Condoms: This way lies madness!

A Scottish researcher makes the scientific argument for bareback

Topics: Broadsheet, Health, Love and Sex,

How would you describe a couple who insist on using condoms each and every time they have sex? According to researcher Stuart Brody, the words you might be looking for are “depressed,” possibly “suicidal” and definitely “emotionally immature.” Because nothing says “Hey, baby, I care about our future like riding bareback, right?

The problem with condoms, says Brody in an article in today’s Telegraph, is that they interfere with something he calls “evolutionarily relevant sex.” Ah yes, we’re back to Darwin! Apparently, mingling bodily fluids is good for us, and not doing so is, well, bad. Or as he puts it: Condoms interfere with the “benefits of penile-vaginal intercourse” by “blocking the anti-depressant and immunological agents in semen and genital secretions” causing “reduced sexual satisfaction and intimacy.”

Most of us, of either gender, will grant you that having sex with condoms isn’t quite as much fun, which is why we are subjected to so many campaigns reminding us that herpes and syphilis and unplanned pregnancy are even less fun. It even makes a certain amount of sense to me that, as several studies have shown, all the bio-fluids circulating when one partakes in an act originally designed to perpetuate the species might actually have some health benefits of their own. (This recent article from MSNBC claims that absorbing semen through one’s vagina can help prevent depression and that swallowing during oral sex may help pregnant women prevent preeclampsia. Somehow, I am not surprised to discover that somewhere some researcher thought it would be a genius idea to study the health benefits of swallowing semen). And while those of us living in our modern times might also consider hormonal forms of birth control, they are not without their drawbacks, and we somehow have found the ability to come to the entirely reasonable conclusion that, as Natika Halil of the Family Planning Association tells the paper: “The male condom is only one of two methods — the other is sterilization — which men can use to take charge of their own fertility.”

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To state the obvious: If we’re so keen on proliferating the species at all costs, why did any member of our species think it might be a good idea to invent birth control? I find it absurd each time some evolutionary biologist trots out a theory based about our alleged ingrained drive to spread our seed far and wide, while ignoring that the vast majority of human societies have evolved, if you will, in the entirely opposite direction — toward delayed child-rearing, and having fewer children in whom they invest more of their resources.

Brody claims that he’s just about the science: “I don’t want to let anything get in the way, whether it’s political correctness or religion.” But, as the Telegraph points out, his last controversial study claimed that straight sex was the only good sex when it came to improving “psychological and physiological function” — a conclusion that was “flatly contradicted” by a much more thorough study by Masters and Johnson. That sounds pretty political to me. I can’t speak for all the thousands of years of evolution that have brought me here, but for now, I have wrested control of my lizard brain to come to the conclusion that my higher reasoning finds this totally fucking dubious.

Amy Benfer is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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