Stuff I've Learned (Egg / Sperm Fairytale and Erectile Dysfunction)

I'm going to make a list of 5 random things I learned while doing research for Science Sex and the Ladies. However, I don't have time to write all 5 now, so it's just 2 for now. The next three will be in my next blog.

1. egg and sperm
The story we all first hear about the nitty gritty of reproduction has been in some instances blatantly - well I guess the phrase would be "fairy taled." It is a lovely story: the valiant, purposeful sperm fighting their way up the cervix; the egg in waiting; the first and only fearless sperm to pierce through; the eternal union.

It's actually not uncommon to have human story-telling spins on rather dry scientific descriptions, so I wasn't unfamiliar with this sort of tampering. However, the article I read investigating the "fairy-tale-ing" of the egg and sperm drama was pretty funny and gave me some food for thought. In particular I liked reading about a researcher named Wassarman who set out to find the specific molecules in the egg coat used in sperm-egg interaction. Turns out they are ligands that bind to a protein on the sperm. Normally the scientific convention would be to call the protein part of this binding pair (the parts on the sperm) the "receptor." However Wassarman instead calls the ligand on the egg the receptor, and makes up the name "egg binding protein to describe what's on the sperm. Receptive eggs fit the fairy tale, but receptive sperm would just be silly!

The article was called "The Egg and Sperm: How Science has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles" by Emily Martin. The collection I found this in was Feminism and Science.

2. erectile dysfunction
According to those pioneering sex researchers Masters and Johnson, the biggest reason men can't get it up is cause they're too worried that they won't be able to get it up. Men, for example, don't lose the ability to get an erection as they get older (unless as a result of particular medication or illness). They do however, get erections a bit more slowly. Often what happens is a man doesn't get an erection when he thinks he should and then gets all worried. In later encounters he's too worried or too disengaged to get aroused and so cannot get erect.

This happens to younger men too. They may not be able to get it up once simply because they're drunk, high or really stressed out but then worry so much that in later encounters they start to overlook the arousal of the situation (and thus can't get an erection). These researchers did some of the most enduring research on sexual functioning and also ran a clinic for sexual dysfunction. In simplistic terms, they have shown that the majority of erectile dysfunctioning individuals can regain function with some therapy that basically re-teaches the man to allow himself to be aroused.

I found this stuff in Sexual Inadequacy by Masters and Johnson

more learnings later....

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