Catalan chemist Pere Estupinyà describes himself as 'scientist' at heart and a 'journalist by trade'.
Currently based in the United States, the high achieving Estupinyà was the first Spaniard in 27 years to receive the grant from the Knight Science Journalism program, and he spent one academic year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow.
He is currently freelancing for MIT and is writing a blog for the Spanish national daily newspaper El País.
Recently The Local spoke to Pere about his new book on sex research.
Tell us about your new book S=EX2
The book is as a scientific vision of all the factors that influence our sex including biology, sociology, physiology and sexual behaviour.
To write the book I went to major sexology conferences and interviewed anthropologists, sex therapists and neuroscientists.
But I also spoke to porn actors and sadomasochists and I even went to a swingers club one night.
Is this field of research developing quickly?
This is not an area which has been very well explored in the past, but, yes, we are now beginning to study sex. And part of that has to do, for example, with the fact that older people now want a healthy sex life.
Then there is the huge influence of the internet on sex. So yes, this is a growing area of interest for scientists.
You are based in the US? Are there many differences between attitudes to sex between the States and Spain?
Spain and the United States aren't very different. The major differences are between these countries and places in Africa and South America.
What’s more important, say, in Spain, is someone’s socioeconomic level.
Women who are more educated, for example, are more likely to masturbate. And they’re more likely to have a greater number of sexual partners.
Have attitudes in Spain changed much?
Yes. Spain has changed quite a lot since the 1970s. Women have more sexual freedom, and homosexuality is far more widely accepted.
Also, people now are much more likely to perform oral sex and sex between older people is no longer taboo.
There are also far fewer unwanted pregnancies.
On top of that, people are marrying later, and because they are spending more time as singles, they are having more sexual partners. This is particularly true for women.
How would you rate sexual education in Spain?
From my conversations with sexologists, we definitely need to improve this education, particularly during childhood and adolescence.
These experts have told me that parents don’t know how to bring up sex with children.
Parents and teachers need to do this, though, because there is a certain point at which children get interested in sex and if they don’t get told about it, they’ll just go online. And they’ll discover all sorts of things there.
In the past, this wasn't such a problem, but experts are now saying we need to teach children about sex at a younger age.
You spoke to a huge variety of people while writing your book. Are there any forms of sex which are not healthy?
Of course. Obsession, a lack of respect and a lack of control are all huge problems.
Studies show that ‘normal’, or ‘healthy’ individuals can be exposed to all sorts of sexual practices — on the internet, for example — without that causing a problem.
But people who have psychological issues, or who may have been abused, for example, can be negatively affected by that exposure.
Sex is like shopping or drugs. If you can’t control your behaviour, then it's a problem.
Can you have too much sex?
People don’t talk about quantity any more: it´s more about satisfaction.
If you have a lot of sex with your partner, but you can control this well and you both enjoy it, it’s not a problem.
Sex is a problem when you can’t control it — if it means you can’t do your job properly for example, or if you compulsively visit prostitutes.
During the writing of your book, you found out you can have multiple orgasms.
That’s right. It’s something that you hear about from people that practice tantric yoga, but I’m not really talking about anything esoteric.
The trick is to realize that while ejaculation and orgasm usually go together for men, they are not the same thing.
Ejaculation happens when muscles release semen, but the orgasm actually happens when nerve fibres transmit a signal to the brain.
Basically, if men slow down their breathing enough, and control the muscles that lead to ejaculation, men can have orgasms without ejaculating. That means they can keep their erection.
Editor's Note:The Local's Spanish Face of the Week is someone in the news who – for good or ill – has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as Spanish Face of the Week is not necessarily an endorsement.
It´s not the same as a normal orgasm though!
Estupinyà’s new book S=EX2: La Ciencia de Sexo is now available in both Catalan and Castellano (Spanish). He is currently negotiating with possible English publishers.