Basic Instinct: Sex and common sense

Basic Instinct: Sex and common sense
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First Published: Tue, Sep 29 2009. 12 30 AM IST

Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
Updated: Wed, Sep 30 2009. 02 41 PM IST
By the time Saturday’s ICC Champions Trophy match between India and Pakistan ended in South Africa, there were enough tongues wagging on the alleged psychobabble of the coaching staff of Team India. The critics were ready with their bouncers. M.S. Dhoni and his boys, they said, failed to “peak” and “climax” at the right time and surrendered to a 54-run defeat because of a controversial four-page coaching manual that encouraged the boys to go in search of casual sex, among other things, to boost their testosterone levels. Team India’s new carnal strategy: Have sex to score more sixes!
The document, allegedly prepared by coach Gary Kirsten and mental conditioning colleague Paddy Upton (Kirsten, though, was ducking for cover soon after the document became public and denied being involved in preparing it), says that “...having sex increases testosterone levels, which cause an increase in strength, energy, aggression and competitiveness”. And if you don’t have a partner, “Go solo”. In other words, when the going gets tough, take things in your hand. And we aren’t talking of the bat or ball here.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
The ridicule and shock at the suggestions aside, contemporary sports medicine and coaching methods have effectively busted the abstinence myth in the athletic world. Perhaps Muhammad Ali, who reportedly abstained from lovemaking for six weeks before a match, need not have bothered. Studies suggest sex is a performance booster, and you don’t need to be an athlete to benefit from satisfying sex. Performance at the workplace is no different from a big-ticket match.
Ready for a match?
Consider this. Psychiatrists say that if you are tense about an important presentation in the morning, you would do well to give sex a sporty chance, rather than having an early night with a good book. Says Rachna Singh, lifestyle management expert at Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon: “A healthy sexual lifestyle has a very positive impact on your overall well-being. If you are sexually satisfied, your workplace efficiency, too, goes up. It is one of the best forms of relaxation.”
Mumbai-based sexologist Prakash Kothari agrees: “It is a myth that dissipation of semen leads to weakness. The amount of calories you lose in one seminal dissipation is equal to half a glass of lime juice. You will notice vast improvement in your concentration levels after you’ve had satisfying sex.” Dr Kothari also advocates “going solo”.
“Masturbation involves fantasy which you can colour in whatever way you want to. It could be as beneficial to anybody as normal intercourse. Remember, sex lies between the ears, not between the legs,” he says.
Stress on sex
In 2006, Stuart Brody, a psychologist at the University of Paisley, Scotland, claimed that sex has a very effective and positive impact on stress. His fortnight-long study on 24 women and 22 men concluded that having sex before giving a speech in public reduces stammering and nervousness. He also concluded that participants who had penetrative sex were the least stressed, with normal blood pressure, and those who were asked to abstain were greatly stressed and had high blood pressure levels. The reason behind the calming effect is the hormone oxytocin, which is released during sexual activity, the study concluded.
Helen E. Fisher, an anthropology professor and human behaviour researcher at Rutgers University, says increased sexual activity can lead to improved problem-solving skills, confidence and teamwork at the workplace.
Concluding a study in 2005 on around 40,000 Americans, including 56% women, courtesy the website Chemistry.com , Fisher says, “In addition to being a great exercise and a stress reliever, sex triggers the release of a number of valuable brain chemicals. From improved problem-solving as a result of heightened dopamine levels, to enhanced teamwork skills due to a flood of oxytocin, there are a number of positive benefits that can improve performance in the workplace.”
Fisher adds: “The dopamine rush one gets from sex is associated with improved creativity, so it’s likely those who have regular sex are more creative at work. Also, after sex, men and women receive a boost of chemicals that generate feelings of trust, attachment and calm. Those who have regular sex are likely to feel more cooperative and agreeable. It also drives up testosterone, which can give men and women feelings of competence, self-confidence and well-being.”
Sex is good for short-tempered or depressed people, feel some psychiatrists. Some even add that sex and masturbation can help ease joint and muscle pain, promote heart health and lengthen one’s lifespan.
The perfect painkiller
Says Bharat Inder Singh, a Delhi-based sports doctor: “In women, sexual stimulation produces a powerful pain-blocking effect. At least one of the mechanisms is that sex blocks the release of neuropeptide labelled as Substance P, which is a pain transmitter.”
Vasant K. Mundra, consultant psychiatrist at Mumbai’s Hinduja Hospital, however, cautions against attributing workplace success entirely to satisfying sex. “Performance at the workplace depends upon (a) huge number of variables. If sex alone were to help you concentrate better, then sex workers would be the most successful employees to have. Being unhappy about anything interferes with optimal performance—finances, relationship problems, health and also sex.”
Happy sex relaxes the mind, reduces irritation or anger. “It may also reduce aggression. My suggestion to avoid road rage and accidents: Have sex instead of a drink before you set out to drive,” he adds. But let’s not hope for miracles. Dr Mundra firmly believes, “No cricketer is going to pound sixers just because he had sex.”
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For or Against
For long, sportsmen have adhered to the abstinence myth. The theory goes like this: Ejaculation lowers your testosterone levels, which weakens muscles. Sexual frustration makes you aggressive and helps you to perform better. However, a string of studies have disproved these notions. The sporting world, though, is divided over the new carnal strategy. Cricketer-turned-commentator Ajay Jadeja says the team management is “pushing things to the limit”. He asks, “Tell me, can you ever say decidedly that it is good for you as a journalist?” Madan Lal, former cricketer and coach, has a different take. “Good sex in the night charges you up the next morning. But then, too much of everything is bad. You do it regularly, it would leave a negative impact on you.”
Olympic shooter Mansher Singh disagrees with the notion that sex is good for any sportsperson. “You need not be aggressive in every sport. Maybe in football or rugby, it helps to bring out your basic instincts. But in shooting, you need to control your emotions and be composed. All the coaches I have ever trained under have advised abstinence. Sex, they say, distracts you. Instead, they always suggest we watch a good movie,” he says.
Former Asian boxing champion Rajkumar Sangwan says, “I believe you should abstain at least one month before any bout. I don’t know what science says about this, but we have always been told that it leads to weakness. Before any big tournament or bout, I try not to think about it. See, human nature is always attracted to these things and it is up to you how to control your emotions.”
Sushil Pahalwan, Beijing Olympics bronze medal winner in wrestling, agrees. “Wrestling is a sport where you need all the power and stamina you can save for yourself. And we have always been told to abstain from any such activity, or even thoughts.”
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First Published: Tue, Sep 29 2009. 12 30 AM IST
More Topics: Cricket | Sports | Fitness | Sex | ICC Champions Trophy |