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Allergic to sex? It really can happen

Can a woman be allergic to sperm? Can a stroke ruin a man’s sexual desire? And if you’re turned on by noses, are you a nasophiliac? Sexploration answers your queries.
Image: Human Sperm
A woman with seminal plasma hypersensitivity is allergic to a man's seminal fluid, not his sperm. Lester V. Bergman / Corbis
/ Source: contributor

Can a woman be allergic to sperm? Can a stroke ruin a man’s sexual desire? And if you’re turned on by noses, are you a nasophiliac? Sexploration answers your queries. Got a question? E-mail us.

Q. Can a woman be allergic to a man’s sperm to the point it causes an itchy, uncomfortable feeling for the woman? During my marriage — one reason we are not married anymore — the wife claimed she was allergic to my sperm. I found it hard to believe. We did not go together for a medical visit, but she claims it is possible.

A. From the tone of your letter, it sounds like she had an allergy to you and used a more creative excuse than a headache.

Which is not to say that she didn’t hit on something plausible.

Ever heard of the young woman who went off on her honeymoon full of sweet anticipation only to develop hives, swollen eyes, diarrhea, an inflammation of the lining of the rectum and trouble breathing? Turns out she was allergic to her new husband’s seminal fluid.

True story.

The condition is called seminal plasma hypersensitivity because the allergic reaction is really to the soup carrying the sperm, not the sperm themselves. Between 20,000 to 40,000 women in the U.S. may experience the allergy, according to Dr. Jonathan Bernstein of the University of Cincinnati. The causes are still under study so it's not known if some women who develop the allergy will be allergic to all men or if, sometimes, something has changed in the semen of a woman's partner to create it.

The typical patient is a woman having her first intercourse, but it can also develop in a woman who has been having sex with the same man for a long time, said Dr. David Resnick, director of allergy at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. It can occur after a period of abstinence, such as when a couple resumes having sex following pregnancy and childbirth. As long as the couple is having sex, the woman is desensitized to the semen. But she can lose that during the abstinent period and have a reaction once the fun resumes.

Because seminal plasma hypersensitivity is uncommon, it’s sometimes mistaken for other vaginal conditions and even STDs. It also can have some serious consequences. Patients desiring children have had to use an assisted reproduction technique that washes the sperm out of the fluid. The woman is then artificially inseminated.

Treatments vary from using condoms all the time to desensitization, which can include a series of exposures to the offending semen starting with tiny amounts and working up. Bernstein has begun using a one-day series of injections containing isolated proteins from the man’s semen. More good news: The treatment can include instructions to have intercourse at least every 48 hours to maintain the resistance. There are worse therapies.

Q. I’ve been in a relationship with a man for over eight years. In 2006, he suffered a stroke. He lost all feeling on his right side. It took time for him to gain the ability to walk, but now he’s much better. But we don’t make love anymore. He says he is disabled now and can’t feel anything there, but my question to him is “Do you feel anything for me?” Does sexual desire leave a person after having a stroke?

A. Often, yes, said Dr. Robert G. Robinson, head of the department of psychiatry at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

“One of the most common causes for a drop in libido after a stroke is depression,” Robinson told Sexploration. “It occurs in about 40 percent of stroke patients during the acute period after a stroke and about 20 percent after the acute period.”

If your lover lost feeling on his right side, he probably had a left hemisphere stroke, Robinson explained, and left hemisphere strokes are more likely to cause depression. But he may also have suffered brain stem lesions. These could cause erectile dysfunction. And he may suffer from some cognitive impairment, too.

Many stroke victims, like many heart attack victims, fear doing anything that they think could cause another episode, including sex. So he may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.

“So it really is sort of a complicated situation because there are multiple possible explanations depending on his impairments, the location, or the consequences of the stroke,” Robinson said.

Once again, as we say so often here at Sexploration, it is vital that people experiencing sexual problems talk to their doctors, even if the doctor seems uncomfortable. Doctors do not ask about sexual complications often enough, Robinson said, and patients are often embarrassed to bring it up. But treatment with, say, proper antidepressants and psychotherapy, or possibly erectile dysfunction drugs, have helped many stroke victims recover more of their abilities than just walking.

Q. Sir, I am crazy about the female nose. When I see a girl, my eyes fix on her nose. Why?

A. First, thank you for calling me “Sir.” Very nice. Much better than “Hey, Sexploration Dude.”

As for your preoccupation with noses, well, the heart likes what the heart likes. Some men are breast men, some leg men, some eyes, and you, my polite friend, are apparently a nose man. If you really, really like female noses, you might be a “nasophiliac,” one who becomes sexually aroused by the sight, touch, licking or sucking of noses.

Which brings up the question of whether we are all “philiacs.” Might a breast man be a mammophiliac? A leg man a gamophiliac? Are women aroused by Hugh Jackman ab-ophiliacs? By conspicuous wealth Trump-ophiliacs?

Ponder that over your next martini.

Brian Alexander is the author of the book now in paperback.