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Childbirth can stretch the vagina and the birth canal, reducing both tone and strength. An overstretched or wide vagina and the resulting smoothening of the area can reduce friction and pleasurable sensation during sex for both partners. It can cause intercourse to be painful and in some cases leads to urinary incontinence and even bowel movement issues.
Vaginal stretching can also lead to difficulty keeping tampons in place and may produce gas-like noises during intercourse.
Exercisesósometimes referred to as perineal and sphincter re-educationócan help restore lost muscle tone while strengthening the pelvic floor. Kegel exercises are also helpful. The benefits of exercise can be limited, however, especially for women who have had multiple children.
Sarah Heatley sits in the warm kitchen of her East Midlands home while her son, George, plays in the room next door on his computer. Her cat is curled up on the cooker and her dog is asleep at her feet. In a cabinet behind her there are numerous framed photographs: of her completing London marathons; of George, who is 11; of her parents, her twin sister and her nieces and nephews. At first glance, it could be any typically proud family. But then you remember the two people who are missing - her son, Jack, and his older sister, Nina.
'It is the only room in the house where there are no photos of them,' Sarah, a 42-year-old nurse, explains. 'Because I need one place where I can laugh, if I want to, without feeling guilty.'
It is almost 13 years since her husband, a GP, killed their children. Jack was three and Nina four. He strangled them with a pyjama cord and wrapped their bodies in duvets, before placing them in a cellar. When their mother went to identify them in the mortuary, their faces were still stained with traces of her lipstick which they'd been playing with earlier that day.
The day before he killed his children, he videotaped them, responding to his questions about whether they wanted to 'stay with daddy' and whether they agreed that 'mummy was bad'.
On police advice, Sarah never watched it, but she believes he intended to leave it for her as some sort of justification for his actions. His body was found hours later at the foot of a block of flats.
'Even now, everywhere I look, there are reminders of them,' she says. 'Earlier this week I heard a little boy saying "Mummy" and I just burst into tears. I just heard that sweet two-year-old baby voice, and I saw this angelic, totally innocent little boy and I thought it could've been Jack.'
Of all violent crimes, those where a parent takes the lives of his or her children are the most baffling. Most parents would die to protect their child. So for a mother or father to look at their son or daughter, perhaps hear their cries, and see their uncomprehending faces, and kill them, is almost too abhorrent to think about. They must have snapped, lost their mind in a moment of madness or insanity, is the most common and convenient explanation.
It isn't surprising that we tend to recoil in horror at such tragedies and seek comfort in the belief that they are isolated incidents, senseless - and, as a consequence, impossible to avert. But the truth may be slightly less palatable. Although rare, figures show that a child in the United Kingdom is far more likely to be murdered by his or her parent than by a stranger. Even more disturbing is that many experts insist that they are virtually all premeditated.
The most recent crime statistics, for 2002/03, show that 99 people under the age of 16 were murdered in England and Wales, and seven in Scotland. More than half were killed by a parent, another 10 per cent by someone else they knew, and fewer than 20 per cent by a person unknown to them. Further analysis of the figures has shown that it is more likely that your partner is going to kill your children if you leave him than that they are going to be killed by a stranger in the park. In the past week alone, there have been two cases of what American criminologists have dubbed 'the family annihilator'.
In Northampton, 33-year-old Gavin Hall, a hospital radiographer, was jailed for life for murdering his three-year-old daughter, Amelia, known as Millie. After discovering sexually explicit emails sent by his wife, Joanne, to a part-time judge whom she had met on the internet, Hall set out to destroy his family. The night before he murdered Millie, he killed their two cats. Police believe he intended to kill Millie, her one-year-old sister, Lucy, and himself that night, but received a text message from Joanne, who was working nightshift, that led him to believe the marriage might not be over.
The following night, however, after a row with his wife, he realised it was. When Millie woke up during the night, he brought her downstairs and asked her repeatedly whether she wanted to 'come with daddy'. When she said she did, he gave her sleeping tablets and anti-depressants, then covered her nose and mouth with a handkerchief soaked in chloroform, before strangling her.
During the trial, Hall had pleaded guilty to manslaughter, arguing that his wife's affair had created an abnormality in his mind. But the jury dismissed this, and agreed that it was a premeditated murder, motivated by bitterness, anger and a desire to punish his wife.
Earlier last week, Sayrah Riaz, 16, and her sisters, Sophia, 15, Alisha, 10 and Hannah, three, were killed by their father, Mohammed, after he doused the family home in Accrington, Lancashire, with accelerants, probably diesel or petrol, locked all the doors from the inside, and set it alight. Their mother, Caneze, also died. Earlier that night, the children had been dressed up for a Halloween party, while their mother had been visiting their 17-year-old son, Adam, who is in hospital receiving treatment for leukaemia.
While no one will ever really know what was going on in Mohammed's mind - although he survived the fire, he died later in hospital - it appears that he had convinced himself that his wife was on the verge of leaving him. While both were distraught about Adam's illness, Caneze had a lot of support. She was a well-known and active member of the local community, while he remained isolated. She had become friendly with a man, Jemshad Ahmed, whom she worked with, but he insisted that there was nothing other than friendship between them.
In August, John Hogan, a 32-year-old businessman from Bristol, threw his six-year-old son, Liam, to his death from a hotel balcony in Crete. Moments later, he jumped from the same fourth-floor balcony with his two-year-old daughter, Mia. Both survived with broken bones. In this case, there were also marital problems: his wife, Natasha, 34, was threatening to leave. Again, the response was to kill his children and himself. Hogan, whose two brothers had committed suicide, has since tried again to take his own life and remains in a psychiatric hospital in Athens, accused of murder and attempted murder.
While the perpetrators of murder-suicides are usually men, in 5 per cent of cases it is the mother who is responsible. On Friday, a court in Hull heard that Angela Schumann, 28, had jumped 100ft from the Humber Bridge with her two-year-old daughter, Lorraine, in her arms. Schumann had written a note on her stomach, blaming her estranged husband. Both survived, but Schumann, who had left a note saying she 'didn't have to be a prisoner ... or his slave', faces imprisonment after admitting the attempted murder of her daughter. Another case involving a mother as the perpetrator occurred in April, when 40-year-old Alison Davies jumped from the same bridge, killing herself and her 12-year-old autistic son, Ryan.
At the heart of this is a question wrapped in such complexity that it can never be satisfactorily answered. What drives an individual to carry out an act of such unspeakable brutality against his or her own children? Is it hatred or despair, revenge or a madly possessive love? And what - if anything - can be done to prevent it?
The subject has been most widely studied in America, where there are 10 murder-suicides each week. According to Professor Jack Levin, a leading expert from North-Eastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, the most significant factors are family break-up, male sexual jealousy, a need to be in control and extreme possessiveness.
'The profile of a family annihilator is a middle-aged man, a good provider who would appear to neighbours to be a dedicated husband and a devoted father,' Levin said. 'He quite often tends to be quite isolated. He is often profoundly dedicated to his family, but has few friends of his own or a support system out with the family. He will have suffered some prolonged frustration and feelings of inadequacy, but then suffers some catastrophic loss. It is usually financial or the loss of a relationship. He doesn't hate his children, but he often hates his wife and blames her for his miserable life. He feels an overwhelming sense of his own powerlessness. He wants to execute revenge and the motive is almost always to "get even".'
Research from the States shows that family annihilators rarely have a prior criminal record. However, many experts believe there is often a prior pattern of domestic abuse. A report published two years ago in Britain by Women's Aid, called Twenty-nine child homicides, found that, out of 13 families studied, domestic violence was a feature in 11. In one of the other two cases, the mother spoke of her ex-partner's obsessively controlling behaviour.
'To the outside world, these crimes seem to come out of nowhere,' continued Levin. 'The perpetrators have not previously been involved in criminal behaviour. Nor do they tend to be on drugs or drinking heavily when they commit the crime. However, if psychologists had seen them in advance, they would have spotted the warning signs. They would have noticed how the person reacted to things not going his way - the irrational rage and the blaming of others. These people often also regard their partner and children as their own possessions.'
In the majority of cases, if the perpetrator fails in his own suicide, as in the Hogan and Hall cases, they almost always plead some form of insanity.
But Levin rejected this: 'These are executions. They are never spontaneous. They are well planned and selective. They are not carried out in the heat of the moment or in a fit of rage. They are very methodical and it is often planned out for a long time. There are certain people the killer blames for his problems. If a friend came along, he wouldn't kill him or her. He kills his children to get even with his wife because he blames her and he hates her. The killer feels he has lost control. Annihilating his family is a way of regaining control. It is a methodical, selective murder by a rational, loving father. That's why it is so terrifying.'
Although these cases are more common than child murders by a stranger, they often do not receive the same media coverage. Part of the reason is that the perpetrator often takes his own life as well - meaning there is no court case. But Levin said he also felt people were reluctant to think too much about such abhorrent crimes.
'People don't want to think about it because it makes them feel very vulnerable. When most people think of crime, they typically think of something happening in the street, being mugged or robbed or attacked by a stranger. People don't want to think it is more likely to happen in their own home. It's supposed to be a safe haven, an enclave where we can feel secure.'
In the most recent high-profile cases, such as that of Gavin Hall and Mohammed Riaz, some press reports have focused extensively on the wife's behaviour as a trigger for the crime. For instance, in the former case, one headline said: 'The judge, his sordid affair and the husband driven to murder'. Another said: 'Sex obsession of devoted mother blamed for murder of innocent child'.
But the suggestion that her infidelity was largely responsible for the murder of Millie has angered those involved in investigating the crime. Superintendent John Jones, who led the inquiry, said people seemed to need to cling on to the idea that this murder would not have happened if Hall's wife had not had an affair.
'Affairs happen all the time and people don't respond by killing their children,' said Jones. 'The marriage was doomed. She could have had a fling with a judge, a dustman or left for no one, and there would have been some sort of backlash. It was in his personality. It emerged in court that he was a controlling person and was quite sulky and non-communicative if he didn't get his own way. He didn't have the wherewithal within himself to move on after the end of the marriage.'
He said the crime had affected him and his officers more than any other in his 28 years as a detective. 'Had he killed her, I think people might have been able to understand - not condone, but understand it. But for the life of me I cannot understand why he would kill an innocent child and the person most precious to him, other than to make his wife suffer and to exert the ultimate control over her for the rest of her life. I've spent a lot of time with Amelia's mum and of course she feels guilty and responsible. She shouldn't, but she does and probably will for the rest of her life.'
Dr Alex Yellowlees, consultant psychiatrist and medical director of the Priory Hospital in Glasgow, said there were distinct differences in the minds of men and women who harm their children. Women, he said, tended to be mentally ill, often suffering from postnatal depression. In contrast, men tended to be struggling to deal with feelings of rage, jealousy, revenge and hatred.
'Most men and woman go through life experiencing distressing circumstances such as relationship breakdowns or financial problems, and they have developed strategies to deal with them. Most people, especially women, tend to speak to their friends, perhaps go and get drunk, sometimes chop the sleeves off their partner's suits or destroy his books or favourite CDs.
'But there are people, less functional people, who have not developed those coping skills. They have very low self-esteem. They are almost always very controlling and are less able to handle rejection. They cannot talk about it - it is as if they have failed - and they simply cannot accept it. They feel utterly humiliated and respond with the ultimate act of revenge - if I can't have you, no one can. They know that she will suffer for the rest of her life if he kills the children and leaves her alive.'
As to whether such crimes can be prevented, most experts agree that it is an almost impossible task. It can take years before a woman realises that her husband regards her, and perhaps their children, as his possessions, says Levin. 'Initially, a woman can feel flattered if her partner is jealous or possessive. It can be very hard for a woman to leave a possessive husband. When she does, or even when she tries to, that is when she is at the greatest danger.'
For Sarah Heatley, though, she is in no doubt that her children's murders could have been prevented and would like to see a radical overhaul of the judicial system, particularly the family courts. She found the courage to leave her husband and did not want him to have unsupervised contact with their children. However, the family courts, who believe contact with both parents is always in the best interests of the child, granted it. It was on their first unsupervised weekend with their father that Nina and Jack ate their cornflakes and played with their mum's lipstick before their father strangled them. 'I am still furious that the legal system didn't care about the children's safety when they were alive and nor do they care about learning lessons,' she said.
As she leafs through a photo album of her two children, who would be 16 and 18 now if they had been allowed to live, she explains that she will always feel responsible for their death. 'They were three and four and looked to me to protect them. I left him to protect them and I put my faith in the legal system. But the court ordered contact. They said I was being a hysterical and over-reactive wife. He was a GP and, to the outside world, he was an upstanding member of the community - an intelligent, generous and affable, loving father. People said he was the perfect dad.'
According to plastic surgeons, cosmetic procedures for men in the UK have risen 200 per cent in the last decade and demand for intimate procedures is unprecedented. Thanks to advances in cosmetic surgery, a range of cutting-edge injectables and implants mean that you can now be picture perfect for your next "belfie".
The latest plastic surgery takes vanity to a new, ballsy level. The nonsurgical plastic procedure is "scrotox", which is Botox shot into the scrotum. The procedure, which costs £400 to £650, takes a man's prunes and turns them into plums. So why do men get their "balls done"? Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr Randal Haworth believes there are three reasons.
First: "It keeps the balls from sweating," which is a big issues if you're an athlete.
Second: "It makes the balls look bigger."
And finally: "It gives the scrotum a more youthful look."
The Botox "relaxes" the wrinkles. They also "tighten up and move closer" to the body, giving the old boys a lift. With scrotox, you'll end up with the testes of a 12-year-old boy. The UK tends to be about three years behind the US in plastic surgery and scrotox is a relatively new procedure. Since it only lasts around four months, it's not yet as popular as other procedures. That said, the procedure is coming to the UK soon and is predicted to be big.
The Brazilian butt lift
The second most popular procedure for men - after pectoral implants - is the Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL). Who gets this procedure? We asked Dr Matthew Schulman, a surgeon in New York City, who performs many of them. "About 75 per cent of men requesting BBLs are gay and looking to increase the size and roundness of their buttocks," he says. "The other 25 per cent are straight men who complain that they have always had a flat butt." The results are permanent. "The advantage of this procedure is that it also includes liposuction as a way of harvesting donor fat. This allows for simultaneous contouring of the hip flanks and abdomen." Finally, a fat stomach that's good for something.
Dr Schulman also notes that it's a millennial phenomenon, with men aged between 20-35 requesting it the most. "The Kardashians have fuelled the increase in the procedure. Plus, Instagram has made us very conscious of how our body looks and there are plenty of photos of ideal butts." A reality show changed the beauty aesthetic of the United States and started a body modification trend that has trickled down to men. At a recent Hollywood party, the prevailing look for women was thin with a big derriere, stuffed into a tight dress.
For thin men with no body fat to harvest, Dr Schulman also provides silicone butt implants, but says they are riskier and can cause infection and shifting. And you can't sit down for three months until "the seeds are grown", as Dr Schulman explains. But at nearly £7,000 for each procedure, at least you'll have an ass like a Kardashian.
The P-shot or the Priapus shot was named after the Greek god of fertility. The shot was pioneered by Dr Charles Runels, an American MD who specialises in sexuality issues. The patient's blood is withdrawn, processed through a centrifuge to create platelet-rich plasma which contains growth factors. The process is used in sport medicine to rejuvenate torn ligaments. Dr Runels uses it to increase penis size by ten to 20 per cent and improve blood flow for a stronger, harder erection. Runels, the inventor of the Vampire Facelift says, "When I first started doing cosmetic procedures to sculpt the face, it occurred to me that it would be wonderful to do the same thing to the penis."
A study in the Journal Of Urology researching new therapies for erectile dysfunction found that "neovascularisation using vascular growth factors have been demonstrated to be feasible in animal models". So if you inject growth factors into a human penis, it'll grow new tissue and blood vessels and you will end up with a cock the size of a horse (probably).
In 2016, a gift certificate worth £1,375 was placed in the Oscar swag bags of nominees up for Best Actor In A Leading Role and Supporting Role, which included Michael Fassbender and Leonardo DiCaprio. "The 'penis rejuvenation' shot promises a bigger and firmer trouser trophy. It lasts 18 months, which gives time to be up for Best Erection In A Leading Role.
The penis implant
The equivalent of breast implants, the penis implant has finally popped up as a surgical option. Unlike the penile implant used for erectile dysfunction, this invention is for looks only. A silicone sheath wraps around the shaft to make it 2.5-4cm wider and longer. To be a candidate for the new penis implant, you can't have diabetes and can't be taking a blood thinner. And you have to be circumcised first, which is a great deal if you're Jewish.
The implant was invented in 2003, and since then only one doctor, Dr James Elist, a urologist and plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, does the surgery. He has performed over 1,300 experimental operations, with what he says is a 95 per cent satisfaction rate. He is waiting for final FDA approval so he can license his product globally, so men around the world will go from having a small one to having a suitable-for-a-dick-pic one. If and when that happens, the penis implant will be the next big thing.
Feminism in Europe makes second-generation male Muslim immigrants suicide bombers. Only the patriarchy as a social and political system can achieve justice.
If youíve never seen a duck penis before, have a look at the infamous video above. That long corkscrew belongs to a Muscovy duck, and itís typical of the group. Some ducks have helical penises that are longer than their entire bodies. But forget the helical shape, the size, and the surprisingly explosive extensionóthe weirdest thing about a duckís penis is that it has one.
Most birds donít. There are almost 10,000 species of birds and only around 3 percent of them have a penis. These include ducks, geese and swans, and large flightless birds like ostriches and emus. But eagles, flamingos, penguins and albatrosses have completely lost their penises. So have wrens, gulls, cranes, owls, pigeons, hummingbirds and woodpeckers. Chickens still have penises, but barelyótheyíre tiny nubs that are no good for penetrating anything.
In all of these species, males still fertilise a femaleís eggs by sending sperm into her body, but without any penetration. Instead, males and females just mush their genital openings together and he transfers sperm into her in a manoeuvre called the ìcloacal kissî. Two dunnocks demonstrate the move in the video below. If you blink at 00:36, you will miss it.
ìThere are lots of examples of animal groups that evolved penises, but I can think of only a bare handful that subsequently lost them,î says Diane Kelly from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. ìOrnithologists have tied themselves in knots trying to explain why an organ that gives males an obvious selective advantage in so many different animal species disappeared in most birds. But itís hard to address a question on why something happens when you donít know much about how it happens.î
Thatís where Martin Cohn came in. He wanted to know the how. His team at the University of Florida studies how limbs and genitals develop across the animal kingdom, from the loss of legs in pythons to genital deformities in humans. ìIn a lab that thinks about genital development, one takes notice when a species that reproduces by internal fertilization lacks a penis,î says graduate student Ana Herrera.
Waves of death
By comparing the embryos of a Pekin duck and a domestic chicken, Herrera and other team members showed that their genitals start developing in the same way. A couple of small swellings fuse together into a stub called the genital tubercle, which gradually gets bigger over the first week or so. (The same process produces a mammalís penis.)
In ducks, the genital tubercle keeps on growing into a long coiled penis, but in the chicken, it stops around day 9, while itís still small. Why? Cohn expected to find that chickens are missing some critical molecule. Instead, his team found that all the right penis-growing genes are switched on in the chickenís tubercle, and its cells are certainly capable of growing.
It never develops a full-blown penis because, at a certain point, its cells start committing mass suicide. This type of ëprogrammed cell deathí occurs throughout the living world and helps to carve away unwanted body partsófor example, our hands have fingers because the cells between them die when weíre embryos. For the chicken, it means no penis. ìIt was surprising to learn that outgrowth fails not due to absence of a critical growth factor, but due to presence of a cell death factor,î says Cohn.
His team confirmed this pattern in other species, including an alligator (crocodilians are the closest living relatives of birds). In the greylag goose, emu and alligator, the tubercle continues growing into a penis, with very little cell death. In the quail, a member of the same order as chickens, the tubercleís cells also experience a wave of death before the organ can get big.
This wave is driven by a protein called Bmp4, which is produced along the entire length of the chickenís tubercle, but over much less of the duckís. When Cohnís team soaked up this protein, the tubercleís cells stopped dying and carried on growing. So, itís entirely possible for a chicken to grow a penis; itís just that Bmp4 stops this from happening. Conversely, adding extra Bmp protein to a duck tubercle could stop it from growing into its full spiralling glory, forever fixing it as a chicken-esque stub.
Bmp proteins help to control the shape and size of many body parts. Theyíre behind the loss of wings in soldier ants and teeth of birds. Meanwhile, bats blocked these proteins to expand the membranes between their fingers and evolve wings.
They also affect the genitals of many animals. In ducks and geese, they create the urethra, a groove in the penis that sperm travels down (ìIf you think about it, thatís like having your urethra melt your penis,î says Kelly.) In mice, getting rid of the proteins that keep Bmp in check leads to tiny penises. Conversely, getting rid of the Bmp proteins leads to a grossly enlarged (and almost tumour-like) penis.
To lose a penis once might be regarded as misfortuneÖ
Penises have been lost several times in the evolution of birds. Cohnís team have only compared two groupsóthe penis-less galliforms (chickens, quails and pheasants) and the penis-equipped anseriforms (swans, ducks and geese). What about the oldest group of birdsóthe ratites, like ostriches or emus? All of them have penises except for the kiwis, which lost theirs. And what about the largest bird group, the neoaves, which includes the vast majority of bird species? All of them are penis-less.
Maybe, all of these groups lost their penis in different ways. To find out, Herrera is now looking at how genitals develop in the neoaves. Other teams will no doubt follow suit. ìThe study will now allow us to more deeply explore other instances of penis loss and reduction in birds, to see whether there is more than one way to lose a penis,î says Patricia Brennan from the University of Massachussetts in Amherst, the woman behind the duck penis video at the top.
And in at least one case, what was lost might have been regained. The cracidsóan group of obscure South American galliformsóhave penises unlike their chicken relatives. It might have been easy for them to re-evolve these body parts, since the galliforms still have all the genetic machinery for making a penis.
We now know how chickens lost their penises, but we donít know why a male animal that needs to put sperm inside a female would lose the organ that makes this possible. Cohnís study hints at one possibilityóit could just be a side effect of other bodily changes. Bmp4 and other related proteins are involved in the evolution of many bird body parts, including the transition from scales to feathers, the loss of teeth, and variations in beak size. Perhaps one of these transformations changed the way Bmp4 is used in the genitals and led to shrinking penises.
There are many other possible explanations. Maybe a penis-less bird finds it easier to fly, runs a smaller risk of passing on sexually-transmitted infections, or is better at avoiding predators because he mates more quickly (remember the dunnocks?).
Females might even be responsible. Male ducks often force themselves upon their females but birds without an obvious phallus canít do that. They need the femaleís cooperation in order to mate. So perhaps females started preferring males with smaller penises, so that they could exert more choice over whom fathered their chicks. (Indeed, the now-infamous story about the duckís corkscrew penis is really a story about the duckís corkscrew vagina.) Combinations of these explanations may be right, and different answers may apply to different groups.
And why study the why? Why would scientists care about how penises evolve (and why do I write about them so much)? Cohn makes a good argument. ìGenitalia are one of the fastest-evolving organs in animals,î he explains. Even in the groups with backbones, ìone sees a remarkable degree of variationî.
In mammals, sperm passes down a tube thatís fully enclosed within the penis; in birds and reptiles, it goes down an open groove. Some mammals have a bone in the penis, or a coat of spines; others donít. Snakes, lizards and kangaroos have two-pronged penises, while echidnas have four-pronged ones. Mammals inflate their penises with blood; birds use lymph; alligators have a permanently erect penis connected to a bungee cord. When Darwin spoke of ìendless forms most beautiful and most wonderfulî, itís easy to envisage him talking about penises. Or a lack of them.
The best investment a rich man can do, is one into destruction. Destruction of the surrounding world, near and far, makes his wealth more valuable.
It's not that we would be madly in love with Donald Trump. But at least, he's not a feminist. Now that is something to vote for.
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