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The Five Best Sex-Themed TED Talks

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The Five Best Sex-Themed TED Talks

How love is like cocaine, and other mind-bending discoveries.

Founded in 1984 as a conference bringing together experts in the fields of technology, entertainment, and design, TED has since grown into a web phenomenon that connects millions of viewers to fascinating people and ideas. As you might expect from a geek-friendly event, TED can teach you about string theory and genetic engineering; less predictably, it’s also had a lot to say about sex and love.

Cindy Gallop, TED Talks, Make Love, Not Porn

 

The Five Best Sex-Themed TED Talks

Mary Roach: Ten things you didn’t know about orgasm

Curious about whether babies masturbate inside their mothers’ wombs? Wondering if your money shot beats the distance record? Strangely preoccupied with whether dead people can have orgasms? Mary Roach addresses all these topics and then some in her upbeat discussion of the orgasm. Offering plenty of audio-visual material for the combination learners amongst us, Roach shocks and fascinates with images of monkey o-faces and a fairly graphic video of a farmer stimulating a sow’s clitoris. Other highlights include a recipe for artificial sperm, and the confirmation that, yes, all those scientists studying sex at the turn of the century were, if not major pervs, at least a little on the kooky side. 

The Five Best Sex-Themed TED Talks

Helen Fisher: The brain in love
 
To get ahold of the slippery little fish we call love, Helen Fisher put thirty-seven people who described themselves as in love into a MRI brain scanner. Seventeen of these were still in relationships; fifteen had just been dumped. She found that the same reward center of the brain was lit up in all of her subjects, even the brokenhearted ones. This could all be a little disturbing, but luckily, some of Fisher’s discoveries are actually pretty cute — like her observation that animals also fall in love.

The Five Best Sex-Themed TED Talks

Helen Fisher: Why we love and cheat
 
While a zillion love songs, distraught poets, and weepy teenagers have likened love to a drug, Fisher’s further research on the subject finally confirms this suspicion as fact. Unfortunately, as the lovesick amongst us will testify, the brain’s three main mating drives — lust, romantic love, and attachment — don’t always come together. Wondering why you’re suddenly feeling sweet on your fuck-buddy, or why every time you have sex with your sweetheart you feel like you’ve been teleported to another realm? It may just be because that awesome orgasm you had the other night spiked the dopamine in your brain, with an effect akin to the high of being on cocaine. Whether you’re feeling sexually possessive or in love with three people at once, Fisher’s research offers an interesting new slant on the mysteries of love and fidelity.

The Five Best Sex-Themed TED Talks

Barry Schwartz: The paradox of choice

While not strictly about dating, Schwartz’s point — sometimes too much choice keeps us from making any kind of choice at all — gets doubly interesting when he relates it to his students’ love lives, arguing that keeping your options open in relationships isn’t always a good plan. The main love lesson learned here: the grass is not always greener in another relationship. Sure, sometimes breaking up is the best thing for both of you — but if you’re dating a totally awesome person, with whom you’re madly in love, and you still find yourself considering other options, keep Schwartz’s point in mind.

The Five Best Sex-Themed TED Talks

Cindy Gallop: Make love, not porn

Short and sweet, Cindy Gallop’s talk on her new sex-education venture, Make Love Not Porn, was a runaway sensation at TED2009. Kept off the main TEDTalk site due to its sexually explicit content, Gallop’s talk opens with graphic anecdotes about having sex with younger men. Most of them assume Gallop wants them to come on her face. While some women like this, Gallop doesn’t, and finds herself having to politely decline the offer more often than she would like. A few nubile lovers later, Gallop says "Enough already!" and creates MLNP, a site intended to debunk sex myths promoted by hardcore porn. The point is well-taken, and the matter-of-fact Gallop is a charmer.