Sperm Wars: The Science of Sex – Reviewed and appraised

We have seen the book ‘Sperm Wars‘ cited as some type of super seduction guide several times, by several different people. This is quite puzzling, because the highly controversial ‘Kamikaze Sperm Hypothesis, which is the main theory behind the motivation for this book was only ever a biological theory that caught the media’s attention for a short span of time.

The Kamikaze Sperm Hypothesis has never been proven, and the author offers very little evidence for his theories in this book, or even his previous ones. In fact, the book has no index, no bibliography and mentions no other researchers; it therefore denies the reader the opportunity to examine more rigorous scientific studies that may give some evidence for the proposals put forward in the book.

Sperm Wars could by no means be classed as serious science; I suppose this is why the cover notes feature quotations from Cosmopolitan and Elle magazine, rather than any vaguely scientific publication.

The author, Robin Baker, proposes that something called ‘Sperm warfare‘ is the basis of all human life, and that everything we do, either consciously or unconsciously is to ensure the survival of our genes, and to pass our DNA to future generations. So, apparently every aspect of sex i.e. doing it, wanting it, talking about it etc. is because of this theory.

The author then takes his insights into the biology of sexual behaviour further, and mixes in a lot of speculation with it. The resulting book is a collection of thirty seven sexually explicit narrative sexual scenarios: such as sex in the woods, bad dates, drunken confrontations and husband-swapping; each of which Baker attempts to explain in terms of evolutionary biology, and Sperm competition.

Whilst the book claims to be grounded in evolutionary theory and natural selection, the reader is not given any sort of detailed explanation of either.

For those who may not be aware, Sperm competition is a scientific theory that has been around for about thirty or forty years. It has most often been applied to non-human animals, and uses evolutionary biology as an attempt to provide an explanation for how ejaculations from different males compete to fertilize the eggs of a single female. Robin Baker and a former collaborator (Mark Bellis) took sperm competition several steps further, and used extrapolation of animal models and behaviours, to claim that this theory works in humans.

So, the Wars referred to in the title of the book concerns competition between two or more men’s sperm within the same women, and also a sort of ‘battle of the sexes‘ that may occur between a male and female sexual pairing.

In the first type of sperm war, Baker claims that different types of sperm are each programmed to carry out a specific function. Some are ‘Egg getters’, programmed to attempt to fertilize the female’s ovum. The remainder, often the vast majority, are programmed for a Kamikaze role. Instead of attempting to find and fertilize ova themselves; their role is to reduce the chances that the egg will be fertilized by sperm from any other male.

In the second type of sperm war, Baker claims that a woman’s body might be ‘trying’ to avoid conceiving with a particular man, whereas a man’s body will be ‘trying’ to fertilize her egg.

Both types of ‘Wars’ are highlighted through the book, to illustrate various sexual behaviours and experiences that fulfil the objectives of each type of battle.

Unfortunately, the author fails to mention that other researchers have failed to reproduce most of the experiments that underpin his research, and that his Kamikaze Sperm Hypothesis has been disproved repeatedly by scientists, using more modern data and analysis.

The book therefore only seems to be a cursory nod to science, followed by an immoderate attempt to appeal to Frat boys, using fierce imagery of chemical warfare and destruction occurring inside women’s bodies, as different sperm do battle to the death.