‘Hooked’ author and retired OBGYN discusses sex

FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) –Staff had to bring in additional seating to the College at Southwestern’s Second Front meeting, April 20, as more than 100 students gathered in the student center to hear from Joe McIlhaney, retired Gynecologist and founder of the Medical Institute of Sexual Health, who discussed the way pre-marital and adolescent sexual activity affects the brains, decisions and futures of youth.

In welcoming the students to the late-night event, Steven Smith, dean of the College at Southwestern, joked that they had “finally landed on a topic that draws a crowd.”McIlhaney talked about the reason he left his gynecological practice to begin the non-profit Medical Institute of Sexual Health, explaining that throughout his years in the medical field he had seen the effects of casual sex on his patients.

“I began realizing a lot of the people I was treating with in vitro, which was the only way some of these women could get pregnant because their fallopian tubes were totally destroyed, having been infected with Chlamydia,” McIlhaney said. “As a matter of fact, it is today the number one reason for a woman to be infertile.”

Besides the increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, casual sex and a decreasing support for abstinence has also begun to affect brain development in adolescents, said McIlhaney, who co-authored a book entitled Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children.

“Rental car companies will not rent a car to somebody under the age of 25,” McIlhaney said. “That is an evidence of the fact of what the real science shows—that the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that has to do with judgment or reasoning and so forth, has not completely developed.”

McIlhaney said that underdevelopment underscores the need for teens to have guidance from parents and other mentors about smart decision making regarding sex. He said chemicals in the brain also play an important role in the addictive nature of sex and therefore its danger to young people lacking the full spectrum of reasoning capabilities and people not committed to abstinent or monogamous relationships.

“The brain is a cauldron of chemicals that have a huge amount of influence,” McIlhaney said, explaining that Dopamine operates as a reward hormone designed to make people want to repeat actions with good results, such as wanting to get another good grade at school after making an A. The hormone also, however, creates the desire to engage repeatedly in sexual activity.

Regardless of the anatomy, McIlhaney said the responsibility to control the body still lies with every individual.

“Remember, we are not saying that we’re robots and we have to respond that way to these hormones, but our point in pointing these things out in our book, is that these things do powerfully influence our decisions,” McIlhaney said.

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