TIME Sex

World Cup: The Crazy Rules Some Teams Have About Pre-Game Sex

Brazil's national soccer players pose for a team photo before their 2014 World Cup opening match against Croatia at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo
Brazil's national soccer players pose for a team photo before their 2014 World Cup opening match against Croatia at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo on June 12, 2014. Paulo Whitaker—Reuters

Science says that sex can actually help, not hurt, athletic performance. But wary coaches disagree

When you’re competing in the world’s most-watched sporting event, you don’t take any chances with your body. So while experts may disagree about whether having sex before a game can affect a player’s performance, many teams at this year’s World Cup have implemented sex bans.

“There will be no sex in Brazil. They can find another solution, they can even masturbate if they want. I am not interested what the other coaches do, this is not a holiday trip, we are there to play football at the World Cup,” Safet Susic, the coach of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s national soccer team told reporters of his team’s ban in April.

On Tuesday, Quartz broke down the sex rules for the World Cup teams. To sum up:

Sex is permitted on these teams: Germany, Spain, the United States, Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Uruguay and England

Sex is banned on these teams: Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile and Mexico

And the rules are complicated on these teams: France (you can have sex but not all night), Brazil (you can have sex, but not “acrobatic” sex), Costa Rica (can’t have sex until the second round) and Nigeria (can sleep with wives but not girlfriends)

The rules for the remaining teams are unknown.

Are some sex rules excessive? Probably. The two most common concerns about pre-game sex are that intercourse might make a player tired and weak or it could affect him psychologically. Studies have shown that the former is a myth.

Many coaches and athletes believe that abstaining from sex builds up aggression, a belief that probably stems from ancient civilizations like the Greeks, who thought that men derived strength from their semen. This theory is so pervasive that even Muhammed Ali refused to have sex six weeks before a fight, fearing that ejaculation would release the testosterone (and therefore aggression) he needed for a boxing match.

But in fact, the opposite has been proven to be true. Studies show testosterone increases after sex. “After three months without sex, which is not so uncommon for some athletes, testosterone dramatically drops to levels close to children’s levels,” Emmanuele A. Jannini of the University of L’Aquila in Italy who has studied the affect of sex on athletic performance told National Geographic. “Do you think this may be useful for a boxer?”

Which means that sex may actually increase performance by releasing testosterone into the body.

And sex doesn’t exhaust athletes. Most bedroom sessions burn only 25 to 50 calories, the equivalent of walking up two flights of stairs. For an all-star athlete, that’s nothing. Studies show that having sex the night before a competition has no affect on strength or endurance.

Whether coitus would affect the soccer players psychologically is harder to test, but experts maintain that it can have a positive mental effect. “If athletes are too anxious and restless the night before an event, then sex may be a relaxing distraction,” Ian Shrier, a sports medicine specialist at McGill University, wrote in a 2000 review of 31 studies on sex and sports titled “Does Sex the Night Before Competition Decrease Performance?” published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine.

Some experts even argue that previous World Cups wins prove sex can be beneficial.

“The Netherlands national soccer team, at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, is an example of this,” Juan Carlos Medina, general coordinator of the sports department at Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico told CNN. “Some of those players were accompanied by their wives, and they won the second place. I don’t say this is a determinant factor, but it brings support.”

“Even Pele confessed that he never suspended sexual encounters with his wife before a game, I mean, that thing about sex helping to relax is a verified truth,” he added.

Ultimately whether sex will negatively impact a person’s emotions before a game depends on each individual. Some find it’s a relief, others a distraction (especially if it keeps them up all night). “In general, an athlete should never try something before an important competition that they have not already tried in lesser competitions or practice,” Shrier concludes.

TIME Sex

Interactive Maps: See Where 4 STDs Are Most Rampant

Scroll over each state to see the rates of STDs per 100k people

Earlier this year, the CDC released a report on STDs in the U.S. that showed slight increases in nearly all strains.

The yearly report provides only a snapshot of the numbers, since many cases of STDs covered in the report like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis go unreported. Among all three STDs, only congenital syphilis (syphilis present at birth), have gone down. Research engine FindTheBest took the CDC numbers and created these interactive maps for TIME out of the data.

Scroll over your own state and check out the STD rate.

Gonorrhea

Syphilis

Chlamydia

HIV

TIME Humor

Lindsay Lohan Recalls the Time She Had Sex With James Franco

Actress Lindsay Lohan speaks at a press conference on Jan. 20, 2014 in Park City, Utah.
Actress Lindsay Lohan speaks at a press conference on Jan. 20, 2014 in Park City, Utah. George Pimentel—Getty Images

(This is a work of fiction.)

Tuesday, James Franco published his fictional account of the time he did not have sex with Lindsay Lohan—another platform on which to deny her infamous “sex list.” Well, she maintains they did. Here’s what happened.*

James Franco says that we did not have sex and one of the things I learned growing up in a family of chaos was to respect other people’s truths, even if that truth is something they made up driving home wasted in an Escalade that I frickin bought. Anyway, since he has shared his version of events, I think it’s only fair that I share mine.

It was a few years ago. I don’t remember if I was sober or not. I think I probably was. I actually never even really drank that much, and as I told Oprah, I only did coke 10-15 times, so statistically, the chances are good I was not wasted when this happened.

I was wandering around the Chateau Marmont, which is a hotel. Some people like to go on and on about what it represents to them and all the stuff they did there, but I’m just going to stick with calling it a hotel, because on Long Island we like to keep it simple.

I will say that I do like the Chateau because there are lots of beautiful flowers tended by people who care as deeply about tending flowers as I do about my passion, starring in films. I had just taken a swim in the pool where, per the advice of several therapists, I had taken some time to imagine that I was one of any number of various sea creatures. Afterwards I had taken a leisurely shower and then put a deep conditioning pack on my hair. So I was just walking around inhaling the scent of night blooming jasmine and my deep conditioning pack when one of the bungalow doors opened.

This guy stuck his head out. I didn’t know who it was. In fact at first I thought it was this guy who worked at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Beverly and I was like what is he doing here? “Hey,” he said.

As I got closer I saw that it was that actor who always wants people to think that he’s smart but I still couldn’t remember his name.

“Oh hey,” I said.

“What are you doing?” he said.

“I’m deep conditioning my hair,” I said.

“Why?” he said. He said it in this really challenging way, like deep conditioning your hair was against the law.

“Uh, because it has a lot of split ends from being so color treated and all the extensions that I have used over the last few years, being an actress who cares about my craft, the way that Chateau Marmont flower-tenders care about flowers.”

He shook his head. He was kind of good looking I guess but there was something about his face. He looked so serious, like he had just finished reading 1000 books and had to read 1000 more or he was never going to get to watch TV again.

He said, “Have you ever thought about all the time you spend deep conditioning your hair? Have you ever thought about how the expectations that society places on you as a celebrity and how you exploit yourself by responding to them?”

I said, “Duh, that’s all I think about. But deep conditioning my hair is one of the ways I find my center.”

“That’s beautiful,” he said. He actually got a tear in his eye. Then he said, “I’m sorry, it’s just that the intersection of the banal commercial world with narratives about inner peace triggers a conditioned, sentimental response in me that produces something like actual feelings.”

It was all clear now. “You’re James Franco,” I said.

He asked me to come in and I did. I sat in a chair.

“Gus Van Zandt once sat in that chair,” he said.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know who that is,” I said, even though I did. I knew anyone who went to school for as long as James Franco had was probably just enough of a jerk to imagine that everyone he came in contact with was the stupidest person in the world. “Is that your dad?”

James Franco laughed. “In a way he is, I guess. Parenthood is so – circumscribed by biology in this culture. And really, since what I am is an artist, really, more than a human, and since he is an artist, more than a human, really, why can it not be said that our relationship was more of a parenting relationship than the one I had with the people to whom I am attached by mere biology? Now, if biology was the ideology I adhered to, certainly, by that measure I would have to allow that he is NOT my father.” All of a sudden he looked really excited. “You know what’s intense? In a way, Gus and I are like – husband and wife. And “Milk” is our gay baby.”

He got very excited. “That is such a good idea for an art installation! A series of photographs, fake documentary style. Gus and I meet, we fall in love, and we have a baby, he gives birth to it, I think, not me – well. Wait. Maybe it should be me. Yeah. An image of me pregnant would be so super intense, and really open up a lot of intense dialogue about gender, whereas if an older, gay less gorgeous person was pregnant, it wouldn’t be as interesting. Don’t you think?”

“I guess,” I said.

James Franco went on. “And so I give birth to a baby, but the baby is a movie, not a baby. That is seriously twisted. A movie being a baby, but really being a movie? Don’t you think?”

“I guess,” I said. “Do you mind if I rinse this stuff out of my hair?”

I don’t even think he heard me. I went in the bathroom. He kept talking. “And the baby-as-movie goes to pre-school, and high school, and to college. And meanwhile, we get divorced and the judge puts the baby-move on the witness stand to see who it wants to live with.”

I came out of the bathroom. “And this is all in photographs? Why not fake documentary?”

He frowned again and snorted. “I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced the way that the medium of photography, particularly black and white, legitimizes the unreal,” he said. “In fact, I am pretty sure you haven’t, or you wouldn’t have suggested that.”

All of a sudden, I was really, really tired. As I said earlier, I definitely wasn’t wasted, so I think it’s more likely that I got really tired because the smell of my conditioner made me tired, not because some weird combination of alcohol and drugs had made me unusually animated and then left me suddenly drained of energy and any sense of self-will. I lay down.

“Anyway,” he said, “Not only does photography interact with our memory in a way that makes us think we are re-experiencing things we have never in fact truly experienced, it also, and this is probably even more crucial for this story, adds a shimmer of cold terror to the uncanny and that,” he smashed his hand down on the coffee table, “is my project as an artist.”

Then he got serious. He came over and stroked my hair. “I want to reward you for inspiring me. This is the best idea I have ever had, and I never would have had it about you. Can I reward you by reading you a story?”

He said it was called A Perfect Day for Bananafish. I don’t remember very much about it, except at one point, he stopped reading and started to explain to me that it should really be called something else gross and dumb because of something about the fish being phallic which personally I feel like he made up. I can’t really remember. I was so tired, but somewhere, a little voice piped up and let me know there was actually a really brilliant way to get through the next hour of my life without having to walk all the way back to my room, and I was like, “If I have sex with you, will you stop telling me your ideas?”

I am a lady, so I don’t want to tell you what happened next. But I think it’s messed up that the world is always waiting for me to fail. I mean, has James Franco ever come out with a series of photographs “documenting” his “relationship” and “parenthood” with Gus Van Zandt? No. He hasn’t. And it’s because of me. So leave me alone. I did you all a big favor.

*In Sarah Miller’s imagination. She also writes for NewYorker.com and The Hairpin, among other outlets, and has published two novels, Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl.

TIME

11 Things You Didn’t Know About Miscarriage

Earlier this week, reality TV stars Giuliana and Bill Rancic revealed that the surrogate who was nine weeks pregnant with their second child had a miscarriage.

Giuliana told PEOPLE that she had had a miscarriage herself in 2010 before turning to a surrogate, Delphine. Now, that sense of loss was amplified.

“It was just heartbreaking,” Giuliana said, “I just started sobbing uncontrollably. But I had to get myself together for her. She’s really strong and amazing.”

Still, she and Bill are looking forward to the day when their 21-month-old son can have a sibling.

“Because miscarriage so common, you need to be aware that it could happen to you,” says Teresa Berg, M.D., director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. “And just because you’ve had one doesn’t mean you’re not going to have another.”

Here’s what you need to know to minimize your risk and, if needed, move forward.

Miscarriage happens more often than you think

The figure often cited is that about 15% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, which is also called “early pregnancy loss” and “spontaneous abortion.” But with the extra-sensitive, early-response pregnancy tests available these days, that number may be as high as 30% of all pregnancies, Dr. Berg says.

Health.com: 15 Signs You May Have an Iron Deficiency

Miscarriage happens early in pregnancy

The definition of miscarriage is a pregnancy lost before 20 weeks, but almost all miscarriages occur before the 12-week mark, says Dr. Berg. (That’s why expecting parents are often told to wait until the second trimester to start spreading the news.) A pregnancy lost after 20 weeks is usually referred to as stillbirth.

You may not know you’ve miscarried

“You can miscarry within the first 10 days of conception and not even recognize that you’ve had a pregnancy loss,” says Dr. Berg. “You may think it’s just a period.” Bleeding is a common symptom of miscarriage, so is severe cramping. If you have either symptom and you know you’re pregnant, see a doctor or go to the emergency room to avoid two possible complications of miscarriage: hemorrhage and infection.

Health.com: 10 Ways to Boost Your Odds of Getting Pregnant

It’s not the mother’s fault

Most miscarriages occur because of genetic abnormalities in the embryo, Dr. Berg says. There’s really no way to predict or prevent them. They just happen.

Older women are more likely to miscarry

Miscarriages become even more common as women get older. That’s because as eggs age, the chances of genetic abnormalities increase.

Health.com: How to Help Someone Who’s Depressed

Fertility treatments may raise your risk

But if they do, it’s probably a small increase and it may be hard to determine if it’s due to the treatments or to other factors—many women undergoing fertility treatment are older, or have other conditions that affect fertility. If you’re 40 and trying to get pregnant, you’ll have a better chance of carrying a baby to term if you use a donor egg from a younger woman, says Dr. Berg.

Your weight matters

Being too thin or overweight can both increase the risk of a miscarriage, says Dr. Berg. Diabetes, a common complication of obesity, can also increase the risk, but only if the condition is poorly controlled. “Women who are checking their blood sugar and have [blood sugar] that’s in a normal range have a risk no different than someone who doesn’t have diabetes,” she says.

Health.com: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

Smoking is a known risk factor

Women who smoke have a higher chance of miscarriage so add this to the long list of reasons not to smoke—whether you’re pregnant or not.

Sex doesn’t cause it

You’ve likely heard the old wives’ tale that intercourse can increase the risk of losing a baby. Well, it doesn’t. Neither does exercise nor continuing to work, Dr. Berg says.

One miscarriage doesn’t mean you’ll have more

Many, many women who’ve had a miscarriage go on to have one or more children. In fact, doctors usually don’t look for an underlying reason for miscarriage until you’ve had two or more, she says. (So, yes, you can suffer more than one.)

It’s normal to grieve after a miscarriage

Feelings of loss are common after a miscarriage, even one that happens very early on. “Women can attach to a pregnancy even if they haven’t seen anything on an ultrasound or felt the baby move,” Dr. Berg says. “There is a grieving process.” Some women have significant depression and depression-like symptoms and fathers can grieve, too. Support groups from organizations like the March of Dimes and Resolve can help, and so can the support of close family and friends.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Sex

Stress Degrades Sperm and Fertility, Study Finds

Men who feel stressed have fewer, slower sperm

Psychological stress may degrade sperm quality and sperm fertility, according to a study published today in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

“Men who feel stressed are more likely to have lower concentrations of sperm in their ejaculate, and the sperm they have are more likely to be misshapen or have impaired motility,” said researcher Pam Factor-Litvak, an epidemiologist at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, in a statement. “These deficits could be associated with fertility problems.”

Researchers studied 193 men ages 38 to 49, who rated how stressed they felt and shared the life events that led to said stress. Life stress degraded the quality of semen even when the scientists accounted for other factors, such as health concerns or previous issues with fertility.

Even though life stress affected the caliber of the sperm, workplace stress did not. However, job strain did lower testosterone levels and therefore could still hurt reproductive health. Unemployed men also had lower sperm quality than employed men, regardless of other stressors.

Scientists don’t know how exactly emotional strain affects semen, but this adds to a body of research examining the many ways emotional stress can take a toll on the body.

TIME Sex

Snapchat CEO Apologizes for Explicit Frat Emails

Evan Spiegel
Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel poses for photos, in Los Angeles, Oct. 24, 2013. Jae C. Hong—AP

Evan Spiegel says he is "mortified" that emails he sent as a college student were leaked

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, 23, who runs an app that erases messages seconds after they have been viewed, has apologized after Gawker leaked emails demeaning to women that he sent as a fraternity brother.

The website’s Valleywag section published emails from 2009 in which Spiegel wrote “F–k Bitches Get Leid [sic]” and encouraged fellow members of Kappa Sigma at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., to receive as much oral sex from women as possible. He also offered a blunt to whoever saw the most breasts in one night.

In an email, Spiegel told Business Insider that he was “mortified” and a “jerk,” adding the emails “in no way” reflect how he views women today.

The leaked messages have surfaced at a time when discussion has come to the fore about whether men should feel entitled to sex. Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old student at Santa Barbara City College, killed six and injured 13 before taking his own life last week because he was frustrated that he was still a virgin. And the prevalence of sexual assaults on U.S. college campuses is in part fueled by fraternities dominating the social scene and plying minors with alcohol at private parties.

MORE: Why Mass Killers Are Always Male

MORE: The Sexual-Assault Crisis on American Campuses

TIME celebrities

Ellen Page: Creepiness Is a “Systemic Problem” in Hollywood

Ellen Page
Ellen Page at 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on March 2, 2014 in West Hollywood, Calif. Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez / AFP / Getty Images

Those in power often manipulate younger people, the actress says

For an actor, promoting a movie usually requires spending a lot of time talking about his or her character and the world of the film. And, in this week’s TIME, Ellen Page does just that for the new X-Men: Days of Future Past (in theaters this weekend), discussing the way the movie’s worldview meshes with her own and why she might use mutant powers to see what it’s like to be Jay Z.

But sometimes, a movie release coincides with real-life events, and in X-Men‘s case, that something happens to be the recent suit against director Bryan Singer, who has been accused of sexually abusing a minor. (On Wednesday, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Singer filed a motion to dismiss. In a recent cover story for the same publication, Page said that those accusations against Singer were “disturbing” and that “the truth will come out in the way that it does.” But, she told TIME, no matter ends up happening with Singer’s case, there’s a larger issue that we should be talking about instead:

TIME: I read what you’ve said about the allegations against Bryan Singer, and I wonder what’s it like to be asked about those accusations…

Ellen Page: When it has nothing to do with me?

TIME: Yeah.

Page: It’s part of this world and it’s part of what we do and it’s the same with Woody [Allen, who directed Page in To Rome with Love] or whatever. I’ve worked with this person and I happen to be in the movie that’s coming out right now, so of course someone will ask about it. What could I possibly say about it? These are accusations and it’s awful and we’ll find out when we find out, when the process happens. I do think that all of Bryan’s situation aside, I do think there is a systemic problem. Any time young people are in places with people of power around, I do think that’s an important thing to talk about.

TIME: Just in general?

Page: In general and in Hollywood, yeah.

TIME: Is that something you’ve experienced personally?

Page: I grew up on film sets, so yes. I’ve never had any situation that is anything too, you know, but people are creepy and try to manipulate young people and luckily I never had anything too drastic happen.

Such power imbalances, and their “creepy” consequences, have often been seen as a problem that mostly affects those for whom the imbalance is greatest; as my colleague Kate Pickert explained when the Singer scandal first broke, advocates say that the aspirants who have the most to gain and lose are the ones most in danger of predatory quid-pro-quo transactions. But, if Page’s observations hold true across her industry, it sounds like the problem isn’t limited to careers that have yet to break through.

TIME campus sexual assault

What I’m Telling My Son About Drunk Sex and Consent

Talking with a good friend the other day about all the recent attention regarding sexual assault on college campuses—much of it bravely brought to light by coeds who have come forward to tell their stories—we quickly got around to an angle that cuts close to home: What would we tell our teenage sons, who themselves will go off to school in the next few years?

At one point, my friend held up her iPhone and, half in jest, clicked the video button. In order to protect her two boys, she said, she might advise them never to have sex with a girl before getting her consent on the record.

Sexual violence on campus has reached the level of a “crisis” in the words of a recent cover story in Time—one that led the White House last month to issue guidelines raising the pressure on universities to more aggressively combat the problem.

We know that regretted sex and false accusations are undoubtedly the exception, not the rule. Still, as my friend suggested, fabricated claims of rape do happen. And when they do, a young man’s reputation is instantly, and often irreparably, shattered. His freedom may be lost.

Certainly, we need to protect our daughters. But we need to protect our sons, too—especially given the widespread hookup culture and the messy realities of binge drinking and of drunken, casual sex on campus.

Let me be clear: This is not about blaming the victim or diminishing the crime of sexual violence on campus and its rampant mismanagement by universities more concerned with their image than with protecting young women.

But we suddenly live in an era where talking to our sons about condoms and STDs before they begin to have sexual encounters is not enough. We must talk to them frankly about consent—and by this I do not mean just teaching them that “no means no.” As parents, we must explicitly tell them what’s at stake and how to avoid finding themselves in a situation where their actions could possibly be misconstrued as having crossed the line.

With that in mind, there are half a dozen things that I’ll be telling my now-16-year-old son before he heads off to college.

First, I am going to talk to him about consent—something that might well seem murky to an inexperienced, awkward, nonverbal teenager, especially when alcohol is involved. A recent must-read article in Slate—which I will share with my son—makes plain that it’s a crime to have sex with someone who is too drunk to give meaningful consent, even if the young man is not violent and even if the young woman does not physically resist or verbally object.

Lindsey Doe, a clinical sexologist who has created a free YouTube series dubbed “Sexplanations,” lays it out this way: “Consent is not an absence of a no; it is the presence of a yes.” Her fantastic video on the subject, “What is Consent?”, should be watched by every freshman (male or female) before stepping foot on campus.

Second, I will tell my boy that if he’s drunk, he shouldn’t have sex. Period. Doe offers this gem: “If you cannot drive a vehicle you ought not to wield your wiener.”

Third, I will warn him that he should never take advantage of someone who is drunk. Indeed, if he thinks his only shot at having sex with a woman is because she’s smashed, that’s a sure sign he should walk away. This is also a great opportunity to explain to my son that sex is better when it’s with someone you genuinely care about.

Fourth: I know it can be awkward to talk about sex, but I will advise my son to do exactly that. I will tell him, specifically, that before having sex he should talk about it what it means to him (friends with benefits?) and to her (a relationship?) to make sure there is no misunderstanding. And I will tell him that if he’s ever unsure about the signals he’s getting from a coed, he should flat-out ask her if she wants to have sex—all without worrying that doing so is unromantic or unsexy or unappealing in any way.

Fifth, I will tell him to take the newspaper test: If what he is about to do were reported on the front page of the local paper, would it be considered improper behavior—or worse? If so, walk away.

Finally, I will tell my kid that it’s not enough for him to behave appropriately himself. There will be times when he can safely intervene, encouraging a guy to go home and take a cold shower, or escorting a young woman back to her dorm so she can sleep it off. As Charlotte Alter has pointed out on TIME.com, bystander intervention is becoming an important tool in fighting sexual assault on campus. I’ll encourage my son to be one of the good guys.

TIME Sex

Here’s the Real Reason Women Hate Premature Ejaculation

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Peter Dazeley—Getty Images

Men focus too hard on lasting a long time in bed, often to the detriment of their partner

The wives and girlfriends of men who suffer from premature ejaculation are often frustrated—but it’s not for the reason you may think, according to a new study.

A clinical psychologist at the University of Zurich surveyed more than 1,500 women in Mexico, Italy and South Korea and found that women don’t necessarily want intercourse to last longer. “It is not the short duration of the act of lovemaking that is primarily regarded as the main source of sexual frustration by the majority of women, but the fact that the man is focused too strongly on delaying ejaculation. As a result, he ignores the sexual needs of the woman and is unable to satisfy her individual desires,” the study said.

In thinking about the finish line, it’s easy for men to neglect sexually stimulating acts like kissing and caressing, which the women who were surveyed said are equally important to their satisfaction in the bedroom.

TIME motherhood

‘My Husband Wants to Breastfeed:’ The Phenomenon Nobody Talks About But Everyone Googles

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Mother nursing baby son (9-12 months) father leaning on sofa John Howard—Getty Images

Some men are turned on, some are curious, and some are just trying to help out their wives

It’s the suckle that dare not speak its name. In worldwide Google searches, “my husband wants me to breastfeed him” is a more popular search term than “my husband wants to separate” and “my husband wants a baby” combined.

Um, what? Seth Stephens-Davidowitz originally reported these numbers in the New York Times, and most of that breastfeeding search traffic is coming from India. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that breastmilk is becoming a delicacy in India, it does suggest a lot of interest. And it begs the question: is this really a thing?

Absolutely, says Dr. Wendy Walsh, a relationship expert and self-described “dairy queen” who nursed each of her children until they were 3. “Every breastfeeding mother I ever knew said their husband asked to drink it,” she says adding that the father of her child also asked to nurse once in a while.

Drinking human breast milk is enough of a niche fetish that there’s even a whole bar in Japan dedicated to it, where men can either buy shots of milk or get it straight from the nipple. Corky Harvey, who co-founded the Pump Station and Nurtery in Santa Monica, CA, said that when she asked nursing mothers whether their husbands ever tried to breastfeed, two women said they had heard of friends getting this request from their husbands. And one woman said she had been at a party where a man came up and asked if her husband like to “suckle on those breasts.”

“I think with a lot of men, there’s just a curiosity of what it tastes like, and what it would be like to nurse,” said Wendy Haldeman, who co-founded the Pump Station with Harvey. “Certainly men suck on nipples during sex, so they’re gonna get milk.”

But husband breastfeeding can be as much about utility as curiosity. “If the milk is backed up in the breast, and it’s very painful, and sometimes the baby can’t get it out and the pump can’t get it out,” she says. “And there have been times when the dads have been successful at clearing the blockage.” She added that the fathers’ teeth sometimes make this a bit complicated.

None of the lactation experts or OB-GYNs we spoke to said they had noticed a real adult breastfeeding trend in the United States, but they also weren’t particularly surprised to hear that it was a common search query.

“If you put women who are nursing together with partners who are having sex, then it’s bound to happen,” said Felina Rakowski-Gallagher, founder and president of the Upper Breast Side lactation center in New York City. “And if it’s bound to happen and there are no negative consequences, maybe it’s something that Mother Nature intended.”

But if asked, most American men say they’re definitely not into drinking milk directly from their wife’s breast. George Silva, a 42-year old banker from Caracas, Venezuela told me he “never considered” tasting his wife’s milk while she was nursing their two children, now 8 and 5. “I never heard of a man who wanted to try it,” his wife Lisa said.

“I had no urge whatsoever,” said Anthony, a 43-year-old New York wine salesman who asked that his last name not be used. “And there was tons of it.”

Perhaps husband breastfeeding is a global phenomenon that hasn’t caught on in the United States yet. “It’s happening around the world, not just in India, but in China and Europe” said Dr. Diane Spatz, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing who also works at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Men think, ‘oh there are all these health benefits of human milk, so if I’m a man, and I want to make myself healthier, then this is what I’m gonna do,'” she said, adding that the effects of breast milk on adults have not been extensively studied.

And obviously there’s a difference between an occasional sip and regular feeding. “My concern about it is that if this is happening, then the baby might not be getting access to the mom’s own milk,” says Spatz.

But even if this is happening in India, as the search numbers suggest, Indian women are hardly nursing their husbands in the streets. “This is completely new to me, I don’t see that as a common phenomenon in India” said Effath Yasmin, a Lactation Consultant who runs Nourish & Nurture Lactation Care & Parenting Education in Mumbai, India. “But we’re from a very conservative culture and women perhaps would not approach professionals to discuss about this. That could be why they’re maybe looking for it on the internet.”

Some experts say that adult breastfeeding might also have an element of jealousy to it, and that the breastmilk fetish might come from the fact that the breast’s sexual and nutritional functions are getting confused. “The breast has a day job and a night job,” Dr. Walsh says. “The breast used to be the man’s play-toy, and suddenly the baby is coming in and playing with daddy’s favorite play-toy.”

“Is it bad?” she asked. “Who cares?”

 

 

 

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