The study involved 99 women and 111 Portuguese men who filled out a questionnaire about mental health, their sex life satisfaction, and how often they used contraceptives. The participants who used condoms regularly were more likely to have problems dealing with stress. Brody claims the results were the same regardless of age or the nature of the participants' sexual relationships.
The report was quickly protested by those standing behind the fact that unprotected sex is indisputably correlated with STDs and pregnancy. Brody reminds these protesters that evolution is not politically correct.
I have no problem accepting a scientific study that is paradoxical in terms of societal wellbeing. It doesn't upset me that war helps unite a nation, or that arranged marriages have a much lower divorce rate than those based on love. However, this study rubs me raw on a number of levels.
First of all, mental health is an extremely subjective experience, making it difficult to quantify in a questionnaire. Also, lying about your sex life comes as natural to most guys as lying about your dick size.
Consider the state of mind of these participants when writing about their sex lives. The same types of men predisposed to exaggerate their sexual conquests--how many random women they had unprotected sex with--may be more likely to think of themselves in an elevated light, especially after telling stories about their sex lives. Take your average douche bag who egregiously exaggerates the "awesomeness" of his life, particularly his "extreme" sex life. These douches think so highly of themselves, that just talking about all their pretend sex boosts their confidence. Although these type of men are delusional, they are generally happy.
Even if Brody's results are accurate, his theory that humans have evolved in accordance with contraceptives is suspect. Evolution takes millions of years. The first record of condom use dates back to around 1000 BC. However, condoms didn't enter mainstream use until World War II, when latex condoms were mass produced and promoted as a way to reduce pregnancies and STDs. Brody seems to suggest that within this short time period man evolved in response to condoms--as if the subconscious male body developed the superhuman ability to track semen after it leaves the penis.
If Brody's findings are to be believed, it makes more sense to pair the kind of reckless and thrill seeking behavior that prompts people to have unprotected sex, with increased levels of mental wellbeing. Those with a predisposition to act with little regard for consequences are also the types of people to engage in risky sexual encounters with a variety of partners, thus boosting their chances of passing on their reckless genes.
Being overly cautious, and over thinking everything, is not evolutionarily beneficial. People with higher levels of education have significantly lower rates of reproduction. It makes sense that people who spend more time worrying about the consequences of their actions, the same people who are more likely to use condoms every time, are also more likely to report higher levels of stress.
This is the crucial flaw in Brody's study. His report seems to suggest that if the people who habitually use condoms stopped, they would experience a boost in mental health. I'm one of those who suffer from high anxiety and depression. I also use condoms obsessively. When I was still a virgin I got tested for STDs just to make sure I was starting off clean. When my roommate caught and STD from unprotected sex, I returned to the clinic, fearing that I would get what he had simply by sharing towels and watching the same internet porn. I use a condom with my wife who is on birth control and is a firm believer in abortion. If I was to have an unprotected one-night-stand with a stranger, I would become hysterical, force feeding the lucky girl morning after pills, rushing to the STD clinic, then spending the next 6 months worrying that HIV would show up in my next blood test. And, I guarantee you I wouldn't report satisfactory mental health if I discovered I had a baby on the way or a dick-rotting STD.
My point: Impulsive people are less likely to stress out about the consequences of their risky behavior, including unprotected sex. As a result, they are more likely to report higher levels of wellbeing.
Read more about Brody's study at thescotsman.com
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