Elementary alimentary anatomy

While it is not my point here to debate anyone's religious or political views on homosexuality, I think the anatomical opinions of Dr. James Holsinger are creating a bit of medical confusion.

From the WSJ, here's James Taranto:

These are Holsinger's two main claims:
  • The sexes are "fully complementary."
  • Compared with ordinary intercourse, erotic activity that involves the alimentary tract poses far greater risks of injury and infection.
  • The first of these is obvious to all human beings and probably most lower mammals as well. The second is obvious to anyone who has occasion to think about the subject. (To those readers who would rather not, our apologies.)

    At some level this is sort of funny: Mrs. Clinton's church had to find itself a medical expert to explain the facts of life. But what is chilling is that Holsinger now finds himself under political attack for stating the obvious.

    (Emphasis added.)

    Not to pick nits, but I'm not sure that he stated the obvious at all.

    I'll start with the definition:

    alimentary canal

    also called digestive tract pathway by which food enters the body and solid wastes are expelled.The alimentary canal includes the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. See digestion.

    Oral sex is very common, is widely believed to be less risky than vaginal sex, and while it is certainly less risky than anal sex, the report Taranto discusses does not mention oral sex, but merely compares and contrasts the risks of anal intercourse with the risks of vaginal intercourse. While it is true that anal intercourse involves the alimentary canal and vaginal intercourse does not, I think it is inaccurate to characterize "erotic activity that involves the alimentary tract" as being anal intercourse. (All the more so when it is considered that the vast majority of sex acts involving the alimentary tract involve heterosexual oral intercourse.)

    Had Taranto contrasted "erotic activity that involves the anus" with "erotic activity that involves the vagina" I could see his point. But to the extent that he (and Dr. Holsinger's report, on which he relies) imply that the alimentary tract is a synonym for the anus, they are misusing medical terminology.

    None of this is to suggest that oral sex is safe, of course.

    But it is alimentary.


    I just realized that I forgot something which might be relevant. While it's been a long time now, there was once a presidential pronouncement that oral sex is not sex.

    But will this assist with the alimentary tract analysis?

    Am I supposed to care?

    posted by Eric on 06.08.07 at 04:42 PM


    What irks me even more is the use of the word 'erotic'. This is hardly a medical term, and 'sexual' would work just as well in the same place. It may have been meant as a euphemism (much like 'alimentary' as a euphemism for 'anal'), but in the end I think it makes it sound even dirtier.

    P. Aeneas   ·  June 9, 2007 2:02 AM

    So this shines new light on the relationship between Holmes and Watson.

    Maybe Holmes was saying "Alimentary my dear Watson".

    (as a reward for a case well solved, Dr. Watson would 'attend' to Holmes' needs?)

    (the complexity of the case solved would determine whether input or output ends were involved)

    XWL   ·  June 9, 2007 1:50 PM

    Yet another WSJ article that, like its immigration editorials, would be greatly clarified by the use of the word "buttfucking."

    Stand-Up Minuteman   ·  June 9, 2007 2:34 PM

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