The Olympics, as we all know, are really just a sex summit put on by the fittest human specimens. It's like an orgy of Greek deities peppered with the occasional slalom or hockey exhibition. Otherwise, the Olympic Village is basically bonetown and its residents are the enervated athletes that somehow hope to win gold medals even after they've been drained of all their magical sex juices the night before an event.
Now that we're all (more or less) comfortable talking about sex openly, the Daily Beast's Kent Sepkowitz thinks it's as good a time as any to parade a tired, sad clown media topic out into the public forum and make it perform a disinterested burlesque for the casual Sunday internet peruser. Everyone knows that Olympic athletes have lots of sex — estimates from London were that the 10,000 athletes gathered for the summer games went through 150,000 condoms. But there's a twist! Kent explores a question that literally no one else ever has asked — Does all that sex-having decrease athletic performance?
The short, boring answer is: it depends, which proves that science is not at all into making sweeping generalizations based on hazy research and anecdotal evidence like Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson shutting down her Tinder account because, as she put it, "There are some cuties on there" and that could have distracted her from being awesome at snowboarding.
In its own very neolithic, superstitious, and pseudoscientific way, thinking that sex negatively impacts athletic performance comes from the same human impulse to bleed a disease out of the human body — for all of our advances in medicine and biological science, it's still super tempting to think that the human body needs to maintain an equilibrium between all the humors. Or something. Like, you have to flush all the toxins out of your system, you know? Otherwise you'll carry those toxins around with you for your entire 75-year lifespan that was completely unheard of back in the days before toxins were even part of our environment, back when people made their own bread, shat in holes they dug in the ground, and lived healthy, toxin-free lives until they died violently at 29 with three-cavity riddled teeth and boils all over their faces.
But we digress. The important thing to note about the myth that sex affects (either positively or negatively) athletic performance is that everyone seems to have a (largely uninformed opinion). A 2000 study by Dan Shrier and Samantha McGlone called "Does Sex the Night Before Athletic Competition Decrease Performance?" ought to have quelled some of the superstitious anxiety about athletes having sex the night before a big event, but it didn't because 1) even the smuttiest scientific articles don't reach a wide audience, and 2) there's a lot of media hay to be made from sex-at-the-Olympics articles. Also, Shrier and McGlone's findings were completely unsatisfying:
They noted that for the anxious, sex the night before might settle things and improve performance. Or not. And for the content, perhaps a good night's rest is all that's needed; for such people, if they exist, perhaps sex pre-event is a bad idea. The same either-or was postulated when comparing those who perform best by locking themselves away and concentrating for a long while—for them, no sex might be a good approach. But in contrast, for those who are not so studious and inward-looking, a quick roll in the hay might scatter the cobwebs or at least distract for a while, thereby improving the next day's performance before a billion TV fans.
"It all depends" is the most disappointing answer to hear when investigating a widely promulgated myth. It also seems not to have affected the modern athlete's feelings on eve-of-competition sex at all — Anderson deprived herself of some possibly excellent Tinder hookups. And for all the anxiety about sex affecting performance, consider this: if everyone's boning at the Olympics anyway, what difference does abstaining from sex actually make (Anderson won a gold medal, but that, like, anecdotal evidence, man)? I mean, someone is winning those medals, and, based on the impending condom count at Sochi, everyone in the Olympic Village is having sex, probably on huge, polar bear rugs.
Image via Getty