When quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson announced he was conducting his relationship with singer Ciara “Jesus’ way,” he joined a long history of sports-related abstinence. Although celibacy and athletics may seem unrelated, sex prior to game day has long received attention for how it affects male aggression and testosterone levels.
In the case of Wilson, a declaration was made for religious motivations. Ciara, famous for songs like “Dance Like We’re Making Love,” “Body Party,” and “Love Sex Magic,” was backstage with Wilson when the two told pastor Miles McPherson that they would abstain form premarital sex.
Like Wilson, fellow NFL quarterback Tim Tebow also announced abstinence from premarital sex for religious reasons in 2009, regarding his (failed) relationship to Miss USA Olivia Culpo. These announcements often relate to the shaping of publicly Christian personalities. However, they receive additional attention due to how many studies that are investigating how performance correlates with abstinent athletes.
As early as 444 BC, Plato wrote that Olympic athletes should avoid sexual intimacy before their competitions. Another ancient took the opposite stance, with Pliny the Elder writing in 77 BC, “Athletes when sluggish are revitalized by lovemaking.” In 1969, Joe Namath of the New York Jets was famous for telling Playboy Magazine that he spent the nights before Super Bowl III and the American Football League championship game “with girls” because sex “gets rid of the kind of nervous tension an athlete doesn’t need.” Many famous boxers were also told by their coachers to remain celibate before a match. Muhammad Ali had to wait six weeks, Manny Pacquiao two, and Lennox Lewis was also told to abstain for “many weeks.” Last year many World Cup coaches told their players to be abstinent, with Safet Susic of the Bosnia and Herzegovina team said, “There will be no sex in Brazil.”
Even though for thousands of years athletes and coaches used sex as a tactic for game performance, most of the advice coaches give their players is not scientifically supported. Telling players to be celibate is unhelpful for their mental state, and the psychological effects are inconclusive.
According to several studies, the widespread belief that testosterone levels are depleted with sexual activity is false. In fact, longer periods of abstinence, such as three months, can actually lower testosterone to levels of children. In addition, experts say that the benefits psychologically are too difficult to test, or vary too much from player to player. The right level of anxiety and alertness are said to be vital for game performance, and how sex changes these levels varies for every individual. For some, the answer to whether sex leads to a better or worse game comes down to the amount of sleep a player gets the night before.
What’s for sure is that sports commentators will be looking at how conducting his relationship “Jesus’way” affects his ability to play this season.