Years ago, I tried to explain to a girlfriend that looking at hot women was good for me—after all, I argued, a few minutes of fast breathing and increased heart rate every day would help lower my risk of having a heart attack or a stroke, just like doing aerobics or jogging would. That relationship didn’t last. But now, decades later, there’s scientific proof that I was right all along.
J. David Creswell, from Carnegie Mellon University, had 54 straight men do a stress test—but before they started, they had the guys spend a few minutes looking at either mildly erotic images (Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Victoria’s Secret catalog, etc.) or not-particularly erotic images of heterosexual couples.
According to Creswell, “When you’re stressed, your body produces more of a hormone called cortisol, which excites your nervous system and disrupts your brain’s problem-solving capabilities.” And erotic images seem to take the edge off the cortisol production problem. In fact, the guys who looked at scantily clad women were half as likely as the non-erotic-image guys to feel stressed during the test—plus, they did 50% better on the math portion of the test.
The study did have some limits. For example, all the image-looking stuff was done before the test—it’s not clear whether soft-core porn will have any effect after you’re already stressed. But a few minutes of erotica before you go to into that big meeting could help.