Semen Probably Isn’t a Magic Super Elixir After All

Earlier this week, we learned (again) about the restorative elixir of life that is semen, which can, according to spermspert Gordon Gallup, Jr. and his anonymous survey of 293 college women, cure depression, make women smarter and, possibly, fertilize eggs. This is just what semen does, Gallup's survey seemed to indicate — it's like the quicksilver of the modern world.

Salon's Tracy Clark-Flory, however, seems particularly bemused to see the magic-happy-semen study promenading again through various media outlets after about a decade of lingering on the fringes of scientific research. In speaking to Gallup about his research, she found that the mad semen scientist himself isn't quite sure why his 2002 study keeps reappearing in the news, except that "it's a very interesting topic," the idea that semen could act as an antidepressant. It's also pretty easy to crack jokes about the idea that guzzling semen would make anyone even slightly happier, because semen is gross the same way that any viscous fluid is gross. It's science — viscosity is directly related to grossness, with things like semen and pond scum (which, coincidentally, is also teeming with life-disseminating genetic material) at one end of the gross spectrum, and water at the other (syrup and honey are obvious exceptions). Gallup's study also fulfills and lends legitimacy to "that porn-fantasy of women hungrily, insatiably devouring come," observes Clark-Flory, yet another reason that the study, inconclusive though it may be, maintains its magnetic aura.

Gallup's findings, which suggested that women who were engaging in unprotected heterosexual semen-gathering reported fewer depressive symptoms than peers who were having protected sex or no sex at all, have been controversial since they first started making waves. People wondered what cultural implications such "science" could have for lesbians, for example, or whether Gallup and his research team had considered that women having condomless sex might be in long-term relationships, be on birth control, engage in riskier behavior or experience greater sexual pleasure, any of which could explain the depression disparity.

In a follow-up study (published as a graduate dissertation but never in a scientific journal), Gallup & co. apparently divined evidence of "semen withdrawal" among women who'd just exited a long-term relationship and, because of their reduced semen intake and no other reason at all, were consequently sad. Gallup also suggested that postpartum depression, menopausal depression and PMS might all be traced to a dearth of semen, which, according to all this research, has taken on cure-all properties similar to the all-purpose cleaning agents languishing under all of our sinks (clean your stoves, people, for real).

Gallup, however, admitted to Clark-Flory that evidence of semen's antidepressant qualities is "largely correlational," because there are ethical hurdles to directly manipulating "the presence or absence of semen in the reproduction tracks," and that, says Gallup, is pretty much what one would have to do in order to definitively test the veracity of his initial study. Even then, writes Clark-Flory, any antidepressant qualities semen has would be almost negligible:

Even if researchers could reliably prove that semen has an antidepressant effect, he says it's likely "relatively modest" and certainly "not the way to cure depression." Although he notes that it's possible Big Pharma could "develop some sort of simulated semen suppository." (You're welcome for introducing that phrase - and image - into your brain.)

The phrase "semen suppository" is just as strange and upsetting as Clark-Flory suggests it is, so let's just keep semen where it should be — away from pretty much everything, since it seems that, if depression really is a serious problem for someone, they'd be better of getting a really top-shelf prescription drug than relying on erratic penis goo.

Every man's favorite sex study [Salon]

Image via Adrain Niederhauser/Shutterstock.