How Condoms DON’T Ruin Sex

Welcome back, dear readers, to episode 9 of my attempts to rid the world of 1FLesh’s foolishness by exposing their shoddy research, misstatements, and outright lies. It today’s post, we’ll talking all about condoms and how they actually DON’T “ruin” sex. As a warning, this post is loooong. But, you get to learn all about condoms, semen, and blow jobs, so it’s totally worth the read. 😉

As always, paragraphs in italics are taken directly from 1Flesh’s site.

Enjoy! 

How Condoms Ruin Sex

The condom is American as apple pie.

Is anyone else imagining this scene right now?

Yeah, me too. Moving on.

Kids are taught from middle-school how to use them,

Well, except in schools with abstinence-only education programs; you know, the “education” programs that prohibit teaching about any method of contraception, except in terms of their failure rates?

the government spends millions to make them available without cost,

HUZZAH for the government for trying to make sex safer, reduce rates of unintended pregnancy, and reduce rates of HIV and other STI transmission

and public bathrooms hold them as they used to hold cigarettes

You know, I tested this theory by going into lots of public bathrooms around the DC metro region this weekend, and asked my male significant other to do the same. We didn’t find condoms offered in a single one. Though we did find breath mints, gum, and tampons.

Perhaps we’re just visiting different restrooms than the 1Flesh students?

– a 450 million dollar industry, booming in all respects.

A TRUE statistic?

But despite all this, The National Institute of Health in 2009 had to spend 423,500 taxpayer dollars to find out “why men don’t like to wear condoms.” 

Actually, the study is entitled, “What factors contribute to a man’s decision to have sex without a condom, or to start intercourse with a condom and then take it off?”

They are researching, unsurprisingly, the idea that condoms diminish the pleasurable sensation of sex.

What they’re actually researching? Arousal, sensation, perceptions about condoms, penile sensitivity, and erection loss.

Also, do you know WHY some condoms can diminish the pleasurable sensation of sex? It’s not because people are wearing condoms. It’s because people are wearing ill-fitting condoms, or condoms that they just don’t like.

To explain, researcher Melissa White with Lucky Bloke conducted a Global Condom Review and Safe Sex Initiative involving 1100+ participants in 21 countries. Her initiative found that “access to the proper size, premium condoms – mixed with lots of personal exploration – leads to finding the perfect condom.” Through her studies, she found that 97% participants were introduced to brands they’d never heard, helping them to find their favorite condom; 86% of participants felt that exploring different condom improved and added adventure to their sex life; and 63% learned that they were using the wrong size condom – and found that using the correct size dramatically improved their pleasure.

Did you know that only 10 – 15% of men need a  large condom?

Given that the condoms generally available to the American public only fit 50% of men, and that the vast majority of condoms available to the general public are NOT premium condoms, it’s no surprise that many individuals are reticent to use condoms.

But, as Ms. White’s research shows, when given the appropriately sized condom, and a chance to find a condom that one likes, condom pleasurability (and thereby use) is dramatically increased.

But there’s more to it than that. Condoms diminish the pleasure and unity of sex by interrupting its natural biology. Here’s how:Semen is an antidepressant.

Or rather, not. But we’ll get to that below.

 A study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior found that “not only were females who were having sex without condoms less depressed, but depressive symptoms and suicide attempts among females who used condoms were proportional to the consistency of condom use.”

Wanna know what else the researchers said?

It is important to acknowledge that these data are preliminary and correlational in nature, and as such are only suggestive. More definitive evidence for antidepressant effects of semen would require more direct manipulation of the presence of semen in the reproductive tract and, ideally, the measurement of seminal components in the recipient’s blood.

Photo courtesy of Science of Relationships.

Photo courtesy of Science of Relationships.

Further, the problems with this study are multitudinous.

First, there seems to be no biological basis for the author’s hypothesis that the prostaglandins present in semen have any antidepressant properties whatsoever. The authors’ source for their hypothesis was a single case study from 1986, which found that evening primrose oil alleviated depression in a mother. The author of that case study (Ney) argued that evening primrose oil and semen both contain prostaglandins, thus prostaglandins must have an antidepressant effect. However, studies on the level of prostaglandins in depressed patients have not shown a consistent correlation between levels of prostaglandins and depression – some of found higher levels of prostaglandins in depressed patients, while others have shown normal levels of prostaglandins. Further, it has been shown that antidepressant medication have an inhibitory effect on prostaglandins.

Therefore, it seems highly unlikely that the prostaglandin levels in semen (which are actually quite minute – ranging anywhere from ~20 to ~1000 μg/mL) would be responsible for changes in mood.

Second, the researchers did not control for why women would choose to use or not use condoms in the first place, and whether pre-existing differences between users and non-users might have impacted their results. For example, the fact that non-users were not only less depressed, but also more likely to have frequent intercourse suggests that non-users are different from users in some important way. One possible explanation for this is sexual enjoyment. The results of a 2008 exploratory study on condom “turn-offs” indicated that 40% of women experienced a decrease in sexual sensation with condom usage.

Given the information I noted above about the importance of condom fit and other factors to sexual enjoyment, it is not unlikely that women whose partners wore condoms that the women did not enjoy would be less likely to enjoy sex, and therefore suffer from more depressive symptoms.

Another possible confounding factor may be that depression itself leads to increased condom usage. For instance, in a 1996 study examining safe sex practices, women who were depressed when the study began or who became depressed during the study’s duration were more likely to use condoms. The authors suggested that depression itself,may inhibit sexual activity.

Finally, more recent research has called Gallup’s findings into question. A 2010 study on the relationship between mental disorders and sexual activity (including condom usage)  found that, “Never married participants who rarely/never used condoms were more likely than those who always used condoms to experience any mood, substance use, and any mental disorder, and suicide attempts.”

Semen contains a hormone called prostaglandin,

It also contains testosterone, oestrogen, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, and prolactin (among other thing). Perhaps, as Gallup suggests, more research is needed to see which, if any, of these seminal contents could be responsible for mood changes.

and the female genital tract absorbs this hormone. The greater the amount absorbed, the lower the rate of depression.

Source? Yeah, you don’t have one. That’s because there haven’t been any studies on this.  This study didn’t measure amounts of prostaglandins in semen, or amounts absorbed by a woman’s genital tract. ALL this study did was establish a correlation between sex sans a barrier method and lower rates of depression. Again, please see the authors’ statement above as to how more studies would need to be done to measure the seminal components in recipient’s blood.

Also, please to be seeing the research I cited above concerning the high levels of prostaglandins found in patients experiencing depression.

Condoms ruin this effect of sex by preventing semen from naturally entering a woman.

Which effect is that? The one that we’ve just proven doesn’t actually exist? Carry on, then.

Another effect of this hormone is to bond the couple to each other, especially the woman to her man. The same study found that women “needed” their partner and desired sex with him more than couples using condoms: “For females who did not use condoms, depression scores went up as the amount of time since their last sexual encounter increased.”

First, I’m pretty sure you’re thinking about oxytocin here – that’s the hormone that helps to promote social bonding – present in semen, in breast milk, etc. Or maybe it’s just all the extra sex that women who were not using a barrier method were having. Also, again, please to be seeing my discussion above about the myriad of problems with this study.

In our current culture, where we are desperate to be loved and needed by another but instead find our sex-lives boring and unsatisfying,

Sigh. Did you really just link to a newspaper article that talks about married women’s desire for sex as proof that “we” find our sex-lives boring and unsatisfying? Yep, you did.

If we want to look more into this research, however, we can find that even this very specific sample doesn’t actually find their sex lives boring an unsatisfying. The researchers reported that 32% of women were extremely or very happy with their sex life, 45% were happy or somewhat happy, and only 16% were not at all happy with their sex lives.

Research FAIL.

condoms aren’t helping.

Actually, according to the research initiative by Lucky Bloke, finding a condom that both partners enjoy actually DOES help improve our sex lives.

The natural biology of sex works to keep couples together — wanting, needing and waiting for each other.

Just having sex seems to help with that, barrier method or not. So does talking to one another, spending time with one another, sharing one another’s interests, and a whole myriad of things that DON’T require risking unintended pregnancy or exposure to STIs.

Likewise, condoms prevent the natural, beneficial effect a man has on his partner’s reproductive system.

A major cause of female infertility is zinc deficiency.

True. It’s also true that it’s a major cause of male infertility. Though…if you’re not trying to get pregnant, why does your ability to get pregnant matter?

A man’s semen supplies this vital nutrient to his wife, as well as ascorbic acid, blood-group antigens, calcium, chlorine, cholesterol, choline, citric acid, creatine, fructose, glutathione, lactic acid, magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, sorbitol, and vitamin B12 — all important to a woman’s reproductive health.

Let’s review semen concentrations and other interesting information here, shall we?

The average male ejaculates 3.4 mL of seminal fluid per ejaculation.

What is the concentration of zinc is semen, you might ask? Well, the zinc content of seminal fluid ranges from a low of ~40 μg/mL to a high of ~275 μg/mL. In addition, not all of this zinc is “free” zinc; much of it is bound up with other seminal proteins (approximately 50%).

This means that an average 25 year old male ejaculates approximately ~80 μg/mL of “free” zinc per each ejaculation. This equates to approximately .00032 grams of zinc per ejaculation.

The daily recommended zinc allowance for women is 8 mg.

This means that in order for a woman to get her recommended daily allowance of zinc from semen, she would have to engage in 25 acts of unprotected intercourse per day.

And that’s not accounting for the fact that not all seminal fluid is retained within the vagina after sexual activity.

::cough:: wet spot ::cough::

So, to claim that a woman infertility resulting from a zinc deficiency could be helped or cured by semen is…well, this:

The same goes for pretty much all of the other vitamins and minerals 1Flesh lists in that paragraph. Ladies? Take my advice – just grab a multivitamin.

Extremely important, in fact. In two studies published in Oncology in 1978 and 1980, it was suggested that semen absorbed in sexual intercourse can reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer by “not less than 50%”, and that women using barrier contraceptives experience a higher risk of breast cancer. 

Well, first, I’d like to point out that you actually only link to 1 study…twice.

But as to that study, there was a lovely response to the author printed in 1994 discussing the problems inherent in the study. Problems like the fact that control subjects were far more likely to be multiparous, which is associated with lowered risk of breast cancer, and that barrier-method users had lower educational attainment levels, which has been associated with higher risk of breast cancer.

The responders, using a larger data set (~5600 to Gjorgov’s ~310) and controlling for far more variables, actually found that breast cancer risk was not increased among women who had ever used methods that would decrease semen exposure: condoms (OR=.9, 95% CIJ=.08-1.1), diaphragms (OR=1.0, 95% CI = 0.9-1.2), or withdrawal (OR=1.0; 95% CI = .9-1.2). Further, when they tailored their analysis to match Gjorgov’s population (white, ever-married women aged 35 or older, and matching for age), they still found no association between breast cancer risk and ever use of barrier methods (OR=1; 95% CI .9-1.1) or exclusive use of barrier methods (OR=.9; 95% CI = .6-1.4)

Similarly, it was shown that barrier methods of birth control may contribute to as much as 60% of preeclampsia cases — when a pregnant woman develops high blood pressure and protein in the urine after the 20th week of pregnancy.

First, here’s a link to the full study, in case anyone wants to read it.

Second, it is true that barrier methods of birth control have been correlated with an increase in the risk of preeclampsia. From the studies on the topic, it is thought that exposure to seminal fluids causes an immune response in women that helps it to “react” better to the different genetic material of a pregnancy. However, engaging in non-barrier sexual intercourse isn’t the only thing that is correlated with a reduction in preeclampsia risk; other studies have found that long periods of cohabitation (no mention of marriage, just cohabitation), and practiced oral sex also are.

So maybe we all just need to buy a copy of this?

Semen has the power to heal women suffering from infertility. A 1947 study “The influence of semen on the female reproductive organs” – far too old for reference, but interesting nonetheless – published in The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology compared two groups of women with sterile, underdeveloped wombs. The first group was encouraged to have natural sex, the second group to use barrier methods of contraception. Nine of fifteen women in the first, non-contracepting group whose uteri were “palpably small and immature” grew to normal size in four-and-a-half to six months. The second group showed little change, even after two years. The author of the study concluded that “any thing or any method which prevents, retards or alters the normal degree of physiological absorption of human semen from the vagina carries with it during the early months and years of marriage a risk of future sterility…”

“Far too old for reference…[but we’re going to describe it all here anyway in a disingenuous attempt to sway your opinion.]”

Granted, much more research is needed in this area of science.

I’m always up for more research.

But this much seems certain: Sex should be awesome,

Agreed.

a total gift of self that doesn’t merely nurture your lover emotionally and physically, but biologically as well. Condoms take away from it.

But here’s where you lose me. Sorry, guys. There is absolutely no need to put one’s health at risk for the possible (but as yet unproven, and highly suspect) “biological benefits” of vaginal exposure to semen.

If you’re having sex with a partner and you have both thoroughly tested negative for all STIs, and your willing to risk (or are wanting to have) a pregnancy, then get on with your bad, non barrier method-using selves.

Otherwise, a condom is always a good choice for EVERY sexual encounter, especially a well-fitting one that you find enjoyable.

Till next time,

– H

© Heather Parker and Antigone Awakens, 2012-2013.

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