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Sex Science Is Nicer Than the Neighbors

02/12/2015 10:46 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016
Neil Beckerman via Getty Images

It was not a big surprise, but still kind of disturbing to read that a recent poll finds a gaping chasm in views between U.S. public and scientists. It always freaks me out a little when people choose magical thinking over facts. What does it say -- philosophically, psychologically -- about human beings that some of us would rather believe what we want to believe, even when what we believe makes no sense and there are a zillion facts on the other side?

It's especially irksome to me when people reject sex science. Sex science is rational and non-judgmental about sexual diversity and biological phenomena, unlike a lot of the people around us. Contemporary sexology has vastly contributed to turning around perceptions of gay people and bisexual people, of trans people, of female sexuality and of a myriad other socio-sexual issues.  

Indeed, since Kinsey's first studies, sex science has chipped away at the deceitful edifice of heteronormative patriarchy, and shown that the old concepts of sexual normality were bullshit. The science of sex doesn't judge what it finds,  unlike humans who interpret data in emotional or ideological ways. The reason people like me do sex research in the first place is to find real answers to questions about sex, and to end the cultural dependence on Puritanical teachings, religious rhetoric and uninformed opinions. 

Sexological studies have shown, for example, that gay is pretty normal, kinky sex may be good for you and, actually, your brain doesn't care if you get off sleeping with a same-sex partner, an opposite-sex partner, or your favorite sex toy, as long as you have a good orgasm. Studies are proving that sex is much more than a reproductive act, much healthier than ever acknowledged and filled with charmingly provocative mysteries.   

I was enchanted when I read the recent study that demonstrated that the watery gush women may squirt  when aroused is released from the bladder. The subject has been controversial, as many held that the fluid was uniquely released by the vagina. An updated, and more detailed, explanation was just published, explaining that when women are highly aroused, body fluid flows from them in two forms. The bladder's involvement in the enigma of female gush made me wonder if it once held some evolutionary purpose. Like, wow, is it possible that our evolutionary ancestors sprayed scent to attract mates like some other species do? How FABULOUS! So primal! Like having a tail! Wow. I'm glad we don't do that anymore!

Then, a friend steered me to the backlash against the study, specifically this self-confidently titled rant, How I know squirting/female ejaculation is real (and not pee) via Hey Epiphora. In it, the author is outraged that "science" (not just a group of researchers, but the entire institution of science itself) has now screwed up sex for women by telling them they are pissing in bed, and thus, almost deliberately, trying to shame women about their bodies.

The author's primary evidence for knowing that her gushes have nothing to do with the bladder is that she knows how pee smells, and she's examined the fluid and it's nothing like pee. Take that, Science! Trying to shame women by using actual medical equipment to test the bladder and analyze the fluid, instead of relying on the writer's personal opinion!

I would have dismissed it as typical Internet narcissism if not for the comments from women who shared her outrage. It had never occurred to me that so many women struggle with a fear of science, much less a fear of peeing during sex. It makes a sex therapist sad. As a sexually adventurous sort, I will attest that pee can happen in bed, and it won't kill you when it does. Just shrug and say C'est la pee. The fact that the fluid comes from the bladder shouldn't change anything in bed. It's the same fluid it always was. Now, we just know more about it. As a sexologist, I must point out that the fluid is not urine per se -- it's got prostatic specific antigen (PSA) in it, which make it unique. The sex therapist in me wants to teach those women that a vagina is like an innocent little sea creature that needs love, not judgment. If anything, we need to know more about the vagina -- a subject which has been vastly under-studied as compared to the penis. We need an accurate and realistic picture of female sexual function, so we can break all ties with past ignorance, and help people have healthier organs and longer, happier lives.  

Science is what it is: a group of facts. When the research methods are bad, the data are worthless. But, when competent researchers search for answers to the mysteries of the human sexual organism, and the results surprise you, don't blame science. How you deal with evidence says more about you than about science. 

Find out what today's sex science says about orgasm, sex and gender differences, polyamory and kinky sex, in Dr. Brame's myth-busting book, Sex for Grown-Ups.