The best sex science of 2016

We all know 2016 was a terrible year. For global terrorism, earthquakes, Brexit, Zika, CO₂ levels, train and plane crashes, migrant crises, celebrity deaths, innocent civilian deaths, racist violence and just violations of human rights in general. Also reality TV personality Donald Trump is going to be president of the United States of America. Also, Mike Pence will be vice-president. It's been a little weird. 

But on the flip it was a pretty good year for two of my favourite things; space exploration and sex science. The world is (very, very) slowly becoming less afraid of sexuality and understanding the importance of its scientific study. Meanwhile, sex tech is going crazy. VR porn has arrived and robot whores are on their way. And depending on the outcomes of space exploration we might be able to have sex with aliens soon too.

 

The Pro Boners favourite sex research of 2016:

 

1. The original boner (and why humans lost it)

POST-COPULATORY SEXUAL SELECTION INFLUENCES BACULUM EVOLUTION. (2016)

This phylogenetic analyses by my friend Mattie and past PRO Kit Opie explored the evolution of the baculum (penis bone) among mammals. They found that the bone tends to be longer in males of species that have sex lasting upward of three minutes. You might be aware that human males are lacking a penis bone. And no this does not refute their findings, as under completely natural conditions H. sapiens matings should take under three minutes. Remember this please fellas.

2. Is pubic hair an STI barrier?  

Correlation between pubic hair grooming and STIs: results from a nationally representative probability sample. (2016)

"Waxing or shaving down below increases YOUR risk of STIs by 440%". Despite what this headline from The Sun states, that is not exactly what the results of this study imply. I’m being kind. It is not AT ALL what the results imply. Also as far as I can tell The Sun doesn't provide a link to the study or even the name of the article, which SUGGESTS TO ME THAT THEY DON’T WANT THEIR READERS TO KNOW WHAT A TRULY BULLSHIT HEADLINE THEY HAVE WRITTEN. Also why they fuck is YOUR in capital letters? Do they think that will trick readers into thinking the study was specifically about their own pubes?

Anyway, this is correlational data. It literally says so in the title. I haven’t ever met someone over 18 who doesn’t know what correlation means. So apparently, the HEALTH EDITOR of The Sun is only a child, and it's unreasonable for me to expect him to be completely scientifically literate yet. (I get really pissed off by clickbait science reporting have you noticed?)

What the study actually found was that those who removed their pubic hair also self-reported higher incidence of STIs. So the first very important things to note is that a) people can lie in questionnaires and b) a large proportion of people who have an STI don't know they have an STI. 

One theory for this correlation is that methods of removing hair might cause microtears in the skin, which could indeed increase YOUR risk of contracting an STI. But there are numerous other possibilities for what could be the cause of this correlation. For example, maybe people who remove their pubic hair have more sexual partners, increasing their likelihood of exposure to STIs. Or maybe people who remove their pubic hair are more likely to get checked for STIs, increasing their likelihood of knowing they have an STI.

So my advice: don't read The Sun and don't rely on your pubic hair to be a barrier against STIs. Try condoms.

3. The prison effect (in tortoises)

A prison effect in a wild population: a scarcity of females induces homosexual behaviors in males. (2016)

This is my favourite because I read a bunch of it without realising it was talking about tortoises and then got really confused when I read that the males were attempting to fuck empty shells.

The ‘prison effect’ is just what you would guess. When you have a big population of one sex and a tiny (or non-existent) population of the other sex, then those in the big population tend to mate with members of their own sex. In this particular study, there was a ratio of 50 lady tortoises to 1000 males. So it’s like the boy tortoises are in prison and the females are the correctional officers. Turned out that the guys started mounting other males more often than they did females. So there you go. Gay for the stay is totally natural.

4. Listerine mouthwash might help kill off gonorrhoea

Antiseptic mouthwash against pharyngeal Neisseria gonorrhoeae: a randomised controlled trial and an in vitro study.  (2016)

So apparently as far back 1879 the people who make Listerine mouthwash have been claiming that it can cure gonorrhoea. It only took 136 years for scientists to test this claim. And guess fucking what!? Preliminary research found a significant reduction of gonorrhoea in the throat!

The study involved a lab test where the researchers put cultures of N. gonorrheae on plates, and a clinical trial involving gay and bisexual men who tested positive for gonorrhoea in their mouths/throat. Half the plates and half the men were given Listerine and the other half a saline solution.

The plates that received Listerine had a significant reduction in the number of N. gonorrheae, while those that received the saline solution did not. The men who gargled Listerine were 80% less likely to test positive for gonorrhoea in the throat afterwards than the men who gargled the saline solution! The test only occurred 5 minutes after the gargling, so future research should look at the longer term results in case this is a short lived effect.

This research is in its early stages, but at the moment looks very promising. I reckon we should all start using Listerine just in case.

5. The ingredients for sexual satisfaction

What keeps passion alive? Sexual satisfaction is associated with sexual communication, mood setting, sexual variety, oral sex, orgasm, and sex frequency in a National U.S Study. (2016)

A large survey of cohabiting and married men and women found higher sexual satisfaction was linked to frequent sex, more oral sex, consistent orgasms, mood setting, variation in sexual acts, and sexual communication. These findings are quite expected but nevertheless important in validating the positive outcome of these factors. Now when I tell people in long term relationships to improve their communication and give more head, I can link to this study to make it look like science supports all my claims.

6. Sex trance (and how orgasms are like seizures)

What is orgasm? A model of sexual trance and climax via rhythmic entrainment. (2016)

An article in the journal of Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology talks about similarities in the dynamics of orgasms and seizures. Seizures are characterised by abnormally high neural synchrony, and it’s argued that this also accompanies rhythmic sexual stimulation. Plus some seizures involve uncoordinated, uncontrollable motor responses, that are also seemingly present during stimulation and orgasm. In fact, some forms of epilepsy can even generate "orgasmic auras".

The article argues that rhythmic sexual stimulation creates neural processes that generate "states of deepening sensory absorption and trance". I've actually heard a lot of accounts of (specifically female) orgasm as out-of-body, trance-like, meditational or even spiritual. So I am super excited for the future research on the neuroscience of arousal, sexual pleasure, and orgasm.

The author of the study also mentions how rhythmic ability plays a large role in sexual selection and so suggests that the neurological effects of rhythmic sexual stimulation may be a mechanism in mate choice, and that this synchronised neural activity may work to trigger ejaculation. This basically means that if your sex partner is really good at rhythmic stimulation you are of course more likely to orgasm, but also more likely to want to make a baby with that person. I think. I’m not a neuroscientist and there were a lot of words in this article. 

& MALE CONTRACEPTION

I haven’t included the widely talked about male birth control trial that ended early this year due to reported side effects because I don’t actually think this is good or funny.    

I saw a lot of people celebrating that the study participants "finally felt what women have felt for years". And complaints and jokes about how these men are "cry babies" and that stopping the trial was just blatant sexism. I read these sorts of remarks all over the place, including in one particularly troubling Independent headline. In reality, the study was dropped because experts at WHO deemed it unsafe. Some of the side effects were quite serious, including persisting reduced sperm counts, which can cause infertility.

So I just want you to know that this wasn't about a bunch of whiny pussies who can’t handle a little weight gain and mood swings. And if you are a woman who welcomes the suffering of men, simply because some women suffer negative side effects from existing hormonal contraception, then I think you are very mean and don’t deserve a boyfriend.

We already have a method of contraception for men that is very effective. It’s called a condom and research suggests it’s very good at stopping you from receiving unwanted things like babies or STIs. So shut up and be patient until a SAFE method for men is developed. In the meantime, if you are suffering from negative side effects from your hormonal contraception… GO SEE A DOCTOR AND GET OFF THAT METHOD. Please. Maybe it is sexist that women are expected to take hormonal contraceptives with potentially severe side effects. But we are absolutely not forced to take them, and I know many men who have encouraged their female partner to stop taking the pill because they’d rather use condoms than see their partner suffer. They are nice.

Let's hope 2017 brings less death and darkness and more excellent sex science.