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January 6, 2011


Crying and sex

Crying woman, Lichtenstein

A new study suggests that men become sexually un-aroused when they smell women's tears. Crap. Guess I wasted all that time I've been spending crying in bars trying to get laid.

It seems that all the data for the study was gathered by subjects watching movies. Scientists at Weizmann Institute in Israel recruited six women who were top-notch criers, plus a few back up auxiliary criers, in order to get a continuous supply of fresh tears. The researchers had them watch your typical tear-jerk movies, like Life Is Beautiful and Terms of Endearment, as well as some movies that look absolutely terrible, but are apparently still scientifically effective: My Sister's Keeper and When a Man Loves a Woman.

To measure sexual arousal, the men who sniffed these women's tears (and saline solution for the control group) had to watch a different kind of movie: 9 1/2 Weeks, "the more explicit European version, which has been validated as being particularly arousing."

Turned out, the tear-sniffers didn't get into all that erotic strawberry eating and creepy sexual humiliation as much as the other guys did.

As part of the baseline study, they also had the guys watch a sad movie, to see if the women's tears were specifically a sexual turn-off, or if they just made them feel sad. The men watched classic sports-themed father-son tear-jerker, The Champ, which is about down on his luck boxer Jon Voight and his lovable young son and first-rate bawler, Ricky Schroder, and involves a protracted final scene that is legendary for provoking tears in even the stoniest of men.

Here it is if you want to watch it out of context and see if it still works. I bet it does--it's got seriously all the triggers.

We've all got movies that reduce us to tears, and I often wonder how similar those lists would be from person to person. I've got my share of the predictable, obvious movies that make me cry (Brokeback Mountain, It's A Wonderful Life), those that are sort of embarrassing (Moulin Rouge, Deep Impact, Dead Poets Society), and those that I don't really understand (Mulholland Drive).

I love hearing about what movies have made other people cry, so if you've got some to share, I'm listening.

categories: Movies, Science, Sex
posted by amy at 4:42 PM | #

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Well only Dick Cheney can make it through The Color Purple without crying.

But perhaps more embarrassing - and therefore more interesting - when I saw Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, I misted up during the last few scenes, Baby Princess Leia on Alderaan, Baby Luke on Tatooine. . .it was like my whole cinematic life coming full circle.

Posted by: T-Rock at January 7, 2011 12:01 PM

Color Purple is a good one. I actually can't think or read about that final scene for more than a few seconds or I start getting a reaction to all the dust that's suddenly entered the room.

So let's move on to Star Wars III, another good one. Luke and Leia are like surrogate siblings for our generation, and seeing baby Leia held in the arms of a proud Jimmy Smits--it's just so beautiful.

Sunrise, sunset.

Oh, yeah, Fiddler on the Roof, that's another one of mine.

Speaking of Dick Cheney and his heart of battery-operated stone, the friend that I saw Forrest Gump with informed me before the show that if I didn't cry, I was a Communist. Which in 1994 was a great way to keep me from getting even the least bit teary.

Posted by: amy at January 7, 2011 12:22 PM

I appreciated Dan Savage's takeaway from the piece: If you're hoping to get laid on movie night, stay away from the weepies.

Oh, and---that scene towards the end of Ponyo: "It's a big responsibility, but I really love her!" Bwaaaaaaaaaa!!!!

Posted by: That Fuzzy Bastarrd at January 7, 2011 12:43 PM

Here's the Dan Savage commentary:


Romantic comedies that women do not find particularly touching or moving probably work great.

My #1 animated weeper, like many other people's, is Up. Gawd. Boo hoo hoo.

Oh, and I guess this study renders the crying-to-making-out segue in When Harry Met Sally scientifically implausible.

Posted by: amy at January 7, 2011 3:18 PM

My first and most intense in-theater movie crying = Up. But, embarrassingly, I did cry at home watching Ricky Gervais' Ghost Town, and, less embarrassingly, Lars And The Real Girl. Mitigating factor: being pregnant while watching all three movies, I also cried at Alzheimers medication commercials.

Posted by: stef at January 11, 2011 9:20 AM

Wow, Lars and the Real Girl! Good one. Isn't there a scene of community acceptance of Lars, in spite of all his foibles and probable mental illness, at a town social or something? I saw Blue Valentine last night, which has become my Ryan Gosling weeper. But that was more out of commiseration with poor beleaguered Michelle Williams than anything else.

I think I've gotten a little weepy at some of the more emotionally-charged social anxiety medication ads.

Posted by: amy at January 12, 2011 9:42 AM

An old weepy for me is Beaches. Also, Water where I start crying 30 minutes before the end knowing what's coming. For some reason most recently I openly sob loudly in the cinema - A Single Man and Mary and Max. I'd forgotten tissues on those two occasions and was a blubbering mess throughout. Embarrassing!

Posted by: Georgina at January 16, 2011 7:20 PM

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