And do condoms make you sad?
By Cecil Adams on November 26, 2010
In your 2002 column on the synchrony of female menstruation, the person asking the question mentioned having heard that sperm acts as an antidepressant. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind putting your take on it out there. —Izra
The substance of interest here is semen, not sperm. Sperm are the minnows; semen is the pond. (Well, the pond plus the minnows.) Whatever miraculous effects may be attributed to a dose of male ejaculate, no one’s claiming they’re due specifically to sperm.
Now to your question. A cherished male belief since antiquity is that the best way to improve an unhappy woman’s attitude is getting her in the sack. Writings attributed to the legendary medical pioneer Hippocrates circa 400 B.C. proposed that hysteria in women was caused by a lack of semen.
Credit for resurrecting this notion in modern times goes to Canadian psychiatrist Philip G. Ney. In a 1986 article Ney noted the following: (1) hormone-like compounds known as prostaglandins have been shown to improve depressed mood; (2) evening primrose oil, a botanical product, facilitates production of prostaglandins; (3) prostaglandins can also be found in semen; and (4) evening primrose oil seemingly caused one depressed, child-abusing woman to cheer up. A down-in-the-dumps woman who’s read this far may reasonably think: I need to get some evening primrose oil. The author’s more adventurous interpretation: “Regular amounts of seminal plasma may be important in maintaining a woman’s affective health.” Is that a great pickup line or what?