It’s no secret that sex is intimately tied to our immune systems. Sex educators, medical professionals, and other sexual health workers tend to focus on the pedagogy of sexually transmitted diseases, and other sexual risks that could negatively impact our immune systems. But what is rarely discussed, at least from an educational perspective, is how sex can also benefit the immune system and our health overall. Unless reading an independent scientific research study or ancient texts on sacred sexuality, the positive health aspects of sex are still relatively unspoken. It’s unfortunate, and creates a space for sex to be demonized or simply pigeonholed as a pleasurable extracurricular activity. Sex is also a healing experience for many, and has impacted the health of its participants in positive ways.
There’s a simple analogy in Hsi Lai’s The Sexual Teachings of the White Tigress that sums up the duality of sex. He writes, “Sex is like a drug—abusing it withers and destroys you, while using it correctly restores and preserves you.” Now what’s “abuse” and “correct” is certainly relative, depending on your sexual beliefs. However, the restoration and preservation aspect of his statement can be seen in various scientific studies and even in my personal experience of sex having healing properties.
According to a Scottish research study in the Biological Psychology journal, of 24 women and 22 men who kept records of their sexual activities, when researchers put them in stressful situations, such as public speaking and verbal arithmetic exercises, and noted their blood pressure response to stress, those who had intercourse had better responses to stress than those who engaged in other sexual behaviors or abstained. In the same journal, there were two additional studies that found health benefits from sexual intimacy. One study also found that frequent intercourse was associated with lower diastolic blood pressure in cohabitating participants. Another discovered a correlation between frequent hugs between partners and lower blood pressure in women.
These are just a few examples of sex’s positive influence on human wellness. But let’s get even more scientific and explore how researchers have found sex to positively impact the immune system. According to scientists at Wilkes University, of the 112 college students that reported the frequency of sex they had, the ones that had sex once or twice a week had higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A or IgA, compared to those who reported being abstinent or having sex less than once a week. In the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, scientists also found that having sex twice or more a week reduced the risk of fatal heart attack by half for the 914 men they followed for 20 years into their elderly years, compared to those who had sex less than once a month.
“Sex, no matter your preference, whether you desire it or abstain from it, is still the undercurrent of both your physical condition and your psychological temperament.” – Hsi Lai, The Sexual Teachings of the White Tigress.
On a personal level, I had posted on my Facebook wall a few weeks ago raving how great, intense sex with one of my partners had completely cleared up my head cold. Where as I was coughing, sneezing, and unable to breathe through my nostrils before we started, I felt like someone had placed a huge jar of Vicks Vapor Rub under my nose as soon as we both climaxed. I could breathe not only clearly, but my nose also stopped running, I was no longer coughing, and I stopped sneezing. Interestingly enough, the responses from my Facebook readers were similar stories of how sex had boosted their immune systems and helped them fight off the flu and common colds. Yet these conversations still remain on the peripheral of sex education, primarily to be shared amongst close friends or scientific circles. And thus, sex, as a healing activity, still sounds like a “new age” philosophy instead of a scientifically proven fact.
I read and write about sex for a living, therefore, the scenario above made me reflect, once again, how much we, as contemporary humans, have lost perspective on the positive aspects of sex and how it can heal the human body. That’s not to say that sex has been proven to heal every human ailment under the sun. But it certainly has an influence on our health, and not just in negative way.
Perhaps it’s time to dig deeper, and reshape popular knowledge of sex as more than simply pleasurable and/or sacrilegious. Maybe then, we’ll be able to have a well-rounded sex education and better information to pass to future generations.
Arielle Loren is the Editor in Chief of Corset, the go-to magazine for all things sexuality. Find her on Facebook and Twitter. Download Corset’s inaugural issue now or pre-order the upcoming orgasms issue. Join the community’s daily discussions.