This Week in Sex: Erectile Dysfunction, Lesbian Sex Positions, and Zero-G Sex Geckos


This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Do American Troops Have Higher Rates of Erectile Dysfunction Than Civilians?

A study published in the July issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests that men on active military duty are almost three times more likely to have erectile dysfunction than civilians the same age. Almost as soon as the study hit the presses, however, the Pentagon put out its own data contradicting that assertion.

The journal study was conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC). The researchers interviewed 367 active-duty servicemen ages 40 and under, and found that 33 percent of respondents reported symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED) while 8.4 percent reported symptoms of other sexual issues such as low sex drive and problems with ejaculation.

Not surprisingly, troops who reported suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder were 30 times more likely to report ED and six times more likely to report other sexual issues than other servicemen. Those servicemen who reported depression, moderate to severe anxiety, or who had been victims of sexual assault were ten to 13 times more likely than other troops to report ED or other issues.

The researchers say that the study shows a clear relationship between sexual dysfunction and the other issues facing servicemen but that the data can’t prove causation. Co-author Sherri Wilcox explained, “Although causal ordering is uncertain, it is clear that there is a strong relationship between sexual functioning and psychosocial factors. Specifically, the presence of mental and physical health problems were related to high levels of sexual function problems.” They also noted that servicemen were unlikely to seek help despite the fact that these issues were affecting their quality of life.

The Pentagon seems to be refuting these finding, however. Shortly after the study made the news, the Pentagon released 2013 data suggesting there were only 5.8 cases of ED per 1,000 “person-years” in all troops, and for troops under the age of 40 that number was 4.02 per 1,000 person-years. This would mean that fewer than 1 percent of active-duty males under 40 had ED.

The Pentagon said that the differences might show that the USC study had an overrepresentation of men experiencing sexual issues because those were the people interested in taking part of a study of this nature. According to USA Today, Wilcox and her colleagues admitted their study had limitations but said the measures they used were highly reliable. They added that their study demonstrated the need for more research on sexual dysfunction in the military.

Cosmopolitan.com Takes on Lesbian Sex for the First Time

Every printed issue of Cosmopolitan magazine seems to offer some amount of “must-have” advice on sex, judging by the front covers, and the publication’s website adds practically daily to the titillating content. Whether it’s insight from a “real man” about what your boyfriend wants in bed, tips for telling him what you want, or ideas for a new way to give a blow job—Cosmo’s authors are not shy about telling women what to do and the best ways to do it. Until now, however, that advice has been limited to women having sex with men.

Recently, Cosmopolitan.com took the exciting step of addressing sex between two women, in an article called “28 Mind-Blowing Lesbian Sex Positions.” The publication discussed lesbian sex in exactly the same way it treats much of its advice to heterosexual women: a slideshow that gives each position a cute name and provides an illustrated guide. There’s the Classic Scissor, the Sexy Spider, and the Rockin’ Rockette—each with a pretty explicit explanation.

As the opening slide notes, “Cosmopolitan.com now has sex positions for the lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals, queers—all the lady-loving ladies in the crowd! You’ll never sex the same way again.” We’ll also never read Cosmo the same way again—and that’s a good thing.

Sex Geckos in Space

No, this is not the title of a segment on The Muppet Show, or even a new adult movie; it is a Russian-led experiment to see how zero gravity affects sex and reproduction. Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, launched a satellite into space on July 19. The orbiting Foton-M4 satellite includes flies, plant seeds, micro-organisms, and five geckos—four females and one male—all sent up to be the subjects of experiments. The geckos, in particular, are there so scientists can see what it is like to mate in zero gravity. The scientists plan to watch videos of the geckos’ sexual activities and then perform additional experiments on the lizards when the satellite returns to earth in two months.

The mission seemed doomed after about a week when mission control lost contact with the satellite. Experts explained that even if the geckos survived longer than their food supply (which they could apparently do because they are known to be cannibalistic when the going gets tough), they would undoubtedly burn up during an uncontrolled reentry. Thankfully, contact was restored and the experiments have resumed. It’s unclear, however, whether anything that scientists learn will help us understand what it will be like for humans to have sex in zero gravity. Maybe we will have to wait until the tapes end up on the Internet, as sex tapes always do.

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  • StealthGaytheist

    However many military personnel have ED, they’ll all be eligible for boner pills–paid for by We The People. Meanwhile womens’ access to contraception is under constant attack.

  • Chris Ranmore

    It used to be claimed that the British army put Potassium bromide in soldiers tea to surpress their sexual surges. Although this is doubtful I think it more likely the Pentagon would try it.