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When you hear the word “romance” you think … what? Wine, candlelight and probably flowers. I’ve often said you can’t go wrong with flowers, that wonderfully old-fashioned gesture that can say “I love you,” or “I hope you still love me,” or “I was just in 7-11 and I saw these so it was an impulse buy but it was a sweet impulse cuz I thought of you.” 

But do flowers actually make for more romance? One study from the University of Brittany in France says yes and you don’t actually even have to give them. They just have to be present to infuse the scene with warmer, more romantic feelings. 

Five young men were recruited by the school, men who were (I love this) “previously judged as being attractive by a group of women,” writes James Hall of the Telegraph and had them randomly approach women between ages 18-25 on the street in front of either a florist, bakery or shoe shop, tell them they were very pretty and ask for their phone numbers. The 600 women who were approached outside the flower shop were more likely to give their phone numbers – a quarter of them responded positively as opposed to one in ten outside the shoe shop and one in seven outside the bakery.

It’s hard to figure out why those places would rank in that order – with the shoes coming in last and the bakery in the middle. Personally if I’m looking at shoes it means I’m thinking along the lines of appearance and attractiveness and think I’d be more likely to respond positively in that situation, not to mention that the scent coming out of a bakery would (you’d think) be the equal or better of flowers. But the point is what’s going on under the radar of our reason and maybe that is as simple as flowers = romance in a way that shoes and cookies don’t. 

The Telegraph quotes Dr. Tom Buchanan of the University of Westminster who said the sight of something can trigger our emotions without realizing it and we can respond based on that trigger:

“These findings are consistent with the phenomenon known as automatic or behavioural priming. That is where ‘cues’ – or triggers – in your environment can lead you to behave in ways that are consistent with that environment.

“So the presence of the flower shop, which is associated with romance, could have primed people to behave in a way that is more receptive to the researcher’s advances.”

So if you’re trying to get a little romance in the air, getting or giving flowers or just having them around could help create that atmosphere. 

Nothing so nice as subliminal advertising you can pluck off a bush for free.

Jodi Jaecks didn’t mean to become an issue. She just wanted to go swimming at the public pool without the pain her bathing suit top was causing her. The 47 year-old Seattle chef and longtime athlete had a double mastectomy last year. “Her body looks mostly like that of a tightly built man with a very thin waist,” writes ESPN columnist Rick Reilly.  Jaecks wanted to go for a swim at the Medgar Evers public pas part of her recovery but wearing a swim suit or bikini or one-piece, caused her terrible pain so she asked if she could swim without a top, there being nothing to see. She was turned down.

When the Seattle newspaper the Stranger found out about Jaecks dilemma it became an issue and quite a controversial one. Then Seattle Parks and Recreation Director Christopher Williams, who is getting chemo for lung cancer, stepped in and made a special rule for Jodi to swim at the pool topless during adult swim times.

Problem solved? Not so fast. Yes it helps Jodi but all the other women with double mastectomies who would like that option were left high and dry. Williams is now looking into the matter and trying to extend the rule to “make Seattle pools more “inclusive,” Reilly writes and an answering should come in a few months.In the meantime Jaecks is not taking advantage of her swimming option until it is offered to others in the same boat as she.

Nothing brings out compassion and empathy like scars. When someone is willing to show them, whether they are physical or emotional, most of us respond to their trust in us with empathy. Moreover they remind us how fleeting out own good health and fortune might be so we might want to value it a little bit more.

So why not let these women – who, like Jaecks, aren’t trying to be provocative, just comfortable – feel a little more free? Who could it harm? If it’s an issue of squeamishness the powers that be aren’t giving people enough credit for compassion or allowing the squeamish people to confront and get passed their discomfort. If it’s an issue of aesthetics, that’s even thornier. Once you start deciding whose bodies are attractive enough to be seen in public well … you might have to provide an awful lot of bathrobes because most of us aren’t Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.

And scarred bodies can be just as beautiful as any other bodies, the proof being in The Scar Project, a portrait series by photographer David Jay of breast cancer survivors and their scars – and some of the most beautiful photos you’ll ever see. They show, that beauty isn’t always about mutable standards of perfection, but about other things, like strength, perseverance and the ability to go through fearsome things and come out still able to enjoy life’s little pleasures.

Like an afternoon swim.

Image via The Stranger

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Welcome to our weekly wrap up of recently written sex toy reviews by our blogger friends. This is a great spot to read up on all of the items you’ve been thinking about getting, but just wanted to know someone else’s opinion first. But remember, everyone is different. Just because a reviewer loved or hated a sex toy doesn’t mean you will feel the same way. Always keep in mind what you enjoy personally when reading reviews.

Smooth Lover by Hot Movies for Her

Remote Rabbit by Bean Fiddler

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Michigan House Democrats made some impassioned speeches on behalf of women’s rights recently when restrictive abortion legislation was being debated. One bill passed and will be taken up by the Senate in September and one was tabled. But during those impassioned speeches, two things happened that put Michigan and the general fight for women’s health care rights into sharp focus. One was when Rep. Barb Byrum, who had  had added an amendment to the bill that would require proof of a medical emergency or that a man’s life was in dangers before a vasectomy could be performed, was not allowed to speak on her own amendment. 

But the show stopper was Rep. Lisa Brown who told the house “I’m flattered you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.” She was also told she wouldn’t be recognized to speak before the House because she (supposedly) violated the decorum of the House. 

“Freedom of speech has it’s limits – at least in the State House of Representatives,” wrote Kathleen Grey in the Detroit Free Press.

It was only for a day but it has echoed ever since, firing up women’s rights supporters and hitting a fantastic peak when a dozen female legislators took part in a reading of the acclaimed play The Vagina Monologues on the Capitol steps on June 18. The show has become an iconic piece, an episodic play by Eve Ensler (who attended the Michigan performance) in which an all-female cast performs monologues, all of which are related to the vagina. (Ensler interviewed 200 women to write the show, asking questions like “What would your vagina say if it could talk?”) The show spawned the global activist movement V-Day which works to end violence against women and girls. 

When you look at the video (on the link) of the Capitol performance it’s pretty freeing and really makes you think about people being bold enough to legislate about women’s health when they can’t even bear to hear anatomical terms associated with it. 

As for Brown and Byrum both are leaving the House to run for county clerk in their home bases and both have reported huge donations coming in since that fateful day.

So in this case we see that money talks, even if you try to stop women from doing so.

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Welcome to our weekly wrap up of recently written sex toy reviews by our blogger friends. This is a great spot to read up on all of the items you’ve been thinking about getting, but just wanted to know someone else’s opinion first. But remember, everyone is different. Just because a reviewer loved or hated a sex toy doesn’t mean you will feel the same way. Always keep in mind what you enjoy personally when reading reviews.

Hot Date Kit by Teagan Shepard

Chemistry Bubble Bath Set by Teagan Shepard

Beginner Bondage Kit by Boobies, Babies, and a Blog

Smooth Lover by Adriana

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When you think of some classic elements of a romantic evening what do you think of? No, not jumper cables, an Easter bunny costume and a copy of “Dawson’s Crack,” you kinky so-and-so. I mean classic as in a lovey-dovey mainstream kind of date. For many people wine is going to be high on the list … it’s a romantic staple, there to impress and help break the ice on the first date,  to spiff up anniversaries, birthdays and Valentine’s Days, it’s even crucial wedding toast. You drink to the happy couple with champagne, not Tang.

So it makes some sense and is rather sweet that one of the most venerated and certainly the most adorable of all sex therapists, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, is putting out her own line of wines – Vin d’Amour – which has half the alcohol content of regular wines and therefore will put you in that relaxing mood without getting you so drunk you either can’t do the deed or no one will do it with you.

“I’m always saying couples should drink to relax but not too much,” Dr. Ruth told the New York Post in an interview about her new venture (and a totally worthwhile read including details about her background as a Holocaust survivor). “If (the woman) drinks too much, she falls asleep and if (the man) drinks too much, he can’t perform. It’s the same problem for gay couples.” (We’d like to add that alcohol can also have a similar effect on women’s genitals that it does for men – they don’t just fall asleep. Clitorises are made with the same erectile tissue as penises and too much alcohol can affect the ability of these tissues to maintain an erection making it very difficult for women to reach orgasm.)

Dr. Ruth’s wine has only 6% alcohol while most wines are about 13% and at $7.99 to $9.99 a bottle it’s an affordable romantic element. Another plus: part of the profits go to the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

“With this (low-alcohol) wine, I am saying: ‘Relax, but don’t do it (drink) too much.’ If sex follows or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s about finding and communicating with a significant other.” Dr. Ruth has been giving fine advice for almost the whole time I’ve been having sex so I plan on nipping into a bottle or two of Vin d’Amour but there are, of course some non-alcoholic ways of relaxation before sex, the three easiest being these:

* Music. Nothing, not even wine, can change a person’s mood faster or more effectively than music. Where would horror movies be without it? So whether it’s some acoustic Brazilian, some Marvin Gaye, or some calming New Age, your iTunes will chill you out almost as quickly as you can turn it on.

* Massage.  Whether you go earlier in the day to get a massage from someone else or start out with a foot rub, back rub, or shoulder rub, that skin-to-skin contact and concentration entirely on the physical sensation – to rub and be rubbed – has a pretty high proof of it’s own.

* Heat.  Whether it’s a hot bath, hot shower (together, perhaps), a sauna or a hot tub heat relaxes your muscles to the point where, ironically enough, you can’t help but chill out.

Whichever way you decide on to relax on your romantic evening … cheers!

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To those who worry that American-made goods aren’t doing as swell as they might in the global marketplace, tut-tut, never fear! There’s one market we Yanks have cornered: sperm. No one can beat us there. Our lil swimmers are on the world’s most-wanted list.

It’s kind of funny that U.S. semen should be so prized. After all, on the list of things you might try to get out of an American man sperm is probably the easiest, with opinions on movies and advice about your car tying for second. And yet, it seems, our semen has something in common with the commercial food industry in that what we throw a way in a day might be more useful than we imagine. Here’s the skinny.

Alex Dickinson at The Daily reports that demand for American sperm has gone up 40% in the last five years. In talking with Scott Brown of California Cryobank, the world’s largest sperm bank and Trina Leonard of Fairfax Cryobank, the second largest facility in the U.S., Dickinson found that among the reasons U.S. sperm is so popular globally is more liberal attitudes.

“It’s driven by the social changes — single women and lesbian couples being recognized around the world as people that should be able to have children and raise families,” Brown said.

The U.S. also allows men to make donations anonymously, has a good network of sperm banks already and men get paid well for their donations (up to $500 a shot, so to speak). Also the U.S. sets the golds standard for screening procedures, like testing their donors for communicable diseases and providing donor profiles. Leonard says she knows less about her husband of 20 years, i.e., what his SAT scores were and what his grandfather died of, than clients do about their donors.

That $500 isn’t standard, by the way; it’s dependent on your “education, height, and family history,” just another reason to tell your sons to get into a good college.

American sperm sells best in the UK, Canada, France, Israel, Australia, Chile, Spain and Sweden, Dickinson writes and it’s likely to only become more popular.

“There will be an explosion in demand, no pun intended, around the world as other countries become more accepting of the nontraditional family,” Brown said.

See? No matter how tough things get no one can say we don’t have spunk.

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