Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: Semen Can Carry Dozens of Viruses

Martha Kempner

And in other news, redheaded men may be singing the praises of a ginger pop musician, and one sexual position is most likely to fracture a penis.

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

Are There More Sexually Transmitted Viruses Than We Think?

Obviously, some viruses—like HIV and herpes—are primarily sexually transmitted, but research has found that other viruses that we don’t think of as sexually transmitted diseases may be present in semen.

For example, in 2014, when Ebola hit many nations in West Africa, researchers warned that survivors might be able to transmit the virus to their sexual partners, since the virus had been found to live in semen for months and, in one case, 565 days. Then Zika struck in South America, and scientists realized that this virus also stuck around in semen and that sexual transmission was possible even from men who had never had symptoms.

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Researchers at Oxford University in England conducted a review of scientific literature to find out how many other viruses might be present in semen. The answer: 27. The list includes a number of herpes simplex viruses such as chickenpox; hepatitis C; Epstein-Barr; mumps; and less common conditions such as simian foamy virus, which can be passed from primates such as monkeys to human beings.

Scientists think that viruses stay in semen because the testicles are “immunological privileged,” meaning that they are protected from the body’s own immune system.

What the scientists don’t know yet is which if any of these viruses are present at high enough concentrations to be infectious or how long they would be infectious. They are also questioning whether the presence of viruses in semen could be harmful to sperm.

Like so many studies, this one concludes with the need to do even more studies. In the meantime, there are lots of viruses that we already know can live in semen and be sexually transmitted. Another good reason to use condoms, which provide great protection.

You’re More Likely to Break a Penis During Doggy Style

Fans of Grey’s Anatomy may remember when Dr. Mark Sloan, a.k.a. McSteamy, fractured his penis while having sex with Dr. Lexie Grey in a closet. Like most of the medical situations depicted on nighttime television, this condition was implausible but not impossible.

Though there is no bone in a boner, you can actually fracture a penis when it’s erect. Inside the penis are two spongy cylinders called the corpora cavernosa, which fill with blood when a man becomes aroused. A penile fracture occurs when trauma (such as the penis being suddenly bent) causes one of these cylinders to rupture. This most often happens during intercourse but can also happen during rigorous masturbation or other sexual activities.

A new study, published in the International Journal of Impotence Research, looked to determine which sexual positions were most likely to cause penile fractures. They reviewed the medical records of 90 patients between the ages of 18 and 66 who had experienced this injury. The majority of them (69) were injured during heterosexual intercourse. Nine cases (10 percent) happened during intercourse with the woman on top, 23 cases (25.5 percent) occurred during missionary style sex, and 37 (41 percent) were doing it doggy style.

This sexual position may involve the penis thrusting against a partner’s perineum or pubic symphysis (the joint connecting left and right pubic bones). Both of these are hard and may cause trauma if, well, forcefully bumped up against.

This doesn’t mean that you have to pick a different position. Just be a little careful. This injury is very painful and, if not treated, can lead to long-term consequences including erectile dysfunction. If you, a partner, or a friend with a penis ever experiences severe pain during intercourse or hear a loud popping sound, seek medical help immediately.

Redheads Owe Ed Sheeran for Newfound Sexual Luck

Blondes may no longer being having more fun. And that may have changed due to Ed Sheeran, the Grammy-winning English singer-songwriter who also happens to be a redhead. A new survey of 175 redheaded men ages 25 to 34 found that one in five say they are getting more sexual attention from the opposite sex since Sheeran took center stage.

There are other positive effects of Sheeran’s fame for “ginger” men. They are less likely to be made fun of for their hair than in the past and say they have more confidence.

One in five of the men surveyed also said they had been told they look like Sheeran, and a full third of 18- to 24-year-olds had been mistaken for the singer.

The survey also asked women how they felt about redheads, and one-third of women admitted that their opinion of redheaded men has gone up since Sheeran became famous.

The survey, which was commissioned by online casino Casumo included 175 redheaded men and 1,000 women presumably of all hair colors.

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