What Makes Someone Monogamous?

Wedding rings (BBC)

Wedding rings (BBC)

We can’t distill monogamy into a single magic formula. But some scientists have recently made strides in determining what factors might make a person monogamous.

One possible factor: genetics.

Researchers at Harvard University recently published a study examining the mating habits of deer mice and oldfield mice. In the wild, deer mice are promiscuous and oldfield mice are monogamous. Scientists first undertook an experiment to see how the two types of mice compare in parenting their young. Different parenting metrics were observed, such as building nests for the offspring.

After noting that the deer mice put in less parental efforts, the researchers wanted to see if the differences were down to genetics (ah, the old nature vs. nurture debate!). Five pairs of deer mice and oldfield mice were interbred, which produced 30 hybrid mice and later 769 (!) third-generation mice.

The parenting behaviors of these second- and third-generation hybrid mice ran the gamut from hardly involved to heavily-involved in their offsprings’ lives. In observing this, scientists were able to identify parts of DNA (termed loci) that determined parenting behaviors. The experiment’s abstract in scientific journal Nature explained the findings:

Using quantitative genetics, we identify 12 genomic regions that affect parental care, 8 of which have sex-specific effects, suggesting that parental care can evolve independently in males and females. Furthermore, some regions affect parental care broadly, whereas others affect specific behaviours, such as nest building.

The abstract also notes that a certain gene expression is primarily responsible for the level of nest-building. No word on how that would translate to humans (the gene for interior decorating?), but it’s exciting to see some strides made in genetic research.

Harvard Bans Student-Teacher Relationships

Harvard University (Huffington Post)

Harvard University (Huffington Post)

Last month, Harvard University officially banned all sexual and/or romantic student-teacher relationships. They did so as part of reviewing the school’s Title IX policy, which prohibits sexual discrimination in education.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ committee decided on three points: an undergraduate cannot date a professor, a graduate student cannot date a professor if the professor is supervising the student, and a grad student can’t date an undergrad if that student is working closely with the undergrad.

The university had previously banned relationships between faculty members and students only if they were in the same class. It had also classified any other student-teacher sexual or romantic relationships as “inappropriate.”

But why is Harvard acting now? Susan Svrluga at “The Washington Post” has the answer:

The new policy comes at a time when sex and gender issues — all the ways that people define themselves, their sexuality, their relationships, and how they interact with one another — are relentlessly discussed on college campuses.

Harvard is also in the middle of reviewing, and revising, its Title IX policy. It’s one of 55 schools that had previously gotten attention from the U.S. Department of Education due to its “handling of sexual assault cases.” (And we all know how that goes.)

Another aspect of the ban is that it prevents professors from abusing their power as educators by sleeping with students under their care. The measure ensures that exploitation and student favoritism doesn’t happen as a result. This makes sense, as many courts cases tried in the ’90s found universities liable for sexual assault cases.

Other schools already have measures in place regarding student-teacher relationships. Yale instituted their own ban in 2010, and the University of Connecticut put one in place in 2013. Arizona State University proposed a tougher measure on student-teacher relationships earlier this year.

It’ll be interesting to see if other schools follow their example in the coming months and/or years, or if this ban will remain an anomaly.

 

Ivy League Sex Weeks: By The Numbers

Ivy League university crests

Ivy League university crests

“Russia Today” recently reported that Ivy League university Harvard would offer a class on anal sex during their upcoming annual Sex Week. This isn’t the first time the class has been offered; that back in Fall 2012. Harvard’s Sex Week focuses on providing comprehensive sex education to students with a sex-positive outlook and shedding light on aspects that might not be ordinarily covered.

Yale holds the most famous Sex Week, which began in 2002 and was coordinated at the time by students Eric Rubenstein and Jacqueline Farber. But the program has now spread to other schools.

As the program takes root at other schools, let’s take a look at other Ivy League Sex Weeks:

Brown University: 

Site: Sextion: ***Sex Week 2014 (related article)

Started: N/A

Coordinated by: Sexual Health Education and Empowerment Council (SHEEC)

Most Recent Sex Week: Mar. 31-Apr. 6, 2014

Notable Classes: “Dirty Talk,” “The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure” (2013)

Notable Guests: sex educator Charlie Glickman, activist Katee Stewart (2013)

Awards: N/A

 

Columbia University:

N/A

Columbia doesn’t have a Sex Week.

 

Cornell University:

Site: Cornell Sex Week Facebook page

Started: 2014

Coordinated by: Sex Week committee

Most Recent Sex Week: Mar. 7-19, 2014

Frequency: N/A

Notable Classes: “Combating Stigma: A Panel Discussion on HIV/AIDS,” “Introduction to Kink (with Pictures)” (2014)

Notable Guests: feminist sex writer Susie Bright, activist Urvashi Vaid (2014)

Awards: N/A

 

Dartmouth College:

N/A

Dartmouth doesn’t have a Sex Week.

 

Harvard University: 

Site: Sex Week at Harvard

Started: 2010

Coordinated by: Sexual Health Education & Advocacy throughout Harvard College (SHEATH)

Most Recent Sex Week: Nov. 2-8, 2014

Frequency: Held twice every school year, once during each fall and spring semester

Notable Classes: “Love, Sex and Faith,” “Sexing the Body in Art and Media,” “#FutureSex: How technology will change your sex life” (Fall 2013)

Notable Guests: filmmaker Therese Schechter (Spring 2013), sexologist Jill McDeavitt (Fall 2012)

Awards: N/A

 

Princeton University:

N/A

Awards: Despite the fact that the school doesn’t have its own Sex Week, Princeton took top honors in Trojan’s Sexual Health Report Card in 2013.

 

University of Pennsylvania:

Site: Upenn Sex Week | All about sex

Started: 2013

Coordinated by: N/A

Most Recent Sex Week: Apr. 2-6, 2013

Frequency: N/A

Notable Classes: Erotica writing, “Asexuality 101” (Spring 2013)

Notable Guests: Cindy Gallop, “Make Love Not Porn” (Spring 2013)

Awards: N/A

 

Yale University:

Site: N/A

Started: 2002

Coordinated by: Sex Week committee

Most Recent Sex Week: 2014

Frequency: Held every other year in February on the week running up to Valentine’s Day

Notable Classes: “Fornication 101 with Oh Megan!,” “BDSM and Alternative Sexualities”

Notable Guests: porn director Steven Hirsch, porn star Sasha Grey

Awards: 2004 Collegiate Network Campus Outrage Award, First Place; 2006 Trojan Sexual Health Report Card, First Place and only school with a perfect score