I write this blog with the hope that my personal story, matched with scientific knowledge, will help you to better understand who you are sexually. Learning about the places in life where Sex, Science and Nature come together can empower you to find fulfillment in the unique sexual person you are, as well as acceptance of yourself.
Science has answers to some of the most delicate and often overwhelming questions we ask ourselves and one another about sex, but sometimes it can be very difficult to access good knowledge about what is normal or how to approach sexual challenges.
I am a Reproductive Physiologist and the inventor of Pre-Seed, the world’s first “fertility” lubricant. My posts share reviews and commentary on science that illuminates or impacts human sexuality to make the science behind our functioning as natural sexual beings accessible.
Some of you may know me as “Dr. E” from my work helping infertile couples. You may have seen me in the National Geographic special “Sizing Up Sperm” or heard me on National Public Radio talking about my research (with the UPS man delivering semen for breeding my pet 900 lb pig). As a scientist in the field of Andrology (Male Fertility), I’ve spent 30 years studying how to protect sperm to optimize male fertility, among other things. Along the way, my National Institute of Health (NIH) funded research focused on how the female’s Fallopian Tube cells select and nurture the best sperm so they can fertilize the egg.
I’ve learned that human conception is not the “battle” between sexes it is often portrayed as — but rather it is an intricately timed collaboration between the male and female.
The ovaries and Fallopian Tubes work together to provide everything sperm need in order to preserve their DNA (genetic material) and their motility (swimming capacity) so they can create a healthy baby.
During this research, I learned that the leading vaginal lubricants on the market were killing sperm — even the ones labeled “non-spermicidal.” My research revealed that many trying-to-conceive (TTC) couples were using lubricants to try to make “having-to-have sex while conceiving a baby” (“Baby-dancing” in the TTC vernacular) more comfortable, without knowing that these products damage sperm. As my work increasingly moved towards helping infertile couples, I also faced significant challenges conceiving my second son. My life and work came together as I experienced personally how the stress of TTC can adversely impact a couple’s love life.
Following my completely serendipitous discovery of a natural plant sugar (arabinogalactan) that provides antioxidant support for sperm, I teamed with a committed group of colleagues to invent Pre-Seed, the world’s first “fertility” lubricant. It is uniquely and specifically designed to support sperm and provide an optimal environment for their journey to the egg. Since Pre-Seed was launched in 2003, we have sold millions of doses around the world, providing “seriously fun baby-making” for TTC couples, and learning a great deal about the sex and nature of human sexuality.
While doing all this science I am also just like “every woman” who makes her way through life, sex, and intimacy. Each of us feels empowered at times and ridiculous at others — as we move into and out of confident sexual selves. In my case, I can talk about reproduction on national TV but am deeply embarrassed to buy “personal items” at the store (I always try to bury them under other things in my cart, even picking up items I don’t need to cover them up). Just like most of you, I have had to work to maintain a fulfilling intimate life. While doing my scientific work in the science of sex and reproduction, I have also been a mother, wife, and sexual partner navigating prolonged and significant health issues and the emotional stress of attempted hostile company takeovers, as well as divorce, remarriage and blended families. My science is, thus, my life.
From my work as a Reproductive Physiologist I know most of us want a more fulfilling, enthralling sex life, but we often don’t know how to find it.
I have encountered many people, who have experienced deep emotional pain around sex in their daily lives. Whether concerned with fertility, or just with keeping everyday love alive, knowing our sexual self is an important key to human happiness. We each have this self, but finding correct information about it and connecting with it confidently is not always easy.
Science can help us nurture and enjoy this self, especially when we consciously integrate an understanding of scientific findings with an acceptance of our human nature.
My aim is to help you discover science that makes sense of our human sexuality and understand yourself as a natural, sexual person.
I, like 80% of American women, used a hormonal contraceptive (the birth control pill), when I was younger. I didn’t know then that the pill can interfere with our ability to chose the best man for us to have children with.
Just like me, over half of women who use these hormonal contraceptives do so in their mate selection years, between 16 to 34 years of age. But these contraceptives can change how a woman “sees” the world.
In fact, they can interfere with our biologic and instinctual ability to choose the man with the best genes for our future children.
The profound impact that hormonal contraceptives (pills, injections, implants) have on women’s mate selection was just highlighted again in a new study “Assessment of the Relationship Between the Use of Birth Control Pill and the Characteristics of Mate Selection” by Gori and colleagues (The Journal of Sexual Medicine September, 2014). Let’s review how this can happen.
During the normal six days of the month when women are fertile and ovulation is near, gals unconsciously shift their mental imagery of the type of man they are attracted to. They are more drawn to the independent, hunky dominant male.
These men are hot to women because they have “high-value genes.” Their sexy face, body, shape, smell, and voice, all are outward manifestations of their strong genes, genes that this man could pass on to any babies he fathers.
Women instinctually seek this type of man out when they are fertile without realizing it, through smell and sight, including cues of attractiveness and facial symmetry.
Interestingly, fertile women also prefer a man whose face is visually dissimilar to their own face meaning men who are unrelated to them and therefore, look different from the woman. During mate selection for sex that could lead to reproduction (such as when we are ovulating) women choose to be with high-genetic value men, who carry a gene set differing most dramatically from their own.
The external physical appearance (that phenotype) of the face is subconsciously telling women about the internal genetic characteristics of this man she is courting. A man who looks different in appearance from a woman will have a more divergent immune system from her (specifically, that of the Major Histocompatibility Complex or “MHC”) than a man who looks like her.
This MHC is crucial for human health and function. Therefore, when we are fertile we instinctually choose men who will ensure the strongest immune system and best future survival for our babies.
After ovulation, once our estrogen levels decline, ladies quickly switch to preferring to be around men who are coalitional, meaning not as dominant. These are the men who enjoy functioning in a larger social group and are less competitive than the dominant male.
Additionally, at this time we prefer men who are genetically “more like us,” with similar facial resemblance and similar immune MHC genes.
By coding this cycle into our female DNA, nature seems to encourage us to seek out related male kin (non-competitors) as part of our support network while our bodies prepare for potential pregnancy, but then compels us toward the more genetically powerful dominant males during ovulation and fertility.
The evolutionary problem of the pill is that it disrupts this selection cycle.
Women on hormonal contraceptives do not go through the normal cycling patterns with ovulation which would lead them to choose certain immune-superior, genetically diverse (from them) males for mating, versus other males chosen for protection and nurturing.
Women on OC will enter into mating relationships with the similar “kin” men and then wonder what happened to their love when they stop taking the pill to conceive and become fertile.
Gals who choose their marriage partners while taking the pill report less sexual and relationship satisfaction long term and are more often the person to leave the relationship when it starts to fail a few years later.
One of the most prescribed medications of our time “tells” a woman that she wants one kind of man (the coalitional male), yet when she is ready to start a family, her body instinctually realizes that he may not be the best choice to meet her biological “need” to produce the healthiest offspring. Both partners are then left in shock at their somewhat sudden disconnect.
We are just now looking at what happens to the reproductive success and children from pairings of MHC similar parents, such as those that occur while the woman is on the pill.
The time it takes to conceive is greater in couples with MHC similarities. This genetic closeness appears to cause more hurdles for fertility in these couples.
It also appears that miscarriage rates may be higher for these pregnancies once they are conceived.
And evidence is growing that low birth weight of babies occurs more commonly with parental MHC similarity. It is very likely that the next decade will prove out the lack of wisdom in stopping pregnancy by treating women with a systemically (body-wide) active hormone such as the pill.
In providing you with this science, I am not telling you whether to use the pill or not. Surely, it has provided sexual equality for women unlike any other factor in our lifetime. But I hope you will weigh this data into your personal and marital decision making.
More information and perhaps a hormonal birth control hiatus during a couple’s engagement may help many of us look more fully at the partners we choose for long-term pair-bonds.
The pill may be impacting our society and our health in ways we don’t understand. Preterm delivery rates are on the rise in the U.S., which is worrisome because of the impact on childhood development, especially the potential increase in learning disabilities and brain development disorders such as ADHD and autism associated with preterm babies.
There is sufficient evidence to warrant a large national clinical study to evaluate mate immune complex (MHC) similarity for women using hormonal contraceptives and their partners, and any resulting early childhood development differences (including preterm labor) in their offspring.
Gori and colleagues confirmed numerous studies on this topic, showing again that women on the pill had decreased attraction to men with masculine features (as the markers of high genetic quality) than did women not taking the pill.
They suggest “Given the centrality of relationship satisfaction and offspring quality in (the) women and mothers, drug companies marketing hormonal contraceptives should (complete) large scale clinical trials investigating the behavioral and psychological side effects of pill use on mate choice and offspring health.”
Hell yes! Think of the numbers of couples and families impacted.
We need to better understand the impact of hormonal contraceptives on us as individuals and as a species.
After over a year and a half of research and writing, my first book Slippery When Wet: One Woman’s Journey Through the Mystery of Sex is finally almost here!
Prior to this adventure, many people had asked me to write a book detailing our exciting adventure bringing Pre-Seed, the world’s first fertility-lubricant, to market. In fact, for Christmas two years ago our kids gave me a mocked up book “Conceiving Pre-Seed” to help kick start me on my way.
Soon I learned that writing about Pre-Seed meant writing about my own life as a woman.
Many of the major events in my life have centered around sex in one way or another; either as part of my personal history or my professional work as an Andrologist. As I recalled these different stages of life, I started thinking of the many concerns about sex that have confused me or other people I have helped.
I realized I wanted to make the science of sex more accessible to folks from every walk of life, so they could better understand who they are sexually and how to optimize their own sexual fulfillment.
To incorporate this research into my writing, I decided to use my own journey as the template to explore what we know about human sexuality from puberty through menopause and beyond. To this end, I reviewed over 450 published papers and books; and summarized the authors’ findings.
My goal was to help all of us see ourselves through the lens of human biology as we relate to one another intimately. Although we think we make our decisions based on love or rationale thinking, many of our behaviors in mating and marriage are driven much more by our animal instincts, especially when it comes to sex.
Sex impacts every person’s life. Most of us shift between feeling confident and content with our sexual selves to feeling naive and flawed.
Many of us are hesitant to talk about what is really going on in our bedrooms, especially when two lovers feel disconnected or discontent in their intimacy. What we often fail to understand is that others have been or are going through similar journeys; and that often there is science that can help us understand where we are and how best to move forward at these times.
As men, women, partners and parents we commonly ask the same questions about human sexuality:
My goal with Slippery When Wet: One Woman’s Journey Through the Mystery of Sex was to share what science says on these topics.
I also share my own ups and downs through my own sexual life history. My goal in the end is to help you see yourself as normal and deserving of sexual health and fulfillment, whether in partnership or alone, and no matter the circumstances of your own journey.
You can pre-order Slippery When Wet now, and it will be available as a Kindle e-book through Amazon.com on October, 5th 2014; with print versions available soon after! I look forward to hearing about your own journey, as well as your comments on my book.
Available October 5
Over half of women who use hormonal contraceptives do so in their mate selection years, between 16 to 34 years of age. But these the pill can change how a woman “sees” the world and interfere with our biologic and instinctual ability to choose the man with the best genes for our future children.
After over a year and a half of research and writing, my first book is finally almost here! With my book I want to make the science of sex more accessible. Sex impacts every person’s life. Most of us shift between feeling confident and content with our sexual selves to feeling naive and flawed. But we commonly ask these same questions about human sexuality.
In cultures where female virginity is critical prior to marriage, a great deal of pressure is placed on the couple’s wedding night, including the need to show ‘first night’ blood on the sheets as evidence of the bride’s purity. But not all virgins bleed at their first intercourse.