Time to ditch the waterbed

Hugh Hefner might have cornered the market for seventies chic, but some of things regarded as indispensable to the lifestyle he epitomised could keep you childless.

Medallions, tight trousers, a waterbed and a spliff the size of a lifeboat: all things regarded as indispensable to that oh-so-retro seventies look. Movies like Starsky & Hutch, Boogie Nights, Anchorman and the Austin Powers flicks have brought back a nostalgia for the era of shaggy rugs and shaggy haircuts only seen in high school yearbooks and country and western festivals.

And yes, unless you had the misfortune to rely on a car built in that era, the seventies have a certain appeal.

The whole pre-Aids, pre-global warming, pre-boyband thing had a kind of clueless freshness about it.

Hedonism and abundant free time
A cornerstone of that nostalgia was the hedonism with which rich guys approached their abundant free time: body hair was okay, nobody took gym seriously, cigarettes were regarded as cool, a tray of chilled oysters had a kind of knowing, raised-eyebrow ennui about it - and you definitely needed a medallion.

You had plenty of staff serving everyone’s favourite poison, while other staff kept the mansion’s gardens immaculate. There’d never be any bugs anywhere and all six of your lady friends wore high heels with their bikinis.

The more your pad looked like the set for a porn movie, the better. You also needed a waterbed upstairs, or preferably out by the pool.

Times change. That lifestyle messed up a lot of people physically and emotionally. Many proponents of the whole free-love ethos of the sixties have noted that it was essentially as misogynistic as the Victorian era of which it professed to be the antithesis: “What? No quickie in the back of the tour bus? Like, baby, what’s with you?”

Grim things followed hedonism's heyday
Apart from the back trouble triggered by hanging a gold dinner plate hanging around your neck, STIs and drug addiction followed on the heels of hedonism’s heyday:

  • Smoking’s bad for you in every way. The good news is that the body begins recovering from it as soon as you stop.
  • Oysters, long regarded as an aphrodisiac, may contain high levels of mercury and are best avoided.
  • Many people maintain that sex with marijuana is the best sex ever. But if you’re hoping for a baby, dope’s a bad idea for both of you.
  • A number of other aspects of modern life have been identified as being bad for baby-making: the increased use of pesticides has been linked with decreased sperm counts and birth defects. In the early 1990s, researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark pooled data from many worldwide studies of sperm counts and fertility. They found that the increased use of pesticide could be linked to a global decline in semen quality, the increase in testicular cancer rates.In Denmark, the use of pesticides has been linked to a 300 percent increase in the disease, which has been linked to the exposure of pregnant mothers to pesticides.So it may be an idea to let the insects be, or to use flypaper instead of a huge tin of bug spray.
  • But there’s another, unexpected villain in the onslaught on your little swimmers: your waterbed. Waterbeds have a long history: the UK newspaper The Telegraph reports that water-filled beds make of goatskins were used in Persia more than 3 500 years ago (Medallions may have been around too, but probably not mullet haircuts or moustaches). The waterbed bounced back in the late 19th century, when it was used at St Bart’s hospital to prevent bedsores in invalids. In the ’60s and ’70s the waterbed became an essential part of the playboy’s kit. By then they were being made out of vinyl, not goats. They (waterbeds, not goats) could be found in the honeymoon suites of many hotels, as well as aboard the private jets of oil magnates.

    Nowadays most waterbeds are heated, and here’s where the problem arises. Too much heat is bad for sperm. The finding was presented by the researchers from Pennsylvania University and Rochester University at an American Society for Reproductive Medicine. The study isn’t regarded as conclusive, but it’s long been known that the reason your testicles hang away from your body is to keep your sperm cool, which is why tight pants can make your sperm sluggish.

    The solution to keep keeping your baby-making solution cool and healthy? Easy on the tight pants, hot-water bottles and electric blankets.

    One bit of good news comes from South Africa, where it’s reported that use of Viagra makes sperm swim faster and helps them bind to eggs. The study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, indicates that the drug could soon be used to aid men with poor sperm quality become dads. (William Smook, Health24, updated April 2011)

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