The Scientific Approach

Did they even think of this?

It’s fascinating what you’ll find yourself looking at when surfing the internet and trying to keep awake for a football match that kicks off at 1.00am.

I’d gotten into YouTube and, in typical fashion, chased videos until I found myself in a section of the site devoted to Lists. Some of them were quite sensible, like The 20 most under-rated Beatles Songs, and Manchester United’s five greatest comebacks (only five?). it was a sign of the difficulty I was having in keeping my eyes from closing that I found myself clicking on 10 Facts You Didn’t Know About Sex.

The intrinsic value of this short was such that, ten minutes later, I’d forgotten nine of them. One of them did stay in my mind all the way to the next day, and this was the ‘fact’ that male sperm, when ejaculated, travels at 28 miles per hour.

The first thing that came into my head – even before the instinctive concern about whether, at the age of rapidly approaching 59, mine are still keeping up the pace, and the inevitable butterfly brain connection to the fact that that’s the exact speed at which petrol engines cut in in an electric hybrid car, doo doo, doo doo, doo doo, doo – was the question, “How do they know?!)

Obviously this claim must be founded upon some form of scientific research (people don’t just make up things to get hits on YouTube after all) but what research? Was the methodology scientific valid? Were the instruments correctly calibrated? What instruments? What samples?

For a start, how many people did they test? Was it just one guy, who was probably drunk when he underwent the test, as indeed may have been the experimenters who proposed it in the first place? Surely they can’t have just got one guy to jack off whilst they trained a speed camera on him?

No, there had to be a range of test subjects, all bent on expelling semen for the good of human knowledge, but that still begs the question of whether this enquiry was conducted along lines that made its results accurate and reliable. How many participants were there? Was there a sufficient sample so as to be statistically significant? Were the subjects selected upon correctly determined and weighted factors? Was there due attention paid to creating a representative group factoring in age, culture, wealth, body type, race, religion, state of sobriety?

Was denomination a factor? Does a guilt-infected Catholic produce a faster stream as a consequence of higher tension over the transgressive nature of the act or does the more relaxed conscience of a Church of England attendee lead to a stress-free fluidity? Are atheists more focussed on bodily concerns in this world, being free of expectation as to the nature, and indeed existence, of the next one?

Not being of a sufficiently scientific mind as to be able to design experiments of sufficient rigour (methodologically speaking) to produce verifiable results, I have, up to this point, assumed that the experimental subject is working alone to produce evidentiary material. (The notion of rows and rows of test subjects wanking away furiously in a line whilst volunteers from the best Universities race backwards and forwards with glass jars, desperately scanning faces for the sign which will identify who’s ready to come first needs to remain firmly where it belongs, in a 1970s Confessions film.)

It seems reasonable to posit a such a scenario, the advantages of which are self-evident, yet the enquiring mind will naturally gravitate to the question of whether there is a difference in propulsive rate between ejaculation in solitary and ejaculation in the appropriate receiving area of a gentleman’s favoured partner, and how the fuck are you going to measure that?

There are such things as microcameras, and I have seen astonishing internal footage thanks to the deployment of one such, presumably without discomfort or distraction, in places where men’s eyes were certainly not intended to go (I am never going to forget that scene of the cervix dipping its wick in the semen, no matter how hard I try).

And I am equally aware of many experiments conducted with true scientific disinterestedness upon consenting couples engaged in the practice of what, in the circumstances, cannot accurately be described as intimacy.

But seriously: how can you tell?

One option for serious researchers might be to adopt the pornsite alternative (kids, it’s not the right way, honest. Trust me) though if this approach is utilised, then I tip my hat in admiration to all those ladies willing to devote so much time to a state of perpetual coitus interruptus.

There is a risk, at this moment, of marginalising the gay community, and it should be acknowledged that it is not necessary that there be a female at the receiving end. True scientific rigour would, however, demand that sexuality be also introduced as a factor in determining accurate results: does the gay man pump faster than the straight, or does the straight have any advantages other than quantity? Does the introduction of gay sexuality into the experiment produce a significant effect on results, or does it merely complete the experiment quicker, given that you’re getting two for the price of one, so to speak?

The pansexual panoply of human sexual response is so wide ad varied that, without further evidence as to the conduct of experiments, and a tick on the homework from Ben Goldacre, I’m not prepared to accept such a facile claim as demonstrated. How do we really know that it’s not really 27 mph, or 29? Does climate affect performance rates? Is this an absolute figure or a working average depending on whether or not she’s wearing those black stockings you bought her for your birthday?

Or am I just waffling due to sleep deprivation? At least we won.


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