When it comes to the almighty penis vs. vagina square off (don't lie, you know you've been drawn into that argument before), men have quite a few trump cards: they can pee standing up, they don't bleed every month, and, uh, the religious right isn't fighting a war against their private parts. However, dudes need to be careful where they sit, since certain objects like laptops and bicycles have been linked to erectile dysfunction, whereas ladies simply orgasm if they even so much as glimpse an exercise machine. Or so we thought. A new study shows that just because our fruits don't hang as low doesn't mean we're immune from similar fertility issues — female cyclists are most likely also at risk for the same sexual problems as male bikers. It's just that it took longer — as is often the case — for scientists to study ladyparts as closely.
The new research, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, expands on a 2006 Yale study which found that female cyclists experienced less "genital sensation" compared with female runners. This time around, scientists tested 48 hardcore female riders who cycled at least 10 miles a week to measure their soreness, numbness, and tingling sensations. The results weren't shocking to Steven M. Schrader, a scientist at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, who helped identify bike seat risks for male cops years ago. He told the Times that when he would give speeches on the subject, women would often approach him afterward to tell him they felt the pain, too. "Women are having issues as well," Dr. Schrader said. Um, bravo for saying that now, I guess? One wonders why he didn't feel the need to expand on his research after receiving all that commentary throughout the years!
The good news is that there are ways women can ease the pain and the potential health issues that come along with bicycling. Dr. Schrader's research showed that using bicycle saddles without noses alleviated some of the problems for policemen, although he didn't test the use of noseless saddles in women. (Sigh.) But the new study found that "Women on bikes with handlebars positioned lower than their seats experienced more pressure in an area of soft tissue called the perineum, and had decreased sensation in the pelvic floor...the lower the handlebars in relation to the saddle, the more a woman has to lean forward, forcing her to put a greater percentage of her body weight on the perineum. " Which, first of all, ouch, but that means that higher handlebars might be an easy solution to fertility woes. This is particularly good news for those of us (ahem) who already eschew "serious" bikes with low handlebars for more comfortable rides. Those women, who may have been called "bike sissies" once or twice in their lives — not that I would know — can now proudly sit upright in the name of science.
Can Bicycling Affect a Woman's Sexual Health? [NYT]
Image via Everett Collection/Shutterstock.