Pornography could prevent rape, alcohol is Finland's number one killer, and men struggle with the stubborn condom.

Safety Net
Is your teenage son using the internet to view sexually graphic images and videos? Well, thank God. According to a new study by Clemson University economist Todd Kendall, increased access to pornography is associated with a decrease in instances of rape. By looking at the growth of internet usage around the country and comparing it with crime statistics, Kendall found that at 10 percent increase in web use correlates with a 7.3 percent decrease in reports of rape. Kendall notes that there is no similar association between web access and other violent crimes. He also points out that the effect of internet access on sexual crime has been most pronounced in 15 to 19-year-old boys, the group that may have benefitted the most, porn-wise, from the rise of the internet. Kendall argues that pornography actually acts as a substitute for rape. Here’s another idea, professor: Besides looking at porn, what do sexually frustrated, bitter, power-hungry teenagers do on the internet? They troll blogs. Yes, instead of committing one of the most heinous of violent crimes, these teens are taking out their violent inclinations in the one forum where they can have an equal voice and not be judged by their age. They may risk disemvowelment, but at least they don’t have to register as Sense Offenders.

Promiscuous Moms Good for Kids
If the woman next door looks like she’s running a brothel, with strange men coming in and out of her house, ditch those puritanical morals and applaud you neighbor: She may just be doing it for the benefit of her future children. A new study published in the journal Nature demonstrates that females who mate with several males produce offspring with a greater survival rate than those who only mate with one partner. The authors brought antechinuses, Australian marsupials, into captivity and divided the females up into two groups: those destined for loving, monandrous relationships, and lady players who would have three partners apiece. When the offspring was released into the wild, kids of the polyandrous moms had a survival rate three times that of the kids of one-man women. The authors attributed increased offspring survival to “post-mating sexual selection” or “sperm wars” When multiple males’ sperm compete for fertilization, the sperm that will produce the most viable offspring have an advantage. The authors confirmed this with paternity tests: Monandrous females who mated with a male with high “ejaculate competitiveness”—he fathered many children in polyandrous situations—gave birth to offspring with a high survival rate. So ladies, if you don’t trust yourself to assess potential husbands, just sleep with lots of men, and let the sperm sort it out.

Spirited Away
In Thank You For Smoking, a tobacco lobbyist and a Vermont senator battle over whether a cheese-supporting (and therefore heart disease-enabling) politician can honestly condemn the tobacco industry. Ah me; that sort of thing can happy only in America…at least it certainly couldn’t happen in Finland. According to state statistics from 2005, both cardiovascular disease and cancer have taken a back seat to Finland’s number one killer of men aged 15 to 64: alcohol. Breast cancer still takes slightly more female lives than the drink. In 2005, the state reports, about 2,000 Finns died of alcohol-related causes, including suicide and traffic accidents. The average Finn drank the equivalent of 10.5 liters of pure, 200 proof alcohol over the course of the year. Finnish authorities said the result was worrying because of its possible effects on…the economy. “...People of working age pay the pensions of the coming generations and keep the economy competitive,” a Ministry of Social Affairs and Health senior official told newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. Finnish Parliament is looking to decrease alcohol consumption, entertaining proposals that would ban retail sales of adult beverages before 9 AM. Ah, prohibition. What a noble experiment it would be.

The World is Your Cloister
The first global study of sexual behavior has been published in The Lancet, and the results are scandalously unscandalous. Teenagers, long rumored to be having sex before they can solve quadratic equations, are apparently not losing their virginity especially early. These boys and girls gone mild are having sex for the first time between age 15 and 19, on average, depending on where they live.  It was unclear whether they could solve quadratics at the time. While sex hasn’t started happening any sooner globally—age of first intercourse has been declining in some industrialized nations—people in many countries are now marrying later, and premarital sex is on the rise. The true horndogs of the world are those crazy and debaucherous married people, who are having sex more than singles, according to the study. Even worse for those engaging in frequent conjugal bliss, married women apparently find it harder to negotiate safe sex and condom use than do single gals. Condom use is increasing globally, but in developing countries, relatively few people are practicing safe sex. The authors say their findings should be applied to shape programs that promote sexual health.

If They Don’t Win, It’s a Shame
For soccer referees, home is where the heart is, and that’s totally unfair. A new study accepted for publication in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A shows that refs actually do favor the home team, liberally doling out yellow and red cards to the visitors. The authors took home advantage, crowd size, and game importance into account when teasing out the referees’ bias. Managers often complain about unfair calls and inconsistencies after a game, but they often just come across as sore losers, said author Peter Dawson, even if they’re in the right. Now with this statistical analysis of 2,660 matches over six seasons, angry soccer managers will have science to back them up. Then again, it probably won’t help Zidane any. That head butt was just horrific. The researchers also found that underdogs get sanctioned more than favorites. Gosh, it’s a cycle of poverty in soccer. Good thing in American games everything is totally fair and unbiased.

Super Fly
UC Davis researchers have committed a crime against nature: They have manipulated fruit flies to be attracted to the scent of a female silkworm moth. These proponents of interspecies love took mutant fruit flies missing a neuron receptor and genetically introduced a silkworm moth sex pheromone receptor into the flies. Like teenage girls around boys sprayed with Tag or Axe, they were absolutely disgust…I mean, uncontrollably attracted to the smell of female silkworm moths. Well, at least they reacted to the smell strongly enough for the researchers to discern a clear response and conclude that the new gene had been expressed. The receptor allowed the flies to detect two different silkworm moth pheromones: bombykol and, to a lesser extent, bombykal. I’m sure there’s a huge difference between the smells, if not the names.

No Love for the Glove
Researchers have uncovered a great unsung threat to sexual health: the condom. Despite the condom’s “well-founded” reputation for “protecting against disease and unwanted pregnancy,” the sheer stress of donning a love glove can frustrate men, prompting them not to use a condom, scientists report. The deceptive, self-defeating condom can be difficult to put on—many grown men apparently are not confident in their ability dress themselves—and they don’t necessarily fit comfortably, so men often lose their erections while preparing for safe sex, the researchers say. Rather than risk repeated failure, these men may ditch condoms for a high-performance, high-risk sexual encounter. Kinsey Institute fellow Cynthia Graham surveyed 278 men at an STI clinic and found that 37 percent had lost an erection while applying a condom at least once. 40 percent of those men reported ditching the condoms before they had finished intercourse, in contrast to about 20 percent of those who didn’t have erectile issues. Graham emphasizes that we don’t only need to teach about safe sex and how to properly apply a condom, but we also need to teach men that erection loss is not abnormal and they should respond to it with confidence…and condoms.

Download podcast

Originally published November 6, 2006


Share this Stumbleupon Reddit Email + More


  • Ideas

    I Tried Almost Everything Else

    John Rinn, snowboarder, skateboarder, and “genomic origamist,” on why we should dumpster-dive in our genomes and the inspiration of a middle-distance runner.

  • Ideas

    Going, Going, Gone

    The second most common element in the universe is increasingly rare on Earth—except, for now, in America.

  • Ideas

    Earth-like Planets Aren’t Rare

    Renowned planetary scientist James Kasting on the odds of finding another Earth-like planet and the power of science fiction.

The Seed Salon

Video: conversations with leading scientists and thinkers on fundamental issues and ideas at the edge of science and culture.

Are We Beyond the Two Cultures?

Video: Seed revisits the questions C.P. Snow raised about science and the humanities 50 years by asking six great thinkers, Where are we now?

Saved by Science

Audio slideshow: Justine Cooper's large-format photographs of the collections behind the walls of the American Museum of Natural History.

The Universe in 2009

In 2009, we are celebrating curiosity and creativity with a dynamic look at the very best ideas that give us reason for optimism.

Revolutionary Minds
The Interpreters

In this installment of Revolutionary Minds, five people who use the new tools of science to educate, illuminate, and engage.

The Seed Design Series

Leading scientists, designers, and architects on ideas like the personal genome, brain visualization, generative architecture, and collective design.

The Seed State of Science

Seed examines the radical changes within science itself by assessing the evolving role of scientists and the shifting dimensions of scientific practice.

A Place for Science

On the trail of the haunts, homes, and posts of knowledge, from the laboratory to the field.


Witness the science. Stunning photographic portfolios from the pages of Seed magazine.

SEEDMAGAZINE.COM by Seed Media Group. ©2005-2015 Seed Media Group LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sites by Seed Media Group: Seed Media Group | ScienceBlogs | Research Blogging | SEEDMAGAZINE.COM