Male Contraceptive Gel 100% Effective in Primate Trials

Vasalgel rendering (The Guardian)

Vasalgel rendering (The Guardian)

If you’re yearning for male birth control that isn’t a condom, you’re in luck! Scientists have been making progress on Vasalgel, a male contraceptive gel. A recent trial of the product on primates found the gel to be 100% effective at preventing pregnancy.

It’s pretty simple how Vasalgel works: the gel prevents sperm from exiting the penis. If a man decides he’d like to stop using the gel, the effects can be eradicated by using ultrasound waves to dissolve the gel. Vasalgel doesn’t affect “sperm levels or hormone production.”

Here’s how the study, conducted by scientists at the California National Primate Research, was set up:

For the study, 16 rhesus monkeys were selected to undergo the procedure before being placed back into groups with fertile females during mating season. After being monitored for six months, the researchers found that no pregnancies had occurred—the typical pregnancy rate in such unaffected conditions is usually around 80 percent.

The Parsemus Foundation funded the research for the study. Results were published in Basic and Clinical Andrology journal.

Vasalgel isn’t the only contraceptive gel being tested right now. In India, reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance (RISUG) is being tested on men. This gel works differently in that it seeks to injure swimming sperm. RISUG has shown to be effective for up to 10 years within the 200 men on whom the product was tested.

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Women Taking The Pill More Likely to be Treated for Depression

Birth Control Pill Container (The Holy Kale)

Birth Control Pill Container (The Holy Kale)

Do you feel depressed? Are you on The Pill? There might be a correlation.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) followed 1M+ women ages 15-34, with average age of 24. The longitudinal study followed Danish women from 1995 to 2013 who had no prior history of depression. The average time between follow-ups was 6+ years.

Women who were on a combination of oral contraceptives were “23% more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant,” usually within the first six months after beginning the Pill’s regimen. But women on the progestin-only pills (a synthetic form of the progesterone hormone) were “34% more likely to take antidepressants or get a first diagnosis of depression” than women who didn’t take the hormonal contraceptive.

The risk primarily targets teenagers, and the risk inversely correlates with age (i.e. the risk decreases as one gets older).

It’s suggested that higher levels of progesterone may lower mood (which is controlled by estrogen). But researchers noted that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression than men within their lifetime, so the study’s findings are something to consider. It should be noted that the researchers have called for more follow-up studies to corroborate these findings.

It’s Canon: Wonder Woman Is Queer

Wonder Woman (The Mary Sue)

Wonder Woman (The Mary Sue)

Last week, the bisexual community gained heightened mainstream visibility through a Golden Age of Comics-era character: Wonder Woman.

DC comics writer Greg Rucka said that it’s “logical” that Wonder Woman is queer, given that she comes from an island inhabited solely by women warrior princesses. Wonder Woman’s homeland of Themyscira is supposed to be paradise, where inhabitants can have fulfilling relationships. But Rucka points out that despite the only options for romantic/sexual/emotional relationships, the concept of queerness doesn’t exist.

How would Rucka know this? He writes DC’s Wonder Woman: Year One series. So this revelation is obviously canon. But Rucka says that this revelation will continue to be subtle, and doesn’t feel the need to scream it at readers or make that Wonder Woman’s defining characteristic. (Real talk: I am such a fan of this line of reasoning.)

So far, Rucka is the only DC writer to speak definitively on Wonder Woman’s sexuality. As for whether the character has had same-sex relationships:

As [artist Nicola Scott] and I approach it, the answer is obviously yes. And it needs to be yes for a number of reasons.

Though this is big news, it’s not so shocking: Wonder Woman officiated a same-sex wedding in a story released last year.

The character, who’s also known as Diana Prince in her civilian life and Princess Diana of Themyscira in her homeland, debuted in Dec. 1941. The big-screen movie adaptation starring Gal Gadot will arrive in theaters on Jun. 2, 2017. It will be the first movie centered on a female superhero for the DC universe.

At this time, it’s unclear whether the upcoming movie will include this aspect of Wonder Woman.

Lilly Wachowski Comes Out as a Transwoman

Lilly Wachowski (Slashfilm)

Lilly Wachowski (Slashfilm)

Earlier this month, another transwoman made her debut: Lilly Wachowski, formerly known as Andy Wachowski. Her debut comes four years after her brother Larry (now known as Lana) began her transition.

The Wachowskis are high-profile directors who debuted with “The Matrix” in 1999.

China Ends Its Famous One-Child Policy

Chinese One-Child Policy poster (The Galloping Beaver)

Chinese One-Child Policy poster (The Galloping Beaver)

Whoa. Here’s something I didn’t expect to happen within my lifetime: Last week, China officially ended its one-child-per-family policy. Now, married couples are allowed to have up to two children. Crazy! (Though I kind of doubt that many couples will get crazy, and have more than two.)

The one-child policy was informally adopted (i.e. “strongly encouraged”) in 1975, made into law by the country’s Communist Party four years later. The law followed China’s population exceeding 800M+ people in 1970, with leaders realizing that the then-current growth rate was unsustainable.

However, the law has been relaxed for exceptions. In 1984, parents were allowed to have two children if one parent was an only. In 2013, this became alright if only one parent was an only child.

It’s estimated that the policy has prevented 400M+ births.

But why was the policy abolished, and why now? There are a few reasons. One is that the male-to-female sex ratio is becoming unbearably skewed, which tends to happen when preference for one sex greatly outweighs the other. (In this case, the Chinese preferred boys to girls, even going so far as to commit infanticide if a child was born a girl.) The birth rate is also declining, and the mortality rate is on track to outpace it. Per “The New York Times:”

China’s working-age population, those 15 to 64, grew by at least 100 million people from 1990 until a couple of years ago. But that expansion is petering out, and more people are living longer, leaving a greater burden on a shrinking work force. Now, about 10 percent of the population is 65 or older, and according to earlier estimates, that proportion is likely to reach 15 percent by 2027 and 20 percent by 2035.

China’s population is now 1.3B+, with 30% being over 50. It’s estimated that the decision will affect 100M+ couples.

 

Thursday Trends: Whitewashing Asian Characters in Film

Emma Stone, 'Aloha' (Jezebel)

Emma Stone, ‘Aloha’ (Jezebel)

Let me be clear: this is not a good trend. At all. It should never have even started. And yet, here we are.

It’s still a problem.

Historically, Hollywood has always had a problem of “whitewashing,” i.e. casting white actors in roles specifically created for non-whites. The thinking is that whites are more “bankable,” but there aren’t many roles and opportunities for non-white actors as it is. So a white actor ends up taking a role from a non-white one, and many non-white people are deprived of seeing depictions of themselves on-screen.

This tends to happen a lot with Asian actors. Most recently, director Cameron Crowe came under fire for casting Emma Stone in his latest movie “Aloha.” Stone was cast as a character named Allison Ng, whose ancestry is one-quarter Chinese and one-quarter Hawaiian. (Having white and Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry is traditionally known as “hapa,” deriving from the Hawaiian Pidgin word for half. So Ng’s heritage would be termed “hapa” or “hapa haole,” to include the European ancestry.)

Look at the picture above and tell me with a straight face that Emma Stone resembles anyone remotely half-Asian.

Fortunately, Crowe caught some heat for this decision, and has publicly apologized for his choice. (But he covered his ass a little, saying that the character was meant to be frustrated that her features belied her mixed-race heritage.) But Crowe could’ve easily cast an Asian or mixed-race Asian for his film. He just chose not to.

This whitewashing of Asian characters tends to come up every few years. 2010’s “The Last Airbender” received a public outcry when it was revealed that the cast was mostly non-white actors, save for Dev Patel. (The debacle coined the term “race bending.”) This was odd considering that the TV series (on which the movie was based) was set in a world with obvious Asian elements, and it was animated using anime influence.

The 2008 movie “21” centered on the real-life story of the MIT Blackjack Team, a group of current and former students who beat the casinos at their own game by counting cards. Though many of the group were of Indian and Asian descent, the movie whitewashed the cast, using mostly Caucasian actors.

And then there are the times when white actors are actually put in yellowface. 2012’s “Cloud Atlas,” which had the ensemble actors playing various characters, actually had two examples of this, and took it past the point of no return: Jim Sturgess (who was also in “21”) and James D’Arcy both played Korean men at one point. Sturgess and D’Arcy are both white men, but they both spent extensive time in makeup to more realistically resemble Asian men.

This is far from a new problem. The 1956 film “Teahouse of the August Moon” featured legendary actor Marlon Brando as Japanese villager Sakini, donning full-on yellowface to physically embody the role. And everyone who’s seen 1961’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” remembers Mickey Rooney as Holly Golightly’s Japanese neighbor I.Y. Yunioshi, who, seen through modern eyes, was a jaw-droopingly offensive caricature. (“The New York Times” review of the film called Rooney “broadly exotic.”) Fortunately, the distance of time and perspective have allowed people to see that these portrayals were very offensive towards Asians, and it was wrong to a) write/portray the characters in such stereotypical ways, and b) cast actors not of the specific ethnicity to play these parts.

But maybe the message isn’t sinking in as much as it should be: Blonde, Caucasian actress Scarlett Johansson will star in DreamWorks’ adaptation of the anime title “Ghost in the Shell.”

Here’s the thing: There are so many asian and mixed-Asian actors out there. Kristin Kreuk, Chloe Bennet, Olivia Munn, John Cho, Steven Yeun, Daniel Henney, Harry Shum Jr., Sendhil Ramamurthy. And those are only the ones I didn’t need to Google off the top of my head. Point being, there’s massive opportunity here for diverse casting that reflects reality. So let’s get on it!

How Big is The Average Penis?

Sewing tape measure (Gika Rector)

Sewing tape measure (Gika Rector)

Happy Friday! Men, I’m sure you’ve all worried about your size at some point, right? (No royal we here, since I’m not a man and therefore have never had this particular worry.) Depending on your mood today, you may or may not want to read on.

Scientists have (once again) figured out the average penis size. But this time, they’ve really got it down. (Some might say to a science.)

British researchers looked at a pretty comprehensive sample size of 15K+ men from the U.S., Asia, Europe and Africa. The men ranged in age from 17 to 91 years old, and most of them were from either Europe or the Middle East.

The results, published in the “British Journal of Urology” and fittingly titled “Am I Normal?,” found the following:

The mean length of a flaccid penis is 3.6 inches, and the mean length of an erection is 5.16 inches. An average guy’s erect circumference is 4.5 inches.

(How many dudes are frantically measuring right now?)

Here’s more reassurance, per The U.K.’s “The Guardian:”

In reality, only 2.28% of the male population have an abnormally small penis, said the study – and the same percentage an unusually large one.

Over 97% of men have an average-sized penis. This also means that we can assume a normal distribution (or bell curve) in terms of distribution.

Breathing easier now?

To find these numbers, the researchers examined variables from 20 previous studies on penises (culled down from 96 original studies) to construct a “nomogram,” a graphical representation that’s supposed to include all ages and races of men’s genitalia.

The study is the first of its kind to “combine all existing data on penis length and girth into a definitive graph.” It’ll be used by doctors to reassure men from size anxieties.

Here’s one of the graphs related to penile length:

Penile length graph (The Guardian)

Penile length graph (The Guardian)

However, the researchers have admitted there are some flaws to this study. One is that size differences between the races can’t be compared equally, because the sample sizes of each race were not equal themselves.

And then there’s this flaw:

They acknowledged their results may have been somewhat skewed by the possibility that men who volunteer to be examined may be more confident in their penis size than the general population.

But I’m sure that’s just part and parcel of the entire package (sorry, couldn’t resist). Either way, 97%+ of men can now rest easy.