states require that doctors give patients information suggesting a link between abortion and the occurrence of breast cancer, a link that the American Cancer Society and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have refuted. In other states, physicians are forced to offer other medical information that they know to be false about abortion potentially causing infertility, depression, suicidal thoughts, and PTSD. If they do not offer this false information, doctors risk losing their licenses. "I can't think of any other form of medicine where we are told to make things up," said Adam Jacobs, head of the family-planning division at Mt. Sinai in New York. "It's okay to do this only with regard to women's reproductive health."
2-1-17 What Trump’s US Supreme Court pick means for women’s health
What Trump’s US Supreme Court pick means for women’s health
Neil Gorsuch, nominated to the vacancy on America's highest court, has a record of hostility to reproductive rights, says Christina Cauterucci. Neil Gorsuch (pictured), US president Donald Trump’s nominee for the vacancy on the country’s Supreme Court, is a consistently conservative judge who would enter the court at a critical moment for reproductive rights. Though Gorsuch, a federal judge on the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals, has never ruled on an abortion rights case, his record shows him to be hostile to women’s healthcare and willing to give broad leeway to institutions that want to discriminate against them. Women will be affected by every decision that comes out of the next iteration of the Supreme Court, of course, whether the cases deal with voting rights, labour issues, immigrant rights, civil liberties, criminal justice or any other area of law. Because women make less money than men, shoulder the bulk of home and family responsibilities, and have less access to traditional spheres of power, they are in fact particularly dependent on legal protections, and they will likely be disproportionately impacted by any harm that comes from the court’s decisions. Nowhere is that clearer than in the field of public health. Anti-abortion advocates believe Trump and his pick will lead their fight to overturn the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, a strong, if imperfect, safeguard of abortion rights. A recent report from the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York found that 22 states would be likely to roll back abortion rights immediately if Roe were overturned. (Webmaster's comment: The current leaders in office are opposed to all civil rights except for those of white male supremacists.)
1-31-17 The former sex worker who set up a retirement home
The former sex worker who set up a retirement home
After years of working the streets of Mexico City, Carmen Munoz wondered what happened to sex workers like her when they got old - so she campaigned to set up a retirement home. It was on the historic Plaza Loreto in Mexico City - surrounded by buildings that date back to the 16th Century - that Carmen Munoz set out on her path as a sex worker. She had come to the city looking for work and had been told that the priest at the Santa Teresa la Nueva Church sometimes found jobs for domestic workers. She was 22, illiterate, and had seven children to feed - including one whom she carried in her arms. For four days she anxiously waited to see the priest, but when she finally succeeded he gave her no help and sent her away. "He only told me that there was tons of work, and to look for it around the area," she recalls. "I left crying because it hurt me deeply to hear the priest talk that way."
1-25-17 Starting periods at a young age is linked to early menopause
Starting periods at a young age is linked to early menopause
Girls who begin menstruating before their 12th birthday may be more likely to hit the menopause before age 40, and find it more difficult to have children. Women are more likely to go through menopause early if they started menstruating before their 12th birthday. This is the conclusion of the largest study of its kind, involving 50,000 postmenopausal women in the UK, Australia, Japan and Scandinavia. On average, a first period arrived around age 13 and the last when the women were 50. But 14 per cent had their first period before they were 12, and 10 per cent had their last period before they turned 45. To investigate whether there was a link between early menstruation and early menopause, Gita Mishra at the University of Queensland, Australia, and her colleagues performed a statistical analysis, adjusting for possible confounding variables like weight and smoking. They found that women who began menstruating before the age of 12 were 31 per cent more likely to have an early menopause – between the ages of 40 and 44. Of the women who had their first period when they were 13, only 1.8 per cent had premature menopause (before the age of 40), and 7.2 per cent reached menopause early. But in women who had their first period when they were 11 or younger, 3.1 per cent had premature menopause, and 8.8 per cent went through it early.
1-17-17 Resisting Trump: How women can protect reproductive rights
Resisting Trump: How women can protect reproductive rights
Under Trump, the right to contraception and abortion could suffer irreversible damage. But there are ways for women to keep the state from meddling with their bodies. AT THE very top of the hit list for the resurgent Republican party is the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The ACA has extended health insurance coverage to an extra 7 per cent of Americans since 2014, but Republicans, with Donald Trump’s support, have already started the complex job of repealing it. While it is not clear what will replace the ACA, it is likely that one area of healthcare will see major changes. Contraception and abortion are hot-button issues for the conservative and evangelical voters who make up a large part of the Republican base, if not necessarily the American public at large. Obamacare made contraception completely free under most insurance schemes. Its rule that people under 26 could stay on their parents’ policies helped younger women – who might not previously have had insurance – get access to contraception. Both the provision of contraception and the under-26 rule are now in doubt, although Trump has signalled his desire to preserve the latter in any successor to the ACA. Republicans are also trying to crowbar in a measure to pull federal funds from Planned Parenthood, a charity that provides free or subsidised family planning services to people on low incomes. Republicans have been gunning for Planned Parenthood for years, because it provides abortions as well as contraception. A push to raise donations is gathering pace, but it’s doubtful if this can replace the entire federal budget contribution of over half a billion dollars, some 40 per cent of the charity’s income. A shortfall is likely to force the charity to close clinics or restrict services.
1-17-17 Kenyan women urged to withhold sex in vote drive
Kenyan women urged to withhold sex in vote drive
A Kenyan MP has asked women to withhold sex from their husbands until they register as voters for the 8 August elections. Mishi Mboko, the women's representative for the coastal city of Mombasa, says it was the best strategy to shore up opposition votes. "Women, this is the strategy you should adopt. It is the best. Deny them sex until they show you their voter's card," she said. The registrations ends on 17 February. Ms Mboko said sex was a powerful weapon and would encourage reluctant men to rush to register as voters in the exercise that began on Monday.
1-16-17 Sweden midwives offer training for car births
Sweden midwives offer training for car births
Expectant parents in a town in Sweden are being offered training on how to deliver a baby in a car after the local maternity ward was earmarked for closure. Two midwives at the hospital in Solleftea came up with the idea in order to help mums- and dads-to-be feel safer during the long journey to the nearest maternity unit, The Local reports. From February, that will be in either Ornskoldsvik or Sundsvall - both more than 100km (62 miles) away. Stina Naslund, who is leading the course, says that she knows many people are anxious about travelling such a long distance through rural areas, particularly in dark winter conditions. Ms Naslund tells The Local that she wants to prepare people for what could happen. "Car accidents, the car could break down, you maybe drive off the road. You have to be ready, and the worst could happen even if it is very, very uncommon," she says. The training will include what to do if the baby's arrival is imminent, The Local notes. The decision to cut the maternity services in Solleftea, which has a population of around 9,000 people, was part of a cost-cutting measure passed in October, Expressen reports. Mia Ahlberg, head of the Swedish Midwives Association, supports the training but says it's "tragic" that it is needed because health services are being closed in small communities.
1-11-17 Knights of Malta row with Vatican over condom programme
Knights of Malta row with Vatican over condom programme
The Knights of Malta, an ancient Catholic order, are facing a Vatican investigation. A row has broken out between the Vatican and the Knights of Malta, an ancient Catholic order, after a top official was sacked over a contraception scandal. It followed revelations that the Knights' charity branch had distributed thousands of condoms in Myanmar. The order's grand chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, was suspended over the matter on 8 December. The Catholic Church forbids the use of artificial contraception. Mr Boeselager has said he did not know about the condom distribution programme, which was an anti-HIV and family planning initiative, and stopped it when he learned of its existence. Now the 900-year-old order is refusing to co-operate with a Vatican investigation into his sacking, and warning members that if they speak with Pope Francis's team, they must not contradict the decision by the order to replace Mr Boeselager. (Webmaster's comment: Still 2,000 years back in the dark ages and refusing to budge.)
1-11-17 Pregnant model Porsche Thomas body-shamed for showing her belly
Pregnant model Porsche Thomas body-shamed for showing her belly
US model Porsche Thomas has been body-shamed for showing her belly while nine months pregnant. The daughter of Real Housewives of Atlanta star Peter Thomas put a bikini photo of herself on Instagram at the end of last month, just before giving birth to twins. But she's since been trolled over the shot, with one person asking why her belly was "so black". Another user said her pregnant body looked "nasty". The model, actress and writer, who gave birth to twins August and Berlin on Saturday, has responded to say she's now getting on with her life. "We don't really get to see black baby bumps and when we do, people have a negative reaction to it, for some reason, like it's vulgar," Porsche told BET. "I don't hold on to other people's opinions that have nothing to do with me. I laugh at the ignorance. "I know it exists, it's there and it's sad. The fact that we're in a Trump era made it less funny. "But I don't let things like that bother me. I'm pretty secure in myself." (Webmaster's comment: How could anyone have a problem with this? She is just as beautiful now as before. Those that think otherwise are just sick!)
1-11-17 Soaring childlessness among southern European women - report
Soaring childlessness among southern European women - report
The report says that most of the economic and cultural trends of the last half-century appear to have steered women and men away from having children. Women in Europe are having fewer children, particularly in southern Europe, a French report has found. Up to a quarter of women born in the 1970s may remain childless, compared to an average of 15% in northern Europe and 18% in western Europe. Factors including a precarious labour market and lack of family-friendly work policies help explain the rise in involuntary childlessness, it says. But the report points out childlessness was also very high about a century ago. Some 17-25% of women born in the first decade of the 20th Century remained childless, due to factors including the deaths of many men of marriageable age in the First World War, the emigration of other young men in poor countries, and the effects of the 1929 Great Depression. Since then the average European childless trend, says France's National Institute of Demographic Studies, has formed a U-shape. Childlessness reached very low levels among women born in the 1930s and 1940s - the parents of the "baby boom" generation which enjoyed post-war prosperity such as low unemployment and generous state welfare systems. In eastern Europe, the boom in births lasted longer than the west, the report says, bolstered by a lack of the contraception that was becoming available in the west. (Webmaster's comment: It also follows a drop in the centuries of religious beliefs.)
1-8-17 German Greens float sex prescriptions for disabled
German Greens float sex prescriptions for disabled
Brothels advertise openly in Germany, where prostitution is legal. A spokeswoman for the Green Party in Germany has said disabled and seriously ill people should be able to claim back public money if they pay for sex. They would have to prove a medical need and show that they could not pay to visit sex workers otherwise. Elisabeth Scharfenberg, an MP, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that she "could imagine" local authorities paying for "sexual assistance". Prostitution has been legal in Germany since 2002. The newspaper wrote (in German) that increasing numbers of sex workers offered services in care homes. A sexual adviser for nursing homes told the paper that prostitutes were a "blessing" for some patients. In the Netherlands it is already possible to claim the cost of sexual services as a medical expense. The Green Party, a bigger political player in Germany than in other countries, won a place in a state coalition government for the first time in 2011, in Baden-Wuerttemberg. Its share of the federal vote fell to about 8% in the last election.(Webmaster's comment: We need to close down all the barbaric morally backwards churches before we could legalize prostitution in America.)
1-4-17 Zambia women's 'day off for periods' sparks debate
Zambia women's 'day off for periods' sparks debate
Discussing female menstruation publicly is something of a taboo in Zambia. This is no doubt why a provision in the country's labour law that allows female workers to take off one day a month is known as Mother's Day, even though it applies to all women, whether or not they have children. The legal definition is not precise - women can take the day when they want and do not have to provide any medical justification, leading some to question the provision. "I think it's a good law because women go through a lot when they are on their menses [periods]," says Ndekela Mazimba, who works in public relations. Ms Mazimba is neither married nor does she have children but she takes her Mother's Day every month because of her gruelling period pains. "You might find that on the first day of your menses, you'll have stomach cramps - really bad stomach cramps. You can take whatever painkillers but end up in bed the whole day.