Forget chocolate on Valentine’s Day, try semen, says Surgery News editor. Retraction, resignation follow

We have a bizarre tale to relate involving the journal Surgery News, which recently lost its editor-in-chief over a rather strange editorial he wrote in the February issue of the magazine.

The ill-fated — and, we’ll stipulate, ill-advised — commentary has led to a de facto retraction of the entire publication — meaning that although no retraction notice exists that we’re aware of, neither does the issue exist in the publication’s archives.

But first, some important background. Surgery News is a trade magazine with a complicated structure. The publication, which describes itself as “the official newspaper of the American College of Surgeons [ACS],” is published by Elsevier, which supplies medical news through its International Medical News Group division. The society provides its own news, as well as the lead editor, a surgeon, who until recently was Lazar Greenfield. Greenfield, of the University of Michigan, also happens to be the president-elect of the ACS, twin responsibilities that put him at the pinnacle of influence for his specialty.

Now back to the offending editorial, which we’ll bring you in its entirety since 1) we think given the events that you should read the whole thing, and 2) because the ACS has taken the entire February issue off its website we can’t link to it even if we wanted to (more on that later). Under the heading “Gut Feelings,” Greenfield wrote (we added links):

One of the legends of St. Valentine says that he was a priest arrested by Roman Emperor Claudius II for secretly performing marriages. Claudius wanted to enlarge his army and believed that married men did not make good soldiers, rather like Halsted’s feelings about surgical residents. But Valentine’s Day is about love, and if you remember a romantic gut feeling when you met your significant other, it might have a physiological basis.

It has long been known that Drosophila raised on starch media are more likely to mate with other starch-raised flies, whereas those fed maltose have similar preferences. In a study published online in the November issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigators explored the mechanism for this preference by treating flies with antibiotics to sterilize the gut and saw the preferences disappear (Proc. Nad. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2010 Nov. 1).

In cultures of untreated flies, the bacterium  L. plantarum was more common in those on starch, and sure enough, when L. plantarum was returned to the sterile groups, the mating preference returned. The best explanation for this is revealed in the significant differences in their sex pheromones. These experiments also support the hologenome theory of evolution wherein the unit of natural selection is the “holobiont,” or combination of organism and its microorganisms, that determines mating preferences.

Mating gets more interesting when you have an organism that can choose between sexual and asexual reproduction, like the rotifer. Biologists say that it’s more advantageous for a rotifer to remain asexual and pass 100% of its genetic information to the next generation. But if the environment changes, rotifers must adapt quickly in order to survive and reproduce with new gene combinations that have an advantage over existing genotypes. So in this new situation, the stressed rotifers, all of which are female, begin sending messages to each other to produce males for the switch to sexual reproduction (Nature 2010 Oct. 13). You can draw your own inference about males not being needed until there’s trouble in the environment.

As far as humans are concerned, you may think you know all about sexual signals, but you’d be surprised by new findings. It’s been known since the 1990s that heterosexual women living together synchronize their menstrual cycles because of pheromones, but when a study of lesbians showed that they do not synchronize, the researchers suspected that semen played a role. In fact, they found ingredients in semen that include mood enhancers like estrone, cortisol, prolactin, oxytocin, and serotonin; a sleep enhancer, melatonin; and of course, sperm, which makes up only 1%-5%. Delivering these compounds into the richly vascularized vagina also turns out to have major salutary effects for the recipient. Female college students having unprotected sex were significantly less depressed than were those whose partners used condoms (Arch. Sex. Behav. 2002;31:289-93). Their better moods were not just a feature of promiscuity, because women using condoms were just as depressed as those practicing total abstinence. The benefits of semen contact also were seen in fewer suicide attempts and better performance on cognition tests.

So there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates.

Let that, um, sink in, if you will. (And a message to our wives: We will not be using this as an excuse not to buy chocolate. Or as an excuse for anything else, for that matter.)

First off, we defy any paramour to try that crap the next time Valentine’s Day rolls around. We expect the result will be about the same as it was for Greenfield, who, sources tell us, has resigned from his post. Greenfield has not yet returned a call and an email for comment.

Second, although we certainly can understand the ACS’s decision to change editorial direction, pulling the entire issue strikes us as a dramatic overreach. After all, if we can figure out a way to find and reproduce the offending text, surely the society’s IT staff could have figured out how to cut a hole in the issue’s PDF just that large.

The other puzzler, of course, is how the hell the journal allowed itself to print Greenfield’s wacky musings in the first place. Did anyone object, only to be overruled — a scenario that, given the fact that the author was not only the editor in chief but the incoming president of the ACS, seems no implausible? Or was it simply a case of no one paying attention?

We plan to ask the ACS those questions, but have yet to reach a person who is in a position to answer them — as well as whether the affair will cost Greenfield his pending presidency of the group. Meanwhile, an Elsevier official tells us that the publisher does not have oversight over the society content, including the editorials, that go into the newspaper, and that its editors are not required to review the proofs prior to press time.

We’ll buy that, although given the current debacle they might want to reconsider that policy, at least on an ad hoc basis. According to a note in the masthead section:

The ideas expressed in Surgery News do not necessarily reflect those of the College or the Publisher.

Those 17 words are, we’re guessing, giving both parties at least a little comfort at the moment.

Maybe the inventor of the Greenfield filter — a device used to prevent blood clots in the lungs — needed a filter of his own.

Update, 10:10 a.m. Eastern, 4/6/11: We’ve now spoken with David B. Hoyt, a surgeon and executive director of the ACS, who told us that the society is in the process of “preparing the issue” so that it can be reposted. However, Hoyt said he didn’t know when that might happen.

Hoyt said “several” society members called to complain about Greenfield’s article, which, he added, to the best of the group’s understanding had received the typical editorial scrutiny prior to publication.

As for Greenfield’s status as incoming president?

That’s under review.

Please see this update for news of Greenfield’s resignation.

Update, 2:20 p.m. Eastern, 4/6/11: A note about comments: While we appreciate a vigorous debate, we have been forced to delete passages from several comments that went far beyond the bounds of respectful discourse. Please keep that in mind when commenting.

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290 thoughts on “Forget chocolate on Valentine’s Day, try semen, says Surgery News editor. Retraction, resignation follow”

  1. I’m thinking, in awe at the possibility: Maybe they retracted the whole issue because some of the peer-reviewed articles were even MORE scandalous.

    Just a thought.

    1. It’s not just Oransky, don’t forget Marcus. It was his sources and reporting on this one, and many others!

      1. Me thinks Oransky missed the pun in David Dobbs’ comment. Look at the two words after “Oransky”.

        1. I, um, hardly missed that pun. After getting to know (and greatly respect) David over the past few years, I’ve taken to ignoring his punning whenever possible. The far more important thing was to make sure my co-blogger got the credit for bringing this post to its climax.

    2. And I took it as such. In my eagerness to have pun fun I neglected to credit Marcus for his share in producing Retraction Watch, which manages to bring us vital, unique information and not missing the oddities that can generate humor, fun, or some spirited controversy. Bully for Retraction Watch.

      Though now I’m thinking about it, I wonder if I left Marcus out knowing that would make it impossible for Ivan to ignore my pun. Which is better than his are.

  2. David,

    There are no peer-reviewed articles in Surgery News, just glorified press releases.

    I just tweeted Ivan that way back on March 4, I tweeted the following: “What was Lazar Greenfield smoking when he wrote this in the Am. Coll. of Surg news? p. 12” with the now dead link.


  3. To be honest, apart from maybe the last sentence, I don’t see what is wrong with this as an editorial (backed with references even). Is the US more conservative than I even imagined?

    1. How about the fact that, despite the references, it is *terrible* science?

      “Female college students having unprotected sex were significantly less depressed than were those whose partners used condoms (Arch. Sex. Behav. 2002;31:289-93). Their better moods were not just a feature of promiscuity, because women using condoms were just as depressed as those practicing total abstinence. The benefits of semen contact also were seen in fewer suicide attempts and better performance on cognition tests.”

      Maybe that’s because the unprotected sex is with monogamous partners and the unprotected-sex-having women are happier about the sex they’re having? Or it could be that the women using condoms are using condoms because they are more anxious, and anxiety is correlated with depression and poorer cognitive performance? Or maybe it’s because unprotected sex feels better and those women are enjoying the sex more?

      Not saying any of them is true. Just that they’re just as plausible as the idea that semen is a freaking panacea.

      1. “Promiscuity” is not exactly a scientific term….
        You’d have to doubt the judgement and professionalism of a physician who would craft this supposed commentary. I can’t imagine what his true attitude would be not only with regard to his spouse but for every woman he’s interacted with or mentored.

      2. Whether or not it’s good science has little to do with this doctor & this article and the hullabaloo about it. He’s only citing the conclusions of the research from the 2002 Archives of Sexual Behavior study (follow the link & read the abstract). So, read the full text of that, then send your complaints to that PhD.

      3. The people who are upset at this seem to have no training whatsoever in journalism. An editorial is an opinion, and not science. Science found in editorials is immediately suspect and knowing widely to be high in fallibility because of the very nature of the article in which it is found. It would be tantamount to demanding retraction of “row row row your boat” from early-youth curriculum because the “life is but a dream” phrase infecting our progeny’s world views.

        To me the entire article started off like a really lengthy joke, something for which legendary science writer and author Isaac Asimov, was known for. Asimov would write a lengthy treatise on a peculiar subject *specifically* for the purpose of throwing in a total groaner of a pun at the end, perhaps partly to mock the whole science community in the ways it had become accustomed to talking to itself. A good example of a lengthy Asimov science joke was a report on a farmer whose goose laid eggs made of gold, and went into a detailed analysis about the specific digestive and chemistry changes present within the supposed goose to physiologically enable a goose to create actual gold.

        The whole thing here really seems like just a lengthy but brilliant, medical-nerdy, story-style joke that coincided with Valentine’s Day (in April Fool’s fashion) and a bunch of people who couldn’t identify humor if it committed suicide and pinned/labeled itself into their collection of “things I don’t get” specimen samples, opted to verify this tragic inability in writing when they voiced their concerns.

      4. The original paper obtained an experimental result, discussed it with the appropriate care, and then suggested one possible interpretation. That is how science works. The result doesn’t need to be bullet proof in order to be published or good science. You have a bunch of alternative hypotheses? Great! You do the experiments to support them. Insulting the original authors by calling their work “terrible science” is totally inappropriate and uncalled for.

    2. no, the US is more liberal than you could imagine. Inappropriate- yes. Written in the context of the season- yes. Another example of the demasculization of the American male-yes. Grounds for dismissal- give me a break. I don’t loose my cookies when people comment on bald males (which I am) Males over 50 don’t demand viagra commercials be taken off the air because their feelings get hurt due to their ED. Get a life people

      1. I am with the “loosen up” crowd. Rich has a good point and Ian’s reply is a nasty, lazy straw-man argument – it is true that journalists and advertisers don’t hold back against men unless women would be offended, and his point is still that it is no big deal, Ian.

        The editorial is not even that, it is quite amusing, and this debacle about it is stupid. It doesn’t dig at anyone. I aggressively defend anyone’s sexuality, “political correctness” or just sensitivity and obvious tact are important, but it is pathetic to take umbrage here. Good-humoured letters would be far more appropriate than this ugly thought-policing and witch-hunting.

        Debbie commented: “You also don’t seem to realize that heterosexual men see you as a willing depository for semen.”

        a) What a thick generalisation. You seem to hate heterosexual men. Your description of a penis is particularly idiotic and offensive.
        b) A lot of women enjoy sex with men but the way you have put it suggests you have a problem with their sexuality, you. I will not try to ruin your career just because you dared to say something I dislike.

    3. I’m with ya Klaus! Folks who have nothing better to do but get upset over this are folks who aren’t having sex — or at leaat not enjoying it.

    4. If this was a bit by a comedian, or even by the same doctor but not published in a scientific publication, I would agree with you. But I like my science plain: free of jokes, religion, and poorly constructed hypothesis. The article this doctor wrote has been smeared with two out of three of those. A place for everything and everything in its place. Same article, appropriate place: funny.

  4. Right. Everybody but Klaus seems to agree that this editorial was a terrible mistake. Frankly, I don’t see the problem. I find it rather funny and harmless. Perhaps because I’m from Europe, where most people have a more relaxed attitude towards sex. Something like ‘nipplegate’ could never happen here (a nipple on tv, so what). It seems the only way Americans can ever pay attention to sex is when they can call it a scandal, and then they use the opportunity to the fullest. Look at you, quoting the whole editorial. What for, if you think it is so ill-advised?
    I have been wondering for years why so many Americans seem to think violence is fine and sex is scary.

    1. I agree 100%. I am an American, and I think we need to lighten up with regards to sex. The editorial was for adults only, wasn’t it? So why be so serious? I enjoyed reading it, and I don’t see the big deal.

    2. Agreed too. No idea why this has caused such an uproar. The worst it does is promote “unprotected sex”, but if it’s true then it’s shedding light on something that could be beneficial, if other safety precautions (STD screening, monogamy, non-condom birth control) are observed. It’s like people figure it’s better to be ultra-prudes rather than follow real knowledge and potential happiness.

    3. Let’s loosen up a bit. I actually think this last sentence is very funny. Hardly explicit (the s-word doesn’t even occur, so it is all in the mind of the reader). And not even vaguely offensive. Maybe science isn’t supposed to be funny, but for an opinionated editorial that has a touch of humor all over it this is fine with me. Refreshing even. I try to put a little easter egg in my papers now and then, but none as good as this one (sneaking in a reference to “Munson DC (1996): A note on Lena. IEEE Trans Image Process 5:3.” was the best I ever succeeded in). I honestly hope this guy will be reinstated. He is a guy, right?

    4. I’m with Klaus and Elmar. After reading and rereading, I still can’t identify anything objectionable about this article. In fact, it was more genuinely informative than most articles of its size. Is this an April Fools story? Is it the number of times it mentions semen? Is it the suggestion that males are useless unless there’s trouble? Or is it the implied suggestion about giving semen for Valentines Day?

      In my opinion, maybe somebody does need to step down, but it isn’t the author of this article.

    5. I agree as well. I can’t see how this is at all offensive or why it might have been pulled, much less how someone could lose their job over it. I’m also an American. I would never read this journal, I’m a computer programmer, but I actually found the editorial interesting. The joke was a tad lame, but a groaner of a joke is not firing material.

    6. Don’t get it… I think the editorial is witty and funny. Loosing two jobs over this? For sure other bigger interests were in play for this guy to loose his job…

  5. It’s “a bit much” as we say in the UK. If he’d stuck to the animal literature and just put in a few nudge-nudge remarks I think it would have been fine. The last section is a bit explicit. I am surprised it was retracted, though. It’s not that bad.

    Also I feel I ought to make a quip about this so…

    This editorial sure came back to haunt Greenfield didn’t it?

  6. Glad to see some scientific ethics at last. Suspicions of collusion between researchers and journals and the pharmaceutical industry are not that big a deal, but joking about semen, well that was really over the top.

  7. It does not surprise me that all of the men giving
    opinions on this offense completely ignore that this remark actually is hostile to woman, and is misogynist. It is so clearly hateful towards women that it is frightening. Men do not get it.

      1. Would you like it if half of the population, testosterone driven, assumed that women enjoy having that snot-like spew dribbling in or on them. You have no idea how much the large majority of women actually hate the male body, and are sickened by horn-dogs grope

      2. In response to Debbie,
        I’m really sorry for you, you are living in a really scary world where “the large majority of women actually hate the male body” and “heterosexual men see [women] as a willing depository for semen”…
        I guess you are a scientist, reading this blog, or at least somehow related to the subject. What are the references for these affirmations? If you asked 4 of your friends and 3 of them told you that, I’m not sure it’s statistically significant… As a woman, I love my boyfriend’s body, all it’s parts, and, well, I don’t really like chocolates 🙂

        And really, I don’t find the editorial offensive even a little bit, even if we can be sceptical about the science, as clandestine pointed out. I don’t see how it is sexist, he even shows an example of males being dispensable!

    1. I am a woman, and I guess I don’t get it either. I don’t see it as ‘clearly hateful towards women’ at all.

      1. Thank you Karen, for a normal response.

        Nuts to you, Debbie, for saying that accurate scientific facts are less important than not hurting the feelings of oversensitive feminists.

        When certain others try to be traditionally moral, like thinking that late-in-the-3rd-trimester abortions are a bad thing, so many feminists say that those people are anti-science and anti-woman.

        When this guy writes what are basically only facts and makes a slight generality about those facts, all of a sudden, it needs to take a backseat to your version of “feminist morality”. Accept the science and stop being so sensitive.

      2. Then you obviously don’t realize men laugh at your dullness, but they love to give you semen instead of….say chocolate.

      3. I don’t think in general most women hate the male body. I’m also relatively sure that having the “snot-like spew” doesn’t bother that many women. If that were the case then the pregnancy rate would be a whole lot lower.
        I think people need to lighten up when it comes to sex. You would think in this day and age people wouldn’t be such prudes. While I don’t buy into the article, I did find it amusing. Hardly worth losing your job.

    2. I’m a woman, and I was able to see this for what it was–a scientist doing a (humorous) riff on the biology of love for the February edition.

      1. I agree! And I’m a surgeon AND a woman. He’s a funny guy, and this was the kind of thing that NPR would feature as a Valentine themed interest piece.

    3. Yeah… “Clearly.”

      I’m a woman, I think you need to educate yourself a little more as to what differentiates opinion and fact. Clearly, some women don’t get it either.

      1. Obviously you really don’t understand the horrible symbolism represented by a semen- spewing, figgy thing. You also don’t seem to realize that heterosexual men see you as a willing depository for semen. They are laughing in man caves.

      2. In response to Debbie:
        “You also don’t seem to realize that heterosexual men see you as a willing depository for semen.”

        Excuse me? As a heterosexual man, I am incredibly offended. And as I do not think of women as “willing depositories for semen”, I invalidate your disgusting and blatantly sexist statement.

    4. Actually, it is none of those things. It is quite funny. I am a woman, and this has not offended me a single bit. Was there poor judgment on the part of Dr. Greenberg by publishing this editorial? Probably, as he must have been well aware of who his audience is , and must have been aware that not everyone in the audience would share his sense of humor on valentines day. But offensive and mysogynistic? Hardly. those who read this as such are misinterpreting the intent.

      As some of the other comments have said, Americans take the topic of sex way to seriously. I am foreign born, but for all intents and purposes – an American, and I will be the first one to admit that sometimes we take ourselves alltogether way too seriously, and it would serve us well to lighten up. This was written in such a light tone, and whatever data it quoted, whether accurate or not, was used in a funny way to reflect on the fact that it was valentines day edition. It actually embraced the concept of valentines day and, contrary to Debbie’s perception of its hatefullness – the concept of love, and the love between men and women in particular, and the need for for one another. I see no hate, and certainly no hate or discrimination against women in this editorial. I do see mischief, and yes – I cant believe, that knowing the social climate, this accomplished physician published this. What it tells me is that he must have had a great fate in our sense of humor, and sadly, we are proving him wrong on this.

      1. I’m a woman and a surgeon, and it wasn’t funny. It was, however, super wierd and inappropriate. I would not want to work with that dude.

      2. Re: His audience.

        His audience is largely a bunch of older men who, when they were active in the surgery field as Chairmen of Surgery, especially 20 years or more ago, probably discriminated against women residents who had to keep their mouths shut or loose their position. Forget the probably. I know this occurred.

        How hypocritical of them. When it really counts, these men are silent. When it is words and not deeds, they get all frazzled. The whole fuss is simply ridiculous. I am a woman, born in America, who worked in some fields as unwelcoming to women as surgery was (and maybe still is in some places) and I think I have learned in my life what to fire someone for. This article called for comment, rebuke perhaps (whether deserved or not), but certainly not totally dishonoring as distinguished a person as Dr. Greenfield. Yes, the response is sillier than anything said in the editorial.

        Granny Kim, RN

      3. Slightly humorous piece that needed a response, not a firing. This is political correctness at its worst. As a female and surgical nurse, I was not offended. If I read this in the journals I would chuckle and move along to the next item.

    5. Everything these days is hostile toward women. This is just another instance of women using political correctness to swing political power in their direction.

      If you don’t like the editorial, stop reading it. If women want equality, they better start developing a thicker skin.

      1. Mark, one has to read the editorial to discover if they like it or not and equality does swing both ways, i.e, men could develop more sensitivity. But why make this a fight among the sexes? You can see that there is a lot of variety here regarding women and men’s comments about this incident. I think you have turned Debbie’s statement into a treatise about Everything, which makes you just as polarizing.

        That said, I think anyone who gets het up about this editorial is way too sensitive and the surgeon, whom I do believe was riffing off some ideas that didn’t pan out 100%, was being humorous and playful, and perhaps a bit jerky. That is not cause for losing his editorial position, nor does it justify a demotion. I believe an injustice was done to him, resembling Juan Williams firing by NPR when he expressed his fear of “Muslim garb” at airports.

    6. If things continue in this vein I see the following happening in a few hundred years. I see oppressed men coming together to fight for equal rights- because they will have none by then. The pendulum has begun to swing the other way and will keep moving. Having worked closely with women I can very emphatically say the most of the oppresion of women is BY WOMEN and not men.

    7. Wow, Debbie McKenna, I think it anyone is a hater of the other gender in this little side conversation, it’s you. “snot-like spew”? “hate the male body”? I think you’re the one with the hostility towards the opposite sex. All this guy did was suggest that semen has some feel-good stuff mixed up in it – which wouldn’t be evolutionarily surprising!

    8. Thank you. Only a man would write an article like that. I could say so much more, but then the men would be offended.

    9. Well, I’m a woman, and I don’t get it. Hostile, how? If semen does in fact, contain those mood enhancers mentioned, it stands to reason that it would enhance your mood, no? So, then both of you would feel better. Where is the hostility?

    10. How is this editorial possibly hostile towards women? Are you forgetting the biological basis for intercourse between a man and a woman? Are you forgetting about how reproduction works? In order for our species not to become extinct women need to have the “snot-like spew dribbling in… them.” Whether you find it scary and not enjoyable is to your discretion, but just because of your objections are you going to come up for a better physiological design for us? I honestly don’t think you can, not because I am putting into question your intellectual capabilities, but because scientist have being trying to do this and have yet to be successful. Whether the “large majority of women actually hate the male body” is a statistic you pulled out of the same place the human body excretes feces, which by the way I can assure you many people don’t find fecal matter any more enjoyable than semen, yet we humans still have to digest and excrete waste in order to survive. Are you also suggesting that any literature about the digestive system is hostile? Frankly humanity can and has survived without chocolate, but can you say the same about semen?

    11. You are right I don’t get it. As a boy, I never got why I had to “watch my language” when women were around. As a man I don’t understand why telling women what I think, whatever it is, means I hate women. I don’t get why I have to be hypersensitive to the feelings of women who I believe are equal to, though clearly not the same as, men. Meanwhile I have heard of no one losing their job for declaring that all men are rapists, are blaming male behavior on “testosterone poisoning”. No, I don’t get it.

    12. Well, sorry but as a woman I also thought it was quite funny with a great punch line. Good material for retelling in a pub or at a party. It’s an editorial after all, so cut the writer some slack. And a publication like that speaks to readers who can judge the scientific ‘evidence’ on its merits and have the ability to make their own judgement about it. As for sperm: who says its only for women?

  8. It’s a bit smutty but sheeshhhh…. having to resign over this… This would probably raise a few eyebrows here and there in Europe but not much more.

    1. still, people should be able to laugh this off and move on. wtf this society coming to. that’s the point they make so well.

      1. That is intelligent. Best you can do, heavy-weight? Sorry for the sp? But brain lesions took away my left visual field and I don’t see some mistakes. Proud?

      1. The editorial was not hate speech. I do not understand why some women have to turn everything into being “against them”. If it wasn’t for sperm you would not be here. Women need men as much as men need us. In my personal opinion, as a woman, women like you need to get over themselves!!

  9. If doctors can’t talk about sex, who can? I had no problems with this editorial, backed with references. I’m not familiar with Surgery News; is it such a grave and weighty periodical that it can’t tolerate this kind of editorial? Would this piece cause controversy if it was posted as a blog? I’m just not seeing that this is offensively sexist, but then I am a heterosexual male.

    1. And you are probably a heterosexual man who is not sensitized to blatant expressions by men that express hatred toward women. It dehumanizes women and is acutely misogynist. It has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with a derogatory, dimissive attitude to women. This remark should be treated as Hate Speech.

      1. Debbie, I neither made nor make any comments about you.
        The article, while poor quality science no doubt, does not attack nor dehumanize women. If it does, as you say, can you please educate the likes of me on how it does that?
        The article starts out talking about a study on fruit flies, then talks about studies with human subjects. Given the nature of the study, one can understand why the subjects chosen were women and not men.
        I do not find the article stating, or even implying, anything negative towards women. Would you have the same feelings if, say, the article was about women coming into contact with a substance other than semen?
        Again, while there is very little scientific merit to the article, to make statements like the author deserving death threats, the article being classified as hate speech etc etc ad infinitum only belittles the rage that should rightly be reserved for where it is really needed.

      2. And you probably not a male (of any sort) who is constantly the butt of jokes in commercials and television programs merely for committing the horrendous act of being born as a male – especially if they are husbands. Contra-wise, you probably also don’t see most wives as the only thing that keeps their husbands heads from imploding due to vacuum.

        But you are probably not “sensitive” to those sorts of things.

        Actually, I’m not either, but I do notice the bias and try to make sure both my son and daughter are aware of it as they watch so they don’t think men are idiots, or that women are helpless waifs , etc.

        You do sound sensitive, but in an over-the-top and completely biased sort of way.

      3. Davie Jones, thank you for saying that! Misogynist is the word for men-who-hate-women behavior. When are we gouing to get a word for women-who-hate-men behavior? Or is there such a word but I never, ever hear it used?

      4. If misoGYNy emphasis on the GYN, is male hatred of females, then the male root ANDROS can be used to produce misANDRy and misandrist denoting female hatred of men…

    2. Not a male of any sort? That is cheap. You are wrong that I don’t understand true love and the desire to protect children—I do and I am sensitive. Insensitivity, your knee-jerk reaction—or playing the martyr—-is evidence of your sanctimoniy.

  10. Actually, it’s the science that baffles me… Am I mistaken in thinking that nuns have synchronised menstrual cycles? That would seem to disprove the idea of semen as an obligate regulator of menstrual cycle synchronisation. And how does mood-enhancing components therein translate to synchronisation? Baffled.

  11. The last clause is out of order, at least. The rest is a bit nudge-nudge schoolboy humour.

    The jury, as I understood it, is still out on synchronization. I think “It’s been *debated*” since the ’90s is more accurate–not least because nobody has come up with a mechanism yet.

  12. I agree that it’s the science more than the sex that is problematic, but the science does seem heterosexist. If this hypothesis were true, we’d expect to see very low rates of depression among gay men who have regular unprotected sex. Yet this does not appear to be the case.

      1. I can see confounding factors for BOTH of them. That’s the problem. That’s why the science sucks. How are you going to separate out the effect of “semen exposure” from the rest of the factors in college-age women having sex? Seriously, at best the study can be suggestive about the effects of semen. The only way to tell would be to do a double-blind study where half the women are injected with semen in their vaginas and the other half are injected with some gel-like substance that could really pass for semen. But I doubt you’ll get any women who were smart enough to get to college to participate in it. There are many, many factors that go into the decision of whether or not to have unprotected sex.

    1. Can you cite any studies on this? He was writing a blog quoting scientific papers. It was not a scientific paper per se. Even if it were, those with opposing views are obliged, if they care enough about it, to present an opposing views citing opposing research or raising critically thought questions. If we are going to get rid of scientists who can make valuable contributions to humanity because they make “politically incorrect” statements then the creationists, global warming deniers and earth centrists have won.

  13. They may have called it something else, but synchronization has been under discussion, at the very least, since I was in college in the ’70s. So much for the comprehensive literature review.

  14. The article is unprofessional and boorish for sure, but I also don’t see why an entire issue of the magazine had to be removed. The author of the editorial should apologize, or let his words speak for himself, as he sees fit.

    It seems irresponsible to draw such strong conclusions on semen properties from one study in an obscure journal, and this worries me more than the author’s “attitude”. I can see this changing the author’s standing among his colleagues, but, again, I am not sure why the whole issue of the magazine, which presumably includes some worthwhile information, was removed.

  15. It was a joke, and it was funny. Some people who couldn’t handle it are now disgracing an accomplished professional. How embarrassing for the ACS. It’s obvious what is going on: someone wanted Greenfield out and used this as leverage. That is the only rational explanation for something as stupid as this.

    1. Thank you for the first sentence. All the rest is problematical, like so much of the article, of course. Who will speak up for cheerfulness?

  16. Interesting. I was strangely amused. If there is a scientific basis for this observation then why shouldn’t it be published? If it was strictly for entertainment, then it seems to be an error in judgement.

  17. This kind of talk should rightfully be called Hate Speech. If you do not get the implication he is expressing insensitive, hateful and patriarchally offensive speech towards women. This certainly does deserve resignation.

    1. Debbie, you are an embarassment to our fair sex; exhibiting the kind of overly-sensitive hysterics that that have held women back throughout history. You obviously need to increase your semen intake.

      okay, so obviously I’m joking…or am I? I’m taking a tone intended to poke fun, but my sentiment is sincere. I like to consider myself a fully empowered woman, I’m in a position of authority, and my boyfriend does most the cooking. I honestly don’t see what constitutes hate speech in this editorial. I can understand people taking issue with the science, if the science is bad. If it isn’t, then I think it might be natural evolution you might be mad at (it does make sense evolutionarily for a woman to respond positively to semen).
      It might even be fair to say that the authors joke was in poor humour, but that’s a far cry from hate speech. For crying out loud he made a lighthearted reference to *gasp* heterosexual couples having SEX on VALENTINE’S DAY.

      1. Laura, you forget that this woman sees semen as misogynist, frightening and hateful. Or is it just expressing an opinion that semen might actually be pleasurable and even mood-enhancing to a healthy female that is misogynist, frightening and hateful? By the way, my girlfriend gets both semen AND chocolates whenever and wherever she requests them. On Valentine’s Day she got a lot of flowers, also!

      2. It was inappropriate for someone in his position to make ignorant and insensitive comments on a day that we CELEBRATE love – and he likened chocolate to semen. C’mon is that a professional surgeon who was talking about a subject outside of his speciality. Debbie is not wrong. Stop picking on her. Everyone has a right to their opinion – the last time I checked.

    2. I don’t believe it implies hate, insensitivity, or patriarchy, not in the least. It’s an interesting and quirky claim, and though it’s clear you see relationships between men and women as overtly political, that stance is not an inherent moral highground as you are insinuating. Frankly, I find it vapid, soulless, and harmful, and intelligent, kind people everywhere are going to disagree with your view of male/female sexuality. It isn’t hate motivating that difference of opinion.

    3. You don’t give one concrete example at why this should be considered misogynistic or hate speech. It’s one thing to poke holes in the science, but you’re drawing conclusions based on….well frankly I can’t even tell. At most, the editor in question could be accused a poor argument of causality.

    4. u need:
      a thearaputic hard mannual work (maybe on a farm) it will make u evident to the fact the as humans civilized, when a man would work in the field till dusk (while his wife at home) coming home to ‘your’ woman and making love was a heavenly pleasure, very good for health.

  18. @Klaus, I don’t need to absorb semen in order to not feel depressed. The problem is not that Americans are prudes, it’s that this assertion is so blatantly preposterous. Especially since we know that depression is caused by numerous, complex factors that have been broadly studied among vast populations. The idea that depressed women could be treated via unprotected sex is … gross.

    1. The fact that the notion is so clearly preposterous should be enough to convince any reader that Greenfield had his tongue firmly lodged in his cheek when he was writing this, no?

    2. To agree or disagree with his assertion is opinion. I neither agree nor disagree because I haven’t read any of the literature cited in the editorial to make an informed opinion. Maybe you have, thus reaching your opinion that his assertion is ‘blatantly preposterous’. However, it should certainly not be retracted based on personal opinion, especially when he supports his opinion with peer-reviewed publications. Indeed, if opinion ruled the process of retraction than I suspect we should see many more papers retracted than currently. I believe it was retracted because the editorial was sexual in nature, and thus deemed distasteful to readers.

    3. The article didn’t suggest that depression is caused by hypo-spermia. It cited an article similar to those saying blood pressure is lower among people who own pets. No one seems to misunderstand that as “high blood pressure is caused by lack of dogs” or “owning a dog is the best treatment for high blood pressure.”

    4. I must tell you that it does enhance my mood and I believe, my health as well to have the sticky stuff squirted on/in me. Chocolate is also a sticky substance that enhances my mood, so yeah, there is a fair comparison there. And I like men’s bodies. I think I’m pretty normal in all of this.

      1. Your interpretation seems to be based on a gross misreading of this very lighthearted article. Just because you can construct a nasty and vile purported paraphrase of an article does not make it in itself nasty and vile, or in any way objectionable. The message seems to be that sex is good, which I strongly endorse.

      2. Tony, I don’t see that as a “misreading” of the article. It IS the reading that many will have of it, which is why it’s a little scary to a number of women who have no interest whatsoever in being “fucked” by a man. (That is NOT me, by the way, but I can certainly understand why a woman could be offended by the idea of unprotected sex with a man being a “gift” that will keep her from being depressed.)

  19. Elsevier has a bad history itself. They have published essentially fake trade journals filled with one sided info to benefit advertisers. If one searches on google the first hit that comes up is for their puplication of crap for Merk.

    As for this article, it contains a lot of citations and seems to have a sensible progression of predicates and conclusions. Clearly the article is intended to be fun for Valentines day. Perhaps the lay public simply cannot abide the technical realities of reproduction? All in all it seems like a fine valentines day article for a scientific magazine. Perhaps the lay public should return to their tv shows and alcohol stupor.

  20. A note about comments: While we appreciate a vigorous debate, we have been forced to delete passages from several comments that went far beyond the bounds of respectful discourse. Please keep that in mind when commenting.

  21. Misogynistic? Now we can understand why the Catholic church has for so very many years fought against condom use. They just wanted the Catholic ladies to be happy.

  22. I could not see what was wrong with the editorial at all, I thought it was really interesting and I remember the fuss that the depression – semen thing caused before; I believe the phrase is ‘don’t shoot the messenger.’ He’s just stringing together some bits of research that cast light (whether correctly or not) on reproduction. The last two lines are suspect, but not that bad surely. Yes, he comes across (ahem) as a bit of a patriarch but the point of what some of what he was alluding to is that in some forms of reproduction, men are irrelevant!

  23. Aside from the poor but of humour in the last sentence, there is nothing off-putting about this article in the slightest. Of course the idea of “here’s a spot of semen for you Luv on Valentine’s Day” is to some an unromantic and to others an offensive prospect. But to insinuate that there was any hate or ill-will implied in the text suggests that the reader has a huge chip on his/her shoulder and should probably lighten up.

  24. Quoting RPG,

    “Depressed? Come here and let me fuck you.”

    Is that light-hearted, now?

    Yes it still sounds light hearted, and you know, it sort of works the same way for men as well.

    Debbie, I am sure you have a better way to prove your point than just repeating the same statement over and over again.

    The only sexist thing about this is that if you took away the word “semen” and put “vaginal secretions”; and switched men with women, no one would have a problem with this.

    I mean come one, everybody knows that sex (hetero and homo alike) is good for one’s mood, now if this guy wants to argue that unprotected sex is even better, let him be.

    The only issue I suppose is the scientific plausibility of the argument, but I am in no position to comment on that.

  25. I’m female and I believe the Dr. because I very much experience the same thing, and I did check repeatedly by using condoms(etc). I even had a IUD fitted when I was sure of the effect (and it saves on condoms and worry) and that actually hurts quite a bit (as they do) but, it was totally worth it.

    Semen makes a big difference and the effects are immediate and it all feels very nice after coitus — so I don’t understand why people are freaking out over a naturally occurring reality that is a wonderful experience.

    At the most, more research is needed as to what is actually going on(since clearly something is!).

    Besides that, if we figure out the body’s ‘secret recipe’ here, think of all the drugs we could then make that could help a huge range of women with this knowledge — what is not to love?

  26. I found the article very interesting, this sounds like the beginning of far more research that should be done. It would be interesting to contact the author and ask more specific questions like: Do the ingredients in semen only work as mood enhancers if there is penetration? Has there been research on lesbian women’s moods?

    The article does have a little, almost imperceptible negative attitude towards women, doesn’t it? It’s OK, he sounds like he did it out of spite but still very interesting.

  27. I can see where many are seeing potentially unpleasant suggestions coming from the last line of the editorial, but I’m inclined to think, in context, that it was not intended as an excuse for men to pressure women into unprotected intercourse. I think he was trying to playfully suggest that couples go home and have sex on Valentine’s Day, probably with the assumption that most monogamous couples don’t use condoms. The article is very heteronormative, but it’s clearly intended to show a playful and positive attitude toward sex.

    I certainly think the study he referenced was flawed. It’s likely that there is something in the lives of the research subjects that indicates both reduced likelihood for depression and reduced condom use. But, as both a woman and a feminist, I find the editorial, for all its bad science, completely lacking in misogyny. It may be that the author is a misogynist or holds very patriarchal views toward women, but I would not make that judgment on the basis of this article alone.

    1. I completely agree, I think he was being playful and definitely not suggesting rape or anything of the like. Women do enjoy sex, there’s nothing wrong in suggesting that sex could be fun and not merely for reproduction. I think there should be a follow-up or he should publish this one elsewhere.

      What I meant by his hint of attitude was just regarding the following line: “You can draw your own inference about males not being needed until there’s trouble in the environment.” It was funny to see how he tried to justify the importance of man in society or maybe it was my own misconception and he was trying to be funny.

  28. I came for the controversey, but I stayed for the comments.

    It seems many people are simply seeing what they want to see in the original article. What is truly entertaining, though, is the single-minded zeal with which they attempt to steamroll their arguments.

  29. I can see why people are annoyed by this. He’s basically making the tired old inaccurate argument that sex = the male orgasm. Many women see this as blatant manipulation – it’s your fault for being sick because you don’t give your husband sex meant to please him primarily (if you enjoy it that’s OK but it’s not the point, sex is and should be only for men). So even our health is being used as a reason to promote male, and only male, orgasm.

    I wonder how many guys would feel lighthearted about an article implying that their health suffered specifically because they didn’t cheerfully submit to their partner’s sexual selfishness.

    1. An article implying it, based on a study? I’d want to see more studies, and I’d think it was interesting. It would help me understand reality more. I’m interested in reality, for sure.

    2. What? He’s not saying that at all. He’s jokingly suggesting that lovemaking may carry an extra biological “gift” for the female. This all seems like much ado about nothing.

      1. Technically, he id not suggesting that “lovemaking may carry an extra biological ‘gift’ for the female.” He is suggesting that unprotected MALE EJACULATION in a female vagina “carries the gift.” There are many, many forms of “lovemaking” that do not involve that. Some of them are VASTLY preferred by some females. THAT is why some women have trouble with this.

    3. I’m afraid the author doesn’t specify nor talk about women sacrificing their own pleasure. It may be something to be read between the lines.

      Though, I agree he doesn’t particularly regard happiness and pleasure in an homosexual relationship between women. You’re right in that one, he seems to imply that homosexual women are unhappy because of lack of sex with men.

      I do happen to know a few deppressed lesbians and heterosexual women alike, but previous studies indicated lack of lithium, etc. This whole lack of “semen” (estrone, cortisol, prolactin, oxytocin, and serotonin; a sleep enhancer, melatonin) had never ocurred to me. We can’t disregard it either, deppression syntoms may present themselves in a different manner or derived from other reasons altogether.

    4. “cheerfully submit to their partner’s sexual selfishness.” Geez…that tells you about all you need to know 😉

      1. Is that a partner that wants too little sex or too much sex, or wants to be on the giving end or the receiving end? What defines “Sexual selfishness”? Is it defined as any need greater or less than yours?

  30. I really don’t see the big deal… It’s an article about “sperm” & “reproduction”. So??? Those are natural facts of life. I fully agree with klaus & Elmar. People need to grow up & stop being so snobby about sex. It’s not the story’s fault they aren’t getting any. It was a very informative article. Stupid prudes…

    1. No it’s not. It’s an article about semen, women’s moods, and mating behavior in other species. Semen does not equal sperm, and mating behavior is not the same as reproduction. Perhaps you didn’t really understand the criticisms.

      I don’t think people are complaining about the article because it is about sex. They are complaining about the attitude inherent in the idea saying that a man’s semen is a gift for a woman. It may well be under the right circumstances, but we’re all aware that it can also destroy someone’s life under the wrong circumstances.

      You might want to stop making derogatory sexual assumptions about someone because they don’t share your opinion. I’m certainly “getting” plenty.

  31. The real question is why is this in a *surgery* journal.

    Medical Journal — maybe. It is even creepier if you think it should be somehow connected to surgery.

  32. Oh… and btw: just because he wrote about semen being good for females doesn’t mean he is telling everyone to have unprotected sex. It was a factual piece. He maybe should’ve left out the last sentence, but other than that, it really is a good article, & I don’t understand why he resigned because of it.

  33. The science he is talking about is really interesting, and my fellow Americans are freaking that he would dare even talk about such a thing. Elmar is right, this is moronic.

  34. I find the piece entertaining if a little too flip for an editorial in a scientific publication. He makes connections between ideas a little too easily—as if the non-synchronized lesbians, depressed, condom-using straight women, and their wildly happy, semen-filled counterparts were all in the same controlled study. As someone else suggested, it would probably have gotten a much better reception as a blog post. A lesson in tailoring your writing for your audience. I’m curious though why they would retract the whole issue.

  35. Let’s not all get our undies in a knot. A few more articles like this and Surgery News could claim successor-ship to The Journal of Irreproducible Results!

  36. As one who writes two editorials a month for publication, I can attest to the difficulty of coming up with a good topic. That said, it seems like a perfectly appropriate editorial given the focus of the publication and the assumption that it is being read by grown-ups.
    It seems to me the ACS are a bunch of stiffs (pun intended) who take themselves WAAAY too seriously. Jeez- you’d think this was climate science or something!

    1. SeattleConservative — agreed, ROFL! I’m inclined to think this over-reaction is driven by the “new castrati” who fear feminist ire, rather than by any prudish impulse.

  37. This Greenfield fella sounds like quite the catch – a young girl’s dream, in fact. I mean, who wants chocolate when your guy can give you a REAL part of himself, right?
    “No, really, honey – I’m doing this for YOU!”

    One shudders to think what Mrs. Greenfield gets for Christmas….

  38. This piece has its funny and interesting moments, but it gave me the creeps, too. I agree with the previous commenter(s) who pointed out that depression is very complex, and I think this guy should have known better than to make such a simplistic correlation between depression and semen. I think it’s irresponsible to suggest that unprotected sex is good for women without also advising monogamy and regular testing. The editorial is directed toward men, but women have the greater risk of contracting STDs, and we generally end up with most of the consequences if there’s a pregnancy. It’s difficult enough, sometimes, to get a guy to put on a condom; I don’t need medical journals suggesting that the benefits of unprotected sex outweigh the risks.

  39. I’ve been editing medical papers for peer-reviewed journals for over 5 years. Why do I never get to edit something as interesting as this must have been?

  40. Well clearly I do get it !

    Hence my Doctor’s instruction to me to wash the offending mark off rather than the prescription I was expecting.

    The red ring around mine turned out to be exactly what he said it was, lipstick!

    Happy Valentines 2012 and yes, I will sell my shares in Hersheys and Cadburys early this year.

  41. I was a bit creeped out by it (“rah rah, we’re all boys here together!”). The refs are cherry picked for their interest and none of the studies cited are solid, so it’s a pretty misleading article – but then I’m guessing it’s not supposed to be a literature review, he was aiming for light hearted. And, in my opinion, failed. Sure, he’s free to be a dick, but I can see why Elsvier might think it inappropriate for a trade journal.

  42. A decision on whether Greenfield will become President of the American College of Surgeons is presumably now being considered by the Board of Regents of the College, a group responsible for ethical considerations. The Board of Regents is currently struggling with its own problems, because one of the Regents, a Dr Lafreniere, has recently been outed by Margaret Munro as a major plagiarist in – guess what – a major review of ethical considerations in surgery. (
    It really gets better and better !

  43. A fairly harmless piece – certainly not worthy of the resignation, nor the rantings of Ms McKenna above.

    I would like to see the statistics backing up her comment “You have no idea how much the large majority of women actually hate the male body”.

    I sincerely hope that by ‘large’ she is not insinuating ‘fat’. That would make her a sizeist as well as horribly sexist.

  44. My first thought in regards to Dr. Greenfields article; indifference and maybe sperm should be marketed in pill form to be used as a antidepressent instead of all the other pharmaceutical inventions which are now causing side effects in so many. After finding out of his release from ACS my thought was; first, what woman in the orginazation did not like him and maybe was pasted over for the position of President of ACS, my second thought was; how infintile of the ACS to react so drastically…sex is in the news everyday. Dr. Greenfield has done wonderful things for people all over the world. May I remind all of use living being of two things…you become famous more quickly when you turn on the dogmas of society and the amount of people at your funeral will be due to the weather. This is not a crisis so stop treating it as such and give Dr. Greenfield his job back.

  45. I think some of the commenters are missing the point. The point is not whether there is any scientific validity to the studies cited in the editorial. Nor is it important whether you personally were offended by the editorial. The point is that Dr. Greenfield should have realized that the editorial was bound to offend a significant number of people. And, apparently, he didn’t. Such a clueless person should not be in an important position where he can do harm to the organization he is representing.
    For the record, I thought the editorial was ridiculous and inappropriate in the context in which it was presented. Just my 2 cents.

    1. I, too, think some commenters are missing the point. The point is, this is an editorial comment. It is not a research paper, nor is it, presumably, the keynote address for the annual luncheon of the Coalition Of Permanently Insulted And Extremely Thin-Skinned Humorless Curmudgeons (COPIAET-SHC). Both of these aforementioned applications would be inappropriate for this editorial. Because of its publication (in time for Valentine’s Day) in a scientific journal read, presumably, by scientists, the editorial’s suggestion that male sperm is a mood enhancer is not only appropriate, it’s clever.
      Perhaps it’s the cleverness that is lost on these members of COPIAET-SHC.

  46. Now I gave myself the trouble of reading some of his other editorials and, they are pretty standard. As he wrote in one ” As Stephen Colbert has taught us, the “truthiness” of something wins because it adjusts the facts to what you want to believe”

    He lost his job because it adjusted to the facts someone that wanted him to loose his job believed. Pure politics I am sure.

    1. Agreed. It reminds me of the downfall of Trent Lott.
      That he was ruined by one really stupid remark instead of his body of work.

  47. With all that’s going on in the health care system, not to mention the country and the world, this is what merits a prominent resignation?

    Not environmental degradations, insolvencies, frauds, various pathologies, nor kleptocratic or general incompetence.

    To the majority of the commenters above: Thank you for your salient and sensible comments. The solace was unexpected.

    Orwellian? Could Koestler have imagined this from the West? The administrative reaction is so much more significant and chilling than the editorial.

    A prediction: If this becomes better known — and here’s hoping it comes across more screens — a shark has jumped. Even as the bad serial continues for years, this one is especially laughable, memorable, and embarrassing.

  48. While the content of this editorial can be viewed as humuorous, since it attempts to relate the research on the salutory effects of semen to the highly vascularized vagina’s of women to St. Valentine, the point is that he wrote this as the President-Elect of the American College of Surgery. You can not write editorials about the benefits of unprotected sex when you are about to ascend to the highest position of leadership in surgery. This is highly unresponsible behavior. The sentiment put forth by Greenfield addresses the larger issue of discrimination against women in a highly male dominated field. It is thought processes such as this that creates the glass ceiling. Thus, it is one thing to write this as the Editor in Chief of Surgery News, but a different thing altogether to write this as the President Elect of the ACS. It also will hurt all attempts to attract women to this profession. Women remain a stark minority.

    1. This is the first comment which has made me see why this article might have been inappropriate. As a women who would rather spend her Valentine’s day with another woman than with a man, I did find the article a touch insensitively heteronormative, but not offensively so. In fact, I found the article amusing and interesting, if a tad mediocre. I was shocked that the man lost his job. However, you raise a good point- it was irresponsible behavior, and perhaps he should not have taken this tone as a man in a position of power in a field which is plagued by gender inequality.

  49. I’m a woman and I can’t see anything particularly outrageous about this piece at all.

    As to the sexual references, they were rendered tastefully and obviously with the author’s tongue firmly in his cheek.

    And as for this reference to the salubrious properties of semen (YES, I said it!):

    “ingredients in semen that include mood enhancers like estrone, cortisol, prolactin, oxytocin, and serotonin; a sleep enhancer, melatonin”

    I’ve known that for years and frankly demand treatment from my husband on a regular basis.:)

    Bottom line: what’s wrong with an acknowledgement (especially when tastefully and humourously done) that (guess what?) sex is good for every species, including humans?

  50. Surgeons have their own brand of humor that many folks would not appreciate– Dr Greenfield simply knows his audience. Furthermore, Surgery News is as much a “scientific journal” as USA Today is a newspaper– I keep mine by the toilet for light reading. And lastly, something tells me that Dr Greenfield, an extremely renowned and well-respected surgeon, will come out on top (no pun intended.)

  51. As a surgeon, and a married heterosexual female, I am astounded by the number of readers who read this and thought it was humorous or educational. Firstly, it implies that a lack of sperm in your life is somehow detrimental to your success if you are a woman. Perhaps many non-surgeons don’t understand the obstacles women face in achieving success in surgery -many of them related to both overt and subversive sexual discrimination. Observe the the statistics for women in medical school (>60% now) and those in surgery (slowing increasing but < 30%). I have seen firsthand, and personally experienced, both sexual harassment and marginalization of women in academic surgical practice in favor of sustaining the 'ol' boys' club'. In light of these issues, there is no role for an esteemed surgeon to highlight these differences in this way. To me, it seems like a desparate man, observing women academicians around him succeeding despite himself, and this is his effort to put them in their place. But that's just my opinion. I would hate to be a lesbian working under him, though.

    1. In contrast, I’m a heterosexual female surgeon and I think it is very funny and educational (reminds me of the studies suggesting semen can be good for bringing on labor, which is certainly more fun than membrane stripping or castor oil.) I don’t feel denigrated or “put in [my] place.”

      I honestly don’t see how talking about sex and effects on a gender equates to sexual discrimination. I didn’t read any implied “so tell your crabby chief resident to go get some.” Again, he did not at all state (nor did I infer) that he believes depression results from a lack of semen.

  52. With all due respect to Dr. Greenfield, who has enjoyed an enormously successful career, this episode strikes me as symptomatic of a syndrome among late-career academicians who fancy themselves beyond the reproach that would be readily heaped on their juniors were they to experience the same lapse of judgment that undoubtedly led to the publication of this nonsense. Other notable sufferers include James Watson and William Shockley.

    Some readers took Dr. Greenfield’s comments as a sort of locker-room humor and that he was merely writing to his audience. As still others pointed out, though, the president-elect of the ACS occupies a highly visible position of leadership in an increasingly diverse profession; and it becomes very difficult to separate public and private speech in such a position.

  53. I don’t see any grounds for such a drama. The ending is a little “too much”, but otherwise, I think it is a rather entertaining editorial.
    The US are on one hand an over-sexed country, and on the other hand, make a massive scene about this article which leads to the author losing his position; that is just a pathetic hypocricy.
    There is nothing nasty in the article; unprotected sex is usually how children are made (proven for a few millenia now), so what exactly is wrong with discussing it. Unprotected intercourse does not equal promiscuity.
    Spoken from the position of a married European woman.
    PS: on Valentine’s day, my husband bought me a fancy box of chocolate to melt and share and took me to a Japanese restaurant. No, I really cannot be offended by this editorial.

  54. What people don’t realize is that surgery is very male-oriented and that females have had to fight through years of sexual harrassment to achieve their professional goals. Lazar Greenfield is a highly respected and influential person who has trained many surgeons. For someone of his stature to write a sexual-innuendo filled editorial in a surgical journal is ingenuous, at best.

    1. And Dr. Greenfield, at the SUS meeting in 2004 in a lecture on the older surgeon, also made a joke about many older surgeons needing to keep working past retirement because they keep remarrying and starting second families (also true.) He’s poked fun at men, too, okay?

      1. Hmmmm. Don’t know the context, but that joke could imply that “we’re all guys together here” and it’s okay for us rich, successful guys to treat women as interchangeable. I may be crazy, but I’m not thinking that getting hit over the head with the fact that their profession is dominated by men like these made the women in the room feel like “one of the gang.”

  55. This whole thing is blown up out of proportion, there is a lame joke at the end and suddenly this is all about how women are used by men, yada yada yada.

    If the science is right, then -as someone mentioned before- then perhaps a drug can be made to benefit women with certain forms of depression.

    Oh, and feminists can use it too, to avoid contact with the icky stuff.


  56. There is nothing remotely offensive or “wacky” in that article. He uses recent studies to ponder as to whether or not semen has an impact on mood. He does this in the context of Valentine’s Day, providing perhaps an interesting biological basis for the joys of love. Of course those without imagination fail to realize two simple points. 1.) If we can isolate the process, we could create medicines that might be more effective (by mimicking natural processes) for treating depression. 2.) If we understand this process, we may be able to discover similar processes that occur in same sex couples – thereby enhancing our understanding of the wonders of being human. The whole reaction to this is the kind of Neo-Victorianism that has become the hallmark of postmillennial American idiocy. Obsession with all things sex, combined with notion that sexuality is something that must defined individually and subjectively (and any attempt to understand it objectively is therefore offensive) has now become so pervasive that it is inhibiting scientific inquiry. sigh.

  57. “You can draw your own inference about males not being needed until there’s trouble in the environment.” A rather petulant way of asserting that men are needed after all, and one that reflects an underlying insecurity about men’s role and significance in today’s world, don’t you think? Ahh, but this also reflects the conflation of sex with gender. It’s not the male gender that is needed by the rotifer- it’s the genetic heterogeneity their sex can offer. If the females were able to asexually reproduce AND still find a way to mix up the genes without the males, the male sex would truly be superfluous. But don’t worry, I think the male gender overall still contributes mightily to humankind, and is far from being completely superfluous.

    “In fact, they found ingredients in semen that include mood enhancers… [d]elivering these compounds into the richly vascularized vagina also turns out to have major salutary effects for the recipient.” Given the richly vascularized nature of the penis, and the multitude of components of vaginal secretions, you have to wonder what effect exposure and possible absorption of these chemicals and compounds may have on the man attached to the penis. But that would imply the possibility of a bidirectional impact and that really isn’t possible in a donor/recipient relationship, is it?

    “Female college students having unprotected sex were significantly less depressed than were those whose partners used condoms (Arch. Sex. Behav. 2002;31:289-93). Their better moods were not just a feature of promiscuity, because women using condoms were just as depressed as those practicing total abstinence.” So in a broad judgmental brushstroke, female college students having unprotected sex are, by virtue of this behavior, promiscuous? Including those that are married and trying to have kids? What about those that are sexually assaulted, either consciously or unconsciously (because they have been slipped something unawares)? Are they promiscuous too? I was also unaware that the practice of safe sex carried with it such a profound risk of depression- clearly condoms should come with a package insert and black box warning. I mean, if practicing safe sex renders a woman just as depressed as those who practice total abstinence (an aberrant behavior, clearly), then perhaps we need to completely revamp every educational campaign or toolkit ever created on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections.

    “So there’s a deeper bond between men and women than St. Valentine would have suspected, and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates.” There is a better gift: the practice of intelligence without condescension or paternalism.

    Dr. Greenfield seems to have assumed that true equality/equity between the sexes/genders has been reached so we can now all share in some old fashioned ‘locker room, nudge-nudge humor’, knowing it is laughable because it is so inapplicable nowadays. Too bad he hasn’t been paying attention to the women around him, as well as the media, or he would have known we still have a long way to go. Sexism, discrimination, harassment, and are confronted by women in every profession, including medicine, even today. Equal work STILL does not translate into equal pay; promotions along the academic ladder are still harder for women and a look at many of the governing bodies/top leadership positions in academic centers reveal an ongoing paucity of women in top positions, despite equal numbers of male and female medical students for years now, and a rising number of female residents even in “traditionally male” fields.

    If he had made such “wink-wink”, innuendo filled comments on race, I am willing to bet reactions would have been more swift and damning. But because there seems to be an attitude that ‘you came a long way baby” towards women (despite the fact that we still have a long way to go), than we should tolerate these types of comments or be accused of lacking humor. The problem is that some things, are just not funny- especially coming from those wielding extensive power and influence.

    1. I thought that free speech was a good thing, that the cure for bad speech was more speech not censorship. Who can be the censor? Are the rules clearly defined? Do we want rules? Lazars column may offend, but is there a beneficial strategy to avoid these episodes of offence?

  58. The doctor’s inference is an egregious example of ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’ fallacy: there are many explanations for improved mood after sex without condoms. Considering the presence of ejaculate in the vagina to be a “cause” of any particular mood is a huge leap beyond evidence and reason. Women whose lives are settled enough for them to consider pregnancy have reason to be less often depressed than women who, for one reason or another–such as fear of HIV, fear of pregnancy (possibly living in poverty), concern about a relationship about to end, whatever–must use condoms. For sure, I won’t be rushing out to buy any ejaculate-laden vaginal suppositories the next time I feel blue or need a cognitive boost! It’s soft-headed science at best, and the fact that a prominent MD thinks of this “hypothesis” as an appropriate description of healthy women should be a source of deep concern to all of us.

    1. Right, MVC, but the authors of the study he cites commit no such egregious fallacy, and they are perfectly aware of and honest about their study’s many weaknesses. Greenfield was clearly dipping into a literature he knows nothing about for humorous effect, but his axe-grinding distillation of the Arch Sex Behav bears little resemblance to the study itself.

      1. Right, Pete, I did not intend to criticize the authors of the cited studies with my comment about sloppy thinking. (I have not read the researchers’ articles.) Dr. Greenfield, on the other hand, does them no favor with his use of their work. Reading the other comments here, I find several who seem to think the doctor drew a legitimate inference from the studies! It cannot do harm to remind people that we should not suspend critical thinking when we read journals of medical research or Surgery News.

  59. As a woman, neither a scientist nor a Dr., who attended an all girls boarding high school, ANECDOTALLY I can say that I have experienced the synchronization referred to in Dr. Greenfield’s article 3 times in my life. Allowing for a 10-15 % margin of error (i.e. gals trying to get out of gym class or bio lab on frog dissection day) there were 3 instances over the course of 4 years during which ~260 teenage girls all had their cycle in the same week.
    My concern with the article is that it COULD be inferred that unprotected sex will prevent (cure) suicidal behavior: “The benefits of semen contact also were seen in fewer suicide attempts” Not all gals are able to have a sex life like Samantha Jones from Sex in the City, for that matter neither are some guys – to thy own self be true and lighten up folks it’s Friday!

    1. u are geniune.
      But (how many editorial from that journal are ever read by ordinary boys/men or girls women).
      Its the ‘blow over reaction’ that so many of us have heard of this editorial, its the overboard reaction that it became a NYT story.

  60. Dr. Greenfield should have directed his OpEd piece more appropriately to the late, lamented Journal of Irreproducible Results – the pun is unavoidable.

  61. It would add to the quality of the commentary if both supporters and detractors of Dr. Greenfield would take the time to understand the context of his piece and to read the paper by Gallup et al. that Greenfield cites in the piece.

    First of all, Surgery News is not a “scientific journal” or “medical journal” as those terms are generally used. Its contents are not indexed on PubMed, e.g. Rather, as its name implies, Surgery News is essentially a trade newspaper for surgeons, which makes any comments along the lines of “How could this appear in a medical journal?” irrelevant.

    Also, by its authors’ own admission, the Arch. Sexual Behav. article discussed by Greenfield is a highly speculative (indeed, the title of the article carries a question mark), preliminary, correlative study that used a fairly simple, questionnaire-based design to scratch the surface of some earlier findings that might be of interest to evolutionary psych. folks. It’s nothing more than that, and not much to be exercised about.

    I agree with some others that the strangest part of Greenfield’s piece are the references to the menstrual synchronization literature (hardly as established a phenomenon as he implies), since they serve no purpose other than set up his lame, offensive and unnecessary implication that lesbians are unhappy because they don’t have “real” sex. (It’s rather interesting that there’s no citation for this research–I’d be awfully surprised if the phantom lesbian synchronicity study Greenfield mentions had anything to do with any alleged “antidepressant” effects of semen, but it’s hard to know without a reference).

    I can only conclude that some hostility underlies that comment because the straw man he goes on to prop up about men being considered “unnecessary” (by whom, exactly?) unless an emergency arises (patient dying in the OR? flat tire on the highway?) also seems like the product of an unhappy soul.

    But whatever this is, it’s not part of the scientific or medical literature as far as I’m concerned.

  62. Following the question I posed above, I found only one study of menstrual synchrony in lesbians in the indexed literature (Weller A., Weller L. Psychoneuroimmunology 17: 171, 1992), and the main finding of that study (determined by the abstract; PDF is unavailable) is that lesbian couples DO synchronize, making Greenfield’s comment flatly stating that they “do not” seem . . . strange. Perhaps this is the incorrect science his critics were talking about?

  63. Different search terms revealed a few other studies of menstrual synchrony, or lack thereof, in lesbian couples. Trevathan et al (Psychoneuroendocrinology 18:425, 1993–ref above should also be to this journal . . . typo), but they take these results to mean that synchrony may not be a stable pattern in women at all. In any case, the word “sperm” does not appear in the article.

  64. I recommended against publication of the Gallup article when it was submitted to Archives of Sexuality for many of the reasons described here. The primary problem with the study is that freqency of intercourse varies in the same manner as condom use. Women who never use condoms have approximately twice as much intercourse per year (150 times on average, or about every other day) as do women who always use condoms (about 80 times per year). Surprisingly, or not depending upon your view of the motivation of the authors, Intercourse frequency was never directly correlated with depression as was condom use. Figure 1 in the paper, which shows intercourse frequency, makes one suspect that the effect would be as great or greater than condom use.

    So it’s a bad study, but that actually doesn’t make the hypothesis that compounds in semen might affect women (or men, if this is gay sex). It’s a viable hypothesis, but it is not the only one suggested by this study.

    So was Greenfield’s editorial sexist, stupid, or witty? A bit of all three, but I think hardly worth the reaction is has engendered. Ultimately, I would not be surprised if a carefully controlled study demonstrated that semen can affect mood, just as I would not be surprised that vagina secretions can affect mood. Still I think that Greenfield’s primary transgression was treating sex in a light hearted manner and as if it was a suitable topic for normal social intercourse.

  65. These hysterical girls have probably been consuming too much chocolate and insufficient doses of semen. Poor things.

  66. Would someone who is offended by this editorial PLEASE explain the offenses in plain simple language that this poor male can understand?

  67. NTW was correct in recommending against publication of the article… it seems nearly impossible to separate out the variables of frequency of intercourse and frequency of condom use, not to mention the likelihood that many who did not “use” condoms were taking birth control pills, which have major mood effects themselves.
    Nonetheless, it is probably true that semen has significant mood enhancing effects when delivered intravaginally. My wife insists that this is so.
    It is also true that women synchronize their menstrual cycles and probably also true that lesbian women do, as well–better research needed on this than what Dr G cites.
    It appears that Dr G may be biased against lesbians, if you read his editorial carefully. This may be what provoked Debbie’s hostile reaction. However, if you read her posts, it would appear that she is biased against men in general; otherwise, how could she claim that the majority of women do not like men’s bodies? After all, the last I checked, the majority of women are heterosexual by preference. In addition, she describes semen with perjoratives. Perhaps she is a lesbian with a chip on her shoulder.
    I suggest that we should hear from lesbians who do not have chips for a more nuanced response.
    Dr G probably supported women in his professional career, but the tone of his editorial suggests that he is not “right” with lesbians. Surely we need lesbian surgeons as well as heterosexual men and women surgeons and even gay surgeons?

  68. See, the problem I have with this is the claim that exposure to semen makes women happier. Uh, what? That seems to be the basis for his article, and I don’t know about the rest of you, but that’s pretty heteronormative (no semen? poor depressed lesbians!) and that’s what I take offense to.

  69. Tom, I will try to explain. When Dr. G states that males are only produced in a crisis, it implies that females are fine until there is a crisis they need to be rescued from. Secondly, the advantages of unprotected sex are backed by questionable research with no mention of the risks women take during unprotected sex. Thirdly, the mention of fewer suicides in women exposed to semen also gives the impression that women are dependent on men to avoid offing themselves or, best case scenario, becoming depressed. But it’s really the last sentence, likely meant in a playful fashion, that doesn’t sit right. The entire article vaguely portrays women as passive receptacles that could benefit from more semen, and then ends with a statement implying that women would benefit psychologically and physically from having unprotected sex rather than other things women tend to enjoy but often don’t get except on Valentine’s day (candy, flowers, and gifts).

    The response to this article was interesting. I am a female, hetero, married physician. I found some of the sciencey stuff rather interesting but the tone of the entire article seemed to make women out as passive creatures. It almost sounded as if Dr. Greenfield and the rest of the male readership were reviewing the evidence and deciding what would be best for them. I can see how some people would find the science interesting and not catch the undertones that others are responding so strongly to. I think he was just sincerely trying to be funny, but after reading that, I wouldn’t want to work for him.

  70. Bandying about the term “heteronormative” as a criticism of this editorial is entirely misplaced.

    The authors of the article from which Greenfield cited stated that their research only raised questions, and was not a definitive conclusion regarding the effects of semen on women’s mood. They suggested further studies to examine what, if any actual effects semen had on women, using more carefully controlled experiments.

    It is known that semen contains substances, like the chemicals cited, that play no apparent role in the survival of sperm. Those same chemicals are known to elevate mood in humans, regardless of their sexual orientation. In addition to contributing to the survival of our species, sex is generally a pleasurable experience. Evolution has encouraged sex through the development of such things like the euphoria of the orgasm. Sex has been shown to elevate mood and promote mate-bonding, etc. Perhaps semen contains such extraneous chemicals in order to promote some sort of evolutionarily benefit?

    Such an observation does not support some of the grievances cited by various critics, like the claim that the article implies all women who are depressed simply need semen, or that lesbians are being targeted because they would not have exposure to semen. Such criticisms reflect the views of the critic and not of the author.

    Simply put, such chemicals in fact make people happier. Stating that women, since they are humans, may experience increased levels of well being following sex, perhaps in part due to the chemicals contained in semen, is hardly “heteronormative.” How else could one state such an observation without the fact that those who wouldn’t be exposed to it, wouldn’t experience the same effects?

  71. Other than the distasteful title there is really nothing offending. It is not as if he wrote that women that swollow are happier as opposed to those who don’t.

  72. Since when does a vascular surgeon write about mating and fruit flies? Leave this to the entomologists. At least they seem less skeevy.

  73. This issue reminds me of the constant problem of standing up to “conventional wisdom” and dominant culture. For example, Ignaz Semmelweis, the Hungarian obstetrician who noticed that women who gave birth in the maternity ward closest to the post-mortem room were more likely to die than those giving birth in another maternity ward: In 1846 the comparison was 451 vs. 90. In brief, Semmelweis concluded that if doctors washed their hands before assisting a delivery, the death rate was drastically reduced.

    Semmelweis from then on was frequently ridiculed by other doctors, eventually became severely depressed and was later tricked into visiting a mental asylum, was forcibly restrained and injured as he resisted, and soon died of his infected wounds.

    While we may try to take comfort that such “ignorance” can not overtake us today, we only have to remember how the Australian physician was ridiculed for suggesting that a major cause of ulcers were Helicobacter pylori.

    Question authority. And while we can be greatly served by a facility like retractionwatch, we also need to remember that media can, at times, become self-serving in their concern to maintain an attraction to readers.

  74. As a regular reader of SN, I vaguely recalled the Valentine’s Day editorial as a little goofy, but forgot it and stashed the issue in it’s usual place of honor, my recycling bin.

    Was a little surprised to get an urgent email from the Am College o’Surgeons today, announcing that Greenfield will step down from all positions in the College.

    Went looking online for the article, finding it only here– they have since restored the rest of the issue, although it is still dropped in its entirety from their “Interactive Version”, with a big blank where the offending editorial was. I was sure the WWW would find a way to keep a copy available.

    While I appreciate the comments above both pro and con ol’ Lazar’s mysogeny or humor deficit, I would point out that the guy is generally considered one of the more pro-female chairmen to grace the surgical field and this article follows others in the same vein, where he seemed to be going out of his way to find wacky basic science research to link to surgical issues. This one I guess got too personal.

    My guess is that he would not be booted had he also not been supportive in his editorials of ObamaCare while it was being debated in DC and since it passed. I would estimate that the membership of the College is at least 70-80% against it, and has probably been chomping at the bit to kick him out. They will get a woman president now in his place. Be careful what you wish for.

    Good news for Michigan though, the guy is fairly well off from inventing a little device that prevents clots from causing embolisms. He was probably going to give some of that cash in his will to the ACS, now it will probably all go to UM.

  75. Dear Colleague,

    We are writing to inform you that the Board of Regents of the American College of Surgeons met on Sunday, April 17, to consider the continued status of Lazar J. Greenfield, M.D., FACS, as an officer of the College. Dr. Greenfield recently authored an editorial in Surgery News that some members of the surgical community found offensive. The College received numerous communications from the surgical community about the editorial.

    Dr. Greenfield addressed the Board and expressed his deep regret that individuals had been offended by the article. After reaffirming his long-standing support for women in surgery, Dr. Greenfield resigned from his position as an officer of the College.

    The contributions Dr. Greenfield has made to the field of surgery, including the invention of the Greenfield Filter, can not be overstated. We wish to honor Dr. Greenfield and celebrate his inestimable contributions to the College and the surgical community. We also know that at this critical juncture for surgery and health care in America, it is important that the American College of Surgeons not be distracted by any issues that would diminish its focus on improving care of the surgical patient.

    As determined by the Board of Regents, Patricia J. Numann, MD, FACS, First Vice-President-Elect of the College, will assume the office of President-Elect.


    Carlos A. Pellegrini, MD, FACS, Chair, Board of Regents
    L. D. Britt, MD, FACS, President
    David B. Hoyt, MD, FACS, Executive Director
    American College of Surgeons

  76. As a surgeon and member of the American College of Surgeons, I have just received notification that Lazar Greenfield has been called before the Board of Regents and has apologized and resigned his position, not only as editor of Surgery News but also from the Board itself. Sad that a long and distinguished career has ended as a result of this perhaps ill advised minor Valentine’s Day lark.

  77. I found the comments made by Debbie McKenna to be hateful and offensive to men in general. She exhibits a frightening rage against heterosexual men and basically maligns an entire group of human beings. Her comments do not belong in this type of forum and I plan to contact the administrator about her offensive and hateful accusations and comments. Talk about hate when one can feel the hate oozing from her statements!

  78. What if there were medical findings suggesting psychological benefits to lesbian sex? And suppose Lazar Greenfield had written a similar editorial touting them? In that case, the feminist thought police would not have seen anything to be outraged about.

  79. As a surgeon, Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and someone who actually trained under Dr. Greenfield, I find the fact that the Board of Regents has accepted Dr. Greenfield’s resignation (if not requested it) offensive. I seems that he has been cruxified in the name of political correctness by the likes of Ms. McKenna above. Some individuals actively look for reasons to be offended and denigrate others that do not share their views.

    I read the editorial and am surprised that it has elicited the response that it has. To suggest that Dr. Greenfield has a misogynist view of women is to admit that you have no idea of the individual that you malign. He is one of the true “gentlemen” surgeons that I have had the pleasure of meeting. While his editorial might have been viewed by some as sexist, it seems that withdrawing his position as President-elect of the ACS is a knee jerk reaction typical of today’s PC climate. I would think that an apology to those that were offended would be sufficent. As noted above, I think that there are certianly other more pressing matters that the College needs to address than an attempt at Valentine’s Day humor in a publication directed at Fellows of the American College of Surgeons and not the public at large. It’s ironic that this would lead to the stepping down of a individual whom I saw as supportive of young surgeons both male and female.

    What a loss for the surgical community and healthcare at large.

  80. Context and judgement. Those are the issues from my perspective.
    Although I am a very open, non-judgemental, happily and actively heterosexual woman I cringed when this arrived on the desk at my own surgical practice. And I truly get that it would be hard for anyone who hasn’t “been there” to understand.
    I agree with the very valid points made by others here that our society is sexually immature, that open discussion, and acceptance, or our sexual natures would be healthier for us all; and that humor itself has value.
    However…Dr. Greenfield is a very wealthy, lauded, and powerful man representing the surgical establishment which has a long and persistent history of very real harassment and discrimination. He was writing in a publication which is received by students, residents and most of us actually laboring “in the trenches” of surgery….in other words, all those whose lives and careers are strongly influenced by the decisions and opinions of those in his position. He definitely should have shown some sensitivity to this context, and to his audience.
    I graduated medical school in 1999 and completed my surgical residency in 2004….not so long ago. Yet, on a regular basis, I had to deal with overt and subtle sexism during my training. I would be glad to give examples if anyone is still interested and reading after this long post.
    So, if this were a humorous topic of conversation broached by a male friend while we were out having a drink I would enjoy the conversation. If it were a serious scientific article about the actual effects of human bodily fluid exchange I would be interested. But, as a flippant and vulgar attempt at humor in a trade publication written by a man “at the pinnacle of influence for his specialty”, it was ill-advised.
    Dr. Greenfield had so many options for writing an editorial which did not betray his blatant assumption that the audience is male and heterosexual (give her sperm for V-day–haha).

      1. I’m not Doc Hope, but I can give you some examples from my surgical training during the past four years:

        The hospital where I work required a chest x-ray prior to starting work. One of my male colleagues searched for my x-ray, brought it up on a large computer monitor in front of other physicians and medical students, and proceeded to comment on the prominence of the “breast shadows.”

        A female colleague of mine, after scrubbing in for surgery, was approached with her gown and gloves before being handed a towel by the scrub nurse. The scrub nurse said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were wet.” To which the older, male surgeon said, “Of course she is, she’s scrubbing with me.”

        I have many more, if you would like them.

  81. you should all know that dr. greenfield has resigned as president elect of the ACS and a woman has been named as his successor. we are not aware at this time whether or not unprotected sex does or does not affect ambition. it is clear however, that the leadership of the the ACS does believe that the most effective way of making this crisis go away is to appoint a woman, and in so doing, in my opinion, is merely compounding the error perceived to have been made by greenfield in the first place, unless of course i’ve overestimated women in believing that they’re not susceptible to tokenism.

    1. A woman was selected to replace him because she was already next in line as Vice-President-elect, see post above

    2. Perhaps you should fact-check: the woman who is his successor is the VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT. For future reference, when a president resigns the VICE PRESIDENT takes over.

  82. Does anyone think he literally was calling semen a gift to all women? Do you think he genuinely thinks any woman who doesn’t regard semen as a gift is somehow not a woman? Do you think he genuinely believes that any woman in her right mind would want as much exposure to semen as possible? No, you don’t, because you’re not an idiot. Right?

    The earlier point is the right one, not a single person would be complaining about an article that posits unprotected sex with a woman chemically improves a man’s mood because of properties in her secretions. But because this article is about semen, it must be misogynistic. And no skyscrapers are tall and narrow to fit into a certain space.

    Greenfield never comes close to implying that any woman should/would want contact with semen. Show me ONE line that states otherwise? Because anyone with half a brain could justify stating the last sentence is calling sex – or as Sandra Bullock would say “fluid transfer” – the gift, not semen.

    If you are an asexual or homosexual woman, and you have issues with semen, that doesn’t mean every person who ever calls semen – or sex with men – a good thing is saying that you should want it. Stop pretending they are. It’s insulting to actual women’s issues across the world. I’m not one to go into hyperbole, but there are girls being castrated in other countries. I have read 10-times more offensive things than this reading a Maxim magazine.

  83. after all this discussion (and I admit, I lost patience and time and didn’t finish reading it), I am left wondering if there is any scientific truth concerning the ingredients of semen and if indeed it imparts happiness. if so, perhaps we could manage to separate it from its maker in such a way that would satisfy everyone and those of us who prefer to not have meaningless courting could perhaps buy it and use it as required (so happy its not an oral doasage). I for one have fond membories of meaningless sex and it did make me feel good. so perhaps there is truth here that needs to be respected.

  84. As a member of the ACS I take offense because Greenfield should be using (should have used) his position to advocate for patients rather than writing this pseudo-science. The ACS’s advocacy regarding reform of healthcare financing has revolved around what will best serve surgeons in the near term rather than what will serve Americans, and thus surgeons, in the long-term. Without a single-payer/Medicare for all system, we we will continue to pay more than twice per capita what most other industrialized countries pay for medical care and fail to adequately cover 50-100 million Americans. This is the issue that the ACS should be addressing. The sad fact is that older men, and even women, in positions of power sometimes lose their filters. And please don’t accuse me of ageism.

  85. After reading all the comments so far, I agree most with those who try to put the article in its context. Who is writing it and why? Who is the target audience?

    Sexism, in any form, like racism, should NOT be tolerated. Whether it comes as “harmless humor” or “off the cuff” remarks, because our society is not free from it. It is even worse when it is made by those in power, since it creates a rippling effect, giving the impression that this is an acceptable form of behavior. The person who makes it may not even be aware of his/her deep seated prejudices, and may actually believe he/she is not that kind of person.

    I am a female neurosurgeon, who had also been through overt and subtle forms of discrimination in my training and practice, by both men and women. Women, because some of them failed to recognized that they were conditioned to think that men were “better”. Believe me when I say it is an ongoing struggle for women to make it without jibes from their colleagues. Some women surgeons will tell you they suffer no such discrimintaion. They are the ones who are wearing blinders. Wishing it so does not make it go away.

    I, for one, am glad the ACS has chosen to do the right thing.

    1. Really this is sexist? Quoting scientific evidence and then releasing it to the public? If it had been an article on the positive effects of performing cunnilingus and the measurable benefits of receiving those chemicals do you think he’d hear any flak from anyone? How is this offensive? Was it that lesbians menstrual cycles don’t line up and it is suspected that it is a lack of semen? Is that what you mean by sexist, theories or opinions that make reference to the absence of males not being natural? Seriously are these words icky for you? Surely you demonstrated more maturity then that when looking at people’s brain’s splayed open on your operating table!! C’mon..

  86. I’m amazed (not common in these ultra-sensitive times) at the number and, in many cases, the “hate” shown in some comments!
    This was a light piece written for Valentine’s Day. It shows no hidden agenda; I suspect Dr. L. is a happily married mature male with, incidentally, a happy wife. His female associates seem to have great respect for him and his record over decades is that of a good teacher–of females as well as males. Humor anyone?

  87. Me thinks this is a tempest in a teapot!
    While I can understand why so many people got upset, I mean in America is better to see someone killed than it is to talk about s3x and any of its ramifications. I think he was just practicing a little old “tongue-in-cheek” to tell us to love our mate.
    Chocolate is optional.
    All of these other comments are in the “eye/mind” of the beholder.

  88. Wow, really? This is worth a two-week flaming debate?

    @Debbie McKenna – lighten up! If men aren’t your thing, fine… keep your own “hate speech” to yourself.

    @Everyone else, if folks can’t see the bulge where Dr. Greenfield’s tongue is firmly planted in his cheek, get a clue…

    @ACS – Grow a collective spine and dump the PC radical feminist fearing mindset… This is NOT resignation/career-ending worthy…

    Just my humble LAYman’s opinion… 😉

  89. Those who don’t see the seriousness of this transgression need only consider the ramifications if the situation were reversed: I’m sure a comedy writer would get into a lot of trouble for a badly-botched attempt at surgery.

  90. Just another example of political correctness gone amuck. No one can say anything without someone being “offended.” This is just a bunch of BS.

  91. There must be something wrong with me because I am a woman and I don’t feel offended in the slightest. Big deal. And it WAS funny. What I DO object to is the daily bombardment on our prime time TV of a plethora of shows depicting murder, mutilation, and rotting corpses. And we’re getting all bent out of shape over an article about semen? Lighten up people. And what’s wrong with semen? Snot-like spew?? Seriously?! What’s a little mess when you’re having fun? Give the doc a break. This is real life and what’s wrong with finding the good in it? I’d like to think that his theory has validity – I’m a very happy woman.

  92. FemDoc – are all women as sensitive as you? Can you explain exactly what offended you? Which words? How? I don’t want to get fired myself for something I might say. Can you define exactly what was fire-able about the piece? He was quoting scientific literature for G_d’s sake, one would think he had that right. Please spell it out, don’t just say ‘he exhibited sexist viewpoints’

  93. I’m being entirely sincere when I say this; I don’t see what the big deal is here. Really…. are we so easily offended now.. about everything.

    I’m actually offended that some people are offended at this article.

  94. I don’t find the editorial as offensive as much as I feel it is irresponsible. Given the issues with sexually transmitted disease, some of which are incurable and can lead to death; it seems irresponsible to promote unprotected sex.

  95. I’m female, and while I didn’t find his piece misogynistic, I also didn’t find it particularly humorous – he should (try to) keep the day job. Mostly what it was, was stupid. For any member of the medical establishment, but especially one of his prominence, to espouse unprotected sex – and that’s EXACTLY what he’s doing here – is idiotic, pure and simple. Not at all funny, no not even “tongue in cheek” funny, but not necessarily sexist – pretty much equal opportunity stupid. I’d expect better from any doctor, nurse, PA, whatever. Very poor judgment.

  96. As a woman, I’m more concerned by his implication that women can’t get along without men in the context of trouble (“You can draw your own inference about males not being needed until there’s trouble in the environment”) than the slyly worded claim (albeit scientifically imperfect) that an exchange of fluids necessary for reproduction has additional effects to further encourage propagation of the species.

    None of this was worth him losing his position as PE of ACS (though I could certainly see an excuse for removing him as EIC, and it could even be done under the guise of preparing for his more demanding role as president of the organization), but such is the age of swift information and swifter reactions to same. (Cf. Shirley Sherrod.)

  97. Oh, my!!! I’m simply amazed at the number of comments generated here and even more amazed at the attitudes within! Am I the only one who is having great fun while having sex? Yes, agreed, there are many ways to have sex without having intercourse but geez…when did it become all so analytical? If my boyfriend is able to have an “earth shattering” orgasim while we have sex together, yippee! And better yet if I able to achieve the same as well! Quite frankly, both his orgasim and my orgasim make me feel great. Holy smokes people! Loosen up a little; have some fun…

  98. Frankly I don’t see an issue with this blog IF in fact it has merit. The women taking offense to this article have their panties in a bunch in the off chance they might have to start giving it up for the greater good. I didn’t find the article sexist in the least. He’s last statement was simply relating his entire thought pattern back to his initial statement; which, in most scholastic settings, is good writing.

  99. Speaking as an “oversensitive” feminist, I don’t really have a problem with the tone so much as the study cited (and his judgment in citing such a sketchy-sounding study.)
    Here are the things that I find questionable:
    – “You can draw your own inference about males not being needed until there’s trouble in the environment.” Is that supposed to be a shot at women saying they don’t need men? Not sure.
    – This isn’t a feminist thing, but he mentions menstrual synchronization and then never really comes back to it…sort of confusing.
    – The writer didn’t conduct the semen study, but as other people have pointed out, the actual science of it seems like pseudoscience, and that seems like the real error – particularly since it almost seems to support the idea of not using condoms. I mean, facts are facts, but I don’t think this study definitively proves anything. So it seems like seriously faulty judgment to promote a study that is questionable AND also discourages condom use (something that is an important part of sexual health!) It also promotes the idea that women who don’t have sex, or don’t have sex with male-bodied folks, aren’t as happy as women who do. That’s not a nice thing to be saying either without some real hard evidence.

    I’m sure he was just trying to do something funny and light-hearted for V-Day. The apology and retraction should really be enough to settle this one. Oh well.

    1. Oh, reading some of the above comments reminded me that the way the article was written did seem as if it was addressing only male readers – particularly the “gift” joke at the end. That’s a good point as well.

      1. Thanks, Hillary, for commenting on the actual writing and (lack of) logic in the editorial. I agree that this was in very poor taste and promotes research that doesn’t deserve a mention. However, it shouldn’t ruin his career…just, perhaps, his future writing prospects.

      2. No it didn’t. It sounded like the author was male, which he was. Also, unprotected sex is perfectly healthy between monogomous couples and yes, it does feel better.

  100. I personally didn’t find the article particularly offensive or amusing, but as a professional woman, I can understand the point of those who are offended, especially considering the context. This magazine is a trade journal for surgeons not Cosmo, so I don’t see how the editorial is at all pertinent, nor does it make a cohesive point. It takes several unconnected studies and cites selected conclusions in a very unscientific way that attempts to justify the final sentence, “and now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates,” which serves to reinforce man’s idea that they are god’s gift to women. As the head of a society of a field where women have historically struggled for equality, he should have known better, he was irresponsible at best. It’s not the content of the article that is so offensive, it’s more likely the context, not to mention the inference that there is a scientific argument in favor unprotected sex with multiple partners.

    1. I get the point but, does everything have to be so sterile all the time? Professionals are still people. Its an editorial, yes, the whole thing was a setup for the punch line.

      People really need to learn to take a joke and get over themselves.

    2. That supposedly smart people would conduct such studies garnering such findings is part of Dr. Greenfield’s humor. His view in the editorial is that the studies cited should be taken as being humorous, not serious need to know medical information. Unlike some of the commenters in this forum, Dr. Greenfield (happily married since 1956, children and grandchildren) has lived in a world in which jokes about women and shopping or men and directions can be seen as humorous and not hateful. I am sure he would agree with a great philosopher band that sang, “boys and girls go good together”.

  101. I’m trying to figure out why this topic was in a surgical journal. What does it have to do with surgery?

    Gastrointestinal journal maybe (oh those drosophilii!), obgyn or psychiatry journal maybe.

    But obviously this guy was using his influence to jump on a soapbox to discuss the wonders of his pet snake. He must have quite a strong hold on the other members…of the editorial board.

  102. As a female surgeon, I will address the issues that lead me to believe that Dr. Greenfield’s resignation is appropriate:

    Women surgeons have always been and CONTINUE TO BE treated deplorably by some of their male counterparts (particularly the very old men, like Dr. Greenfield). Not just among those with an attitude that women aren’t as capable as men; female surgeons receive inappropriate and harassing verbal and physical attention. As a result, many women surgeons are acutely sensitive to perceived bias. Although I’m not traumatized by the article, I am offended by the idea that my cognition is impaired because my vagina isn’t filled with semen.

    That said, the most disturbing thing about this incident is the LACK OF JUDGMENT shown by Dr. Greenfield. Using a professional publication to share even questionably offensive opinions/commentary shows TERRIBLE JUDGMENT. I don’t want the president of my professional society to behave in such an ill-advised manner. Dr. Greenfield should share his humor via a letter to Maxim, not in a publication from the most influential professional society in surgery.

  103. Please note his sexism everyone:
    “Their better moods were not just a feature of promiscuity”
    There was no evidence (that he presented anyway) to say the women exposed to semen were promiscuous. They may have been in a committed, loving relationship. His labelling them as promiscuous is ignorant, condescending, paternalistic , and yes, ultimately misogynistic.

  104. There’s one thing that I don’t get.

    I can accept that some women do not enjoy sex with a man, and do not want the inevitable result of sex to enter her body.

    What I don’t understand is why such women would even think of an intimate relationship with a man.

    It seems to me that a “heterosexual woman”, by definition, enjoys coitus with a man; and has at least considered the possibility of insemination and even impregnation.

    Are we to believe that all of the vast number (billions, perhaps) of women who become pregnant each year engaged in coitus unwillingly, and shuddered with revulsion as the sperm entered her?

    Are we to believe that the women who claim to enjoy coitus, insemination, and even pregnancy are all lying to flatter their male partners? And if so, why do they bother?

    I refuse to believe that all women who have sex with men are prostitutes that permit themselves to be soiled for economic advantage.

    Instead, I believe that women who have coitus with men do so because they enjoy it and enjoy men. And I believe that men who have coitus with women do so because they enjoy it and enjoy women.

    1. What article were you reading? Where did you get all of you so called points from?
      No mention was made of women not liking sex or bearing children. The point [which was lost on you] was that a man of supposed responsibility did a very foolish & ignorant thing in the press whether editorial or not he cited scientific facts. His demeanor shows a lack of character and sensitivity for the female of our species

      1. You did not read the comments to the article. If you had, you would know what I am talking about.

        One responder left little doubt of her disdain and disgust of males. I suspect that she declines to participate in office social activities; yet complains about being “excluded from the network” when her co-workers choose to socialize without her.

        The original article, while somewhat puerile, got snickers from most readers of both sexes. It takes a particularly unhappy personality to see it as misogynistic.

  105. I love men. I love women also. EVERYONE needs to relax about sex. We are animals. Being civilized and of carnal knowledge, will never change millions of years of evolution, or our gut instincts. The first of which is, SEX!!! VIVA LA SIEMEN!!!

  106. The intensity of the various reactions to this episode is very telling. Whenever people feel this strongly, they need to use it as an opportunity for self examination. My sympathy is for the battered editor, who faced the same challenge that all professional writers have: what is there clever and novel to say about Valentine’s Day? Yeah…from a medical research/what do women want? point of view. The really curious feature is the lack of examination of why so many smart, educated people make decisions that defy logic and lead to social, economic, and physical consequences that are life-altering. If we ever want to promote healthy behaviors, we will need to overcome our discomforts and look unflinchingly and without judgement at our own and others’ attitudes about sexuality. Meanwhile, if there is a code out there that delineates what is or isn’t appropriate “speech” on the subject, please post it now so that we can all be sure to achieve compliance.

  107. Taking all these thoughtful comments, I would say the piece was questionable, but not on the level of something so offensive that it should have required his complete resignation from the organization. An apology, retraction and affirmative efforts to address gender discrimination would have been more than adequate. Resignation, I think, was an overreaction.

  108. I find it very sad that the author paid so dearly for what was, to me at least, an interesting inquiry, and whether or not one agrees with its appropriateness, how about granting him some grace? Clearly there was no intention to offend anyone. Have we really become so narrow minded?

  109. Um…I’m a bit confused.

    Whatever we say about appropriateness of Greenfield’s editorial, those things about mood of women who have protected vs. unprotected sex? and the composition of semen?

    It’s all true. Not a joke at all. There is a large if obscure set of literature that strongly supports the conclusion.

    It is also very much rooted in evolutionary biology, as similar effects are seen in many species (making sex more pleasurable for the female increases the mating chance; unfortunately, strategy less commonly taken than force).

    A long and detailed summary can be found here:

    So…is it now sexist to mention this research? These are biological facts, not some sort of judgement on the worthiness of one gender or another.

    Again: it may be inappropriate to mention this in context of “For Valentine’s day, try semen,” (although I would put it more in “poor taste” than in “raging misogynism” category) but the facts are as stated.

  110. Well it’s becoming increasingly apparent that SN made a big mistake in firing Dr. G. Just look at the volume of interest in this column, even after two weeks ! It is not everyday that you can find someone to so energize the readership. The doc struck a nerve by golly. That shows some type of talent. (of the commercially valuable kind!)

  111. Interesting. As some have pointed out, the science he was referring too may be very solid.. If he had published it outside a colorful Valentines Day editorial he would probably have been fine…as it seems other scientists have already done… But because he made light of it…he’s done..

    Very interesting.

  112. There’s only one sentence that strikes an *entirely* wrong note: “Delivering these compounds into the richly vascularized vagina also turns out to have major salutary effects for the recipient.”

    It basically says that being ejaculated-into is good for “the recipient”. In other words, semen is a man’s gift to a woman, a healthy gift. But given that there actually are a significant number of men who can’t *REGISTER* that a woman could reasonably refuse THEIR semen — and who go on to bestow it by force — it’s thoroughly irresponsible to have the whole paragraph ramble with NO recognition of the variable of consent.

    It’s funnier, of course, for a man to imagine that he’s a walking semen-healer and that any woman would be crazy to turn down such a “salutary” gift. But the joke comes at the expense of any woman who has found herself at the “receiving end” for an ejaculator who didn’t think her perspective needed to be consulted.

  113. It is now socially acceptable to say any negative generalization about men in any forum. Men are the butts of most jokes in most TV sitcoms. Companies now offer higher starting salaries to women for engineering jobs in order to fulfill their quotas, and don’t even try to keep it a secret. It is completely legal to openly discriminate against men. Young men are disappearing from universities.

    I am a little frightened for myself, but even more frightened for our sons.

    This does not frighten you too?

  114. The folks saying his article was ‘misogynistic’ are a bit off-base in my opinion.

    I recognize that the medical field is permeated with elements of patriarchy/systemic inequalities… and the strictly biological conception of gender and heteronormativity certainly have their limitations…

    And it seems like the writer of the editorial in question was ill-advised in making such comments… And his statements hardly constitute sound science… but it was an EDITORIAL. Clearly, these were just corny statements you might expect from an older man trying (and failing) to be humorous. It’s not my idea of a great joke… but losing one’s job over it seems excessive.

    He probably thought he was being clever playing on the whole sex-on-Valentine’s-Day dynamic. As intelligent as he is, he should have realized that certain groups would not find the “joke” all that funny. Big surprise.

    The reactions he elicited, which eventually led to his resignation, strike me as even more absurd than the article itself.

    Save it for the real “perpetrators” — if you will.

  115. Summary: doctor writes that women are happier when having unprotected sex with men due to chemicals in semen, citing references. there is a huge outcry because suggesting that women benefit from male bodily fluids is offensive to many.

    1. Yes, but why? Why is it offensive? Especially since it is true, as I assert a HUGE majority of heterosexual women would agree.

  116. Interesting article and as one who has been married nearly 30 years I can attest from my vast observation in one woman, that sexual intercourse does have a salutary effect on at least one woman’s moods. Of course I don’t deny the fact that the male mood is be equally enhanced also. But I for one firmly believe that there is more than a tincture of truth in what the good doctor wrote about there being a deeper bond between a man and his better half, than we have heretofore suspected.

  117. Dr. Greenfield is an accomplished surgeon but probably not a professional satirist or comedian. Even if he has written satire under a pen name somewhere, even satire from professionals can sometimes fall horribly flat. This wasn’t a very coherent joke, in my opinion. However, people do make mistakes, and he did apologize. Writing satire is fun and he probably got too ambitious/too big for his britches being the editor and president of the ACS. I’ve seen plenty of other people get flamed for jokes like this that shouldn’t have gone outside of a small circle. I was offended for the sake of women and LBGT people, but I understand how it happens. Satire can go very wrong.

    As for the original study, couldn’t there be a study where women are exposed the components of semen that aren’t sperm or disease and see if it has an effect on their moods? There are too many complicated factors in unprotected sex, it involves two or more people and their emotions, anxieties, etc. etc. But if it’s just the substance, sure, let women use parts of that as a depression fighter. If men got some help from rubbing a bit of semen or female sex hormones on themselves, I’d be for that too, if it were safe. Depression is terrible and people should be able to get help for it any safe way possible. But so many consequences of unprotected sex are terrible too. I think Dr. Greenfield was rather irresponsible for saying that unprotected sex is good without including any caveats about negative effects, even if it was in a publication for surgeons.

    Just my two cents.

  118. I was calling it satire, but I think it’s more of tongue in cheek joke that didn’t go over so well, kind of in the same general arena as satire. Meant to be humor at any rate.

  119. I think the editorial is witty and funny. It´s definitely not worth loosing two jobs on it. However, I´m European. I think, Americans should loosen up a bit. There are other things which I find far more “frightening” e.g. weapon regulations.

  120. I agree. Dr Greenfield was merely putting-in a last minute ‘humorous’ comment. He had read the reported research to mean that sex helped alleviate depression. It was Valentine Day – when everyone else was giving chocolates – so, with tongue-in-cheek, he asked what does this research suggest is better! And who would disagree?

    But an Editorial in a Medical Journal was ‘evidently’ not the place to try to put a humorous twist on a relevant point. Perhaps there are still, in 2011, too many hypersensitive people, of both sexes, who cannot just think “boo, boo” when they see as a bad joke: so instead, they destroy the reputation of someone who seems to have been an exceptionally positive supporter of women-in-surgery – which is the very women whom these humorless feminists incorrectly think should be offened by Dr Greenfield. What a shame.

  121. Wow. I am very gratified to learn that Surgeon types are just as tweaked as the rest of us.

    Intended in good humor.

    This got posted on Facebook, and the headline was just too good to pass by.

    Best to all.

  122. I think most people who have commented have no concept of what the Surgery news is. All medical specialties have these monthly or quarterly circulars that they send to their members. They have editorials from prominent members of the association, summaries of recent published research, reviews of recent meetings and updates on various administrivia associated with the specialty rules and regs.

    This is NOT a scientific journal. In fact, these are referred to as “throw-away” publications. They are not peer reviewed per se but are meant for updating the masses within an association on what’s new and, perhaps, direct their attention to what articles they should actually read since no one actually has the time to read all the published literature.

    so let’s get away from this idea that this was a serious article in a meritorious journal that could impact anything substantive. It was an editorial in the surgical equivalent of Readers Digest.

  123. As comedy, I’d rate the piece a B-. It definitely was inspired by the science-humor pieces by Azimov.

    In this day of political correctness, we can decry the censorship of the political “elite” (who are “tolerant” of all speech, as long as they agree with it), but anyone who publishes an article like this and doesn’t anticipate the blow-back…well…

    It is all about context; if he’d done this on Opie and Anthony (XM202, Sirius 197), he would have been booed for not being funny enough. Instead he did it in a throwaway medical journal and he’s been pilloried (if only I knew how to spell that word) for being “insensitive” and “hateful”.

    Funny is in the eye of the beholder; same goes for offensive speech.

  124. The editorial was misguided. The science is irrelevant, and whether you see it as funny or not, the audience of this publication is broad enough that Dr. Greenfield, with a little reflection, could have anticipated that some people would offended.

    For those of you complaining about political correctness, this wasn’t private speech or a humor publication. It’s a trade journal, and it’s entirely reasonable for its audience to expect better judgment from the editor-in-chief.

    And, as we’ve heard from several women in surgery, the field has a long history of sexism. As a male chemist, I’m pretty far removed from their situation, but I’ve certainly heard about it. And, if I were a surgeon, regardless of gender, I might be inclined to cancel my subscription. Who needs to read bad humor that may border on sexist in their trade journals? If a large number of readers wrote in to cancel their subscription, then it’s more a matter of market pressure than of “political correctness,” isn’t it?

    And, if the American College of Surgeons is anything like the American Chemical Society, the president is one of the more public faces for the profession. This editorial reflects remarkably bad judgment for someone who is about to assume that post. He would be representing *all* surgeons, including women, and could be expected to show sensitivity to their concerns and perspective.

    That said, it does seem a bit unreasonable for Dr. Greenfield to lose his presidency and his position as editor-in-chief over this, instead of issuing an apology and trying to make amends. However, we have no idea what occured behind the scenes. We don’t know if he was asked to apologize, and what his response to that request was or might be.

    1. Should we only write or say things that no one would find offensive?

      I don’t get the judgment issue here? Could you expand on this explaining the basis for calling into question his judgment? Is humor “bad judgment” just because some readers are humorless?

      It seems that “some women” will claim all men are rapists and hold all men responsible for any and all wrongs committed against any woman in history. They do not give equal credit to all men for the times they have lost their lives saving women. These are classic sexists and I dismiss them as such. I say judge the man only for what he has done. It is irrelevant to this discussion what might have been done by others or the assumption that there must have been some mysterious, but valid reason he is no longer there.

      It is about political correctness. It is about instant capitulation in the face of charges of sexism without demanding a critically thought argument from a plaintiff, an opportunity for a critically thought response from the accused and a resulting critically thought decision. It is all about politics.

      Has our society come to demand that leadership requires lack of humor? Do we we get rid of otherwise useful people because some people don’t like a particular joke they tell?

      What was he supposed to make an apology for?

      You are right, we don’t know what happened behind the scenes. But it doesn’t matter to this discussion. That would be “hearsay and supposition” and these have no place in a fair hearing. Based on the evidence I see here, the man should still be in his position and his article should not have been retracted.

      1. You know, you’re right. And if Bruce Alberts ever posts an editorial in Science with, say, dead baby jokes, I’ll be sure to blame the ensuing repercussions on “political correctness.” And blame it on people not having a sense of humor.

        Look, it was bad judgment because it was entirely foreseeable that this article could upset a not-so-small part of his readership. And for what gain? It’s not like it was a controversial opinion piece on a topic relevant to surgery.

        It was bad judgment if he didn’t foresee this, and bad judgment if he did and decided to do it anyway. It was also bad judgment for a medical professional to suggest that unprotected sex might lead to more happiness.

        I found the piece to be neither funny nor offensive, but I can easily see how someone could be offended by it. The piece is based on weak scientific evidence, and elevates male semen as a possible source of happiness. If you can’t see how this could be taken as sexist, especially in a field with a history of sexism, maybe you should try harder to see it from a different perspective.

        It’s entirely reasonable to ask that our leadership exercise some discretion in their humor, and some awareness of how it will be perceived be their constituents. So, you’re right, it’s politics. But that comes with the territory.

        I’m not saying that the outcome was fair or reasonable, but some negative reaction was fair to anticipate. Clearly, the magnitude of the reaction was unanticipated. All of this suggests that publishing the thing was bad judgment.

  125. A copy of my letter to the ACS speaks for me:

    Dr. Hoyt:

    When I received my “Special Alert” from the College the other day my first thought was that CMS had come up with another way to stick it to us and to our profession or had promulgated a new rule whose imminent enforcement was an issue for practicing physicians. After I read the alert I was shocked and later angry (and now even more so). I have never met Dr. Greenfield nor have I even seen him anywhere “in the flesh”, but I’ve read (and looked forward to) his editorials for a long time and of course am very familiar with his contributions to medicine, to surgery and to the College; indeed, I call him “one of the Gods” of surgery. Having said that, I personally enjoyed the editorial in question and had only recently removed it from its place of display on my refrigerator! Today I thought, perhaps I misread it or missed something contained therein; however, I was unable to refresh my memory because it had been removed from view.

    Although I fully support the rights of others to have their own opinions, I am personally disappointed that the College had to devote an unjustified level of significance (an insignificant “p” value, if you will) to this piece of writing. I participate in and enjoy the EBRS series from the ACS, which purports to teach us how to critically evaluate the surgical literature; it seems to me that a critical evaluation has been omitted here. I recall nothing in the editorial that I personally considered offensive to males, females or any organism lower on the phylogenetic scale. I cannot state this with any degree of certainty, but I’d suggest that my reaction to the writing was perhaps just what Dr. Greenfield intended — a brief appreciation for some previously (to me anyway) unknown actual scientific information (maybe illustrating that the universe is wonderfully and purposefully made?) and a smile and some chuckles. Heaven knows we could all use a bit of humor in our profession and in the world in general.

    It seems that we as a nation are no longer willing to give anybody the benefit of the doubt, preferring to ascribe to others motives and purposes about which we know nothing, rather than taking some things at face value. If we surgeons were to be as mindful of offending each and every political/governmental/sexual/gender/religious/etc. etc. group that exists, we (and everyone else) may as well wear muzzles and cease debate. Those of us in the trenches know that there are things in government (a trillion-dollar budget perhaps?), in medicine (REAL accountability for results?), in education (dismal college graduation rates and excessive enrollment in remedial courses?) and in many other areas that could stand some frank discourse and even some offense, in my opinion. Surely these areas are infinitely more meaningful than this “issue”.

    In my opinion, for Dr. Greenfield to resign over this flap may have been the politically correct thing to do, but it will deprive the College of the benefit of his excellent leadership in the immediate future. Unless he can state publicly that he wrote that editorial with the full intent of being sarcastic, sexist or offensive to any person or group, I would welcome him back and thank him for his writings which have been at times scientific, serious, critical and yes, even humorous and clever.

    Thank you for the opportunity to express my personal opinion to you, Dr. Hoyt. I appreciate what you do for our organization.


    Ken Murphy, MD, FACS (Ret.)

  126. Having just become aware of this controversy earlier in the week, I am late to comment. I have, however, known Dr. Greenfield for over 20 years. He was my first advisor in medical school, and I am proud to consider him a mentor. He is a gracious gentleman and has always been an advocate of women in surgery. From the comments above, it seems apparent that it is not wise to make any attempts at witticism related to sexuality outside of the circle of one’s friends; but to brand him as a misogynist and symbol of what’s wrong with the ACS or surgery in general is overreaching. It is my fervent hope that Dr. Greenfield will continue to contribute to our specialty.

  127. Let’s do a thought experiment. If the editorial had talked about how research suggests that sexual intercourse improves a woman’s mood and decreases the incidence of depression, and then ended on a funny quip that instead of chocolate a man should offer sweet lovemaking to a female lover on Valentine’s Day, would anyone be offended? Is the offense simply the result of the fact that it is SEMEN, the male sexual fluid, which the research identifies as being the biological mechanism by which depression is purportedly reduced? If so, the resignation seems like a rash overreaction. It is the science that talks about semen specifically; if the findings had indicated that sexual intercourse releases a FEMALE fluid or hormone that improves the female’s mood, would anyone be offended by the humourous observation? Since only MEN can provide the semen that is the subject of the research, there would seem to be no way for the author to comment on the research without in some way offending people who take issue with male sexual mechanisms. This is political correctness gone awry.

  128. Read the article see it as an expression of the first amendment right to express one’s opinion. US Constitution page 1!

    That be said, it has become the trumpet call of those of us on this planet who NEED anything they can grab at to profess that men are subjugating women. Here are more fuel for your fires.

    1) The BIBLE should be retracted. It did state that WOMEN were MADE from only 1 RIB of a MAN. How more anti-feministic can that be? How more subversive can that be?

    2) GOD be asked to RESIGN. He is the author! How more degrading and subversive can an author be?

    3) The Pope should be censored and asked to resign. He is first in line on earth. He preaches what GOD did to women. How insulting!

    4) YOUR FATHERS! They did deposit semen in your mothers! How more degrading can that be than to actually practice what was published in Surgery News on real women!! Practice semen deposition on your mothers! How shocking!! How Degrading!! They all should be asked to resign!!!

    5) All MEN who have the practice of semen depositing into women should be asked to retract and resign!!!

    You all remind me of the days when one would be burned for stating that the Earth was round. Facts revealed the truth to the ignorant. It always was round. Just your minds were flat!

    Like I said before: CENSOR the BIBLE and ask for the resignation of GOD, the POPE and all of the Fathers on Earth.

    Problem solved!!!!! No more female oppression. In fact no more females. No RIBS left!

    Really, folks, are you so desperate to criticize anything? Criticize sex.
    It has been there long before you learned to think or speak. It is how you all got here. Yes, even the oppressed feminists!

  129. I came across this article because I subscribe to Medscape.
    I am a practising OBGYN in a different country and culture.
    I can and do understand what is meant to be humerous and what is insulting to the population that I serve.
    I do feel that the piece was an attempt at being funny in relation to Valentineś Day.
    It was written as an editorial in an professional newsletter and not an indexed journal, and it was meant for the audience for which its circulated too.
    To read it outside the context it was written and by an audience outside the forum it was meant for will lead to misconception and it being read out of context.
    Yes there are still gender issues in all disciplines (medical or otherwise) where the majority are mainly men.
    Please allow me to state my concerns.
    I am a male obgyn, in a field where I am concerned about and advocating for the just and equal treatment for women.
    In work, there is an ongoing issue of devoting time and effort to the profession. I work with women mainly as in doctors and nurses. I work hard and responsibly, yet when one of my doctors get pregnant, I have to deal with issues surrounding work performance during the 1st trimester – hyperemesis gravidarum, threatened miscarriage etc, 2nd trimester – usually, of little disruption though fatigue and premature contractions do present, 3rd trimester – premature labour, preeclampsia, fatigue etc, puerpural – maternity leave, lactation leave etc. My male doctors take up the work burden. However, the prospects for career advancement are supposed to be equal, despite the disparity in work output.
    I am well aware of the issues regarding gender affirmative action. But can we begin to consider that my male doctors also have families and also have to deal with their spouses pregnancies and deliveries and the subsequent care . If anything, they have work harder with less sympathy.
    In a busy surgical unit, there will always be bias against those perceived to contribute less.
    Less diatribe against male doctors will allow greater consideration of equality, though equal in what sense must be clarified.
    Unfortunately, some of my doctors do make use of the maternity situation to their own benefit to the detriment of others in the department.

  130. I would just like to point out that this intradisciplinary cannibalism is why lawyers and insurance companies now dictate to physicians what is appropriate with respect to the practice of medicine.

    we as physicians need to stop attacking and undermining each other if we ever want to maintain any independence of thought and deed.

    that is all…

  131. Every comedian has a critic. Too bad the critics behaved like the Spanish Inquisition.
    What was obviously a light-hearted piece of writing has been blown out of proportion.
    From the replies vouching for Dr G, It appears he will do well regardless of the inquisitors.
    One thing that’s good about free speech, everyone learns where everyone else stands.

    1. Every professional ‘society’ is to some extent a bureaucracy. One of the fundamental functions of a bureaucracy is to insulate the participants from individual responsibility for their actions. To accomplish this the bureaucracy must suppress all humor.
      I once took a class in word processing with several civil servants. The instructor was disturbed by the lack of response to his jokes. One student volunteered the information: “Sir, we work for the Federal Government. We are not allowed to have a sense of humor.”

  132. Elsevier’s “editors are not required to review the proofs prior to press time.”
    If editors are not required to edit, then (A) “what are they paid to do?”, (B) “what elevates the publication above the status of a blog?”, and (C) this may help explain much of what seems to be wrong in mass media in this century.

  133. any woman who has been thru surgical training has been exposed to this kind of comments daily, like I did.
    yes it is good ol’ boy humor..
    just roll your eyes, like I did. and go on with your life !

  134. I’m a woman, and a surgeon in a specialty >90% male, but I don’t think the editorial was funny, or even interesting. And there is absolutely an undertone of misogyny, which is too bad. I’ve never worked w/ Dr. Greenfield, and I don’t read “Surgery News,” but just because it’s good ol’ boy humor and lots of women (surgeons and nonsurgeons) deal with worse things every day, don’t make it right. He’s a well-known surgeon in a position of great influence, publishing a piece in a forum that could potentially be read by thousands of people. Now rather than his contributions to science and/or surgery, this’ll be the first thing that comes up when he’s Googled…silly man.

  135. Give the man his job back! Rediculous that a group of highly educated adults with the publication (doctors) are unable to grasp the humor. Stop letting minority groups (man-hating ones at that) dictate reason.

    I think people are missing the idea behind not bothering with chocolates….what he’s actually saying is to give them improved mood, immunity, satisfaction, less chance of depression, reinforcing fertility, etc. You could not gaurantee those things with drugs, but this, this is free – and I’m sure most men won’t mind sharing. The doctor’s comment should be read as: “Forget the chocolate, you can give women actual, measurable health benefits.”

    Perhaps if people embraced their bodies as they were created, they wouldn’t want to run from scientific truths that someone brings to light with a dose of humor.

  136. Both sex and abstinence are very good, in their respective ‘seasons’. It’s likely that depression during abstinence might be more often from a loss of hope in finding a worthwhile partner, and a lack of good memories to fall back on.

    Theories that the offended censors are dwelling in a prolonged stage of hopelessness are not without basis.

    Greenfield’s take on the evidence for physiological bases of sex attraction is hilarious, and should not have been removed, nor should he have been otherwise punished.

    The humorless lefties who hate the existence of sexual dimorphism should not be permitted to rule over the rest of us, who appreciate it.

  137. The Wall Street Journal has an article on the “sex and health” topic today and they refer to the semen depression study.

    “Sex also improves women’s moods—although how it does is controversial. One 2002 study of 293 college women at the State University of New York in Albany found that those who engaged in unprotected sex were less likely to be depressed than those whose partners use condoms or who don’t have sex at all. The researchers noted that semen contains testosterone, estrogen, prolactin and prostaglandins, which can pass through vaginal walls into the bloodstream and elevate mood. But safe-sex groups add that the unintended results of unprotected sex—pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases—can put quite a damper on mood.”

  138. Since when are scientific findings “wild musings”? You people are disgusting. You are supposed to be scientists. Grow up! There are mood elevating chemicals in semen, and they lead to lower rates of depression. This is a fact, and no amount of your squirming and crying is going to make it go away.

    You are truly repugnant and you do the entire human species a grave disservice for being so ignorant and lax in your responsibility to rely upon REASON rather than your dumb emotions to draw conclusions. You and your ilk are the kind of people we will look back on in 50 years and say “my god, how could they have been so irresponsible and ignorant? They KNEW that the social acceptability of a finding has NO bearing on reality, and yet they went along turning their ‘science’ into a lapdog of pop culture with no credibility at all.

    1. Otakucode, that is about the most sensible response I’ve seen among these comments. I hope I live long enough to see your prediction born out 🙂

  139. Has any one researched whether semen has similarly positive mood inducing effects when semen is received via the anus? I assume the answer is yes given the absorbency of the anal lining. Perhaps this would explain the risky behaviour of many passive gay males and the spread of HIV in that group? Just a thought. May be the condom industry could be incentivised to spray some of these uplifting substances onto their products. It might just encourage greater uptake of safer sexual practices.

  140. Lesbians periods very much synch up. That science is just wrong. I had a house full of 5 of us at one point and that was just HELL! lol
    As a lesbian woman, I found the joke a bit gross because I have different tastes (yes that is a joke), but funny. Not all feminists or lesbians hate men. I have a lot of amazing men in my life in the form of older brothers, and two dads (step and biological). The most offensive comments I read came from the crazed Debbie. I just have a problem with that study on lesbian cycles. Could have just asked a few and then saved the money for something way more benificial to society as whole. Just one nobody’s opinion.

  141. This has left me scratching my head. What is so wrong with that article?! I can only spot one thing, the exceedingly poorly chosen word “promiscuity”. Other than that, it’s perfectly fine. Semen really does make women happy, via some biochemical/hormonal mechanism. It’s a phenomenon that is quite apparent to most women who choose to take notice, so is worthy of discussion and study.

  142. It was a fun bit of editorial. Editorial is opinion-based and the censorship that strangled this piece (and the doctor’s career) could very well silence your own opinion one day. Why would anyone get worked up over a doctor “injecting” humor into the realm of science and medicine — for a Valentine’s Day piece? Kudos to him for actually finding something funny in an otherwise dry field. 🙂 Lighten up!

    1. I agree Melanie. I would have to conclude that there exists a critical mass of female surgeons out there with a giant chip on their collective shoulders. Disturbing that chip is hazardous to one’s career. Can’t upset them, oh no, or you will be in trouble. This phenomenon might make the cautious want to avoid them, if possible. You never know when they might get the modern equivalent of “the vapours” and strike out at you! Ask Larry Summers.

  143. I found it informative. It’s good to know that semen contains all those other things. Women should know what their getting. It effects their body chemistry and I think that information is valuable. So what if it was published on valentines day, dont a lot of people still make love on valentines day? This info is relative. Firing the good doctor is an over reaction by a bunch of politaclly correct notzis that have no sence of humor or the balls to publish info on such a delicate topic.

  144. “…First off, we defy any paramour to try that crap the next time Valentine’s Day rolls around…”

    I needed a good laugh today and that provided it.

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