Safe Sex

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Contraception

October 12, 2016 by Justin Lehmiller

Did you know that Lysol and Coca-Cola used to be used as contraceptives? Or that female strippers who are taking birth control pills receive dramatically different tips than strippers who aren’t on hormonal contraceptives? Read on to learn more about these and other surprising things sex researchers have discovered about contraception.

1. Before birth control pills became widely available, women sometimes turned to rather unconventional methods for preventing unwanted pregnancies. For some women, this meant flushing out their vaginas with Coca-Cola after sex. Believe it or not, a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1985 claimed that this technique actually worked. Not only that, but this paper also claimed that Diet Coke is a superior contraceptive than regular Coke [1]! Don’t try this at home, though. Subsequent research has found that soda isn’t very effective as a contraceptive and, further, that it can potentially lead to vaginal irritation and infections [2].

2. If you winced at the thought of a Coca-Cola douche, prepare to wince again. Believe it or not, Lysol used to be marketed as a “feminine hygiene product” and some women used to use it as an after-sex douche to prevent pregnancy. Unfortunately, just like Coke, Lysol isn’t a very good contraceptive and, of course, putting household cleaning products inside of you is probably going to feel downright unpleasant.

3. Animal intestines used to be one of the most popular materials for making condoms. Some condoms are still made from this today (like Naturalamb), but they have largely fallen out of favor for two reasons. First, they are more expensive to produce. Second, animal membranes are more porous than latex, making them ineffective at preventing STIs (in fact, these condoms are usually recommend for pregnancy prevention only).

4. With typical use–that is, when you account for human error–the withdrawal or “pull and pray” method is nearly as effective as condoms at preventing pregnancy. Yep, you read that right. How can this possibly be? It’s because people make a lot of mistakes when it comes to using condoms (you can learn about some of the most common mistakes in this infographic). Clearly, we still have a long way to go when it comes to teaching people proper condom use…

5. Here is another interesting thing scientists have learned about condoms: research has found that condom users and non-users report no difference in how pleasurable their most recent sexual experience was or in their likelihood of reaching orgasm. Results like these suggest that condoms don’t necessarily have to take the fun and enjoyment out of sex.

6. If you listen to the U.S. media discuss the topic of birth control, you’ll likely come away with the impression that this is an extremely divisive social issue; however, it turns out that the vast majority of Americans don’t have a problem with contraception. For instance, public opinion polls reveal that around 90% of Americans think birth control is morally acceptable.

7. Another common misconception about contraception perpetuated by a number of political figures in the media is that making birth control freely available will lead to promiscuity and riskier sexual behavior. In reality, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Research has found that women who receive free contraception do not have more sexual partners or a greater risk of contracting STIs. Moreover, free contraception is 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 compared to women who are on their natural cycles. What scientists believe is going on here is that women have evolved a tendency to be attracted to “manlier” men when they are ovulating–that is, when the odds of becoming pregnant are highest–in order to pass the best genetic material possible onto their offspring. Because hormonal contraceptives prevent ovulation, they also prevent this corresponding shift in attraction patterns. This could have implications for who women choose as partners and, ultimately, how satisfied they are with their relationships in the long run.

9. Related to this, research has also found that female strippers who are taking hormonal birth control make less money in tips compared to naturally cycling women who are at peak fertility. It is thought that when dancers are ovulating, they subconsciously change their behavior in ways that make them more attractive to male patrons. Alternatively, it could be that men have evolved the ability to detect when a woman is ovulating (e.g., through pheromones) and to find fertile women more sexually attractive. Although we can’t say for sure which explanation is correct, taking birth control would wipe out both of these effects, and that could explain why strippers on contraceptives tend to make less money. To learn more about this research, click here.

10. A long-lasting, fully reversible, injectable male contraceptive known as Vasalgel may be on the market within the next several years. If it successfully passes all clinical trials, it would be the closest thing we to an equivalent of the birth control pill for men (although it would work quite differently from the pill due to the fact that it does not involve tinkering with men’s hormone levels). To learn more about how it works and all of the other male contraceptives scientists are currently working on, see 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.

Image Credit: 123RF/Matt Jones

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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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