The stereotype of the serious, no-nonsense scientist is deeply ingrained in our society. It’s pretty hard for most of us to even picture one smiling (not counting the evil ones). But every so often these studious, lab-coated professionals find themselves involved in situations that could easily be viewed as being downright deviant if it wasn’t for that whole “to benefit mankind” alibi. We’re grateful for their efforts, but we’d still love to be a fly on the wall when they apply for research grants to unleash their inner freak and do things like…
Tickling Mouse Hoo-Hahs
The origins and purpose of the female orgasm have been subject to much debate in the last few years. However, just about all women will agree that there are not nearly enough of them. For males, the phenomenon makes obvious sense — it’s in their best interest to go “Johnny Appleseed” all over as many moist, fertile “fields” as possible. But for women, just as with many of their “fields,” it’s not as clear-cut.
Some have argued that female orgasms are nothing but a byproduct of male orgasms — that they only exist because of shared genital nerve tissue during the fetal stage of development. Basically a useless, vestigial memento, like Wilford Brimley’s man-nipples. This, they say, could explain why men nearly always climax during lovemaking while with women it’s more of a 50/50 proposition.
Countering this claim, neuroscientist Jim Pfaus (rhymes with mouse, which you will soon discover is awesome) conducted a study on clitoral stimulation and how it affects the brain. What he came to find is that a happy response via provocation of the female giggle button may in fact be an ancient development in the animal brain. How did Pfaus come up with these results, you ask?
Nope. Pfaus and his team of graduate students used that old scientific standby, the lab rat. But these particular rats had it pretty good as far as being the subject of a heartless scientific experiment goes. Professor Pfaus and his cohorts systematically pleasured female rodent pleasure knobs by diddling them with tiny paintbrushes, then measured the rats’ brain response. The conclusion was that the stimulation elicited almost the exact same response as a human female, only with less demands for cuddling and conversation afterwards.
This suggests that female sexual pleasure may have been enjoyed by vertebrates long before the existence of humans. There’s still no answer as to why ladies have fewer of them, but as Pfaus’s study also makes clear, it may be simply a matter of finding the right-sized paintbrush.
Creeping Out Little Boys
Back in the 1940s scientists were very curious about something known as “sleep-learning” (or hypnopedia), the technique where information is repeated over and over again while a person sleeps and is hopefully retained when the subject awakes. We’ve since found that the system, while not entirely bupkis, doesn’t really work all that well. However, back then researchers were eager to test what they believed could be an incredible breakthrough in the field of being extraordinarily lazy. It was an exciting prospect, as it could finally make drinking your way through college a legitimate strategy for success.
So in 1942 American psychologist Lawrence LeShan, “The Father of Mind-Body Therapy,” decided to test the theory. Step one was to take a group of young boys to upstate New York and sequester them in a remote cabin. It’s pretty hard to imagine any kind of happy ending with a beginning like that, and while LeShan’s next step might not have involved a clown suit and fillet knives, what he had in mind was still plenty creepy.
Every night for an entire Summer, LeShan set up a phonograph to repeat the same phrase over and over again to see if he could implant a message into his young subjects’ memories while they lay in their beds. By the way, all of the boys involved were selected especially because they were chronic nail-biters, and the recorded message intended to address and possibly correct that nasty habit:
“My fingernails taste terribly bitter. My fingernails taste terribly bitter. My fingernails taste terribly bitter.”
If the boys weren’t sufficiently weirded out by that, after the first month the phonograph broke and LeShan took over himself, chanting the mantra for the remainder of the Summer while the boys slept — “slept” in this case most likely meaning “clutched the sheets while struggling not to urinate.” We assume just for fun, sometimes he would add a gorilla mask to the mix.
When it was all over and the boys were all sent home with a brand new recurrent nightmare, they were monitored for several months to determine if there was any change in behavior. When the results came back it was found that a whopping 40% of them had stopped with the nail-biting. Eureka! LeShan’s colleagues weren’t so convinced, however, pointing out that other factors could have been involved. But at least he was successful in proving that whenever creepy old men stand over your bed in the middle of the night, muttering repetitive nonsense like a mental patient while you pretend to sleep, the chances are extremely high that you’ll be needing to see a therapist for the rest of your life.
Staring at Multi-Colored Naughty Bits
For humans and primates in general (see baboon asses), red is the sexiest color in the spectrum. From red lipstick to red dresses, men just automatically associate it with the bedroom and the impure monkey lust that transpires there. But why? Well, for a long time we thought the answer was a pretty crass one: because it made men think of flushed, engorged ladyparts. Called the “sexually salient hypothesis,” this was believed to be the reason why scientists and advertisers alike believed that in order to get a man’s attention, “the redder the better.”
Some anthropologists decided to test this theory in 2012, after noticing an oversight in all of the previous research. Although it had already been shown that men find women more attractive when dressed in red, nobody had actually tested men’s reaction to actual red genitalia. Namely vulvas. So naturally, the best way to get to the bottom of that mystery was to round up a few heterosexual male college students and make them stare at lady genitals all day.
Gathering the right photographs for the experiment turned out to be a bit more complicated than expected, and a rather sordid affair. The researchers didn’t want to use porn, and getting actual women to get into position for a spread-eagled, police-style lineup would have been a logistical nightmare. And so the hunt was on to find multiple tasteful photographs of that most private section of female anatomical real estate, excluding all of those that were in any way “scabrous, pierced, tattooed, or in the process of being invaded by some plying appendage.”
Luckily, they eventually came across a “non-pornographic” website filled with anonymously user-submitted crotch shots that had the stated goal of “providing information about the female body, and celebrating its beauty with pictures.” And no we’re not providing a link. From this they were able to compile enough images, with satisfactorily varying shades of redness, to conduct themselves a study.
When all was said and done and the students sent waddling back to their dorms, the results were completely unexpected. When asked to choose between pale pink, light pink, dark pink or red, the various pinks ranked about the same while the vast majority of participants chose red as being the least attractive color for a vagina.
So men aren’t turned on by the color red because of some chimplike genital impulse like we thought. So how to explain the whole lipstick and lingerie thing, then? According to leading eggheads, “a man’s desire to be seen with a lady in red may be less about his being attracted to the mirrored state of her wanton genitalia than it is a reflection of his own social psychology.”
Scientists have a long history of risking life and limb in their relentless pursuit of knowledge. Marie Curie exposed herself to deadly radiation, Walter Reed’s yellow fever research team allowed themselves to be bitten by disease-riddled mosquitos to find the vaccine, and Doc Brown double-crossed Libyan terrorists for plutonium.
Drs. Herbert Woollard and Edward Carmichael were also fully prepared to offer themselves up in in a risky gambit for the purposes of research. These two London area physicians were looking to gain an insight on something called “referred pain.” That’s the phenomenon where an injury in one part of the body can cause pain to be felt in another, seemingly unrelated part of the body, such as when a heart attack victim first experiences pain in the left arm for some reason. We still have no solid explanation for why it occurs, but it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying on the part of Woollard and Carmichael. These doctors were willing to experience the pain themselves, and sacrifice a couple of the more vital parts of their anatomy to do it. Namely, their balls.
Well, one of them was at least. Neither of the two admitted who did what, but while one doctor willingly flopped his beanbag onto a table, the other carefully applied increasingly heavy amounts of weight onto the area and documented the ever-radiating agony. You can see some of the clinical results here, on a chart entitled, “Observations on the Right Testicle.” With only 300 grams of compression, the reported sensation was only reported to be “slight discomfort in the right groin.” Things became a bit more serious when the weight exceeded 600 grams, which resulted in “definite testicular pain followed by a dull ache” and “severe pain on the right side.”
The experiment did in fact show that the act of smashing the contents of one’s coinpurse resulted in “referred pain,” as sensations “of a sickening character” were felt not just in the groin, but across the back as well. To this day, Woollard and Carmichael’s research is considered to be both conclusive and the final word on the subject, because who the hell is going to put themselves through that again?
E. Reid Ross loves the ladies, and by “ladies” we mean “microwaveable burritos purchased in bulk.” Feel free to friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and check out his supple body of work over on Cracked.com. He and a few pals also blaspheme old comics at RealToyGun.com.