How to increase your staying power

November 20th, 2003 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, dna, penises, religion, times, very basic science | 8 Comments »

How to increase your staying power

Ben Goldacre
Thursday November 20, 2003
The Guardian

Talk bad science

· I’d always assumed that bad science in contraception was limited to delirious ramblings from the Catholic church about the HIV virus being small enough to fit through the gaps between the latex molecules. But perhaps not. As I lay in bed with Mrs Bad Science on a lazy Sunday morning, and our minds turned to thoughts of Barry White, and trains going into tunnels, and absolutely not having any babies at all, we reached hungrily for the reassuring certainty of barrier contraception. “I’ve got something very special for you,” she smiled.

· My treat, it emerged, was an optimistically large packet of Durex Performa: a new kind of condom with a special cream in the teat “to help control climax and prolong sexual excitement for longer lasting lovemaking”. Maybe you’ve seen the adverts. They feature, rather cleverly, a picture of “a very long screw”. And the magic ingredient? Five per cent benzocaine gel, a local anaesthetic related to cocaine: to make your willy go numb. In the spirit of the noblest of Victorian gentleman self-experimenters, I turned it inside out, licked the surface, and immediately lost all sensation in my tongue. It’s either very bad science or very good science – I can’t be sure – but either way, putting local anaesthetic in condoms is just adding insult to injury.

· While I was busy sulking, one of my spies, Tim Eyes, a molecular biologist, was reading about the “secrets of the body” in the Funday Times, the children’s section of the Sunday Times. Hold your breath. “Despite the fact that all humans have similar genes, we are not all the same,” the section revealed. “This is because of slight genetic differences in everyone’s genetic make-up. DNA is made up of four chemical bases – adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine – and each gene is made up of three of these.” Only three, huh? That’s enough to code for, like, one whole amino acid. We’d look a bit like those bodybuilders’ protein drinks, only without the tin. But there’s more. “This means that there are 64 different possible combinations, and when you multiply this by the number of cells in the body, it shows the chances of having the exact same makeup is virtually zero.” Only 64 different genes. And different ones in every cell, too. A planet of biologists stands corrected.


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8 Responses



  1. Ara said,

    September 11, 2005 at 10:28 pm

    Never tried them myself, but from all the people I’ve asked (over 20 of them – I’m thorough) those condoms make guys lose all feeling… and their erection.

    Huh.

  2. Jim said,

    September 28, 2005 at 1:23 pm

    I gave them a go when they appeared in a multi pack off the net , they indeed make it very very difficult to achieve anything which is a problem when the wife is easily pleased . Led me to feel a little like the Duracell bunny , I achieved a lack of sensation that normally only occurrs when I consume alot of alcohol . Handy tip if your stuck with a load left (like i was courtesy of a certain mailorder Johnny sites freebie ) is to turn them inside out and then flick the blob out . Related to Cocaine ? The blobs on my bedside table are starting to dry out ..

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  4. Corwinblack said,

    June 13, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    It’s a misconception that benzocaine is related to cocaine in any way except that both can act as a topical anaesthetic. Obviously, this myth stems from the suffix “-caine” attached to both words. Local anaesthetics commonly share this name; this practice stems from the development of the original novacaine, literally meant as “new cocaine” by its inventor. It was named as such because, prior to its development, cocaine was the primary local anaesthetic used by medical professionals and NOT because it had any real similarity to the drug cocaine. Benzocaine is related to novacaine, but neither of them is actually related to cocaine.

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