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Secrets Between the Sexes

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Men and women are in a constant struggle to better understand the complex inner workings of one another's minds. Science has done its part to help us separate the fact from fiction, and some of the results may surprise you. Do men actually like skinny women with long legs? What makes a woman like a man who appears masculine over a feminine-looking man, or vice versa? Read on to find out.

Does (Body) Size Matter?

While some women think men are obsessed with skinny, waifish women, men seem to be more attracted to curvy girls like Christina Hendricks and Marilyn Monroe. This has been backed up by a number of studies, including one performed by Scotland's St. Andrews University that showed men don't like skinny women nearly as much as more average-sized women, and many seemed to think size zero women look unhealthy.

As for curvy women, it seems that men's brains respond to hourglass figures like they are a drug. While it has long been said that shapely hips have been attractive to men because they are better for carrying children, a study by Georgia Gwinnett College showed that curvy women's bodies activate parts of the male mind that are associated with rewards and parts of the brain that are activated by drugs and alcohol.

[Image courtesy of ·S's Flickr Stream.]

The Skinny on Showing Skin

Women often think that the more skin they reveal, the more attention they will get from men, but this may not be true. A study by the University of Leeds watched social interactions between men and women at one of the most popular clubs in London.

The researchers considered the arms to be 20% of the body, legs to be 30% of the body, and the torso to be 50% of the body, and they concluded that men found women who covered up too much of their bodies to only be half as attractive as those who displayed around 40% of their skin. The most interesting part of the study, though, was that men felt women who showed more than that were "too available," and were often overlooked for those who seemed a little more modest.

[Image courtesy of rockabillyboy72's Flickr stream.]

Hard to Get Men by Playing Hard to Get?

Along those same lines, the stories about men wanting a girl who's hard to get are somewhat true"¦but not completely. Men want someone who's hard for anyone to get, but they don't want a woman who is hard for them to get. University of Wisconsin researchers showed men photos of women and told them that the girl already saw and reviewed images of the participant and three other men. Each girl was presented as not being interested in any of the men, being interested in all of the men, only being interested in the test subject, or no information was provided about her woman.

Men were overwhelmingly uninterested in both the women who were interested in all participants and none of the participants. The great majority of men were interested in the woman who was only into them. They seemed to think she would have the good qualities of the easy-to-get women and the good qualities of the hard-to-get women, believing she was warm, easygoing and not demanding or difficult.

[Image courtesy of  Denis Malka's Flickr stream.]

Long Legs, Less Love?

For years we've been told that men love long, long legs. But according to a study performed by the University of California and the University of Westminister, men like women who have legs proportional to their body. Men and women were shown images of computer generated body images of women and asked to rate them on their attractiveness. The further the length of the legs got from an ideal 1:1 ratio of body to leg length, the less attractive men judged them to be.

Stereotypes held fast when it came to what women believed men would like, and they seemed to consistently agree that the men would find longer legged women attractive.

[Image courtesy of Lovro67's Flickr stream.]

Little More Than a Pretty Face

When people start looking for long-term mates, research says the body becomes less and less important -- for both sexes. University of Japan researcher Tomas E. Currie noted that while there have been hundreds of studies evaluating how men and women evaluate the importance of specific body parts, there were relatively few examining the importance of one feature over another. He decided to also examine if these factors changed based on what type of relationship the person was looking for.

The results showed that men cared a lot about bodies when looking for a short term relationship, but they cared more about faces when looking for something long term. Women seemed to consistently look for attractive faces whether looking for a short or long term thing. The body was just an extra bonus in either case.

[Image courtesy of Sugaro Pictures' Flickr stream.]

What Women Want, Based On Healthcare

Speaking of what women want, this is a very gray area and is said to change from woman to woman and even be inconsistent among a single individual. Unsurprisingly, there have been tons of studies trying to figure out exactly what the softer sex is interested in.

One study, completed by Wake Forest University psychologist Dustin Wood and Claudia Brumbaugh of Queens College, even confirmed the fact that while men are largely in agreement about who they find to be attractive, women have no consensus with one another. While men would largely agree about how attractive a given image of a woman was, the scores from women would be all over the board.

Perhaps the real reason for these major differences is the reason women seem to prefer masculine or feminine men. A study by the University of Aberdeen recently showed women located throughout the world images of men and asked them to evaluate based on attractiveness. Each set of images contained two pictures per male subject. In one of them, he was digitally altered to look more masculine and in the other, he was altered to look more feminine. The researchers noticed that women who had access to better healthcare preferred feminine men, while those who had less-quality health services were attracted to more masculine men.

Researchers speculated that historically women have liked masculine men with a square jaw and low brow because they were more likely to help produce healthy offspring. On the other hand, more effeminate-looking men seem more likely to help raise the children. It seems that once health concerns are out of the way, women tend to shift their interest to those men who appear to be more nurturing.

[Image courtesy of SpreePiX - Berlin's Flickr stream.]

Problems With The Pill

Of course, healthcare isn't the only thing that affects how a woman sees men. As it turns out, women may also notice a striking difference in their attraction to men after going on the birth control pill.

Men and women are largely attracted to one another due to pheromones and scent, but a study by the University of Liverpool shows the pill can drastically alter the scent a woman is attracted to. Additionally, once she quits taking the pill, she may revert to her old sensory guides and start finding her existing partner to be less attractive.

[Image courtesy of Blmurch's Flickr stream.]
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Of course, it's important to remember that these studies just take into account the overall feelings of a group of men or women and there are always going to be people who disagrees with the general populace.

Now, there are plenty more studies about men and women -- way too many for me to read, let alone include in this article -- but I'm sure many of you have seen some interesting ones. So let's hear them. What's the most surprising study you've heard about?

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Scientists Record an Extremely Intimate Look at How Dolphins Get It On
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Mammal sex is simple: The penis fits into the vagina. Right? You might think so—unless you’ve seen a dolphin’s vagina.

At the 2017 annual meeting of the American Association of Anatomists, biologist Dara Orbach of Dalhousie University in Canada explained just why she and her colleagues recently used a CT scanner to image simulated sex between the reproductive organs of dead dolphins.

It may seem obvious that a dolphin penis would fit into a dolphin vagina, but, since dolphins can’t talk about their sex lives, scientists couldn’t be sure. "Whales, dolphins, and porpoises have unusual vaginal folds, spirals, and recesses that the penis and sperm must navigate through to successfully fertilize the egg,” Orbach said in a press statement.

Dara Orbach, Dalhousie University

Orbach and Patricia Brennan, of Mount Holyoke College, used real reproductive tracts they got from dolphins that died naturally. They re-inflated the penises mechanically so that they could stick them inside the dead dolphin vaginas and see exactly how they fit together. ("My collaborator, Dr. Diane Kelly, designed a system that pumped pressurized saline into the penis so that we could adjust the pressure and the rate of inflation," Orbach elaborated to mental_floss in an email.)

They also created silicone molds of the genitals to study how the mammal’s penis and vagina structures might have co-evolved, especially considering that marine mammals have some interesting challenges to deal with during sex—for one thing, they have to be swimming, and for another, no one wants salt water in their bicornate uterus. As you can see, the dolphin penis navigates those twists and turns pretty well, despite the challenges.

This research isn’t just to satisfy scientific curiosity about how dolphins manage to get it on, though that's great, too. Understanding how actual dolphin sex looks could potentially help dolphin breeding programs figure out how to optimize artificial insemination processes in favor of conception.

Dolphins aren't the only ones with complicated reproductive tracts, though. Brennan has previously studied the sex lives of ducks, who have co-evolved genitals even more complicated than the ones dolphins are packing.

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15 Thrilling Facts About Basic Instinct
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Twenty-five years ago—on March 20, 1992—Sharon Stone introduced moviegoers to Catherine Tramell, a novelist and suspected serial killer who stabs her victims with an ice pick while engaged in acrobatic sex acts. Michael Douglas—who starred in another erotic thriller, Fatal Attraction—played her love interest, a San Francisco detective named Nick Curran. Directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Joe Eszterhas (who would team up again for 1995’s Showgirls), Basic Instinct grossed $352,927,224 worldwide against a $49 million budget, making it the ninth highest-grossing domestic film of 1992. (The much-delayed 2006 sequel, on the other hand, bombed at the box office.)

The controversial movie angered the LGBTQ community (particularly in San Francisco, where filming was protested) because of the psychopathic nature of Stone’s bisexual character, though Stone saw her more as a “party girl,” and Eszterhas thought of her as being omnisexual. Here are 15 not-so-basic facts about the revolutionary thriller.

1. THE SCRIPT SOLD FOR A RECORD $3 MILLION.

Back in the day, spec scripts could sell for millions of dollars. Joe Eszterhas joined that club when he sold Basic Instinct—a script that took him just 13 days to write—for $3 million in 1990. Eszterhas told The A.V. Club that the media liked to focus on a writer’s failures, which occurred when Eszterhas’ Showgirls tanked at the box office. “CBS Evening News came with a helicopter crew and found me on a beach in Florida and interviewed me about the money I got for Basic Instinct,” Eszterhas said. “The other thing that I don’t think was quite fair was that after that whole period, where scripts—mine and Shane Black's and half a dozen other writers’ scripts—went for a lot of money, the media zeroed in on the box office for some of those scripts, and they always zeroed in on the failures … When Basic Instinct went on to earn $400 million worldwide, there were no stories that said, ‘[Executive producer] Mario Kassar paid three million bucks for this.’”

2. CATHERINE AND NICK WERE BASED ON REAL PEOPLE.

Before he became a multimillionaire screenwriter, Eszterhas was a police reporter for Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer. “I met a cop who just liked the action too much,” Eszterhas told Nerve. “He was always in the middle of shootings. He was a great cop on one level, but on another, you suspected he liked it too much. That’s what Nick Curran does in Basic Instinct. As Catherine says in the movie, he got too close to the flame. He loved the flame.”

Tramell also comes from a person Eszterhas knew in Ohio, this time a go-go dancer in Dayton. One night he picked the stranger up and they went back to his hotel room to have some fun. “She reached into her purse, and she pulled out a .22 and pointed it at me,” he told Nerve. “She said, ‘Give me one reason why I shouldn’t pull this trigger.’ I said, ‘I didn’t do anything to hurt you. You wanted to come here, and as far as I know, you enjoyed what we just did.’ And she said, ‘But this is all guys have ever wanted to do with me, and I’m tired of it.’ We had a lengthy discussion before she put that gun down. Those two random characters are where those parts of Basic Instinct come from.”

3. MICHAEL DOUGLAS AND PAUL VERHOEVEN APPROACHED THE MOVIE AS IF IT WERE A DETECTIVE NOVEL.

Verhoeven wanted to make a modern version of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller—except with a lot more sex. “In traditional films, the killer lurks in a house and the victim walks into the kitchen, turns on the radio, makes coffee, opens a book, gets comfortable—and then the killer strikes,” he told The New York Times. “In this film, the killer hides—but on the bed. The situation is the same, but the two people are facing each other in bed, not the kitchen.”

Douglas agreed with the film noir aspect of the movie. “Fatal Attraction was a picture close to home for a lot of people because you could identify with those characters,” he also told the Times. “It was a reality tale, while Basic Instinct is like a detective novel that people like to read in the privacy of their homes. It’s almost Gothic. It’s certainly more dramatic. And the real question here is: Is anybody really worthy of redemption?”

4. THE ICE PICK SCENE GAVE SHARON STONE NIGHTMARES.

In a 1992 interview with Playboy, Stone revealed that she didn’t mind the sex scenes but did mind the violence. “I made my best friend lie by the bed while I did the scene—just lie there by the camera telling me jokes,” she said. “God! They had a paramedic with an oxygen mask there because I’d start to feel like I was going to pass out.”

By the time she had to loop some of her sequences in post-production, Stone “had seen the film and recognized that Catherine was like a carnivorous cat on the kill,” she said. “That’s how I understood the energy of it. Once I got that—once I understood the roar of the kill—I told them I didn’t want to loop it one bit at a time like they usually do. I wanted to do it all at once. I wanted all the lights in the room turned off. I wanted to just do it. When they turned the lights back on, you could have knocked Paul off his chair with a feather.”

5. VERHOEVEN GOT AWAY WITH LONG SEX SCENES BECAUSE IT WAS A THRILLER.

Basic Instinct was slapped with an NC-17 rating, and Verhoeven, whose contract required a R-rating, had to go back to the MPAA eight times before they’d lower the rating to a R. “Because it was a thriller, the idea that Sharon Stone could kill him during sex was always an element of protection,” the director told Rolling Stone. “So we could show sex and nudity much longer than normal, because there was another element there—the element of threat.”

Mike Medavoy, the head of the movie’s distributor, TriStar, talked Verhoeven into the lesser rating. “If we make Basic Instinct as an NC-17, it could make $50 million or $250 million—I have no idea,” Medavoy told Verhoeven. “But if we make it as an R, it will certainly make $150 million. So let's do that.” “And it made sense, at least from a business point of view, so I had to adapt to that,” Verhoeven said. “But going back and forth between the studio or the editing room and the MPAA, having to go back and change more and more frames ... it was very unpleasant. Strangely enough, the shot of Sharon Stone spreading her legs was never a problem.”

Verhoeven ended up cutting about 40 seconds of material, which showed up in the European version. “Actually, I didn’t have to cut many things, but I replaced things from different angles, made it a little more elliptical, a bit less direct,” Verhoeven explained to The New York Times.

6. THE LEG-CROSSING SCENE WAS NOT IN THE SCRIPT.

Basic Instinct's most famous scene is undoubtedly the interrogation scene, where Stone notoriously crosses and uncrosses her legs. But Eszterhas didn't write it. The scene has been parodied many times throughout the past 20-plus years, including a 2015 bit with Douglas on James Corden. “Paul Verhoeven decided that scene would be more fun if Sharon didn’t wear any underwear that day,” Eszterhas wrote in his 2005 memoir, Hollywood Animal. “In other words, the most famous moment of any of my films was Paul Verhoeven’s. I am a militant and militantly insufferable screenwriter who insists that the screenwriter is as important as the director, who insists the director serves the screenwriter’s vision, and whose most famous and most memorable screen moment was created by the director, Paul Verhoeven.”

During a Story Expo Q&A, Eszterhas again talked about that famous scene. “I think it was brilliant for Paul to do it that way,” Eszterhas said. “I deny that’s the reason why the movie was a hit … In some ways I’m really sorry I didn’t write the damn scene.”

7. STONE PLAYED THE INTERROGATION SCENE AS IF SHE WERE PLAYING A GAME.

Instead of allowing the male law enforcement to intimidate her character, Stone played the role with confidence. “The ruse they use—‘We have the power, we’re going to show you’—didn’t cut the mustard with [Catherine],” Stone told Playboy. “Her attitude was, ‘You're so powerful. Aren’t you cute!’ And, of course, she had all the power. These men put her in a position where she was alone in a chair in the center of an empty room—surrounded. That would be a very intimidating position to be in unless she disarmed them, which she did. At the police station she could have been stricken and scared. But instead she thought, ‘This is going to be fun. Oh, so you want me to sit in the middle of the room here? Oh, charming. Why is that? You want to make sure you can look up my dress? OK, you can look up my dress.’ It was a game.”

8. ESZTERHAS REGRETS “GLAMORZING SMOKING” IN THE MOVIE.

In 2001, Eszterhas was diagnosed with throat cancer, and he lost a significant amount of his larynx. He wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in 2002 about the hazards of smoking, especially in the movies. “Sharon Stone’s character smokes; Michael Douglas’s is trying to quit,” he wrote. “She seduces him with literal and figurative smoke that she blows into his face. In the movie’s most famous and controversial scene, she even has a cigarette in her hand.” He said Big Tobacco loved the movie so much that they launched a Basic brand of cigarettes. “I think smoking should be as illegal as heroin … So I say to my colleagues in Hollywood: What we are doing by showing larger-than-life movie stars smoking onscreen is glamorizing smoking. What we are doing by glamorizing smoking is unconscionable. A cigarette in the hands of a Hollywood star onscreen is a gun aimed at a 12- or 14-year-old.”

9. STONE DIDN’T FEEL COMFORTABLE AROUND DOUGLAS.

Stone told Playboy she didn’t think he felt at ease around her either, but it worked for the movie. “I think that kind of discomfort lends itself to this kind of movie,” she said. “Tension is good. I basically didn’t get to know Michael. There was something about the mystery of not knowing each other that lent itself to this situation. It’s odd, because now I have this very intimate bond with a stranger.” Despite that, Stone described working with him as “primal.” “It was all about watching him, observing his movements, provoking him. If one were to believe in karma, I would say there is some karmic circle yet unfulfilled between the two of us. Our energy together was strong. It still isn't comfortable for me, but I think it works very well for our work together.”

10. VERHOEVEN DIDN’T THINK THE MOVIE WAS JUST ABOUT SEX.

“I always thought the movie was about evil,” Verhoeven told The New York Times. “I always thought that with an economy falling down, with the dangers of life all around you—the danger of AIDS, the danger of crime—people are more aware of the fact that evil is an existing, everyday factor in your life. But this is my intuition. I don’t want to push it. As an artist, as a director, it’s sometimes better not to be too clear with yourself about what you’re doing. Otherwise you might be pushing too hard.”

11. STONE MANIPULATED THE DIRECTOR TO GET THE PART.

Thirteen actresses besides Stone were considered for Catherine, but only Stone was willing to do it. Just as Catherine manipulates men, Stone manipulated the director to get the role. Back then Stone wasn’t a big name, and didn’t read for the part fearing she’d be disappointed. She finally read the script and knew she was right for the role but didn’t want to call Verhoeven—whom she had worked with on Total Recall—and ask if she could audition for him. “I wouldn’t ask, because I didn’t want him to test me just because he felt obligated,” she told Playboy. One day Verhoeven had her come in to dub lines for an airplane version of Total Recall, so she wore a tight Catherine-esque dress to demonstrate to Verhoeven that she could play the maneater part. “I was being cool. Very cool,” she said. “I didn’t want him to think I was insane, but I did want to give him a general idea that I could transform myself. Men are visually stimulated—and that’s usually enough, at least at first.” The dress worked, and Stone tested with Douglas and won the role.

12. ESZTERHAS QUIT THE PROJECT BUT CAME BACK LATER ON.

Eszterhas felt Verhoeven was compromising his script. “My intention when I wrote the script was that it be a psychological mystery with the love scenes done subtly,” Eszterhas told the Los Angeles Times in 1990. “Every love scene in my script begins with the words: ‘It is dark; we can’t see clearly.’”

He then thought Verhoeven and Douglas ganged up on him. “Michael was leading the fight, feeling that Catherine was one-upping his character all the time, and that there was no redemption, and he wanted the movie to end with him shooting and killing her,” Eszterhas told the London Screenwriters’ Festival. “Paul backed him up. I said, ‘If you want to do this I won’t be involved in killing my own child. It would make it into a bad TV movie.’ In my mind, this was film noir, not a morality tale, and that’s what made it unique and daring. Paul stood up and said, ‘I am the director, you are the writer, you do what I tell you!’ I said, ‘Like f*ck you do!’”

A few months later, Verhoeven called Eszterhas and decided to return to his version of the script. “He said he hadn’t understood the ‘basement’ of my script, as he called it, that it was about good and evil,” Eszterhas said. “He not only went back to my draft, he actually held a press conference and said this. For a director to mumble these words is quite something; for him to hold a press conference is mind-boggling.”

13. IT WAS “BASIC HORROR” FOR STONE TO SEE HERSELF ON THE SCREEN.

Having abandoned herself so completely to the character, when Stone finally saw the film on the big screen she “couldn't believe that it was me. I couldn't remember doing all the things I had done,” she confessed to Playboy.

“Halfway through the movie, it was as if I were impaled. I was just sitting there, mouth open, staring at the screen, listening to my heartbeat and wondering how long it would be before it was over, wondering who I should call first to tell them never to see this movie. It was basic horror. It’s one thing when you take enormous risks and go way out on a limb in life. It’s another thing when someone plays it back for you.” After struggling on the sidelines for so many years, she knew Basic Instinct was the “opportunity of a lifetime.” “I’m either gonna play this part and it’s gonna rock things, or I’m gonna be hanging my head in shame at the supermarket. There was no gray area. It was an all-or-nothing roll of the dice.”

14. KATHLEEN TURNER WAS A MODEL FOR CATHERINE.

For her role as a femme fatale-type character, Stone referenced Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity and Kathleen Turner in Body Heat. “Kathleen Turner is a great, great actress whom I have always enjoyed watching,” Stone told Playboy. “You never know what she’s going to do. So, yes, I thought of her when I did my part. I thought, if Kathleen Turner did this, she wouldn't draw a line here, she’d go further. I also thought of Judy Davis. If she did this part, we’d be rocked right out of our seats. I saw Impromptu regularly while I was making the movie, thinking, she has great courage. I want to be like her.”

15. STONE AND ESZTERHAS HAD A ONE-NIGHT STAND.

In Hollywood Animal, Eszterhas recounted the time he slept with Stone after the movie came out. “I’m glad I nailed her, though. Not because nailing her felt all that good (it was okay). But because as a result of Sharon Stone’s presence in my life, I met and married Naomi, my one true love,” he wrote.

He’s referring to the filming of Sliver (Eszterhas wrote the script), when Stone had an affair with producer William McDonald, who left his wife of five months, Naomi Baka, for Stone. The couple got engaged but eventually Stone dumped him. On the plus side, Eszterhas swooped in and hooked up with Naomi; they are still married today.

Eszterhas said neither he nor Stone “attached too much significance to our one-night stand.” “I figured that since I had written the biggest hit of her life for her, she was just saying thank you. And I knew that Sharon thought she was flattering me that night by treating me as if I were the director [she wouldn’t sleep with Verhoeven] and not a screenwriter, but still. Basic Instinct had been the number one box office hit of the year … in the whole world! I felt I deserved her.”

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