Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Forget the Condoms! Semen Makes You Happy!

I just stumbled across one of the most baffling 'research' studies I've ever seen.

How Oral Sex or Having Sex Without a Condom Can Be Good For Women's Health

This was in Medical Daily back in August. The researchers studied a number of women at State University of New York in Albany and claim to have found evidence that being exposed to semen makes women less depressed and that, therefore, using condoms makes you more depressed. How, you might ask?

Their contention is that semen is packed with all kinds of goodies including oxytocin, melatonin and cortisol which make women feel super. If you swallow or if you get semen in your vagina or your anus (they don't say any of those dirty words, they just imply them), their logic goes, you get the benefits of all those great things. If you use a condom, or if you spit, you don't.

They studied a whopping 239 women to come to this conclusion. They gave them a self-report survey about their sexual habits and had them take the Beck's Depression scale. They concluded that the women who regularly use condoms and the women who didn't have sex would have less exposure to semen. Those women, they say, were much more depressed than the group who had sex and didn't use condoms. They also say that they screened for the fact that it might just be having sex itself that made them happier. Even the 'very promiscuous women' (I won't even get into the choice of that phrase) who used condoms were more depressed, not just the women that didn't have sex.

They've got some vast generalizations going on here that are so head-scratchingly bizarre that it's hard to even piece them apart. First of all, it's a very small number of women from one particular place. Not exactly a large random sample. Secondly, they don't discuss whether they controlled for any other factors. Was there some other commonality between the condom users that might explain the difference? Perhaps, just perhaps, the non-condom users were more likely to be in a long-term relationship than the condom users and this may have had something to do with their reported happiness. It's a pretty large leap to say that the reason the non-condom users were happier is because of the goodness of sperm.

What's weird is that the Medical Daily article then talks about how other studies have shown that 'a woman's body is able to detect 'foreign' semen that differs from their long-term or recurrent sexual partner’s signature semen (and that this may be)an evolutionary trait that prevents pregnancy from an unfamiliar source because it signals a disinvested male partner who is not as likely to provide for the offspring'. That's really odd given that I've read studies and surveys that show exactly the opposite. In fact there is some pretty convincing data out there to show that a woman is more likely to become pregnant by a man with whom she has just starting having sex than by a man with whom she has had a lot of sex. Data seems to suggest that a woman who is having sex with a regular long-term partner and also with someone she's having an affair with or has seen only once or twice is much more likely to get pregnant by the former rather than the latter. The evolutionary psychologists like to say that this is because nature errs on the side of biological diversity - it doesn't want you to have 3 kids with the same guy. Oh those crazy evolutionary psychologists! Seems they have an answer for everything. Even if those answers contradict each other.

So here's a question. Why, in the name of all that's good in science, did they do this study in the first place? What the F is the point? What purpose is to be served by this? Are they suggesting this as a treatment for depression? Feeling down? Try having random, frequent unprotected sex, that'll lift your spirits! Are are they suggesting that we come up with new drugs based on this? Feeling down? Try new bluzaway now with 50% more sperm. I mean, really what are we to gain from this?

And here's another question. What's one surefire way to become even more depressed than you were before? I think I have the answer. A raging case of syphilis and an intended pregnancy.

1 comment:

Ghost said...

Last year (or was it the year before?) I attended a special Valentine's day lecture given by the psych department at MacEwan University. The lecturer did quote a study that said that there psychological benefits to having semen come in contact with ones cervix, but there were no benefits from any other sort of application. I'll see if I can find the study for you.