Are anti-sex beds being installed in athletes’ rooms at the Paris Olympics?

We came across multiple trending posts about the following topic on the social media sites Reddit and X:

The post features an image of a bed that appears to have been designed for athletes at their lodgings at the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics. The caption suggests that the beds are ‘anti-sex’, and have been designed to prevent intimacy at the Olympics.

Besides the original image, we found several variants of memes that suggested alternative designs for the anti-sex beds based on the creators’ ideas of what would dampen the mood for intimacy, such as Soviet flags and Red Hot Chili Peppers logos.

While these were ostensibly intended as humour, they have also helped to perpetuate the story of the anti-sex beds.

A primary source for the story appears to be the New York Post, a conservative news publication owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp that has a history of publishing sensational headlines and a checkered fact-check record.

The Post published an article on 29 May with a headline that questioned if the beds were anti-sex. While part of their article referred to comments from the manufacturer that the beds were safe for sex, sections of the article, including the headline, may be misleading regarding the intention behind the bed’s design.

A Covid-19 Hangover

When we conducted a keyword search on the purportedly prudish beds, we found similar news reports and claims from July 2021 that suggested anti-sex beds were being installed at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

These claims again included an article in the New York Post, which ran a story on anti-sex beds at the Tokyo Games but later updated their article when it was found to be inaccurate. The article with the original headline is still available online.

The Tokyo Olympics was delayed and held from July to August 2021 due to the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, and would be held shortly after the claims started to appear.

The claims of anti-sex beds at the Tokyo Games were addressed and debunked by multiple credible fact-checking sites and news outlets, such as Snopes, Politifact, The New York Times and Gizmodo. Black Dot Research published its own fact-check on this story, finding it to be false.

According to the articles, the claims arose due to recyclable cardboard bed frames being used in the athletes’ quarters gaining attention. These bed frames were intended to align with a focus on sustainability at the Games in Tokyo, and had been planned in 2019, before the emergence of Covid-19.

However, by the time the Tokyo Games took place, the pandemic was well underway, and there was a rising number of Covid-19 cases in Japan. As a result, Japan implemented a strenuous testing regime and distancing measures for all individuals involved in the Games, including athletes.

Moreover, while the organiser in Tokyo handed out over 150,000 condoms to athletes, continuing a tradition since the 1988 Olympics in Seoul to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, athletes were told to take the condoms home rather than use them in the Olympic Village.

Given the restrictions athletes faced, jokes began to spread that the cardboard beds were designed to only support to weight of one person and as such would hinder intimacy in the bedroom. Such claims were soon taken seriously on social media, leading to viral posts discussing the rumours.

These rumours, however, were proven to be false. Prior to the Games and long before the Covid-19 pandemic had emerged, the manufacturer of the beds, the Japanese company Airweave, had stated that the frames would be able to support up to 200 kilograms, which in most cases would exceed the weight of two people.

In addition, the official Olympic Games Twitter account retweeted a video by the Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan, stating that he had ‘debunk(ed) the myth’ by vigorously jumping on the beds to demonstrate their sturdiness.

A Parisian Nightmare

The recent claims regarding the anti-sex beds at the Paris Olympics appear to have been triggered due to the athletes’ beds once again being manufactured and supplied by Airweave.

Speaking to AFP, a Paris Games spokesperson said that the despite the stories in the media, the choice of beds was linked to an ambition to ‘ensure minimal environmental impact and a second life for all equipment’.

Moreover, the founder of Airweave also gave a demonstration in July of last year where he jumped on a bed and suggested they ‘can support several people on top’. Distancing measures have been lifted, and there are no reports of restrictions on intimacy at the Paris Games.

As such, the claim of anti-sex beds being used is false. The story has been revived from the previous Olympics as a result of sensationalised headlines, and has been perpetuated through the use of memes.

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