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The case of the gonorrhea-giving inflatable doll (a.k.a. the worst medical mystery ever)

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Doctors are often confronted with less-than-savory aspects of the human condition. In the following medical paper, two doctors must solve the enigma of two sailors, one inflatable doll, and a communal case of the clap.

This mystery is plumbed in Ellen Kleist and Harald Moi's Ig Nobel Prize-winning paper ("Transmission of Gonorrhea Through an Inflatable Doll") from a 1996 volume of Genitourinary Medicine (NCBI). In this brief study, the authors recount the mystery of a sailor who had picked up gonorrhea at sea:

The skipper from a trawler, who had been 3 months at sea, sought advice for urethral discharge. His symptoms had lasted for two weeks. A urethral smear showed typical intracellular gram-negative diplococci, and a culture was positive for N gonorrhoeae. There had been no woman onboard the trawler; he denied homosexual contacts; and there was no doubt that the onset of the symptoms was more than two months after leaving the port.

With some hesitation, he told the story. A few days before onset of his symptoms, he had roused the engineer in his cabin during the night because of engine trouble. After the engineer had left his cabin, the skipper found an inflatable doll with artificial vagina in his bed, and he was tempted to have "intercourse" with the doll. His complaints started a few days after this episode. The engineer was examined, and was found to have gonorrhoea. He had observed a mild urethral discharge since they left port, but he had not been treated with antibiotics. He admitted to having ejaculated into the "vagina" of the doll just before the skipper called him, without washing the doll afterwards.


So there you have it. Medical proof that sneaking into an acquaintance's chamber and having unprotected sex with his or her inflatable sex doll is downright not advisable — this goes double for sailors. I hope you've all learned an important lesson today.

[Spotted on Improbable Research. Image via EroSexual.]