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evolution, science, Uncategorized

I Wanna F*ck You Like an Animal?

Want to do it like the animals?  Want to get in touch with your primal instincts and lose your humanity?  Here’s how to do it:

  1. Wait six months to a year.
  2. Find a fertile female.
  3. Do it as quickly as possible, and only once or twice.
  4. Go back to step 1.

Contrary to popular notions, our preoccupation with sex is not part of our base instincts, nor is it especially like any of the other animals.  Most animals use sex exclusively for reproduction.  Even bonded pairs seldom use sex for anything other than making babies.

In fact, there are only two notable species in which sex is primarily a social activity, and they’re both apes.  Specifically, Homo sapiens and Pan paniscus. You know them better as humans and bonobos.

You aren’t going to see anything this intimate anywhere in the animal kingdom besides us and our close ape relatives.  Besides being unique in the social use of sex, we’re also pretty close to unique in the level of intimacy we achieve.  Like us, bonobos often stare deeply into each others eyes both before and during sex.  We both enjoy cuddling afterward.

Go anywhere outside of this little evolutionary enclave of sexual liberation, and you’re not going to find much “self-actualization” from sex.  It simply isn’t there to be found.  And that’s a very important concept for us to think about.  Because in evolutionary terms, our split with the bonobo was astonishingly recent, and it’s likely that we co-evolved our love of oxytocin as a social drug.

What’s that I hear you saying?  I’m going too far overboard comparing us to bonobos?  Chimps are closer relatives?

Well, that’s technically true… slightly.  But we’re not really that much like chimps.  Here’s an interesting breakdown of the sexual behaviors of chimps, humans, and bonobos:

  • Human and bonobo females have sex through their whole cycle, as well as during pregnancy and lactation.  Chimps do not.
  • Human and bonobo females remain with their group after giving birth and show little or no fear of infanticide.  Chimps are notorious baby killers, and females protect their young from the group.
  • Humans and bonobos enjoy different positions as well as variety during individual acts of coitus.  Both human and bonobo females tend to prefer missionary or other face-to-face sex positions.  Chimps are exclusively about the doggy style.
  • Bonobos and humans enjoy eye-gazing and deep kissing.  Chimps do not.
  • The vulva is oriented forward in bonobos and humans.  It’s oriented rearward in chimps.
  • Food and sex go hand in hand with bonobos and humans.  Chimps are more reticent to share.
  • Homosexuality is common in humans and bonobos.  It’s rare in chimps.
  • Humans and bonobos use sex for purely social reasons quite frequently.  It’s primarily reproductive in chimps.

But I think I hear another objection.  Humans don’t “naturally” go for the kind of orgiastic free-for all that bonobos enjoy?  We naturally gravitate to exclusive pair bonds?

If that is so, how then do we explain the dozens of “primitive” cultures that do not subscribe to this viewpoint?

  • The Aché,
  • the Bari,
  • the Canela,
  • the Cashinahua,
  • the Curripaco,
  • the Ese Eja,
  • the Kayapó,
  • the Kulina,
  • the Matis,
  • the Mehinaku,
  • the Piaroa,
  • the Pirahã,
  • the Secoya,
  • the Siona,
  • the Warao,
  • the Yanomami,
  • the Ye’kwana

This is but a small sampling of the cultures in which the “one man, one woman” concept of both sex and parenting is completely foreign.  In fact, the  Aché have four distinct words for “father,” and each of them is believed to be necessary for a child to be born:

  • Miare: The father who put it in
  • Peroare: The father who mixed it
  • Momboare: The father who spilled it out
  • Bykuare: The father who provided the child’s essence.

Make no mistake.  These are tribal cultures, many steps closer to our “animal origins” in terms of cultural complexity.  And they believe that a woman needs to have sex with at least four men for a baby to be born.  There are even cultures in which not having extramarital sex is considered a sin.  In many cultures, it is considered a moral failing for a man to reject sex with a woman who has already had sex with several members of the tribe.  They believe that babies are built from multiple inseminations, and that without continued sex with multiple males during pregnancy, the baby will not fully form.

There is actually precious little empirical evidence that “one man, one woman, and their children” is the most “natural” way for humans to mate and reproduce.  In fact, there is considerable evidence that in tribal cultures, children with multiple “fathers” are much more likely to survive childhood than those with only one.  Rather than being thought of as bastards, children with many fathers are the prized possession of the tribe.  If one, or two, or even five of their fathers die, there are still many men with warm parental feelings towards them.

So whence comes our preoccupation with exclusivity and monogamy?  That’s a tougher question to answer, and it involves a certain amount of guesswork.  But make no mistake — the facts are the facts, and our interpretation must not make light of them, nor may it brush them casually aside.  The thing that makes human sexuality different from animal sexuality is precisely that we are obsessed with it, that we desire it with many different people, and that we use it for social purposes as much or more than the animals. If you want to have sex like an animal, lose your sex drive and only do it when you want a baby.

 

Sources:

de Waal, F. (2005) Our Inner Ape: The Best and Worst of Human Nature.  London:  Granta Books.

Ryan, C and Cacilda, J. (2010) Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality.  U.S: HarperCollins.

 

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Discussion

10 thoughts on “I Wanna F*ck You Like an Animal?

  1. Girl: “I want to do you like we’re on a nature documentary.”

    Guy: “I… I dunno if that works for me. I’m not really into post-coital cannibalism.”

    I can’t help but love National Geographic for all of their wonderful film work, but they’re almost certainly at fault for this popular misconception (among many, many others). Show a lot of footage of animals having sex because those are the dynamic shots that it probably took month upon month of extremely dull shooting to finally get, and people get the idea that animals must have sex all of the time.

    Posted by Kevin R Brown | December 30, 2010, 1:46 am
  2. Glad to know that I do it like an animal

    Posted by cptpineapple | December 30, 2010, 5:18 am
  3. Probably if you went into these tribes and could monitor the women for ovulation, you would find that they somehow select the healthiest males for sex around the time of ovulation. The rest of the sex being somewhat meaningless in terms of biological paternity but gaining social support for the child.

    This is not all that different to what women do in modern cultures where wives sneak off for a fling with a more “interesting” Alpha male and then return to their unwitting Beta husbands. The misidentification of patnerity in America is about 10%, so it certainly does happen. And bear in mind that that 10% are only the successful attempts to acheive this. The actual attempts may be much higher. Plenty of American women have sex with multiple men seeking pregnancy.

    Oxytocin and Vasopressin certainly create social bonding impulses, but I think social monogamy seeks to go further than that and tries to socially ban the desire for an EPC that still exist in the human sexual matrix. It’s just not terribly effective at it.

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | December 30, 2010, 9:32 am
  4. Probably if you went into these tribes and could monitor the women for ovulation, you would find that they somehow select the healthiest males for sex around the time of ovulation. The rest of the sex being somewhat meaningless in terms of biological paternity but gaining social support for the child.

    Maybe. The thing I’m struggling with here is that you seem to be trying to have it both ways. In this paragraph you are appealing to the strength of biology, yet…

    Oxytocin and Vasopressin certainly create social bonding impulses, but I think social monogamy seeks to go further than that and tries to socially ban the desire for an EPC that still exist in the human sexual matrix. It’s just not terribly effective at it.

    … in the very next thought, you pretty much wave it off and suggest that “social monogamy,” which admittedly doesn’t work very well, is still somehow strong enough to have done its work despite the influence of biology.

    The only thing I can figure is that you’re trying to get at some sort of “peak and valley” thing, where the strength of biology is overwhelming during ovulation, and the strength of social norms is enough to enforce tentative monogamy during the other three weeks of the cycle.

    I can only say that I don’t see any support for that in any of the literature.

    Posted by hambydammit | December 30, 2010, 2:52 pm
  5. I’m saying that biology creates a monogamus impulse and there is also a social monogamy aspect as well. Both work together influencing towards monogamy.

    However there are also strong biological impulses to have EPCs and these are in conflict with the social monogamy viewpoint. This interest in an EPC peaks during ovulation for women.

    During non-ovulation, social norms are likely not really required over much to enforce monogamy as women are biologically wired towards it when they aren’t ovulating anyway. But during ovulation the desire for alpha mates peaks and the biological desire for the best possible mate is present and tends to be in conflict with the ideal of social monogamy. Some women go with the social impulse and are faithful, some go with the biological and cheat.

    To me I see minimal difference between hormonal effects and emotions/social behavior. Literally when a woman says “I love you but I’m not in love with you”, I hear “I oxytocin you but I don’t dopamine you”.

    Social monogamy is in my mind a giant Rationalization Hamster that is saying “Oxytocin and Vasopressin are right! Dopamine and Testosterone are dangerous, be careful!”

    Which is why I am careful to frame my advocation of monogamy as a sexual strategy that works for most people pretty well, and not as moral requirement or the only way.

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | December 30, 2010, 6:13 pm
  6. During non-ovulation, social norms are likely not really required over much to enforce monogamy as women are biologically wired towards it when they aren’t ovulating anyway. But during ovulation the desire for alpha mates peaks and the biological desire for the best possible mate is present and tends to be in conflict with the ideal of social monogamy. Some women go with the social impulse and are faithful, some go with the biological and cheat.

    Where are you getting this? This sounds like outdated pop psychology, and my impression is that serious research has moved firmly into the “actually things are a lot more complicated than that” realm.

    Also, the mating strategy you describe (“women prefer monogamy when sterile, seek out the best partner they can find when fertile”) is only adaptive in a particular cultural context: one where women are highly dependent on the support and protection of territorial males. I grant you that that’s been the culture for a large part of recorded history, but the “biological wiring” that directs us to adopt that strategy is pretty flexible and contingent in the grand scheme of things. It’s much less “built into the structure of human nature” and much more “minor, easily adjusted adaptation to the current environment.”

    hambydammit: Great post, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve written something very similar 🙂 Like I always say, the people who really fuck like animals are the orthodox Catholics.

    Posted by Ginny | December 31, 2010, 2:47 pm
  7. “Where are you getting this?”

    It’s in every evolutionary psychology book I have. Where are you not getting this?

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | December 31, 2010, 5:17 pm
  8. No, I know it’s the standard ev psych narrative, but most things I’ve read recently (like this) have been pretty critical of it. The studies it draws from (the ones I’m familiar with are the shirt-sniffing study and the one where women were more attracted to highly masculine faces during ovulation) are in lab-controlled settings, the women being studied are all naturally cycling (not on hormonal birth control), and the differences measured are small. There hasn’t (as far as I’m aware) been solid research showing that these slight biological preferences have a significant impact on real-world behavior in the twenty-first century. That’s why I asked where you were getting it… it’s possible I’ve missed something.

    To be clear, I’m not questioning the research, only the interpretation. It’s too broad and ignores too many relevant factors.

    Posted by Ginny | January 1, 2011, 12:24 pm
  9. Misidentified paternity runs at about 10% of all births. You need more stats? A larger study??

    Posted by Athol Kay: Married Man Sex Life | January 1, 2011, 12:57 pm
  10. Misidentified paternity runs at about 10% of all births. You need more stats? A larger study??

    I have no idea how large the study you’re referring to is, since you haven’t said anything about where you get that figure from. Is it measuring only women who are in supposedly-monogamous partnerships, or does it include cases like a woman who dates several different men, gets pregnant, and tells one of the men that he’s the father?

    Even if that 10% figure is only among women who are in supposedly-monogamous partnerships at the time of conception, that doesn’t by itself support the claim that women feel a strong urge to cheat with an “alpha” male around the time of ovulation. How many of those conceptions were with long-term affair partners as opposed to impulsive flings?

    I’m not saying women don’t cheat. I’m saying that the “women cheat because of this evolutionarily engrained dual mating strategy” is a vast oversimplification.

    Posted by Ginny | January 1, 2011, 2:54 pm

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