“Did the earth move for you” has become something of a television trope to assess the intensity of sexual pleasure that partners share during sex. The phrase comes from Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, when the hero and his lover are describing the intensity of the sexual pleasure they have just shared.
In a break from the Spanish civil war, Robert Jordan makes love to Maria, “and they were both there, time having stopped and he felt the earth move out and away from under them”. After a little while he asks, “But did thee feel the earth move?” and she says yes, before asking if, for him, “The earth never moved before?” He assures her it truly never before had for him.
Aside from the immediate pleasures of carnal knowledge, have other orgasmic health benefits been recorded in medical literature? Just last month, Cem Bulut, a professor at the SLK Clinics in Heilbronn in Germany, and colleagues won the Ig Nobel medicine prize for research that suggests sex with orgasm is an effective nasal decongestant.
How sex might unblock the nose is not entirely clear, but Prof Bulut sees a number of factors at play. 'I think it's a mixture of excitement, physical exercise and hormonal changes that come with orgasm,' he said
Having developed suspicions based on “self-observation”, Bulut recruited a group of colleagues to investigate. The obliging couples were trained with a device to measure their nasal airflow before sex, immediately after sexual climax and at regular time points thereafter.
According to the research, sex was as effective at clearing blocked noses (for an hour at least) as commercial decongestants, though Bulut concedes he did not get firm data from everyone. “I think some people couldn’t focus on the device,” he said.
How sex might unblock the nose is not entirely clear, but Bulut sees a number of factors at play. “I think it’s a mixture of excitement, physical exercise and hormonal changes that come with orgasm,” he said.
Not to be confused with the more prestigious – and lucrative – Nobel prizes, to be announced from Stockholm and Oslo this week, the Ig Nobels celebrate the quirkier realms of science, rewarding research that first makes people laugh and then makes them think.
As well as ensuring a pristine airway through the nasal passages and sinuses, orgasms are linked with a range of longer-term health benefits.
Would you associate the “big O” with a healthy heart? Well, there is evidence to suggest that regular sexual activity can help lower cardiovascular risk in older men and women. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour showed that sexual quality and sexual frequency lowered the chance of hypertension and rapid heart rate among those aged over 65.
One study determined that ejaculating at least four times per week can lower the risk for prostate cancer by up to 30 per cent in men aged over 50. Regular orgasms also help regulate the menstrual cycle and may help ward off infection
Similarly, in 2010, a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology showed that men who have sex regularly have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those who don’t.
Other health positives associated with orgasm include protection against prostate cancer. One study determined that ejaculating at least four times per week can lower the risk for prostate cancer by up to 30 per cent in men aged over 50. Regular orgasms also help regulate the menstrual cycle and may help ward off infection.
Orgasms may also be the (counterintuitive) answer to the Napoleonic “not tonight, Josephine”. A 2013 study from the University of Münster, in Germany, showed an unexpected link between sexual activity and headaches, with 60 per cent of participants reporting an improvement in their migraine attack.
But the "research de resistance", at least for men, is a Welsh study that found that those with "high orgasmic frequency" lowered their mortality risk by as much as 50 per cent. Men who had two or more orgasms a week died at half the rate of men who had orgasms less than once a month.