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Love makes the world go round. 

Peeing while standing? How medieval of you

Taiwan is the latest country to publicly encourage men to sit while urinating. Is the “genderless toilet” good news for the state of manhood?
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The soccer-theme urinals of the German Football Federation Media Center of the World Cup International Broadcasting Centre in Berlin ahead of the 2006 Fifa World Cup. Will the "German urinal" become an oxymoron? (MARCUS BRANDT/AFP/Getty Images)

What’s this world coming to?

A friend I’ll call Peter shook his head in disbelief when his German girlfriend decided to “train” him to sit while urinating.

Things were going quite well between the couple, until the day she saw his upright silhouette through the semi-see-through door to the bathroom and freaked out: “Oh, no! Peter, please sit while using the toilet. Where do you think you are? In the woods?”

He was devastated.

“The urinal is the last remaining bastion of proper machismo. The one place where women haven’t been trying to get equal,” he argued. “And now we don’t even have that.”

Peter, an American man who had just turned 30, was so shocked by the idea that German women expect men to sit down while peeing, he had to move back to the US.

Well, there were other things standing between them — besides himself urinating — to be honest.

But the emasculation process definitely started there, with his upright silhouette looming carelessly behind the bathroom door. He probably didn’t put the toilet seat down, either, but that’s a whole other conversation.

Since then, I have heard quite a few men complain about being forced to sit while urinating. Granted, the complains typically come from American men traveling to countries where it‘s the norm, but still. Since Americans are typically the ones feeling superior about their hygiene habits — constantly pestering Europeans for not showering enough — chances are the sitting-while-peeing-because-it’s-more-hygienic habit might cross the Atlantic very soon.

Hopefully, though, it won’t become a political issue, like it is in Sweden these days.

The Left Party in Sörmland is taking a stand to ensure men take a seat when emptying their bladders. Viggo Hansen, a substitute member of the county council and the man responsible for the proposal, wants to start by having the council’s office toilets to be genderless and is pushing for the "sit-down only" requirement, The Local reports.

According to the article, the party claims there are two very important reasons why men sit when they urinate:

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Parisians on love: Remove those padlocks, you naïve fools

The locks people from all over the world put on Paris bridges are meant to symbolize everlasting love. Locals are skeptical.
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Two girls attach a padlock on a fence of the Pont de l'Archeveché bridge behind Notre-Dame (Our Lady) cathedral in Paris, on September 13, 2011. Lovers often throw the key into the river Seine as a sign of undying love, or keep it and open the padlock when they next return to the French capital. (JOEL SAGET /AFP/Getty Images)

The last time I was in Paris, I wondered why so many locks were attached to bridges and railings.

I have seen similar locks in Prague and in Budapest, but that’s nothing compared to Paris. Some Parisian bridges are completely covered with them.

I always assumed people put locks on bridges to symbolize that the place has made a profound impact on them and that a part of their heart will always be in Paris, Prague, Budapest, Taiwan, or wherever.

This week, I became padlock-enlightened when I read this piece in The New York Times. The padlocks, apparently, are symbols of the visiting couples’ everlasting love.

Agnes C. Poirier writes in the Times article:

“Once discreet, doing their deed at night, visitors soon acted in broad daylight, in pairs, photographing each other in front of their locks, and videotaping the throwing of the keys into the Seine…..For couples visiting from all over the world, these locks were symbols of their everlasting love. Indeed, in other cities the locks have also caught on as an expression of passion — in Seoul, Budapest, Rome and Tokyo. Living in one of the world’s most visited cities, with 27 million visitors a year, and supposedly the world’s capital of romance, Parisians should have guessed from the beginning that this strange ritual had to do with the fantasy of everlasting love.” 

Locks and love? That one, I must admit, I never saw coming. Locks and lust, I can see. But what do locks have to do with love?

By the sounds of things, this is the question Parisians are asking, as well.

Instead of sharing the world’s — however banal — celebration of everlasting love, Parisians are apparently getting increasingly irritated by people’s misunderstanding what true love means. 

Poirier writes that behind love — at least love French-style — lies the idea of freedom, not commitment:

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India: Vaginal brightening is so 2011. Now, it’s all about tightening. (VIDEO)

An Indian pharmaceutical company has introduced “18 Again Vaginal Shrink Cream" to make women feel like virgins again. This, apparently, is a good thing.
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Like a virgin. Over and over and over. (18 Again /Courtesy)

Ladies and gentlemen, 18 Again is a vaginal brightening and rejuvenation cream.

A so-called “vaginal shrink” cream.

If you have never heard the term “vaginal rejuvenation,” or “vaginal shrink” for that matter, used casually in a sentence until today, you are probably old. Or you haven't read the Indian website Jagran Sahki where I found this little gem of a story.

The good news is, there’s this great new cream for you!

I wish I was there when the board of directors of the pharmaceutical company Ultra Tech India was approving the marketing campaign for this new magical cream.

First of all, how did they come up with the name “18 Again”?

Why 18? Is it because they felt 15 was too young (read: difficult to market globally without publicly endorsing pedophilia), while 22 is way too old (read: difficult to market in countries where women have several children by that age)?

Yet, the name isn‘t nearly the most bizarre thing about the product.

You’ll get my point when you check out the commercial:

Yes, the whole ad revolves around a Madonna-esque: “I feel like a virgin” slogan. Which, apparently, from the looks of the ecstatic woman dancing seductively in a red sari, is a feeling women crave, or at least should crave.

In case you are still not getting it, the idea behind the cream is that the cream makes a woman’s vagina tighter, hence she can get the privilege of feeling like she’s losing her virginity every day. Over and over.

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Controversy: Chinese man chooses to save drowning wife over mother

Xiao Guo, 28, has incurred the wrath of his family, but gained massive public support for his choice.
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To save one's mother or a wife? That's the question. (CHINA OUT STR/AFP/Getty Images)

It's a question that's been asked a million times around the world: "If both your mother and your wife were drowning, which one would you save first?"

Usually, this is followed by a long episode of eye-rolling and the statement: “Yeah, like that’s ever gonna happen.”

Which is probably what Xiao Guo, 28, from China's Anhui province, thought before he took his 52-year-old mother, Madam Sun, and his wife, Xiao Qing, on a fishing trip to Dianbu River.

Then the boat tipped over.

Neither Madam Sun nor Xiao Qing could swim. Faced with losing his wife or his mum Xiao Guo proved to be devoted husband, rather than a loyal son.

According to Asia One, he saved his wife first. Then he went back for his mother and saved her, too.

Even though both women survived, Xiao Guo is now in the doghouse. His dad got angry by his son's choice and according to Asia One, reporters allegedly overheard him ripping into his son at the hospital:

"Your mother was drowning and you only thought about your wife! She was hanging on to the boat already! How much danger was she in that you have to take her to shore first?"

As offended as his dad was about choosing a wife over a mother, the public seemed to side with Xiao Guo.

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New penis size survey: U.S. ranks 11th. Right behind Japan

Put your stereotypes away, folks. The largest survey to date sheds a whole new light on how males worldwide measure up.
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Want a piece of this? Koji Murofushi of Japan celebrates winning bronze in the Men's Hammer Throw Final at the Olympic Stadium on August 5 in London. ( Alexander Hassenstein /AFP/Getty Images)

Maybe Japan can’t beat the US. in the number of Olympics medals, but there’s one discipline where they take the lead.

A six-millimeter lead, to be precise. It’s not exactly an Olympic discipline, but as far as national pride goes, it‘s not to be underestimated.

It’s not swimming. It’s not running.

It’s penis size.

According to the latest, most comprehensive study to date using 500,000 males, the average length of a Japanese male’s erection is 13.56 centimeters (5.33 inches), with a diameter of 3.53 cm (1.39“) at the head and 3.19 cm (1.25”) at the shaft, writes Tokyo Reporter.

The statistic places Japanese males 10th worldwide, behind — among others — France, Australia, Italy, even Thailand, which according to Tenga boasts the largest penises in Asia.

But what the Tokyo Reporter was especially astonished about is that Japan placed ahead of the United States, which ranks 11th, with an average of 12.9 cm (5.08“).  

More from GlobalPost: Penis sizes worldwide. Yeah, there's a map for that.

On the other side of the great penile divide were South Koreans, whose average of 9.6 cm (3.78”) made them the shortest among males in the 17 Asian countries for which measurements were available.

The survey was conducted by Tenga, a manufacturer of the world’s most popular male-masturbation merchandise.

I recently wrote about Tenga’s rising global reach of revolutionizing the art of masturbation. The company now sells its products in more than 40 countries, and claims to ship some 20 million units a year.

But because one size doesn’t fit all, the sex toy company now produces custom-made masturbators.

As Tenga puts in in its famous tagline: “Different strokes for different folks.“

This is where the survey comes in the picture.

In order to produce custom-made masturbation devices, they naturally need exact measurements from their customers.

Here's what the spokesperson for Tenga had to say about that to Tokyo Reporter:

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Tomboyism. There’s a cure for that now.

A scientist warns of prenatal use of steroid to help with “sex normalization” in the U.S.
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The tabloids keep calling Shiloh Jolie-Pitt (right) a tomboy for wearing boyish clothes. Turns out tomboyism is a medical condition. (YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

I’d like to start by apologizing to all those women (and their daughters) I have, over the years, called “tomboys.”

I meant well. I always thought that a girl who “exhibits characteristics or behavioral traits typical for boys” are cool.

Well, I definitely always had a soft spot for Shiloh Jolie-Pitt’s cute "tomboy" outfits, anyway.

What I didn’t realize was that “tomboyism” was actually a medical term, not to mention a condition people feel the need to “cure.”

You would think we are past the rigid gender-roles era already, but then again, anyone who has followed the Olympics this year (and the related gender-verification challenges of athletes) would probably counter that — if anything — defining gender has become progressively more challenging over the years.

The study I was reading today is definitely one to support their argument.

http://www.springerlink.com/content/m1523l7615744552/?MUD=MP ">The paper, authored by Alice Dreger, Professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, was just published in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry.

It details a shocking medical intervention employed in the US on pregnant women to intentionally engineer the development of their fetuses for sex normalization purposes, http://www.news-medical.net/news/20120803/Risky-prenatal-use-of-steroid-... ">News-Medical.net reports.

What that means, specifically, is that if a fetus is considered high-risk for conditions such as tomboyism, lesbianism and bisexuality, a steroid can be given to pregnant women to reduce the rates of "behavioral masculinization" in babies.

Here's the money quote:

“The pregnant women targeted are at risk for having a child born with the condition congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), an endocrinological condition that can result in female fetuses being born with intersex or more male-typical genitals and brains. Women genetically identified as being at risk are given dexamethasone, a synthetic steroid, off-label starting as early as week five of the first trimester to try to "normalize" the development of those fetuses, which are female and CAH-affected. Because the drug must be administered before doctors can know if the fetus is female or CAH-affected, only one in eight of those exposed are the target type of fetus,” News-Medical.net reports.

The study also outlines the following:

  • For more than 10 years, medical societies repeatedly but ultimately impotently expressed high alarm at use of this off-label intervention outside prospective clinical trials, because it is so high risk and because nearly 90 percent of those exposed cannot benefit.
  • Mothers offered the intervention have been told it “has been found safe for mother and child” but in fact there has never been any such scientific evidence.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration has indicated it cannot stop advertising of this off-label use as “safe for mother and child” because the advertising is done by a clinician not affiliated with the drug maker.
  • A new report from Sweden in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism documents a nearly 20 percent “serious adverse event” rate among the children exposed in utero.
  • Clinician proponents of the intervention have been interested in whether the intervention can reduce rates of tomboyism, lesbianism and bisexuality, characteristics they have termed “behavioral masculinization.”
  • The National Institutes of Health has funded research to see if these attempts to prevent “behavioral masculinization” with prenatal dexamethasone are “successful.”
  • The United States’ systems designed to prevent another tragedy like DES and thalidomide — involving de facto experimentation on pregnant women and their fetuses — appear to be broken and ineffectual.

What I want to know is, how exactly does a physician have “that "behavioral masculinization" conversation with the pregnant patient? This is how I picture it going in my head:

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Parisians required to keep clothes on in city’s parks

French “moral police” have warned Parisians to dress appropriately when sunbathing or face fines and even imprisonment.
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Isn't that dress perhaps a bit too short, Mademoiselle? (KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/Getty Images)

Ah, mon Dieu!

Imagine the shock bikini-clad Paris residents encountered last week as they began flocking to city parks and the banks of the River Seine to escape the heat wave only to be stopped by the “moral police.”

In a statement posted on its website, the Paris police prefecture outlined rules for basking in the sun outdoors and at the popular Paris Plages annual event that has sandy beaches and deckchairs laid out on the river bank, AFP reports:

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Sex survey: One in five British women under 30 plan to have unsafe drunken sex on vacation this summer

To use the glass half-full approach, four out of five British women under 30 don’t plan to have unsafe drunken sex on vacation this summer.
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What happens in Ibiza, stays in Ibiza. The island remains one of the world's top holiday destinations for young people from around the world. To be fair to British women, the girls in the photo are actually from Germany. (Chris Jackson/AFP/Getty Images)

What happens in Ibiza, stays in Ibiza.

Or wherever else British girls are going on vacation this summer, apparently.

That seems to be the general attitude of British women toward sex when traveling abroad.

You see, they get “swept up in the moment and forget to use condoms,” according to a survey into the sexual habits of women, Medical Daily reports:

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Japan: Revolutionizing the art of masturbation

Tenga and other Japanese male masturbation tools are taking over the world, one synthetic vagina at a time
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Tenga's popular line-up of disposable masturbation products aimed to simulate -- if improve -- the feel of the vagina. (Tenga-global.com/Courtesy)

The days when the sex industry believed only women were in desperate need of self-pleasuring aids appear to be long gone.

Nowadays when one walks into a sex shop, aisles offering male masturbation tools are just as bountiful as those catering to women.

At least in Japan.

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Friends with benefits: the new form of dating

A new study suggests that exclusive romances that evolved from casual sex aren’t more likely to fail than relationships committed from the start.
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Actors Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis attend the 'Friends with Benefits' premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater on July 18, 2011 in New York City. (Jemal Countess/AFP/Getty Images)

Navigating today’s fragile dating categories isn't for the faint of heart.

Going from friends to “friends with benefits” or from online flirting to “f-buddies” seem to be as common a societal trend as the contemporary prevalence of commitment phobia.

I once had to ask an astute friend what the practical difference was between sex buddies and friends with benefits.

Without hesitation, he explained: “With a friend with benefits, you would actually see yourself going out for coffee afterwards.”

Is that enough nuance for you?

Enter the era of friends with benefits, the new form of dating.

For those of you who just landed in 2012 completely unprepared, here is the concept of “FWB,” as the text message generation calls it: A non-committed, friendly and sexual relationship between two consenting adults who aren’t done looking for the right person romantically or who aren’t ready to commit.

Although critics have called this anything from an “utopist idea” to “an easy way for men to get what they want without having to pay for it,” it turns out that the FWB method isn’t a bad way to begin a long-term relationship.

According to a University of Louisville study published in Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, exclusive romances that begin as “friends with benefits,” characterized by sexual encounters with no commitment, are actually no more likely to fail than those than started out as committed relationships.

Couples that started out on the casual note were no more likely to have separated after four months than couples without a casual sex history.

Jesse Owen, the lead researcher of the study, told Canada.com he was surprised by the findings.

Since commitment is a foundation of any relationship, the team assumed the instability of a FWB set up would carry forward.

But it didn’t happen.

Couples who started out as friends with benefits didn’t necessarily end up worse off than others.

“Friends with benefits may actually be the new form of dating,” Owen said.

The researcher believes the results reflect two main issues:

  1. Self-selection. Individuals who entered the FWB relationship with the mutual hope of evolving into something more may have represented the majority of their sample. Couples might not have fared as well if one partner had pushed for the transition to exclusivity against the other’s will.
  2. Being frank. Changing the relationship’s status means having a frank talk about expectations and boundaries, which could potentially activate a healthy communication behavior for the future.

This, of course, is not to say that FWB is for everyone.

To start with, one must come to grips with the assumption that often the reason one accepts the friend with benefits path is because the other person simply isn’t Mr. or Miss Right. And, naturally, they themselves aren’t Mr. or Miss Right in return.

Aaron Ben-Zeév, President and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Haifa, has more on this in his blog on Psychology Today:

“A friend with benefits is not Mr. Right, but he may be the right person in certain circumstances. The temporal aspect of friendship with benefits is complex. Certainly, it is longer than casual sex and briefer than pure friendship; it can be longer than an unsuccessful romantic relationship but briefer than a genuine successful one. The bond in friendship with benefits is typically temporary and conditional upon one participant not wanting it to become deeper and more comprehensive, and upon finding an alternative partner…..Furthermore, a significant aspect of friendship that is often lacking in friendship with benefits is that of openness. Even though these friends might be able to talk about everything else, the no-strings-attached sexual component typically prevents them from being open about their primary sexual relationship.”

The lack of openness aspect would seem contradictory to the study, but perhaps it has to do more with the fact that women and men perceive FWB relationship differently.

According to Ben-Zeév, men appear to focus more on the benefits part of the deal, while women focus more on the friendship.  

Which brings me to another interesting study on this subject, which could very well be the culprit.

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