Scientists from Concordia University in Canada are using rats in bizarre experiments to learn more about human sexual behaviour and attraction. A recent study apparently discovered that male rats prefer to mate with females wearing ‘lingerie’, in a similar way to some human males1.
According to the study, which was described at a recent meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, virgin male rats were encouraged to mate with female rats wearing a small jacket. The female rats had been injected with hormones to make them more ‘sexually receptive’ to the males. Later, when given the choice of mating with a jacket-wearing female or a female without a jacket, the rats chose to mate with the females that had jackets on. The rats were also seen to mount more frequently and ejaculate quicker during sex when compared to those that had to mate with jacketless females.
Right after mating, the male rats were killed and their brains were dissected for analysis. Males that mated with jacket-wearing females apparently displayed more intense activity in the ‘pleasure centre’ of the brain. One of the researchers involved in the study, said “while rats are quite different to humans, lingerie may have a similar effect on human males.”
Sadly, this isn’t the first bizarre experiment conducted by the same group of psychologists. Countless rats have been subjected to other pointless studies of human sexual behaviour in their laboratory, including a similar ‘jacket’ procedure to see if animals could develop fetishes2,studies of clitoral stimulation in female rats3 and experiments to see if tickling or the smell of lemons can make rats more horny4.
The studies are not benign however; the female rats often have their ovaries surgically removed so they can’t get pregnant and are injected with hormones to make them sexually receptive. Some of the studies also involve weird procedures like stimulating the rat clitoris with a little brush. The rats are usually killed at the end of the tests.
Human sexuality is highly complex and differs greatly from the sexual behaviour of animals. Instead of continuing with such absurd and cruel research, resources would be better spent on studying actual human behaviour. Paul Wolpe, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in an article: “we must carefully consider claims made about the transferability of animal studies to human behaviour […] human sexual behaviour is far more nuanced, may involve areas of the brain not involved in animal sexuality and is mediated by a host of psychological, social, cultural and religious factors5.”
1. Why men love lingerie: rat study offers hints. (2014). Live Science: http://www.livescience.com/48980-rats-sexual-attraction-lingerie.html?adbid=10152410336096761&adbpl=fb&adbpr=30478646760&cmpid=514627_20141203_36622757
2. Somatosensory conditioning of sexual arousal and copulatory behaviour in the male rat: a model of fetish development. (2013). Physiology & Behaviour, 122: 1-7: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23954746
3. Sexual experience blocks the ability of clitoral stimulation to induce a conditioned place preference in the rat. (2013). Physiology & Behaviour, 119: 97-102. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23791630
4. Tickling in juvenile but not adult female rats conditions sexual preference. (2012). Physiology & Behaviour, 107(1): 17-25: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22640704
5. Ethics and social policy in research on the neuroscience of human sexuality. (2004). Nature Neuroscience, 7: 1031-1033: http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v7/n10/full/nn1324.html