August 16, 2012

Not Tonight, Honey. I Have A Headache

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Not tonight honey, I have a headache

Pop culture has immortalized the headache excuse. Often, it appears as a joke. We resent this joke, which paints women as evil villains who don’t want to get down, without allowing that we people and have issues, too. The fact that it is rarely targeted at men really rankles us, as it reinforces the notion that men are insatiable sex machines and women are just, well, lying there staring at the ceiling.

Women like sex as much as men! One or two of us in this newsroom have even been in relationships with men who pulled the headache excuse (or its twin, the tired excuse) on us more than a fair share of times! Low sexual desire in males exists and we think joking about villainous women who withhold sex with excuses both denies women’s sexual drive and alienates men with low sex drive, or a sex drive that simply doesn’t match his partner’s. No one wins, so let’s just stop, okay?

Okay. Well, Having gotten that out of the way, today we want to talk to you about real sex-related headaches. Consider this snippet from a paper that the inimitable Scicurious (if you like science and sex and you’re not following her on Twitter, we pity you) has brought to our attention:

Headaches associated with sexual activity are uncommon (Anand & Dhikav, 2009). Pre-orgasmic headache may be related to space-occupying lesions. Orgasmic headache is often severe and excruciating, whether due to aneurysm rupture or to the explosive component of benign coital headache. Post-orgasmic headache may occur as a manifestation of migraine (Banerjee, 1996).

A study by Frese et al. (2003) stratified headaches associated with sexual activity and found that there was a male preponderance. It has two onset peaks (between 20–24 and 35–44 years). It can be dull type, increasing gradually with sexual excitement or explosive type. Pain can be bilateral and diffuse or occipital. Headache associated with sexual activity has not been shown to be dependent upon specific sexual habits and occurs often after having sexual activity with partner or during masturbation.

There was a high co-morbidity with migraine and other types of headaches (e.g., benign exertional and tension-type). The mechanism of headache induced by sexual activity is mainly a trigeminal-vascular effect, but there is a definite muscular component (Anand & Dhikav, 2009). Muscular contraction plays a major role, especially in milder headaches that become more intense as the sexual excitement increases.

Sex-related headaches are real, mostly affect men and seem to be related to excitement, not frigidness on the part of villainous women who don’t want to do their wifely duties! Who knew? !

Header text from failblog, featuring am image from Anne Taintor’s sticky notes collection.


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