So my heart sank when I read the headline at Medical Daily: How Oral Sex or Having Sex Without a Condom Can Be Good For Women's Health. My heart sank even further at the lead sentence:
Performing oral sex or having sex without a condom may benefit both mental and physical health in women, according to scientists who analyzed the effects of semen's "mood-altering chemicals."
It sank because I assumed the "new" research the blogger, Catharine Hsu, referred to was finally going to corroborate "evolutionary" psychologist Gordon Gallup's ten year old "research" paper that made the same claim.
I needn't have worried.
Following the link it turns out that yet again someone's stumbled across Gallup's original paper -- Archives of Sexual Behavior, Volume 31, Number 3 (2002), 289-293, DOI: 10.1023/A:1015257004839 and breathlessly reported on it as if it were new. Or news. Or fact. Or, um, science.
This isn't new research. Gordon Gallup's (grievously suspect) paper was published 10 years ago, in 2002, not 2012. In those 10 years no researchers have reproduced his results. Nor has Gallup followed up with further research on what, on the face of it, one would consider pretty significant news.
Even more tellingly, in those 10 years pharmaceutical companies have conducted clinical trials, let alone primary research, on semen-based anti-depressants. When you consider the seemingly limitless market for depression treatments this is the most significant "market based" refutation of Gallup's alleged research.
Add in the part about how married women, who are presumably most likely to be regularly "exposed" to "doses" of semen, typically report being less happy and healthy than when they were single.
Add in the fact that men, even straight men, are rather routinely exposed to semen without it seeming to do us much good in the mood department ("even after adjusting for intercourse.")
Add in that Gallup is a psychologist, not an MD nor even a biologist.
Don't get me wrong. As a straight man I think it would be really, really nice if my semen had health benefits for young college women. Even nicer if the (small) benefits Gallup claimed to be able to detect in completely unprotected sex outweighed the (very large) adverse consequences we tend to be more familiar with. Instead it's old-guy, frat boy, and shock-jock wish fulfillment, not actual, you know, medical science.
Note: More than five years ago I wrote nearly the same post when Psychology Today breathlessly exhumed the same too-good-to-check zombie "research. But as I said then and I'll say now.
Like a lot of other stories along these lines this one continues to circulate not because the research was credible (it wasn’t!) or the researcher widely respected by his peers (he doesn’t appear to be.) Instead it circulates because it’s too good to fact check. Too good for lad-magazines and anti-feminists to pass up because, hey, it’s another line for doods to use on chix. Too good for for feminists to pass up because, hey, it’s outrageous. Too good for health professionals because, hey, it’s a chance to fret about increased risk of infectious disease.
If you like semen that’s just great. If you don’t, well, that’s great too. If you’re hungry for it, well cool, but it’s not addictive. If you wouldn’t go near the stuff, it’s not like you’re missing out on anything. I propose that you should enjoy it, or not enjoy it because it’s semen, not because it might cure anything.
Till next year. When yet another reporter will pop up with the same old too-good-to-fact-check "news."