This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.
Make Safer Sex Colorful, Says Vocal Skater
American figure skater Adam Rippon is one of the headline-making athletes at the 2018 Winter Olympics and not just because of his performance on the ice.
Before the games began, Rippon, who is one of only a few openly gay athletes competing for the United States, criticized the selection of Vice President Mike Pence as the leader of the country’s Olympic delegation. Rippon told USA Today in January, “You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it.” Rippon suggested that he did not want to meet Pence at the games, due to a widely circulated but unconfirmed allegation that Pence supported the “therapy.”
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More recently, the figure skater took on the condoms available in the Olympic village in an Instagram video and told his 372,000 followers that he was disappointed. In fact, he cursed them with perhaps the worst millennial insult—the condoms are “generic.”
Condoms have been offered to athletes at Olympic games since 1988 when the HIV epidemic was just beginning to be understood. This practice has gotten a lot of attention over the years, most often for the quantities that are available. There were 100,000 condoms for athletes at the 2014 summer games in Sochi and 450,000 available in Rio two years ago. At these games in Pyeongchang there are 110,000 condoms available—100,000 donated by South Korean condom maker Convenience and the additional 10,000 by the Korean Association for AIDS Prevention.
There are 2,925 athletes competing in the games so if the condoms were evenly distributed, each competitor would get 37. (Remember the games only last two weeks and the athletes are busy training and competing for at least some of that time.)
With all the hype, Rippon had been expecting something more—like condoms with the Olympic rings on them or multicolored condoms to match the rings. But, alas, there was no such thing. He said in his video: “It’s all right. Life isn’t always what it seems, and sometimes the condoms are just generic. And sometimes they’re not only just generic, sometimes they’re only available at the polyclinic outside the gym. And that’s okay.”
As soon as Rippon comes home, he can walk the aisle of any drug store and find condoms of many different shapes, sizes, textures, and, yes, colors.
Penis Statues and Penis Shrines: A Highlight of the Games
Generic condoms for competitors are not the only reasons that athletes and visitors to Pyeongchang might have penises on their minds.
In the Olympic Media Village, there is a group of three statues of naked men standing with helmets covering their heads. The rest of their bodies, mind you, are completely uncovered. And the helmets make their heads look the like the tip of a penis (more specifically, like a penis with a condom rolled onto it).
The “bullet men” statues were created by artist Kim Ji-Hyun in 2009 to represent “human desire for [a] wonderful body, wealth, and honor in concrete images.”
We’re not surprised the internet took notice of the statues, and the bullet men spawned countless internet memes and knockoffs. Our favorite may be the Lego riff.
If visitors to the games have time to travel just an hour outside of Pyeongchang, they could see many more phallic statues in what has come to be known as “penis park.” Haesindang Park is situated in Sinnam, a port city, and features penis statues, penis totem poles, penis benches, penis wind chimes, and a penis-shaped cannon that comes with a warning not to mount it.
The park is actually a fertility shrine built to overcome curses that prevent babies from being made, and there are many like it across the country.
South Korea has a very low fertility rate—this year, it is expected to be just 1.04 babies per woman (in contrast in 2017, North Korea had an estimated fertility rate of 1.95 children to each woman).
Advocates in the country, however, point out that it’s not an ancient curse that’s keeping the fertility rates down. Ryu Yang-ji, director of the Presidential Committee on Aging Society and Population Policy in South Korea, told Reuters, “Young people face a harsh reality which includes high unemployment rates and an unstable job prospective, so individuals choose not to have a child to sustain their own lives.”
There Really Is Such a Thing as a Broken Heart
Valentine’s Day has come and gone. But we couldn’t resist sharing this information. Turns out there’s a real medical version of a broken heart. Well, kinda.
Broken heart syndrome, which was first diagnosed in 1990 in Japan, is also called takotsubo cardiomyopathy. The symptoms mimic a heart attack with shortness of breath, chest pains, and heart palpitations. It’s caused by a weakening in the left ventricle, which reduces blood flow through the organ.
The syndrome usually occurs within hours of experiencing severe stress like a breakup or the death of a loved one.
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist, explained to Fox News: “When you see this disease, takotsubo cardiomyopathy or the broken heart syndrome, there’s an exorbitant amount of stress. And all of those stress hormones you feel in your head get released into your body, and it almost causes your heart to be stunned. These hormones in this stunned moment look like a heart attack.”
It’s most common in older, postmenopausal women. The good news is that broken heart syndrome is rare, accounting for only 0.02 of hospitalizations in the United States. And it’s temporary.
Doctors may prescribe beta blockers or other treatments designed to improve blood flow to the heart. Sufferers often recover within three months.