Jesse Bering

I fell in love with Jesse Bering at first reading. He was grappling with polyamorous relationships in his Scientific American column, and amid all the logical analysis about animal behaviors and the evolutionary relevance of human monogamy, he brought in his own experience of heartache. His point was that heartache itself may have an evolutionary function. Anyone who can talk hard science and heart at the same time has my attention. Plus he’s cute.

Mr. Bering is a research psychologist, and while the human issues he writes about are all over the map, he often focuses on human sexuality in a way that is both scientific and warm. This week’s column takes a fascinating look at the psychological effects of ingesting semen.

It turns out that semen (not sperm, which is the little swimmers, but semen, which is the white goo the spermies travel in) has got some pretty interesting ingredients:

Such anxiolytic chemicals include, but are by no means limited to, cortisol (known to increase affection), estrone (which elevates mood), prolactin (a natural antidepressant), oxytocin (also elevates mood), thyrotropin-releasing hormone (another antidepressant), melatonin (a sleep-inducing agent) and even serotonin (perhaps the most well-known antidepressant neurotransmitter).

No wonder women and gay men get hooked on the stuff, with profound implications about why we desire sexual congress. It makes me wonder about people with sex addictions. Read the whole article, fascinating.