After my first Sex Files column last week, "Is Semen An Antidepressant?," many people have asked some great further questions that I want to address. First and foremost, what about other orifices?
Friday I spoke with evolutionary anthropologist Gordon Gallup, Jr. at SUNY Albany again to get some answers.
Many of you quite reasonably questioned whether the mood-boosting properties of semen could apply to other types of sex than vaginal. For now, that's an open question, as Gallup says no studies have been conducted on the anti-depressant properties of semen received by women or men during oral or anal sex.
Gallup's team tried to look at the effects of semen on gay men who were having unprotected anal sex but could not continue, because almost all of the study participants were ingesting semen during oral sex, which could have confounded the results. (An interesting note: The researchers did not ask the women in the 2002 study whether or not they were engaging in oral sex. Future studies should rectify that, if you ask me.)
Despite the lack of direct research, Gallup said he "wouldn't be a bit surprised" if oral and anal sex provided a mood boost. "There's no guarantee that all of the ingredients in semen will survive the digestion process and stomach acid, which could conceivably change some of the semen chemistry. But given what we know about birth control pills, most of the hormones should survive." Regarding anal sex, he added: "My guess would be that the chemicals in semen would be absorbed through the lining of the colon."
Here's some related research that's worth mentioning:
"There's some evidence that gay males following anal intercourse will go out of their way to try to retain the semen for extended periods of time, which suggests psychotropic effects," Gallup says. (I wonder whether the "sexiness" quotient of having your partner's semen inside you might be another, perhaps complimentary, explanation.)
Oral sex has been linked to health effects in women. Women who frequently ingest their partner's semen have been shown to have a significantly lower risk of preeclampsia -- a mysterious and dangerous pregnancy condition that is the leading cause of prenatal infant death -- than women who do not swallow. The findings may seem like a stretch, but before you cry foul, consider that a number of studies have shown the same correlation from unprotected vaginal sex. Researchers theorize that preeclampsia evolved at least in part to allow women to unwittingly reject pregnancies resulting from "unfamiliar" semen. Such an adaptation would favor partners who stick around for a while, and who would be more likely to share the considerable burden of parenthood. If semen from oral sex can affect whether or not a woman carries her baby to term, who's to say it can't have other consequences on a woman's body, such as affecting her mood?
Couldn't other factors have been at work?
Some of you wondered whether hormonal birth control or the "depth" or the relationship could have affected the results of the study. The researchers considered these factors. Of the sexually active women who never used condoms, seven out of 10 were on the Pill. However, there were no significant differences in depression scores as a function of the Pill either within or across the condom-use categories. Likewise, there were no differences in depression scores based on whether women were in relationships or the length of those relationships.
Do vasectomies matter?
They might. Again, Gallup says that no one has yet studied how male sterilization affects the possible mood-boosting effects of semen. However, anecdotal evidence does indicate a correlation: "We've had a number of women contact us to tell us that as a result of their partners having vasectomies, they've experienced a return to depressive kinds of symptoms," he says. "Prior to being in a relationship with semen exposure [the women] were depressed, but as long as they were being inseminated their depression was diminished. Now that their partner was vasectomized, the depressive symptoms returned, suggesting that vasectomy may have an impact on seminal chemistry."
So is rape supposed to be mood-boosting?
Obviously not. Mood isn't simply a result of our biochemistry, and the depression-alleviating benefits of semen would likely be trumped by the trauma of the rape, and the possible negative consequences, such as unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases, Gallup says. Plus, he adds, "It may very well be the case that the anti-depressant properties of semen are dose dependent, and that repeated insemination may be necessary to get the effects."
Should we throw our condoms out?
One commenter on this site said that Gallup's research is a step backward for safe sex, which is a predictable concern I probably should have addressed the first time around. Gallup's response was clear: "Don't take this to mean that you should begin practicing unsafe sex. If you're depressed and using condoms, and then throw your condoms away and develop an unwanted pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease, your previous depression [could worsen]." The bottom line as I see it: Don't switch up your routine if it's going to put you at some sort of risk. But if you're already having responsible condom-free sex, enjoy it -- and the mood-boosting benefits you may be getting from it.
Jennifer Abbasi is a science and health writer and editor living in Brooklyn. She has seen every episode of The X-Files. Have a question about the science of sex? Email Jen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interesting segment, you should continue sex files. It adds a different flavor to PopSci
it's been a bit salty so far...
Ok!... I thought of this a while ago but was not sure where to pose the ?... So i guess this is as good of place than any!....
So!... If one has an open wound are rash would it be beneficial to place semen on it and bandage it!.... Would the semen help regenerate and heal the wound!...?..
the first thing that comes to my mind is possibly a placebo effect. Other then that i see no creditable evidence of any real scientific information, or any real practical implications ;/
Aside from being preposterous, this study is both sexist and homophobic. Gay men and women are affected by semen? What, not straight men? It's easy enough to test. Or are the "researchers" too squeamish to give it a go?
Longer criticism here:
I was talking to my fiance about this study and she brought up a good point... from her personal experience from the beginning of our relationship to now.
She said the the feeling of sex/orgasm is MUCH more intense without the use of a condom. She said that the skin on skin contact is a much more emotional feeling than having a piece of rubber in between.
Just a thought...
yes sex feels so much better without a condom but it still kind of like playing Russian roulette when you do it. ive done it but a handful of times and it felt GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!
@RomanHans uh, yeah, actually, straight men are not affected by this for a simple reason, they aren't exactly eating semen on a regular basis! or taking it in the @$$! seriously know what your talking about before you start flaming someone or something. not everything needs to be a revolution.
also, jedi, no one needs to hear about that, and i doubt they want to. seriously this is an observation rooted in tests with a fairly high testing pool. if you have a problem with it, do a CREDIBLE test, and disprove it.
Ghost, you are clearly a rocket scientist. Straight men can't ingest sperm? I'm not saying straight from the source -- just *ingest* it. Mixed in a drink, in a pill, in their oatmeal first thing in the morning. Oddly, the researchers seem just as reticent as you, which is why I question both their study and their intelligence.
@RomanHans What kind of straight men would do that? Answer: NONE! And what kind of psycho would do that to someone without them knowing? Answer: Except you, NONE!!
Have a great day, everybody!
The next question is there any absorption by the male of female secretions? Biochemical bonding might be a two-way street.
Thanks for that oatmeal bit. I am throwing away my breakfast now. I would be willing to bet that a large majority of straight men would never for any reason willingly injest semen in any form.
If you think it would be a good idea maybe you should visit the other side of the porn-video isle.
@kherzhul and Convitus
i find your comments very short-sighted. there are many teens, young adults, and even adults who regularly "ingest" thier own semen simply out of shame and quilt. Due to societal pressures, whether family/religious/community, who will eat their own semen after masturbation. Whilst most will toss a crusty sock or tshirt into the laundry, there are '000's of straight guys out there who will eat their semen to simply destroy any and all evidence of thier activities.
And let's not forget the straight, perfectly normal persons who ingest thier own semen only for the mere fact that it turns them on. There is nothing wrong with a kink that does not hurt oneself or others, and believe me there are '000s out there, uncounted for.
This topic and the research is way off the main topics in life.
Some troubled people in the past and today like to consider sex and all related issues as built in tools for self pleasure through friction /the passing of electromagnetic signals from the nerves of reproductive system to the brain until powerful chemicals are released/.
It is obvious that "free world" has systematically been trying to forget that the reproductive system is not there just to define the differences between sexes and justify troubled people's self identity issues.
It was, is and will be the way human life comes into being.
It is indeed very exciting to ignorantly talk about sex as something that can be sold and and bought, shown and hidden but none of those involved in the trade is willing to pay the price for the social damage this culture has caused and the lives it has ruined.
Semen has a purpose for its existence and that is to meet and egg for new life to emerge. As entertaining as it may be to see all other possible side appliances we should not forget to pay respect to its main function and the love, trust and endurance a man and a woman need to present to each other for that purpose to be fruitfully fulfilled and for them to stand in the wonderful and responsible position of parents.
Human life is not cheap even though it comes free!
That's a great question!
I'm very curious.
The answer would hopefully bring peace to those poor giving males who feel they're being used too. :)
I tried to find answers to that on the web but no luck (except for some Tao sex trainers).
LMAO. thats true. i myself haven't tried it.but i remember once ejaculating on my GF mouth and than she kissed me. of course she had swallowed the load but the taste was still their. i guess it turned her on. anyone else done this? i did it just to please her and it was one of those "in the moment" things.
These comments are in regards to the online article “FYI: Could A Virgin Birth Ever Happen?” The author failed to enable comments.
Virginity has nothing to do with giving birth. Ever heard of artificial insemination? I understand that the article is about parthenogenesis, but the title of the article and the image of Mary are deliberate shots at Jesus. Truth time: when you read the title of the article, what was the first thing that popped into your head? Jesus or parthenogenesis?
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