Each Christmas the BMJ publishes what it calls the BMJ Christmas papers.
The reports are never that serious, though all are based on meticulous research and they invariably make me smile.
The authors are smart, witty and dedicated. I thought I’d share one of the best of the BMJ’s Christmas crop entitled Round the Bend.
It describes a very careful study (first done 20 years ago) of the shape the penis takes during sex in the missionary position. I don’t know if you’ve ever pondered this question but I have.
My own imagined picture was based on the illustrations in medical text books (and in my own books on sex) which show the penis at a steady angle of about 30-40 degrees.
Even Leonardo da Vinci had imagined the same thing in his drawing The Copulation.
I must say the results took me by surprise. During sex the otherwise straight erect penis becomes boomerang shaped! Yes, I was shocked too. How did the researchers demonstrate this?
They say their objective was “to find out whether taking images (MRI scans) of the male and female genitals during coitus is feasible and… whether former and current ideas about the anatomy during sexual intercourse and during female sexual arousal are based on assumptions or on facts”.
The key findings, based on 13 experiments performed with eight couples and three single women, were that during intercourse in the missionary position the penis assumes the shape of a boomerang and secondly that during sexual arousal the size of the uterus does not increase (as previously stated in textbooks).
MRI scans done for the 1999 study contradicted these previously held beliefs.
Sexual intercourse isn’t a common topic for the BMJ Christmas articles but in 1999 the journal was clearly laid back, having published the explicit ABC of Sexual Health series only a year before.
In that year the article won the Ig Nobel prize for medicine. The Ig Nobel awards are given to articles that make you smile, then think.
Well, having missed the article 20 years ago it made me smile this time. How wrong I’d been in configuring the penis during intercourse!
How much does it matter that in the missionary position men’s penises assume the shape of a boomerang?
For men, it possibly matters quite a bit. Analysis of Google searches found men are more concerned about their penis than their lungs, liver, feet, ears, nose, throat and brain combined.
But it’s good for a laugh.