No, you read that title right: porn and oral sex are apparently just the thing men need to optimise their partner’s chances of getting pregnant.
In his Bad Science column in the Guardian of September 25th, Ben Goldacre was talking about the controversial (not to me) provision of pornography in sperm-donor clinics. (At an average of just £21.32 per year per hospital trust, I think the politician who objected to this should concern herself with more important things.) Dr Goldacre cites a raft of animal research showing that ‘competition’ makes males produce more and higher-quality ejaculate. Human research carried out in 2005 by Kilgallon and Simmons showed that the same also applied to humans. Their methodology was to measure the volume and quality of sperm produced by men shown pictures of three naked women only, versus images of a single woman being, ahem, ‘serviced by two men. This backs up the work of Yamamato and colleagues in 2000, which showed the same thing to be true of men shown pornographic videos.
Last night saw the 2010 Ig Nobel awards ceremony at Harvard University. Amongst the winners was Gareth Jones of Bristol University. Jones and his Chinese collaborators found that female short-nosed fruit bats who fellated their partners prior to sex copulated for longer. Jones told the Guardian that this is the first non-human evidence of female sexual manipulation using oral sex. It is thought that the behaviour is likely to increase the chances of successful fertilisation.
So, there you go, gentlemen – go home and tell your partners. Well, those of you who are trying for kids, anyway. Frankly, you deserve it – if you’re successful, then in a few months you’ll look back on that wild night and wonder whether it was a price worth paying.