National Geographic Channel leaves the snickering behind (though we probably won't) and dives into the science behind arousal, orgasms, partner preference and sexual dysfunctions with "Sex: How It Works," a two-hour special premiering Tues. June 18 at 8:00 p.m. The show weaves together real-life case studies, the latest technology and cutting-edge computer graphics to explore the topic.
Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, a renowned behavioral psychologist in the United Kingdom, heads up an investigation into the science of arousal. “Men tend to be more visual than women when it comes to what they find enticing, which is partly to do with how men are socialized,” she says. “It’s interesting how sexual lures have adapted. For men, it’s become much more centered around the breasts … I guess the breasts are the new buttocks.”
Apart from arousal, "Sex: How It Works" looks at the male and female orgasm. Why is it that three-quarters of men regularly orgasm during sex, but less than a third of women do? To learn more, scientists in New Jersey are now using magnetic resonance imaging to study the brain during an orgasm. One test subject observes, “This isn’t the sexiest environment I’ve ever been in to have an orgasm … but donating an orgasm for science, how bad can that be?”
After examining the biological and physiological motivators for sex, "Sex: How It Works" delves into the various social and psychological circumstances that help — or hinder — a person’s ability to have sex. The special examines the dating habits of some self-proclaimed “players” who hit the town night after night in pursuit of their next sexual conquest. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we meet a 30-year-old virgin who is so afraid of approaching a woman that he has never been able to have a sexual relationship.
For others, the decision not to have sex is not a matter of fear. The special follows a couple who for religious reasons decide to abstain from sex until their wedding night; meets a young man who is physically incapable of sustaining an erection; and profiles a woman who identifies as asexual — someone who has no desire to have sexual intercourse.
"Sex: How It Works" also reveals the latest scientific research examining why some people prefer the opposite sex, the same sex or in some cases, both sexes. Around 3.5 percent of American adults — about 11 million people in total — describe themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
“Sex is vital,” says Dr. Papadopoulos. “Even later on [in the relationship], the ability to maintain this sense of feeling needed and feeling connected. The physicality of sex is vital, so this idea that it is just there to ensure that we procreate, I think, isn’t enough. I think it’s a much, much deeper, much more integral part of our humanity.”