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Why We’re Sometimes Turned On By People We Hate

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Source: 123RF/kebox

When you fantasize about sex, who do you usually think about? When I survey people about this, more often than not, they mention current partners, exes, and close friends. It’s not uncommon for the occasional celebrity crush to be mentioned, too.

So, by and large, when specific people appear in our fantasies, we usually imagine others we like or feel positively about. But what about people we dislike, even hate? How often do they become the object of desire in our fantasies?

In the survey of 4,175 American adults I conducted for my book Tell Me What You Want, I inquired about this, and here’s what I found.

How Many People Fantasize About Hated Individuals?

Overall, 31% of adults said they’d had a sexual fantasy before about someone they hate, with 3% saying this is something they fantasize about often. So it’s not uncommon for people to have ever had this fantasy, but it appears to be relatively rare for a hated individual to be a recurring character in one’s sexual fantasies.

Whether people had fantasized about a hated person depended on both their gender and sexuality to some degree:

  • 18% of heterosexual women had fantasized about this before, with 1% fantasizing about it often.
  • 31% of heterosexual men had fantasized about this before, with 4% fantasizing about it often.
  • 35% of lesbian and bisexual women had fantasized about this before, with 4% fantasizing about it often.
  • 35% of gay and bisexual men had fantasized about this before, with 3% fantasizing about it often.
  • 31% of trans and non-binary people had fantasized about this before, with 4% fantasizing about it often.

As you can see, fantasizing about someone you hate is more common among men and gender-diverse people than it is among women, and it’s also more common among non-heterosexual compared to heterosexual people.

Why We Fantasize About People We Hate

So why do people sometimes fantasize about someone they hate? Who’s most likely to do this? I looked to see how these fantasies are connected to other types of fantasies people might have as well as their personality traits, and here’s what I discovered.

These fantasies were linked to having more BDSM fantasies in general, but particularly fantasies about dominance and sadism. Thus, some people may find the idea of a hated fantasy partner arousing because, in that scenario, they have some degree of power or control over the hated individual or can inflict pain on them. At the same time, however, these fantasies were also linked to more masochism fantasies, suggesting that sex with a hated person may sometimes be a way that some people inflict pain on themselves.

Related to what I said about masochism, these fantasies were also linked to having lower self-esteem. Again, this suggests that for some folks, fantasizing about a hated partner may be a form of self-punishment. Some may feel as though they don’t deserve a partner who loves or respects them.

The Role of Personality and Attachment Style

These fantasies were linked to being lower on the personality trait of agreeableness, which refers to having less care and concern for the well-being of others. By contrast, those who are highly agreeable had more fantasies about current partners and people they like. This finding may partly explain the gender difference between heterosexual men and women: Several studies have found that women tend to be higher on agreeableness than men.

People higher in attachment avoidance (meaning those who are less comfortable with emotional intimacy) had more fantasies about people they hate. These folks had less emotional content in their fantasies in general, which may open the door to fantasizing about a wider range of partners, including disliked persons or individuals they don’t personally feel close to. Related to this, those with an unrestricted sociosexual orientation (that is, those who see sex and love as separable) fantasied more about people they hate. These folks may find it easier to check their emotions at the door.

Persons with more sensation-seeking tendencies had more fantasies about people they hate. For these individuals, fantasizing about a hated person might add a certain thrill because it’s something they’re not “supposed” to do. Sex with a despised individual is one way to flirt with sexual taboos, and we know that doing something taboo or forbidden is a popular theme in our fantasies in general.

Those with overactive imaginations also had more fantasies about people they hate. This makes sense because these individuals fantasized more about almost everyone and everything.


What all of this tells us is that, while we’re far more likely to fantasize about partners we love or like than those we hate, it’s not uncommon for someone disliked or even despised to appear in a sexual fantasy.

However, different people seem to have these kinds of fantasies for very different reasons. As with pretty much every other type of sexual fantasy, diverse psychological roots exist. It may sometimes reveal something about how someone feels about themselves—but it can also be about a desire to mix pleasure and pain, to add an element of thrill, or simply because you don’t see love and sex as necessarily going together. Yet other times, these fantasies can just be the product of a wandering mind.

One other potential possibility is that strong feelings of anger or dislike for someone else can potentially amplify sexual attraction. Social psychologists have long known that strong emotions can be mistaken for sexual arousal.

So if you’ve ever fantasized about someone you hate, you’re definitely not alone—and there are any number of possible reasons the thought might have crossed your mind, so avoid the temptation to overinterpret it.


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About Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW)

COVAW is a national non-profit women’s rights organization that was established in 1995 to respond to the silence of the Kenyan society in addressing Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). Currently, COVAW focuses on five strategic areas as informed by its Strategic Plan 2018-2023, namely Access to Comprehensive SRHR and SGBV services, Access to Justice, Women’s Economic Empowerment, Women’s Leadership Development and Institutional Development. COVAW Strategic Plan 2018-2023 https://covaw.or.ke/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/COVAW-Strategic-Plan-2018-2023-Full-Version.pdf

COVAW’s vision is a society where women and girls enjoy equal rights, freedoms and thrive in safe spaces. COVAW’s mission is to champion the rights of women and girls to be free from all forms of violence. COVAW is guided by its core values of respect, integrity, solidarity and commitment in improving the lives of its primary beneficiaries – women and girls.

About the project

COVAW with support from Amplify Change is implementing a one-year project titled **Mitigating Gender Based Violence through enhancing access to Sexual Reproductive Health Rights in Narok County’. The project is being implemented in three areas namely: Narok South (Morloo Village); Narok North (Eneengetia Village) and Narok East (Sintakara village). The project seeks to achieve the following objectives:

  1. To enhance awareness on FGM and SRHR.
  2. To strengthen the capacity of anti-FGM movement and SRHR actors such as CSOs, public officers, community-key influencers among others.
  3. To enhance access to SRH services in Narok County.

The purpose of the consultancy

The purpose of this consultancy is to develop a simplified manual for engaging young people i.e. girls and boys on access to youth friendly SRH services in Narok County.

The objectives of developing the manual include:

  • To increase young people’s knowledge on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights and the SRH legal framework.
  • To increase young people’s understanding on sexuality and behaviors and the consequences of risky sexual behaviors.
  • To demystify myths and misconceptions that hinder access to Sexual Reproductive Health Services.
  • To encourage young people to seek SRH services to prevent unplanned pregnancies and protect themselves from Sexually Transmitted Infections(STIs).

Methodology and Scope of Work

The consultant will be tasked to:

  • Package the content in an attractive and creative manner.
  • Use illustrations relevant and familiar to the communities in Narok county.
  • Ensure proper referencing in case content is from another source.
  • Develop the manual in English.

In close coordination with COVAW, the consultant will develop the SRH manual which should cover the following:

  1. Understanding Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights

    • What is Sexual Reproductive Health?
    • What are the constitutional and legal provisions on Sexual and Reproductive Health? (Human Rights-Based Approach Framework in Sexual and Reproductive Health)
  2. Male and female reproductive system

  • List the main organs in the male and female reproductive systems
  • Explain the process of menstruation and fertilization.
  1. Adolescence and puberty; understanding physical and emotional changes that happen during adolescence.
  2. Understanding social norms related to SRH that are relevant amongst the communities in Narok County
  • Cultural values of communities in Narok County
  • Attitudes towards embracing SRHR
  1. Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services and Information
  • Gaps in accessing SRH services and information in Narok County
  • Demystifying myths and misconceptions hindering access to comprehensive Sexual and Reproductive Health services
  • The role of men and boys in ensuring women and girls have access to SRH services
  1. Youth friendly SRH services and comprehensive sexuality education
  • A youth centered approach towards provision of youth friendly SRH services
  • Meaningful youth participation in comprehensive sexuality education
  • Identifying the strategies for implementing SRH Youth Friendly Services such as peer-to-peer services to increase coverage and accessibility.
  1. Understanding sexuality and behavior
  • Explain how sexuality affects behavior as well as explore messages about sexuality within Narok communities.
  • Describe the consequences of risky sexual behavior for adolescents
  1. Discuss on teenage pregnancy and prevention measures.
  • Discuss conception by explaining the terms fertilization and implantation.
  • Discuss body changes that occur due to pregnancy
  • Discuss normal pregnancy and ectopic pregnancy
  • Describe the risks associated with teenage pregnancy and measures to prevent including abstinence.
  1. Understanding the concept of safe and unsafe abortion.
  • Define and differentiate between safe and unsafe abortion.
  • Identify unsafe methods of abortion that have been used by girls.
  • Identifying the risks and complications resulted by unsafe abortion.
  • Prevention of unwanted pregnancies to reduce cases of unsafe abortion
  1. Contraceptives/family planning
  • Define the terms contraceptives and family planning and explain the difference
  • Discuss different forms and types of contraceptives
  • Discuss facts and myths about contraceptives
  • Requirements for use of contraceptives by young persons
  1. Sexually Transmitted Infections
  • Explain the most common STIs including the typical symptoms.
  • Explain the treatment and management of STIs.
  • Differentiate between facts and myths about STIs
  1. Consent of the young people in access to SRH services
  • Occasions when consent is required.
  • The importance and requirement of informed consent in access to SRH services by young persons.
  1. Roles and functions of stakeholders and community members in advocating for SRHR

Expected outputs and deliverables:

The following will be the expected deliverables and outputs of consultancy:

  1. 1st Draft Document

The draft document will contain information as indicated in the scope above. Timely feedback on the 1st draft will be provided by the program team.

  1. 2nd Draft document

The revised training manual will synthesize all information, conclusions and recommendations taking into account all comments and additions from COVAW following the submission of the 1st Draft Document. In case the 2nd draft document is not satisfactory to either parties, communication and the work should continue till an approved 2nd draft.

  1. Preparation documents

All documents used in the preparation of this assignment such as progress reports, project documents, templates, etc. are expected to be submitted to COVAW together with the 2nd draft document.

  1. Validation meeting

COVAW will organize a feedback meeting. The consultant will make a presentation to the program team on the contents of the training manual. The meeting will be an opportunity to clarify outstanding aspects of the manual before their finalization.

  1. Produce final document

The consultant will be expected to produce the manual in English language which will include the main issues discussed and all the components provided by COVAW during the validation meeting. The consultant shall determine the substantive content of the resources. The manual should be printed in both sides. The manual must be formatted (edited, content layout and design) ready for publication (in a printable final version). Must submit one printed copy.

General terms and conditions: Confidentiality and authorship

Ownership and copyright of the simplified manual- The consultant will submit all the original document to COVAW. The consultant shall not re-produce information of this exercise in any form (electronic, hard copies, etc.) to third party without written permission from COVAW.


The overall consultancy is expected to take 30 working days including preparation phase. The

consultant should be able to undertake some of the tasks concurrently to fit within the planned COVAW work plan and timeframe, without compromising the quality of work.

The consultant will be supervised and guided directly by COVAW and the consultant will be required to meet the expected deliverables listed during the period of the consultancy.


COVAW will be responsible for the following:

  1. Holding an entry meeting with the consultant
  2. Sharing the relevant COVAW background organizational information, project documents and providing contacts for the program team in charge.
  3. Review, discuss and improve the drafts produced from reviewed manual.
  4. Providing the consultant with specific information and feedback within the stipulated time.
  5. Validate the final training manual

The consultant will be responsible for the following:

  1. Developing a simplified manual
  2. Presentation of the simplified manual to the program staff
  3. Incorporating recommendations and feedback in the draft of simplified manual
  4. Preparation of final draft document of simplified manual
  5. Submission of the final simplified manual to COVAW

Consultancy competencies, experience and skills requirements:

  • Degree in Social Sciences or public health (with experience on gender work), Human Rights, Research, or related field.
  • Work experience in the non-profit sector in dealing with SRHR, human rights/SGBV issues.
  • Extensive experience in developing training manuals for similar projects that work with the marginalized groups including women and girls.
  • Good understanding of Human Rights (SRHR), SGBV and Social norms.
  • High level of professionalism and ethics

How to apply

All applications with a cover letter specifying professional qualifications, anticipated cost and timeline for the consultancy, at least one sample of training manual/illustrations of previous work related to this assignment and referees from the organizations you have developed training manuals for should be submitted on or before, Monday 20th June, 2022 5.00 PM EAT via email to [email protected] with subject: ‘Simplified Manual on Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, Narok County.’


I understand Rebel Wilson’s decision not to label her sexuality, but LGBT people need labels more than ever

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Journalists really aren’t supposed to make themselves the story. But – whoops! – Andrew Hornery from the Sydney Morning Herald has done just that, stealing focus from an international movie star.

He is accused of outing the comedy actor Rebel Wilson. Because after she posted on Instagram on Friday about her relationship with a woman, Hornery revealed he had approached her for comment the day before about the “story” – thereby, it appears, prompting her public disclosure.

The deranged weight of social media then landed on Hornery’s head. He’s now apologised, said he too is gay, and his editor insisted they will “learn” from this. But in all the messiness, something’s been missing in the response to Wilson’s statement: context.

She posted a photo with her beloved and said, “I thought I was searching for a Disney Prince… but maybe what I really needed all this time was a Disney Princess.” She didn’t use a label. Not lesbian. Not bi. Not queer. Not pansexual. Just love.

In many ways, that’s lovely, and very 2022. Who needs labels? We’ve moved on! People are people! But these exclamation marks, in case I need to spell it out, invoke denial. A mass denial, particularly of heterosexual liberals, who are so desperate not to think about homophobic and transphobic oppression that they constantly convince themselves that THINGS ARE FINE NOW. Meanwhile, hate crimes against LGBTQ people soared during the pandemic.

But it isn’t just a fantasy of heterosexuals. I love Rebel Wilson and love that she has expressed her love publicly. But she forms part of a growing number of (particularly young) people – public figures and private individuals – who are refusing to attach labels to themselves. This matters.

Harry Styles said in April: “I’ve been really open with it with my friends, but that’s my personal experience; it’s mine. The whole point of where we should be heading, which is toward accepting everybody and being more open, is that it doesn’t matter, and it’s about not having to label everything.”

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And the fabulous young actor Kit Connor, star of Heartstopper, said last month: “I just feel like I’m perfectly confident and comfortable in my sexuality, but I’m not too big on labels and things like that… And I don’t feel like I need to label myself, especially not publicly.”

I share his sentiment. And maybe Connor and Styles are, essentially, heterosexual; I don’t know. I’d prefer if we didn’t have to use labels and hate the idea that people feel enclosed by them. Do three letters (gay) give adequate information about the depth of one’s being? No. Labels place artificial parameters on human beings.

But imagine if all LGBTQ people refused to label ourselves. The laws against same-sex activities would remain. We’d be shouting, “Er, gay doesn’t fully describe the breadth of my romantic and sexual feelings, thank you!” through the bars of our prison, without a single human rights law to help us.

Harry Styles might wish to live in the future where all the battles have been won, but everyone else will one day feel the flash of hatred’s blade against the neck. Coming out, saying the word – the label – has been our single most potent shield. Without the self-labelling people in London’s first Pride march, 50 years ago next month, without those who fought back at the Stonewall Inn three years earlier, all uniting under labels and demanding liberation, we would be in jail or in the closet.

I know many lesbians and gay men in middle and old age, who are not a six on the Kinsey Scale (the Heterosexual–Homosexual Rating Scale) yet pinned the label upon themselves out of a moral and social duty – less for themselves as for others. Have we forgotten solidarity, so intoxicated are we by the dream that we have already won?

No one wants to be reduced. Public figures whose talents have often made them so, do not want their artistry confined to a label. But this is the transition stage. One day, we hope, no one will need labels. But now? As fascist forces assemble across the world? We need labels quick, with as many people holding them aloft as possible, chanting as one, so governments see our size, and recognise our power.

Because in the end, real emancipation isn’t born of you or me or any individual. It’s about us.


Lukas Gage claps back at people making assumptions about his sexuality

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13 June 2022, 15:20

A troll criticised Lukas Gage for playing multiple LGBTQ+ characters after assuming that he was straight.

Lukas Gage has clapped back at a person who assumed he was straight and criticised him for playing LGBTQ+ characters.

Lukas Gage is quickly establishing himself as one of the most in demand actors on TV right now. From his role as Tyler in the first season of Euphoria to his recent ass-baring performance as Dillon in The White Lotus, fans can’t get enough of the star. Not to mention, Lukas has just landed a part as a series regular on You. He will appear as Adam in season 4 this year.

Lukas has also played several, notable gay and queer roles in series such as Love, Victor and Queer as Folk. Now, Lukas has called out trolls who’ve made assumptions about his sexuality and accused him of taking on roles that should go to LGBTQ+ actors.

READ MORE: Lukas Gage shares his mum’s reaction to explicit sex scene in The White Lotus

Lukas Gage claps back at people making assumptions about his sexuality
Lukas Gage claps back at people making assumptions about his sexuality.

Rich Fury/Getty Images, HBO

Last week (Jun 9), someone took to Twitter to write: “If Hollywood can stop hiring non LGBTQIA+ actors like @lukasgage to play LGBTQIA+ characters, that would be great. He has played 4 so far. 1 was enough.” The person tagged Lukas in the tweet and it wasn’t long before Lukas noticed it himself. He then replied: “U don’t know my alphabet.”

In response, the person tweeted: “Then please, enlighten the whole world,” and Lukas simply replied: “No,” with a red heart emoji.

Fans were also quick to defend Lukas. One person tweeted: “Trying to force people out of the closet during pride month is not the move that you think it is.” Another added: “Actors do not owe that piece of personal information to anyone.”

While it is true that historically LGBTQ+ actors have often lost out on queer roles to straight actors, Lukas has never publicly labelled his sexuality. And, as his fans have said, he doesn’t owe that information to anyone.


Rebel Wilson’s sexuality isn’t up for debate – let queer people come out on their own terms

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Rebel Wilson dating a woman shouldn’t be divisive news. It should be a time of celebration of love in all its forms. Instead, it’s become a troubling tale of malicious jokes, biphobia, and “outing” – a bleak reality given we’re a week into Pride month.

Since the Australian actor and comedian revealed she is dating a woman via an Instagram post on Thursday, there’s been little time to enjoy what should have been a tender, candid moment. Despite an outpouring of love from the LGBT+ community and its allies, the joy has been matched by hatred and attempted humiliation.

In a shocking move that, as journalist Megha Mohan puts it, feels reminiscent of the “gutter press” days in the Nineties, The Sydney Morning Herald has revealed that it gave Wilson two days to respond to a story that it planned to run about her relationship prior to her own announcement, effectively threatening to out the actor via its article.

Even more absurdly, the publication also wrote that Wilson chose to “gazump” its story by coming out on her own terms on social media.

Given only two days to come out, it appears that Wilson was forced into a corner. Her right to choose whether she felt ready was taken away from her. She could sink or swim – there were no moves left to make.

Regardless of whether you like her or not, Wilson’s sexuality shouldn’t be weaponised, nor should it be the butt of a joke. Yet, within hours of the story breaking, the heteronormative mobs gathered their pitchforks.

Their cries, screamed into a hateful void, talked of two very specific things: her authenticity, and her looks. Wilson was either coming out to further her career, or she came out because she was too ugly to date cis men. Why is it still such a persistent belief that women need a reason, other than their queerness, to date other women? Why can’t we just be LGBT+ on our own terms?

The way in which people dissect queer romance reveals an all too familiar, deep rooted ideology that coming out is for attention seeking purposes. Even when we do it to take control of a chaotic situation, we’re criticised. Wilson chose to come out herself, attempting to take back some of her agency from the press. They wanted her “out”, but now that she is, they’re throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get to break the news first.

We truly can’t win. If we come out when we’re teenagers, we’re too young to know what we want – we’re trying to be cool. Yet, if we come out later in life, we’re seen as disingenuous – we can’t really be LGBT+, otherwise we’d have done it sooner. And if we don’t feel able to come out at all, the decision is made for us – be out and proud or not at all.

It’s baffling that our sexualities can be portrayed as so linear, when in reality they’re anything but. Just like life in general. How often do we joke and share memes about life merely being a machine of chaos, picking us up, churning us over, then spitting us back out; it’s the meme. We know our experiences are different, and we know that life follows few rules save for birth and death. In between those two absolutes, there’s an endless array of possibilities, of which sexuality and its exploration is a single, but complex, thread.

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Throughout our lives, we’re shaped by both internal and external factors, and during this continuous moulding we grow as people. We’re forever progressing as we discover new things. Put simply, we’re not who we were a year ago. In all honesty, we’re not who we were last week – that’s how quickly moments impact us.

In knowing this, you’d think we’d accept that we can learn about new facets of our sexualities as we age; it’s hardly a bold leap of faith. But for some reason, the idea that growth includes sexual identity is still too shocking for some to grasp. As is the reality that dating women isn’t the easier option.

The misconception that we come out to be cool is indirectly connected to the myth that we choose queerness because heterosexuality won’t have us. When I came out in university, cis men kept saying “you’re pretty enough to get a man, you just haven’t found the right one yet”. By being with a woman, they’d decided that I thought myself too ugly to get a man. The idiocy of it still makes me laugh to this day.

But within that laughter is the sorrow of knowing that our sexualities and looks are deemed as interlinked: if we’re hot, we’ll be heterosexual because we can get the guy, but if we’re not conventionally attractive, well, we’ll have to be queer because men won’t have us. I must have missed the memo that says queer women only date the rejected, while cis men seek out perfection. It’s utter rubbish.

Few LGBT+ women think being queer is easy. The amount of abuse we get without our appearance being dragged into the mix is staggering enough. Our rights are scrutinised, taken away from us, and treated as an afterthought, as we constantly fight for what little rights we do have. As much as I celebrate my queerness, I have to fight to prevent people from trying to take it away from me every single day.

Does that sound like the easier option? No. Nor does it become any easier if we’re not good-looking – whatever that ideal is meant to be. The media’s handling of Wilson’s announcement further proves that coming out as queer is hardly an easy option. Far from it, in fact.

Rebel Wilson isn’t with a woman to stay relevant, and she isn’t with one because every cis man on the planet turned their nose up at her (she’s dated plenty of men, by the way). She’s queer. It’s about time we started accepting that queerness isn’t just something to do, it’s who we are, no matter when and if we make it known to others. Give us the right to be ourselves, on our terms.


Here’s why some people sneeze when they have an orgasm

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Apparently, an orgasm – or even thinking about sex – can send some people into an uncontrollable bout of sneezing. And it could be more common than you think.

Dr Harold Maxwell, a consultant psychiatrist at West Middlesex University Hospital in London, first identified the phenomenon after a middle-aged man complained about sneezing fits whenever he had a sexual thought – something that occurred throughout his adult life.

This bizarre encounter prompted Maxwell and colleague Mahmood Bhutta, a surgeon at Wexham Park Hospital, to delve into an under-reported study on “sneezing induced by sexual ideation or orgasm.”

They discovered a record dating back to 1972. The letter, found in the Journal of the American Medical Association, detailed a 69-year-old man suffering from severe sneezing after orgasm. He was simply sent away with topical nasal anaesthesia for his symptom.

“It may also be seen as embarrassing and people perhaps don’t want to talk about it,” said Dr Bhutta.

To gauge how big of an issue ‘sex sneezing’ really is, the highly unscientific study scrolled through online chatrooms and identified “17 people of both sexes reporting sneezing immediately upon sexual ideation” and “three people after orgasm.”

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They explained: “It also seems that the two phenomena do not occur in the same person, i.e. that these are two distinct entities: sneezing with sexual ideation or sneezing with orgasm. No people mentioned that they suffered neurological or rhinological disease.”

The conditions have been speculated on for a surprisingly long time. In the 19th century, two researchers, WC Watson in 1875 and JN Mackenzie in 1884, examined the link between the nose and the genitals.

Fliess, a young German otolaryngologist and friend of Freud, later developed a theory of ‘nasal reflex neurosis’ “linking the nasal mucous membranes with the genital areas, perhaps due to the finding of erectile tissue in both areas.”

The researchers put it down to signals in the autonomic nervous system, though “further investigation in this field” is necessary to understand the self-reported nature of the condition fully.

“It certainly seems odd, but I think this reflex demonstrates evolutionary relics in the wiring of a part of the nervous system called the autonomic nervous system,” Dr Bhutta told the BBC at the time.

“This is the part beyond our control, and which controls things like our heart rate and the amount of light let in by our pupils. Sometimes the signals in this system get crossed, and I think this may be why some people sneeze when they think about sex.”

The study concluded: “Further investigation in this field may help us to understand the sneeze reflex in more depth, and also allow us to give explanation and reassurance to the possibly significant number of people affected by this curious phenomenon.”

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The handkerchief code – how LGBTQ+ people signalled their sexuality

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Handkerchiefs and bandanas were used to signify preferences covertly (Picture: Getty)

Nowadays, we can put our preferences into our phones and find a perfect potential partner in seconds.

But there was a time when it was far harder to meet likeminded folks; a time when LGBT+ people had to find covert ways to meet and date.

In the 19th Century, some gay men in Britain used a language called Polari to communicate about their sexuality without hostile outsiders understanding.

‘Homosexual acts’ between males were criminalised at the time, meaning the consequences of being outed to the wrong person – let alone an undercover police officer – were severe.

Sex between two men (over the age of 21 conducted in private) wasn’t made legal until 1967 in England and 1980 in Scotland, and global attitudes to same-sex relationships have been slower still to change.

As a result, these codes and secret languages stuck around to offer LGBT+ people a level of safety to reveal their true selves.

One of these is the handkerchief code, which is believed to have originated in San Francisco after the Gold Rush.

A surreptitious bandana or hankie is far safer than outing yourself to potentially hostile outsiders (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Also known as flagging, the handkerchief code involves wearing a hankie or bandana in a specific colour to nonverbally communicate.

It initially came about because of the shortage of women in the area at the time. At square dances, some men would wear a blue bandana to show they’d take the ‘male’ leading role, while others would wear red to signify they’d follow.

Far later, in 1970s New York, it was common practice for men to wear their keys on the left or right to signify if they were a ‘top’ or ‘bottom’. A writer for the Village Voice joked about using different-coloured hankies to display their sexual preferences, and the idea caught on.

The owner of the Leather ‘n’ Things store, Alan Selby, also claimed to have had a hand in the code. He said that his bandana supplier accidentally doubled their order, so he publicised flagging in order to sell the extra colours he had in stock.

Meanings of colours in the handkerchief code

  • Light blue: Oral sex
  • Dark blue: Anal sex
  • Purple: Piercings
  • Orange: Anything goes
  • Green: Daddy
  • Black: S&M
  • Grey: Bondage
  • White: Masturbation

As knowledge of the code spread, it was used across the US, Europe, and Australia, becoming particularly popular in the fetish and BDSM scenes.

A bandana worn on the left side signifies a ‘top’, dominant, or active partner, while the right indicates a ‘bottom’ or submissive partner. Different colours can then indicate more specific kinks and desires.

Black, for example, is for S&M, while dark blue is code for anal sex and light blue for oral. Green would be used by sex workers or people looking to meet sex workers, while purple shows a preference for piercings.

Fifty Shades may have even taken inspiration from the code, as a grey hankie signifies an enjoyment of bondage.

The handkerchief isn’t an invitation for sex, rather a conversation starter and semiotic system.

The wearer may not know about the meaning of the colours, or be intrigued by certain things but not actually want to be involved. For some, flagging is more about subtly showing that they’re queer than looking for a specific partner.

In the 50 years since the handkerchief code became popular, LGBT+ people are able to be more open about their sexuality. While cruising still happens, many people now find partners on apps like Grindr and Tinder.

There’s no need to wear a bandana to say what you want when you can tick a few boxes and say the same thing more easily. Similarly, it’s no longer necessary to test the waters with somebody face-to-face: if they’re on a gay dating app, they presumably accept that users will be gay.

But we should still remember those who went before us, and the unique methods they created to be able to live – and love – the way they wanted.

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MORE : Experts share unexpected emotional issues of reproductive donation – and advice for same-sex parents

MORE : What to do if you’re afraid your family will disown you for coming out

Metro.co.uk celebrates 50 years of Pride

This year marks 50 years of Pride, so it seems only fitting that Metro.co.uk goes above and beyond in our ongoing LGBTQ+ support, through a wealth of content that not only celebrates all things Pride, but also share stories, take time to reflect and raises awareness for the community this Pride Month.

MORE: Find all of Metro.co.uk’s Pride coverage right here

And we’ve got some great names on board to help us, too. From a list of famous guest editors taking over the site for a week that includes Rob Rinder, Nicola Adams, Peter Tatchell, Kimberly Hart-Simpson, John Whaite, Anna Richardson and Dr Ranj, we’ll also have the likes Sir Ian McKellen and Drag Race stars The Vivienne, Lawrence Chaney and Tia Kofi offering their insights. 

During Pride Month, which runs from 1 – 30 June, Metro.co.uk will also be supporting Kyiv Pride, a Ukrainian charity forced to work harder than ever to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community during times of conflict. To find out more about their work, and what you can do to support them, click here.

The history of the handkerchief code

Some People Sneeze When They Orgasm, Or Even Think About Sex

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Take a few moments to have a little think about sex. Ok, did you sneeze? No? Well, you are one of the lucky ones, as there are people out there with “sexually induced sneezing”, a condition characterized by sneezing – sometimes uncontrollably – while thinking about or engaging in sexual activity. 

Another related condition called “Honeymooner’s nose” sees people get nasal congestion when they are aroused or actively engaged in sex.

The conditions have been noticed and speculated on for a surprisingly long time, though they were not studied systematically until relatively recently. In an 1898 paper, one doctor notes that cases had been recorded from the 16th century of a man sneezing upon seeing a “pretty girl”, other cases of “sneezing during coitus”, and some patients who bleed from the nose during sex or masturbation.

“Quite a number of such cases have come under my personal observation in persons in robust health and whose nasal organs were apparently free from disease,” the doctor wrote of sexual sneezing. “The reflex may occur before (from erotic thoughts), during, or after the consummation of the act.”

The 1898 paper makes several links between the nose and the genitals. Curiously, the case study makes reference to the size of the nose being linked to the size of the penis, aka the “big nose, big hose” hypothesis.

“The nose, for example, that was large and firm was looked upon as an index of a penis acceptable to women, and hence it was that the licentious Emperor Heliogabalus only admitted those who were nasuti, i.e., who possessed a certain comeliness of that feature, to the companionship of his lustful practices,” the author wrote.

“Johanna, Queen of Naples, a woman of insatiable lust, seems also to have selected, as her male companions, men with large noses, with a similar end in view.”

They also write of “the case of a woman who anticipated a large penis from the size of her lover’s nose, and, whose hopes being frustrated, is said to have exclaimed, ‘ Oh, nose ! how thou hast deceived me!’.”

One hundred years later, science hadn’t advanced much more on the topic of sexual sneezing, other than doctors occasionally noting anecdotally that a patient sneezed whenever they came. Then in 2008, a team of doctors published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine took a more systematic look at the phenomenon.

The doctors searched through Internet chat rooms using Google, in an attempt to see how widespread the problem was. They found that 17 posters (both male and female) reported sneezing upon thinking about sex, with three others reporting sneezing after they orgasm. Replying to the threads, others said that they had the same, strange condition.

“In the reports it appears the sneezing occurs immediately upon sexual ideation, or very soon after orgasm,” the team wrote, adding that the condition may be underreported due to embarrassment.

“It also seems that the two phenomena do not occur in the same person, i.e. that these are two distinct entities: sneezing with sexual ideation or sneezing with orgasm.”

The doctors wrote of a number of possible mechanisms for how sneezes are caused by sex, or even thinking about sex. Included in this was the possibility that nitric oxide – released to cause tumescence in the genitals – enters the bloodstream and “causes engorgement and irritation of the nasal mucosa too”. However, they discount this and other explanations as the sneeze reflex appears to be more immediate than this.

In the end they put the phenomenon down to the misfiring of signals in the autonomic nervous system – though they admit that it is difficult to explain given the lack of experimental data, and the self-reported nature of the condition.

“It certainly seems odd, but I think this reflex demonstrates evolutionary relics in the wiring of a part of the nervous system called the autonomic nervous system,” Dr Bhutta, a specialist in ear, nose and throat medicine at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital told the BBC at the time.

“This is the part beyond our control, and which controls things like our heart rate and the amount of light let in by our pupils. Sometimes the signals in this system get crossed, and I think this may be why some people sneeze when they think about sex.”

The team believes that there is likely a genetic cause for the condition, which causes sex to be a lot more mucusy than is ideal.


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People for Peace: Supporting victims of sexual abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo |

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The eastern DRC has experienced conflict and instability over many years and many people have been forced to flee their homes making them more vulnerable to exploitation.

Delu Lusambia is the project manager and coordinator of SYAM, (which stands for Siku ya Mazingira in Kiswahili), a local civil society organization in eastern DRC which implements projects for the UN Trust Fund in support of victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.*

“My organization, SYAM, has been working on the issue of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel since 2007. Around that time, many people in the DRC were internally displaced because of conflict and took refuge near MONUSCO camps in North Kivu and eastern provinces.

They were left without jobs, without any means to sustain their lives. As a result, many women and girls exchanged sexual favours with UN peacekeepers for money and food. Economic vulnerability and power imbalances can expose people to the risk of sexual misconduct.

From 2007 to 2016, SYAM conducted surveys and heard many testimonies about sexual exploitation. We shared the result of the surveys and proposed projects to support and empower women and girls in partnership with MONUSCO.

We realized the urgent need to support victims, especially those who had children born of sexual abuse by peacekeepers.

UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti

A UN peacekeeping patrol passes people on the road in the Beni region in eastern of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


That is why we created vocational training centres for women and girls where we train them in pastry-making, tailoring, bread-making, hairdressing, and agriculture.

I am proud of the impact that we are making. First, from our observation on the ground, occurrences of sexual exploitation and abuse have decreased. Also, a large number of beneficiaries have been trained through our projects. I am delighted that a total of 375 beneficiaries between 2020 and 2021 have gained vital skills to sustain their lives.

We are also witnessing changes in the culture and attitudes. SYAM works with local community networks to raise awareness within communities in eastern DRC about sexual exploitation and abuse and how to report these wrongs. Now the reporting of such cases has become a common practice. Whenever they see suspicious activities, the communities speak up to raise concerns with MONUSCO.”

29 May is the International Day of UN Peacekeepers - a day to pay tribute to our uniformed and civilian personnel.

United Nations

* Trust Fund projects are funded by 24 UN Member States and implemented in partnership with development actors, including United Nations agencies and civil society.

More than one million peacekeepers have served under the UN flag, but they are not alone in the pursuit of peace. Peacekeeping is powered by strong and diverse partnerships, a theme which is highlighted in this year’s International Day of Peacekeepers.


Inside Teratophilia, The Attraction To Monsters And Deformed People

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Taken from the ancient Greek words for “love” and “monster,” teratophilia involves the sexual attraction to fantasy creatures like Bigfoot — and sometimes real-life people with deformities.

Chris Hellier/Corbis/Getty ImagesA Bigfoot or Sasquatch carrying a woman to its lair in an 1897 example of teratophilia.

One could easily mistake teratophilia as the Latin term for some type of horrifying disease. However, it defines the sexual attraction to fictional monsters or people with deformities. Teratophiles certainly comprise a small chunk of the world’s population, but the bizarre subculture has grown in visibility and popularity over the years.

Clinically known as a paraphilia, this intense sexual arousal to atypical individuals or fantasies has been part of society for centuries. From vampire mythology and paperback romances about Bigfoot to Academy Award-winning movies about amphibian lovers, teratophilia has only become more popular over the last few decades.

And with the internet in every pocket and the rise of social media, teratophilia likely has yet to reach its peak. What was once mostly found on the most obscure erotica blogs online has since spawned sex toys molded after the genitalia of fictional characters like Godzilla and Marvel Comics’ Venom.

One might be surprised that this creature-based attraction even exists, but its tentacles reach as far back as Ancient Greece, from whence the term was coined. From the days of antiquity to modern-day Tumblr, teratophilia has stood the test of time.

The History Of Teratophilia

The term teratophilia derives from the Ancient Greek words teras and philia, which respectively translate to monster and love. Terato, meanwhile, refers to physical abnormalities like birth defects.

Minotaur Statue And Drawing

Wikimedia CommonsThe Minotaur from Greek mythology may have been the earliest representation of teratophilia.

The most ardent teratophiles believe their desires are broader than sexuality, however, and that their attraction to monsters or the deformed merely allows them to cherish beauty where society suggests they shouldn’t.

Teratophiles are often unable to engage in sexual relations with the creatures they desire since they tend to be fictional. Ultimately, however, teratophilia and zoophilia, or the attraction to animals, do appear to share an ancient foundation.

The oldest-known representation of teratophilia is perhaps the Minotaur from Greek mythology. Legend has it that Queen Pasiphae of Crete was so desperate to have sex with a bull that a carpenter named Daedalus built a wooden cow for her to climb inside of — and be wheeled into a meadow to copulate with a bull.

The result was a half-human, half-bull with the body of the former but the head and tail of the latter.

The Psychology Of Teratophiles

Teratophilia gained steam with the advent of the printing press like any other subject and spawned a litany of monster romances throughout history. These have often centered on the marginalized of society: women, minorities, transgender individuals, and the disabled. Psychotherapist Kristie Overstreet believes there’s a link.

Quasimodo And Esmeralda From The Hunchback Of Notre Dame

Wikimedia CommonsQuasimodo and Esmeralda in a movie adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

“The need to be accepted for who you are links otherness with the monstrous,” she said. “Being different attracts you to others who are seen as different, so there is comfort in being connected with another person that understands.”

One of the most famous examples is the Quasimodo character from Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, who falls in love with a woman named Esmeralda only to be killed by terrified townsfolk. Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve could practically serve as a companion piece.

For author Virginia Wade, teratophilia is almost certainly rooted in escapist fantasies primarily experienced by women. Finding no success in traditional romance novels, Wade found a voracious audience with her 2011 erotic e-book series about Bigfoot — and believes the appeal is a mixture of lust and safety.

“The longer I’m in this business and reading other people’s work, I’m beginning to realize that it’s this capture fantasy, where you kind of have this thrill about being kidnapped and ravished, but of course, you would never want that to happen to you in real life,” she said.

Belle And Beast From The Beauty And The Beast

DisneyDisney’s Beauty and the Beast was arguably one of the most popular teratophilia-centric movies of all time.

“The danger of it, the dark quality to it and the taboo nature of it, I think that all appeals — and actually mostly to female readers … Why do we read books? So that we can go somewhere else for a while and experience something that will never happen to us.”

Teratophilia In Modern Pop Culture

While Wade only made $5 in the first month of self-publishing her Bigfoot book, it received over 100,000 downloads within one year and saw Wade earn over $30,000 during the most successful months to come. Bigfoot-centered teratophilia even found its way into politics in 2018.

Onlookers were stunned when Democratic candidate Leslie Cockburn of Virginia’s 5th Congressional District tweeted a drawing by her Republican opponent Denver Riggleman that featured a nude Bigfoot with a sizable member. While Riggleman claimed it was drawn for fun, teratophilia had suddenly entered the political arena.

It was only a few months later that director Guillermo del Toro won the Academy Award for Best Picture for his romantic fantasy film The Shape of Water. Centered on the sexual relationship between an amphibian creature and a human woman, it created quite a buzz — and profits for sex toy manufacturers.

The Shape Of Water Kiss

Fox Searchlight PicturesXenoCat Artifacts manufactured sex toys molded after the genitalia of the amphibian protagonist from The Shape of Water in 2017.

“I’ve been anticipating this movie for a while,” said Ere, owner of XenoCat Artifacts. “The shape, the character design are gorgeous — and I love del Toro’s work.”

Tailored to teratophiles, Ere’s silicone dildo based on the film was produced in varying sizes and proved quite popular. And the sexual attraction to fictional creatures continued to raise in visibility with the adaptation of Stephen King’s It in 2017 and with the reptilian Venom “symbiote” from the Marvel Comics Cinematic Universe.

Teratophilia has only become more popular as society has created more ways in which to share it. From oral myth and early literature to fawning internet users today, it doesn’t look like teratophiles are going anywhere — especially when a film involving their attractions was awarded an Oscar.

After learning about teratophilia, read about the 10 weirdest people in history. Then, learn about Margaret Howe Lovatt and her sexual encounters with a dolphin.