Nothing says Valentine’s Day like taxpayer-funded monkey erections


By M.D. Kittle |

Ah, Valentine’s Day. Devoted to all things love and romance.

And nothing says love like lemon-scented induced monkey erections, of course.


Yes, your loving Big Government has been hard at work shelling out your hard-earned tax dollars on research like this at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center in Madison, Wis.

LUSTY MONKEY: Do I smell, lemon? Oh, yes, I smell lemon. A taxpayer-funded study showed the scent of lemons gave marmoset monkeys erections.

The study, paid for with grants from the taxpayer-funded center and the National Institute of Mental Health, sought answers to the burning question: Can male marmoset monkeys be conditioned to associate lemony odors with sex. The answer: You bet. It seems a whiff of lemon extract is enough to make those little monkeys stand at attention — with or without a female marmoset in the general vicinity, if conditioned properly.

Jordana Lenon, public information officer for the Primate Research Center, said the extended research project went well beyond turning on marmosets, into the broader field of emotional processing and an examination of why primates are so fond of monogamy.

The monkeys were introduced to a novel scent, in this case lemon. Then the scent of their female mate’s genitalia. Then lemon again. And then, well, let’s just say the center’s custodians probably thought better of using lemon-scented Pledge on the lab furniture.

So how much did this uplifting research cost taxpayers? Lenon said the Primate Research Center’s costs were in staff time and a $2 bottle of lemon extract, purchased by one of the researchers.

The National Institute of Mental Health could not be reached for comment Thursday, but Thomas Insel, NIMH director, in a blog post on the institute’s website notes that each year NIMH spends roughly $1 billion of taxpayer funds to support research in academia.

“In effect, we are tasked by taxpayers to hire scientists to fix the problems of the patient community. In the end, if research in academia does not align with the needs of patients and families, we’ve got a problem,” Insel wrote.

Love is the universal language, and the subject of a good deal of research on the taxpayer’s dime. Here’s a look at some of the more eyebrow-raising studies on love, sex and arousal.

Snail sex

Have you ever thought to yourself: Why would New Zealand snails want to have sex when they can reproduce without a mate? That question is at the heart of an $876,752 University of Iowa study — in progress — that attempts to figure out if it better for said snail to reproduce sexually or asexually.

Thomas R. O’Donnell, former Des Moines Register reporter, defended the study and castigated the conservative media for taking on the taxpayer cost of the study.

“If other media outlets had taken a deeper look at the NSF (National Science Foundation) proposal, they might have seen how the snail project addresses some of the most fundamental, persistent questions of biology and evolution, with ramifications for human health and the environment,” O’Donnell wrote in his blog. “This is not about why or how snails have sex. It’s about why any species has sex.”

O’Donnell’s parents perhaps should have had a very important talk with him a long time ago.

Love, Mexican prostitute style

Ivy League school Brown University wanted to know whether Mexican male prostitutes would practice safe sex if U.S. taxpayers paid them.

Billed as “Conditional Economic Incentives to Reduce HIV Risks: A Pilot in Mexico,” the study offers cash incentives to dude hookers who stay disease-free. The research is being funded by a grant from the National Institute of Health, and it appears the total cost is approaching $400,000.

In the researchers’ defense, a lot of American taxpayers feel like they’ve footed the bill for a lot of prostitutes. After all, the have to pick up the tab for Congress.

Loveless voles

Next on Dr. Phil: Rodents incapable of love.

NOT NOW, I’M HUNGRY: Female voles on a diet are less interested in sex, study finds.

In its Real Ridiculous Research release, animal-rights group In Defense of Animals points to an Emory University study that found children of “single-mother” prairie voles spent less time caring for their children than those raised in two-parent vole households.

Is there anything sadder than a broken vole home?

This crucial research was funded by four National Institute of Health grants and a T32 institutional training grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Less nookie for hungry hamsters

Back off fellows. These ladies aren’t in the mood. They’re starving.

Research led by Lehigh University and assisted by the University of Minnesota concluded that dieting female hamsters appeared less interested in sex and more interested in foraging. In short, females given 75 percent of their normal diet spent more time thinking about food than looking to hook up, according to the study.

“Food restriction significantly inhibited vaginal scent marking, decreased the preference for spending time with food, and increased food hoarding,” the research abstract notes.

The study was part of a broader research project that picked up more than $600,000 in NIH grants.

Lehigh defended the hungry-hamster, horny-hamster study, asserting it was part of a line of research that “seeks better understanding of behaviors essential to survival.”

It should also serve as a warning: Fellows, if you’re looking to get lucky this Valentine’s Day, make sure the object of your affection is well fed.

Jacked-up rats dig jazz

Looking to set the mood? Well, if you’re a rat hopped up on cocaine, you’ll really groove on Miles Davis, particularly his album, “Four.”

That’s the ground-breaking finding of research conducted at Albany Medical College by researchers who, one might suspect, know their way around cocaine. The study, funded by you and your fellow taxpayers, found rats on cocaine preferred jazz over classical music, according to In Defense of Animals’ Real Ridiculous Research list.

“In another study published in 2011, the same experimenters supported by the same NIH grants again used Miles Davis’ ‘Four,’ but this time exposed rats to methamphetamine to determine the drug’s effects on rats’ learned conditioning,” the animal-rights group noted.

Next experiment, whether gerbils on magic mushrooms can figure out what Ozzy Osbourne is saying.

Contact M.D. Kittle at

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