As part of my life-quest to learn more stuff I have recently been reading Why Women Have Sex by UT Austi psychologists Cindy Meston and David Buss. The book is a popularization that grows out of a research program represented by a paper called “Why Humans Have Sex.” (PDF here.) (The transition from “humans” in the academic version to “women” for the larger audience shows that the authors, even if they are professors, understand something about marketing.)

There’s a great deal of interest here, since the authors are able to draw on a massive database of anonymized responses to questionnaires from (mostly) sexually active women. But one thing in particular caught my eye on first reading.

In mid-book there is a discussion of a phenomenon known as the Coolidge effect: male animals of many species will achieve sexual arousal much more rapidly in the presence of a novel female than in that of one with which they have just mated. As Meston and Buss put it:

…if you drop a male rat into a cage with a willing female rat, he engages in enthusiastic copulation. He will mount her repeatedly until he is completely tired out and ready for the rhetorical post-ejaculatory “cigarette and nap.” But if you replace his former sexual mate with another willing female, he becomes randy all over again. In fact, every time you replace the female with a new female, the male show shows renewed vigor and begins copulating afresh. He will keep going and going with new females until he nearly dies of exhaustion.

(The basis for the name “Coolidge effect” is, by the way, a (or perhaps “the only”) charming story about Calvin Coolidge, which I won’t retell here because Bacchus has already blogged about it before.)

Now of course one is inclined to ask whether this intriguing effect applies to human beings. It’s not an obvious leap; men are not rats (usually). Before discussing the matter like the responsible scientists they are, Meston and Buss have this to say:

To test the Coolidge effect in humans, most universities would not allow researchers to run an experiment to see how many times a person can get aroused and have sex with different people…

And of course I had two immediate reactions.

1. Silly universities! Don’t they realize that the advance of science requires committment and sacrifice?

2. Most universities? Doesn’t that imply that there are at least some universities that are willing to have the volunteers lining up outside the door for this sort of critical research? Which ones? O Meston and Buss, please tell us which ones they are! Or at least, please tell the appropriate journalistic authority to incorporate this critical information into their rankings.

We all thank you in advance.