In the spring of 2007, former reality TV star Eva Longoria made sporting and tabloid headlines by revealing that she and then-fiancé Tony Parker were abstaining from sexual activity in order to keep the San Antonio Spurs guard focused on the NBA playoffs. The announcement was met with a certain degree of derision by the media and sports fans alike, many of whom seemed to feel that Parker was getting the raw end of this supposedly agreed upon prenuptial abstinence.
This past August, BuzzFeed published an article examining the vibrant sex culture historically linked to the Olympic Village, focusing specifically on whether athletes chose to engage in sexual activities in the days leading up to competition.
Their research yielded divided results. Like Tony Parker, many athletes refrained from having sex prior to competing, citing tiredness, anxiety, and mental exhaustion as their reasons for doing so. A significant number of Olympians, however, willfully acknowledged having sex in the days immediately preceding competition, claiming the practice provided a welcome distraction from training; reduced stress; and, in some instances, bolstered the confidence of the athlete in question.
The disparities in the Olympians’ answers is indicative of the countless myths and superstitions surrounding having sex before competing that have circulated for decades, particularly among men. The most common of these tall tales posits that having sex reduces a male athlete’s natural aggression and competitive instinct by depleting his sperm count. Though this theory has been widely debunked (sex, as it turns out, increases a man’s testosterone levels rather than drains them), male athletes continue to labor under the delusion that sexual frustration will somehow induce heightened aggression levels, and consequently refrain from having sex or masturbating prior to competing.
Of course, the aggression myth is far more applicable to some sports than others. A football player is far more likely to covet an abundance of aggressiveness on game-day than, say, a golfer. Yet regardless of sport, male athletes at every level continue to subscribe to the notion that having sex in the days leading up to competition somehow negatively impacts performance, as was evident in many of the Olympic athletes’ answers.
With this highly divisive topic in mind, The Argus launched its own investigation into the sex lives of athletes on campus, asking students share their thoughts on the benefits or drawbacks of engaging in sexual activities prior to athletic contests. Though their answers varied, as was the case with the Olympians, most University athletes appeared quite comfortable with the idea of “getting busy” in the days leading up to an important game or meet.
“Obviously you want to get some rest the night before a big game, so I’d say as long as you don’t tucker yourself out while getting into it, you’re all set,” Asher Young ’17 of the baseball team said. “If you’re normally a more physical presence, you might adjust your game plan to conserve some energy. Big time players make big time plays in big time situations; that should be no different whether in bed or on the field.”
Joseph Kuo ’17, a basketball player, argued that sex before competition can positively impact performance so long as it relaxes the athlete and improves his or her physical condition.
“Honestly, it’s been something that I’ve wondered about before but I’ve never found any concrete info on it,” he said. “My take is that the better you feel, the better you play, so it could only help I guess.”
Karl Ortegon ’18 of the swim team shared similar sentiments from his temporary domicile in Stockholm.
“Hooking up would probably be a good way to get rid of stress or anxiety before a big meet,” he said. “As long as there are no #feels involved, because that might mess with your mental game. I don’t get much action though so it’s not a huge concern for me.”
Other Wes athletes gave slightly more conflicted answers, some of which reflected the enduring stereotypes that link sexual activities in the days preceding competition to poor performance. One athlete who chose to remain anonymous shared her experience.
“Usually engaging in sex in the days before a big game helps to relieve some game-day stress during the season,” she said. “On the flip side, sometimes the sore muscles resulting from sexual activity can negatively affect athletic performance in the following days.”
Finally, a number of student-athletes opted to approach the topic from a humorous angle.
“Obviously everybody has to do what works for them,” Gus Greenberg ’17 said, also of lacrosse. “Personally, I’m a big visualization guy, so scoring in the bedroom helps me prepare to score on the field.”
Though sex in the days the leading up to a big game has been largely condemned by sports psychologists and in men’s locker rooms, Wesleyan’s athletes seem determined to set the record straight.