Don't touch this: Men, leave women's reproductive issues alone

Feb 26 2012 - 8:39am

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Women's reproductive issues have been in the news a lot lately.

Not that I know what anybody's saying about them. Because frankly, every time I read or hear the term "women's reproductive issues," I immediately turn the page or change the channel. Why? Because I grew up in a more prim and proper era. One in which a true gentleman didn't discuss a lady's reproductive system.

At least, not if he ever hoped to get a peek at it.

But recently, we've seen a veritable parade of clueless men offering their female counterparts all sorts of advice on this oh-so-touchy subject. And let's face it, guys, we haven't exactly been knocking it out of the park with our brilliant ideas.

First, it was Rich White Guy Foster Friess, lamenting how expensive contraceptives have gotten. He longed for the good old days when a woman used a Bayer aspirin to avoid pregnancy: "The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly."

Strike one!

Then, you had the recent contraception hearing on Capitol Hill, conducted by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Sleeping On Couch, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. (How's THAT for an oxymoron?) For that hearing, Issa convened a panel consisting only of men. No women. That's right, honey. Don't you worry your pretty little head about those big, bad birth-control options.

Stee-rike two!

In the interest of getting us out of the inning, I thought it might be helpful for another sensitive male to go to bat with his opinion on the subject. Because really, when you think about it, nothing thrills women quite like the prospect of yet another guy getting all up in their reproductive bidness.

Nevertheless, on this very subject, I do have some critical advice for all the ladies out there: AVOID SPACE TRAVEL!

Seriously. Roaming the cosmos will kill your little egg factories faster than you can say "fallopian tube top."

About a year ago, the Standard-Examiner ran a story about this issue, under the clever headline "Sex and space? Houston, we have a problem."

Apparently, while the idea of getting it on in the weightlessness of space continues to be the No. 1 fantasy of every thirtysomething Trekkie still living at home with his mom, it's not so good for the actual process of making babies. Because in a "microgravity," as scientists like to call it, sperm counts go way down and ovary cells, which produce the eggs, waste away.

How do we know this? Because of courageous researchers like Joseph S. Tash.

Tash is a biologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center, and he's been studying the effects of space flight on various reproductive systems for years.

This is the man who co-authored such seminal papers as "Fertilization of sea urchin eggs and sperm motility are negatively impacted under hypergravitational forces significant to space flight" and "Microgravity alters protein phosphorylation changes during initiation of sea urchin sperm motility." To which we say: "Well, duh." I mean, who didn't know that stuff about sea urchins in outer space?

But his most groundbreaking work appeared in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2001: "Long-term (6-week) hindlimb suspension inhibits spermatogenesis in adult male rats." Tash studied the effects of weightlessness and sexual reproduction on earthbound male rats by using a harness to keep their hind legs elevated above the cage floor. Turns out, scientists consider this technique a valid simulation of the microgravity one finds in space.

Listen, I've been married long enough to have had my own butt in a microgravity sling for six weeks at a time, and I'm here to confirm that during those stretches a guy's reproductive odds go waaaay down.

Which is exactly what Tash found with the rats in the harnesses. During the six weeks their hind legs were suspended in air, the rats' testes shrank and their sperm counts dropped so low that the rats became infertile. (Memo to cities dealing with rat infestations: Little humane traps that gently catch a rat's hind legs and keep them off the ground for six weeks before releasing them unharmed. Before long, the rats are as impotent as the proverbial Utah Democrat, and the rodent population crashes.)

Bottom line? Research suggests long-term space flight renders humans "reproductively compromised." Meaning, the people NASA should really be sending into space are folks like Lindsay Lohan. 'Cause that gene pool seriously needs to be drained. And backfilled.

Tash also happens to be the current director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Male Contraceptive Research & Drug Development. Which, extrapolating on the logic of our menfolk above, makes absolutely no sense.

Technically, shouldn't the director of a male contraception center be a woman?

Mark Saal calls dibs on the "Fallopian Tube Top" T-shirt idea. Interested investors can reach him at 801-625-4272 or msaal@standard.net.

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