The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Another Downside to Contraceptives

Bryce J. Christensen and Robert W. Patterson

In Taking Sex Differences Seriously (2004), Steven Rhoads of the University of Virginia cited the research documenting how the contraceptive pill not only suppresses sexual pleasure for women but also, if used by an unmarried woman looking for Mr. Right, weakens her natural sense of attraction to men who would be a good biological match and enable her to conceive easily and bear healthy children. In fact, the pill-popping young lady in search of a husband is more likely to end up marrying the wrong kind of man from a biological and reproductive standpoint—and a guy she may no longer be attracted to after she goes off the Pill. If this weren’t enough, now comes evidence revealing how another contraceptive device, the condom, also works against the health and well-being of women.

Writing on his blog for Scientific American, Jesse Bering summarizes the extensive research of Gordon Gallup, Rebecca Burch, and Steven Platek, evolutionary psychologists who have found that, aside from sperm, which represents no more than 5 percent of the human ejaculate, semen contains all sorts of beneficial substances—more than 50 different compounds (hormones, neurotransmitters, endorphins, and immunosupressants)—that tweak female biology, behavior, and psychology. “Perhaps the most striking of these compounds is the bundle of mood-enhancing chemicals,” notes Bering, a research psychologist. “There is good in this goo. Such anxiolytic chemicals include, but are by no means limited to, cortisol (known to increase affection), estrone (which elevates mood), prolactin (a natural antidepressant), oxytocin (also elevates mood), thyrotropin-releasing hormone (another antidepressant), melatonin (a sleep-inducing agent), and even serotonin (perhaps the most well-known antidepressant neurotransmitter).”

When all these natural drugs are released in the woman’s reproductive tract, which modern medicine maintains is ideal for drug administration because of its impressive absorptiveness, these substances have a direct line to her circulatory system. But condom use robs a woman of all these remarkable chemicals, what Bering terms “natural Prozac,” that elevate her mood and self-esteem. Consequently, when the three psychologists conducted a preliminary study with 300 coeds in 2002, they discovered that young women who reported that their lover never used condoms showed significantly higher mood levels and fewer depressive symptoms as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory, including thoughts of suicide, than those whose lover “usually” or “always” used condoms.

There’s more. Bering relates that Gallup, Burch, and Platek have also discovered that “semen-exposed women perform better on concentration and cognitive tasks.”

While the three researchers, as well as Bering, do not explore the relationship of these fascinating findings to marriage—a major oversight—their insights nonetheless suggest that contraceptive-free marriages entered into at a relatively early age serve the interests and health of women far better than the current trend of cohabiting and contracepting couples waiting until their late 20s or early 30s to tie the knot, thinking they can manipulate Mother Nature.

(Jesse Bering, “An Ode to the Many Evolved Virtues of Human Semen,” Scientific American, September 22, 2010.)