So back in 1995 a guy named Claus Wedekind did a study in which he had college men wear the same t-shirt with no deodorant and no showers for two days straight. This study is referred to as “the sweaty t-shirt study,” and what he did with these sweaty T’s was place them all in identical boxes and have college women smell them and rate them on sexual attractiveness. The finding was that women were attracted to men with major histocompatibility complexes (MHC) that were significantly different to their own.
So what is a major histocompatiwhatsit? Your major histocompatibility complex is something in your body that helps your immune system recognise invaders. In other words its one of the things that helps you from getting sick.
So this has to do with sex, how? Well, according to the sweaty t-shirt study, women were more attracted to men with different HMCs to their own. This makes sense: If you make babies with a person who has a different HMC to yours then your baby will be born with some sort of super HMC, right? So that’s pretty cool, humans have a kind of pheromone system that makes us desire partners with whom we can make super healthy kids with.
But get this, women who were on hormonal birth control were more attracted to the smells of the men with similar HMCs to their own. Now we could just leave it at that and say, “Huh, weird,” and move on with our lives but here’s the thing, there is reason to believe that this implicates the birth control pill as one of the causes of the high divorce rates we see in western culture.
Hear me out on this one, a man and a woman meet and start having sex regularly. They are taking all the precautions like wearing condoms and taking the birth control pill. They fall in love, maybe even get married and continue to be head over heels for each other. One day a couple of years into the relationship they decide to try to have children. Off come the condoms, no more pill, and the get to work. A few weeks later the woman starts to find that her husband is getting on her nerves a lot, she begins to find other men more attractive and her husband particularly unattractive. Maybe their sex life goes down the tubes, her attraction to her husband is diminished, perhaps they even break up because of it. Perhaps not. But this is what some experts think is happening to increase the escalating number of divorces.
Now there is no question that other things are involved in divorce, but there is also some evidence to suggest that this phenomenon may be one of the many factors in the dissolution of some relationships. My own wife believes that this may have contributed to her and her ex’s divorce, due to her switching from the pill to the copper IUD that she still has now.
So what do you do with this information? Just be aware of it. Perhaps get off the pill before getting married. Know that this is a scientifically tested phenomenon, in fact ten years later in 2005 it was repeated with the same results.
The birth control pill was a marvellous invention that changed sexuality in our culture. It is what really kick started the sexual revolution in the 60s and 70s but remember that, in taking hormonal birth control, you are messing around with the chemical balance of your body and any time you do that there is the potential for unintended consequences. Understand that this is potentially a side effect of the pill and be aware of that in the context of your long term relationships.
I know it’s not everyone’s top choice but I’m still a huge fan of the copper IUD.