Is Semen An Anti-Depressant? (Hint: Yes!)

Take two tablespoons and call me in the morning. Doctor’s…errr…gay blog’s orders!

A controversial Valentine’s Days report by Lazar Greenfield, the incoming president of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) about the anti-depressant properties of the hormones in semen led to his stepping down shortly thereafter. His article was viewed by many as sexist, and he was out the door just as fast as he had come in.

But let’s take a look at the research behind his article.

In the 2002 study, 293 college women filled out questionnaires about their sexual histories and took the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), a widely used measure of depression symptoms. Women who always had unprotected sex had significantly lower levels of depression symptoms than those who usually or always used condoms, as well as those who abstained from sex.

There was no significant difference in depression between condom users and abstainers, indicating that the physical act of sex itself wasn’t the mood-boosting factor.

Late last week I asked Gordon Gallup, Jr., an evolutionary psychologist at SUNY Albany and lead author of the study, about the results. “Seminal plasma evolved to control and manipulate the female reproductive system so as to work toward the best interests of the donor — the male,” Gallup explains.

“If you begin to think about semen in those terms, then the fact that semen might have antidepressant properties becomes a lot more interesting in that it may promote bonding between the female and her sexual partner.” Such bonding, Gallup says, could increase the male’s chances of developing a long-term reproductive relationship with a female that would work to his reproductive advantage.

Semen is a complex mixture of different compounds, and sperm actually only makes up a small amount of it. When you remove the sperm, what’s left is seminal plasma, a fluid that contains an array of ingredients, some of which can pass through the vagina and be detected in the bloodstream after sex. Three compounds of interest in seminal plasma are estrogen, prostaglandins and oxytocin. Estrogen and prostaglandins have been linked to lower levels of depression, while oxytocin (which women release during birth, breastfeeding and orgasm) promotes social bonding.

These and other compounds in semen could function to keep women coming back for more. “I think there’s reason to believe based on some of the evidence we’ve collected that females that are in committed relationships that are having unprotected sex may use sex in part to self-medicate,” Gallup says. “It’s discovered after the fact that being inseminated has effects on mood, and they use sex to modulate their mood.”

Whoa! The study also suggested that women who regularly participate in unprotected vaginal sex are susceptible to so-called Semen Withdrawal. Women who only practiced protected sex with their male partners were also reportedly less emotionally affected by a breakup, further backing up the Semen Withdrawal theory.

While those behind the Semengate study have yet to study semen’s hormonal effects on another man, they will be focusing their attention on how a man’s psychological state affects the hormonal composition of his little swimmers.

Very, very interesting!

Have you ever experienced semen withdrawal?

Via Popsci

(Featured Image via Arnold Gatilao)

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