8 - The psychobiology of human semen  pp. 141-172

The psychobiology of human semen

By Rebecca L. Burch and Gordon G. Jr. Gallup

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Introduction

Our interest in the psychological properties of semen arose as a byproduct of an initial interest in menstrual synchrony. In reviewing that literature we discovered several articles (Trevathan, Burleson, & Gregory, 1993; Weller & Weller, 1998) reporting that lesbians who live together fail to show menstrual synchrony. Since the evidence suggests that menstrual synchrony is mediated by the exchange of subtle olfactory cues among cohabitating women (Preti et al., 1986, Stern & McClintock, 1998) this struck us as peculiar, because lesbians would be expected to be in closer, more intimate contact with one another on a daily basis than other females who live together. What is it about heterosexual females that promotes menstrual synchrony, or conversely what is it about lesbians that prevents menstrual synchrony? It occurred to us that one feature that distinguishes heterosexual women from lesbians is the presence or absence of semen in the female reproductive tract. Lesbians have semen-free sex.

Human semen is a very complicated mixture of many different ingredients. If you extract the sperm from semen, what is left is called seminal plasma. We speculated that there may be chemicals in seminal plasma that, through vaginal absorption, affect female biology and triggers the release of pheromones that function to entrain menstrual cycles among cohabitating women. Some of the components in semen pass through vaginal epithelial tissue, and within an hour or two after intercourse heightened levels of certain seminal chemicals can be detected in the female bloodstream (Benziger & Edelson, 1983).

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