Safe Sex

10 Surprising Facts About Birth Control

December 19, 2014 by Justin Lehmiller

Did you know that Lysol and Coca-Cola used to be used as contraceptives? Or that usage of birth control pills is related not only to what women pay attention to when watching pornography, but also to the amount of money that a female stripper makes in tips? Read on to learn more about these and other surprising facts about the past, present, and future of birth control.

1. In the not-too-distant past, some women used to flush out their vaginas with Coca-Cola after sex in an attempt to prevent pregnancy. Believe it or not, there was even a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1985 claiming that this technique actually worked (and not only that, but it also claimed that Diet Coke worked better than regular Coke!) [1]. However, subsequent research found that soda isn’t all that effective as a contraceptive and can potentially lead to vaginal infections [2].

2. Equally disturbing is that Lysol (which used to be marketed as a “feminine hygiene product”) was also used as an after-sex douche to prevent pregnancy by some women in the past. Just like Coca-Cola, though, it wasn’t all that effective and had some negative side effects (not the least of which is that it probably burned like hell).

3. At one point in time, animal intestines were the most popular material used for making condoms. Some condoms are still made from this today (e.g., Naturalamb), but they have largely fallen out of favor because they are costlier to produce than latex. Also, while they may be effective at preventing pregnancy, animal membranes are thought to be too porous to serve as an effective barrier to most sexually transmitted infections.

4. With typical use (i.e., when accounting for human error), the withdrawal method (also known as “pull and pray” or “coitus interruptus”) is almost as effective as condoms at preventing pregnancy. Yes, you read that right. How can this be? Because people make a lot of mistakes when it comes to using condoms. Learn about some of the most common mistakes in this infographic.

5. Here is another interesting fact about condoms: research has found that condom users and non-users report no difference in how pleasurable their most recent sexual event was or in their likelihood of reaching orgasm during that event. This suggests that condoms don’t necessarily have to take the fun out of sex.

6. Despite everything we hear in the U.S. media about birth control being a divisive social issue, the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of Americans don’t have a problem with it. In fact, a 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 91% of Americans think birth control is morally acceptable.

7. Another misconception perpetuated by some in the media is that access to free birth control will lead women to become promiscuous and engage in riskier sexual behavior. However, research has found that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Women who receive free contraception do not have more sexual partners or a greater risk of contracting STIs. What is free contraception actually linked to? A decrease in unintended pregnancies and abortions.

8. Several studies have found that heterosexual women who are taking hormonal contraceptives show different patterns of attraction to men and also that they pay attention to different things when watching pornography compared to women who are naturally cycling. The theory is that women have evolved a tendency to be attracted to “manlier” men when they are ovulating (i.e., when the odds of conception are highest) in order to pass the best genetic material possible onto any offspring that are produced. Because hormonal contraceptives prevent ovulation, they also appear to prevent this corresponding shift in attraction patterns.

9. Related to this, research has also found that female exotic dancers who are taking hormonal birth control make less money in tips compared to naturally cycling women who are ovulating. Why? It is thought that when a dancer is ovulating, she may subconsciously change her behavior in ways that make her more attractive. It may also be that men have evolved ways of telling when a woman is ovulating, and this may enhance their arousal when they are around women at peak fertility. Either way, taking birth control would wipe out these effects, and that may explain the earnings difference. Learn more about this research here.

10. A long-lasting, fully reversible, injectable male contraceptive may be on the market within two years. If it passes all of the clinical trials, it would be the closest thing we to an equivalent of “the pill” for men. Learn more about how it works here.

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[1] Umpierre, S. A. (1985). Effect of Coke on sperm motility. New England Journal of Medicine, 21, 1351.

[2] Hong, C. Y., Shieh, C. C., Wu, P., & Chiang, B. N. (1987). The spermicidal potency of Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola. Human Toxicology, 6, 395-396.

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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