Regina – Sex at Dawn – Part II

Regina – Sex at Dawn - Part II

September 7.
Life is quieter in Regina than I ever remember it being.  I guess that is due to aging process?  In any case it has given me time to read, a luxury I do not seem to have enough time to enjoy.  So, I am back to ‘Sex at Dawn – The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality.’  This is Part II of fascinating things on sexuality through the ages.

Sex at Dawn – The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality
Christopher Ryan, PhD, and Cacilda Jethá, MD.
Published by ‘free-eBooks.net’

 

Genetically, the chimps and bonobos at the zoo are far closer to you and the other paying customers than they are to the gorillas, orangutans, monkeys, or anything else in a cage. Our DNA differs from that of chimps and bonobos by roughly 1.6 percent, making us closer to them than a dog is to a fox, a white-handed gibbon to a white-cheeked crested gibbon, an Indian elephant to an African elephant or, for any bird-watchers who may be tuning in, a red-eyed vireo to a white-eyed vireo.(p.91)

Just imagine that we had never heard of chimpanzees or baboons and had known bonobos first. We would at present most likely believe that early hominids lived in female-centered societies, in which sex served important social functions and in which warfare was rare or absent.(p.103)
Frans de Waal (1995)

Fisher explains the phenomenon of worldwide marital breakdown by arguing that the pair bond evolved to last only until the infant grows to a child who can keep up with the foraging band without fatherly assistance.(p.111)

Cultural historian Michael Ventura, investigating the roots of African-American music, found that rock ‘n’ roll was a term that originated in the juke joints of the South. Long in use by the time Elvis appeared, Ventura explains the phrase “hadn’t meant the name of a music, it meant ‘to fuck.’ ‘Rock,’ by itself, had pretty much meant that, in those circles, since the twenties at least.”
Robert Farris Thompson, America’s most prominent historian of African art, says that funky is derived from the Ki-Kongo lu-fuki, meaning “positive sweat” of the sort you get from dancing or having sex, but not working. One’s mojo, which has to be “working” to attract a lover, is Ki-Kongo for “soul.” Boogie comes from mbugi, meaning “devilishly good.” And both jazz and jism likely derive from dinza, the Ki-Kongo word for “to ejaculate.”(p.120) [6]

There is a yam-harvest festival in the present-day Trobriand Islands, in which groups of young women roam the islands “raping” men from outside their own village, purportedly biting off their eyebrows if the men do not satisfy them.(p.130)
*There is almost no information on the Yam-Harvest Festival, but this is very amusing,
http://www.anusha.com/trobrian.htm

*And this is very informative,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trobriand_Islands

Over fifty years ago, sex researchers Clellan Ford and Frank Beach declared, “In those societies which have no double standard in sexual matters and in which a variety of liaisons are permitted, the women avail themselves as eagerly of their opportunity as do the men.”(p.130)[12]

Meanwhile, within a few blocks of the London classrooms where he lectured, untold numbers of infants whose existence threatened to expose the colossal error at the heart of Malinowski’s “unquestioningly correct principle” were being sacrificed, quite literally, in foundling hospitals. The situation was no less horrific in the United States. In 1915, a doctor named Henry Chapin visited ten foundling hospitals and found that in nine of them, every child died before the age of two. Every child.[13] This dark fate awaited inconvenient children born throughout Europe. In her memoir of middle-class life in early twentieth–century Germany, for instance, Doris Drucker describes the village “Angel-maker,” who received babies from unwed mothers and “starved the little children in her care to death,” while the unwed, now childless mother was hired out as a wet nurse to upper-class families.[14] How efficient.
Horrifying as it is to contemplate, widespread infanticide was not limited to Malinowski’s day. For centuries, millions of European children had been passed through discreet revolving boxes set into the walls of foundling hospitals. These boxes were designed to protect the anonymity of the person leaving the child, but they offered scant protection to the infant. The survival rate in those institutions was little better than if the revolving boxes had opened directly into a crematorium’s furnace. Far from being places of healing, these were government- and church-approved slaughterhouses where children whose existence might have raised inconvenient questions about the “naturalness” of the nuclear family were disposed of in a form of industrialized infanticide.(p.148) [15] {Beaver’s Note – Excellent work goes out to Christianity on their ‘unquestioningly correct principles’ of infant rearing with values on single parent bastardization pressure.  Way to create an alley to save face by handling what you deemed ugly situation societal views.  Your society murdered infants…}

Early explorers, whalers, and fur trappers of the frigid north found the Inuit to be jaw-droppingly hospitable hosts. Imagine their confused gratitude when they realized the village headman was offering his own bed (wife included) to the weary, freezing traveler. In fact, the welcome Knud Ramusen and others had stumbled into was a system of spouse exchange central to Inuit culture, with clear advantages in that unforgiving climate. Erotic exchange played an important role in linking families from distant villages in a durable web of certain aid in times of crisis. Though the harsh ecology of the Arctic dictated a much lower population density than the Amazon or even the Kalahari Desert, extra-pair sexual interaction helped cement bonds that offered the same insurance against unforeseen difficulties.(p.161-2)

 

Notes:
6. These tidbits come from Ventura’s wonderful essay on the origins of jazz and rock music, “Hear That Long Snake Moan,” published in Ventura (1986). The book is out of print, but you can access this essay and other writing at Ventura’s website: http://www.michaelventura. org/. The Thompson material can be found both in Ventura’s essay and in Thompson (1984).
12. Ford and Beach (1952), p. 118.
13. See Sapolsky (2005).
14. Drucker (2004).
15. Even Jean-Jacques Rousseau, poster-boy for the Romantic ideal of the Noble Savage, made use of these baby disposals. In 1785, Benjamin Franklin visited the hospital where Rousseau had deposited his five illegitimate children and discovered a mortality rate of 85 percent among the babies there (“Baby Food,” by Jill Lepore, in The New Yorker, January 19, 2009).

[hr]

But Goodall’s impression of relative harmony was to change—not coincidentally, argues Power—precisely when she and her students began giving the chimps hundreds of bananas every day, to entice them to hang around the camp so they could be observed more easily. In the wild, chimps spread out to search for food individually or in small groups. Because the food is scattered throughout the jungle, competition is unusual. But, as Frans de Waal explains, “as soon as humans start providing food, even in the jungle, the peace is quickly disturbed.”16 The mounds of deliciously smelly fruit locked in reinforced concrete boxes opened only for timed, regular feedings altered the chimps’ behavior dramatically. Goodall’s assistants had to keep rebuilding the boxes, as the frustrated apes found endless ways of prying or smashing them open. Ripe fruit that could not be eaten immediately was a new experience for them—one that left the chimps confused and enraged. Imagine telling a room of unruly three-year-olds on Christmas morning (each with the strength of four adult men) that they’ll have to wait an unspecified amount of time to open the piles of presents they can see right there, under the tree. (p.247-8)
* 16. The quote is from de Waal (1998), p. 10.

Early agriculture’s stores of harvested grain and herds of placid livestock were like boxes of bananas in the jungle. There was now something worth fighting over: more. More land to cultivate. More women to increase population to work the land, raise armies to defend it, and help with the harvest. More slaves for the hard labor of planting, harvesting, and fighting. Failed crops in one area would lead desperate farmers to raid neighbors, who would retaliate, and so on, over and over.24 (p.252)
* 24. Readers with mental images of Sioux (Lakota) chiefs with eagle-feather war bonnets rippling in the wind should keep in mind that in the generations before first contact with whites, disease spread through many tribes and the arrival of horses brought severe cultural disruptions, leading to conflict between groups that had been at peace previously (see Brown, 1970/2001).

Once our ancestors began cultivating land for food, they were running on a wheel, but never fast enough. More land provides more food. And more food means more children born and fed. More children provide more help on the farm and more soldiers. But this population growth creates demand for more land, which can be won and held only through conquest and war. Put another way, the shift to agriculture was accelerated by the seemingly irrefutable belief that it’s better to take strangers’ land (killing them if necessary) than to allow one’s own children to die of starvation. (p.267-8)

The act of swearing on one’s balls lives on in the word testify. (p.305)

A team of Australian researchers, for example, found that men who had ejaculated more than five times per week between the ages of twenty and fifty were one-third less likely to develop prostate cancer later in life.9  Along with the fructose, potassium, zinc, and other benign components of semen, trace amounts of carcinogens are often present, so researchers hypothesize that the reduction in cancer rates may be due to the frequent flushing of the ducts.

A different team from Sydney University reported in late 2007 that daily ejaculation dramatically reduced DNA damage to men’s sperm cells, thereby increasing male fertility—quite the opposite of the conventional wisdom. After forty-two men with damaged sperm were instructed to ejaculate daily for a week, almost all showed less chromosomal damage than a control group who had abstained for three days.10
Frequent orgasm is associated with better cardiac health as well. A study conducted at the University of Bristol and Queen’s University of Belfast found that men who have three or more orgasms per week are 50 percent less likely to die from coronary heart disease.11 (p. 310)
*9. BBC News online, July 16, 2003.
*10. BBC News online, October 15, 2007.
*11. Psychology Today, March/April 2001.

Because fit is so important in the effectiveness of condoms, World Health Organization guidelines specify different sizes for various parts of the world: a 49-millimeter-width condom for Asia, a 52-millimeter width for North America and Europe, and a 53-millimeter width for Africa (all condoms are longer than most men will ever need). The condoms manufactured in China for their domestic market are 49 millimeters wide. According to a study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research, high levels of slippage and failure are due to a bad fit between many Indian men and the international standards used in condom manufacture.14 (p.313)
*14. BBC News online, December 8, 2006.

According to an article published in Nature, Japanese and Chinese men’s testicles tend to be smaller than those of Caucasian men, on average. The authors of the study concluded that “differences in body size make only a slight contribution to these values.”15 Other researchers have confirmed these general trends, finding average combined testes weights of 24 grams for Asians, 29 to 33 grams for Caucasians, and 50 grams for Africans.16 (p.314)
*15. Diamond (1986).
*16. W. A. Schonfeld, “Primary and Secondary Sexual Characteristics. Study of Their Development in Males from Birth through Maturity, with Biometric Study of Penis and Testes,”American Journal of Diseases in Children 65, 535–549 (cited in Short, 1979).

When it comes to sex, men may be trash-talking sprinters, but it’s the women who win all the marathons. Any marriage counselor will tell you the most common sex-related complaint women make about men is that they are too quick and too direct. Meanwhile, men’s most frequent sex-related gripe about women is that they take too damned long to get warmed up. After an orgasm, a woman may be anticipating a dozen more. A female body in motion tends to stay in motion. But men come and go. For them, the curtain falls quickly and the mind turns to unrelated matters. This symmetry of dual disappointment illustrates the almost comical incompatibility between men’s and women’s sexual response in the context of monogamous mating. You have to wonder: if men and women evolved together in sexually monogamous couples for millions of years, how did we end up being so incompatible? It’s as if we’ve been sitting down to dinner together, millennium after millennium, but half of us can’t help wolfing everything down in a few frantic, sloppy minutes, while the other half are still setting the table and lighting candles. (p.319)

Hysteria was still one of the most diagnosed diseases in the United States and Great Britain as recently as the early twentieth century. You might wonder how physicians treated this chronic condition over the centuries. We’ll tell you. Doctors masturbated their female patients to orgasm. According to historian Rachel Maines, female patients were routinely massaged to orgasm from the time of Hippocrates until the 1920s. Have a seat; the doctor will be right with you….
While some passed the job off to nurses, most physicians performed the therapy themselves, though apparently not without some difficulty. Nathaniel Highmore, writing in 1660, noted that it was not an easy technique to learn, being “not unlike that game of boys in which they try to rub their stomachs with one hand and pat their heads with the other.”
Whatever challenges male physicians faced in mastering the technique, it seems to have been worth the effort. The Health and Diseases of Women, published in 1873, estimates that about 75 percent of American women were in need of these treatments and that they constituted thesingle largest market for therapeutic services. Despite Donald Symons’s protestations that “[a]mong all peoples sexual intercourse is understood to be a service or favor that females render to males,” it seems that for centuries, orgasmic release was a service male doctors rendered to women … for a price. (p.322)

The men who provided this lucrative therapy didn’t write about “orgasm” in the medical articles they published on hysteria and its treatment. Rather, they published serious, sober discussion of “vulvular massage” leading to “nervous paroxysm” that brought temporary relief to the patient. These were ideal patients, after all. They didn’t die or recover from their condition. They just kept returning, eager for more treatment sessions.  This arrangement might strike some readers as the very definition of “good work if you can get it,” but many physicians apparently felt otherwise. Maines found “no evidence that male physicians enjoyed providing pelvic massage treatments. On the contrary, this male elite sought every opportunity to substitute other devices for their fingers.”
What “other devices” does Maines have in mind? See if you can finish this series:

  1. Sewing machine
  2. Fan
  3. Tea kettle
  4. Toaster
  5. ?

Here’s a hint: These are the first five electrical appliances sold directly to American consumers. Give up? The Hamilton Beach Company of Racine, Wisconsin, patented the first home-use vibrator in 1902, thereby making it just the fifth electrical appliance approved for domestic use. By 1917, there were more vibrators than toasters in American homes. But before it became an instrument for self-treatment (“All the pleasures of youth … will throb within you,” one suggestive ad promised), vibrators had already been in use for decades in the offices of physicians who’d grown weary of “rubbing their stomachs and patting their heads at the same time.” (p.323-4)

…the clitoris had been ignored by male authors of elaborate anatomical sketchbooks for centuries. It wasn’t until the mid-1500s that a Venetian professor by the name of Matteo Realdo Colombo, who had previously studied anatomy with Michelangelo, stumbled upon a mysterious protuberance between a woman’s legs. As described in Federico Andahazi’s historical novel The Anatomist, Colombo made this discovery while examining a patient named Inés de Torremolinos. Colombo noted that Inés grew tense when he manipulated this small button, and that it appeared to grow in size at his touch. Clearly, this would require further exploration. After examining scores of other women, Colombo found that all of them had this same heretofore “undiscovered” protuberance and that they all responded similarly to gentle manipulation.
In March of 1558, Andahazi tells us that Colombo proudly reported his “discovery” of the clitoris to the dean of his faculty.6 As Jonathan Margolis speculates in O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm, the response was probably not what Colombo had anticipated. The professor was “arrested in his classroom within days, accused of heresy,  blasphemy, witchcraft and Satanism, put on trial and imprisoned. His manuscripts were confiscated, and his [discovery] was never permitted to be mentioned again until centuries after his death.”7 (p.328)
*6. Although the clitoris is often referred to as “the only organ in the human body whose sole function is to provide pleasure,” there are two problems with this observation. First, if female orgasm (pleasure) is functional in the senses we outline (increases chances of fertilization, inspires vocalizations, and thereby promotes sperm competition), then there is clearly a purpose to the pleasure. Secondly, what about male nipples? Not all men find them to be a site of pleasure, but they are certainly highly enervated and serve no functional purpose.
*7. Margolis (2004), pp. 242–243.

“The Malleus Maleficarum (1486), the first great handbook of the witch inquisitors, had no more difficulty than a modern psycho-analyst in accepting that [a certain] type of woman might readily believe she had had intercourse with the Devil himself, a huge, black, monstrous being with an enormous penis and seminal fluid as cold as ice water.”8 But it wasn’t only sexual dreams that attracted the brutal attentions of erotophobic authorities. If a witch-hunter in the 1600s discovered a woman or girl with an unusually large clitoris, this “devil’s teat” was sufficient to condemn her to death.9 (p.329)
*8. Ironically, according to archaeologist Timothy Taylor (1996), this image of the Devil is thought to be derived from Cernunnos, the horned god, who was the Celtic translation of Indian tantric practice and thus originally a symbol of spiritual transcendence via sexual practice.
*9. Coventry (2000).

British primatologist Stuart Semple found that, “In a wide variety of species, females vocalize just before, during or immediately after they mate. These vocalizations,” Semple says, “are particularly common among the primates and evidence is now accumulating that by calling, a female incites males in her group….”4Precisely. There’s a good reason the sound of a woman enjoying a sexual encounter entices a  heterosexual man. Her “copulation call” is a potential invitation to come hither, thus provoking sperm competition. Semple recorded more than 550 copulation calls from seven different female baboons and analyzed their acoustic structure. He found that these complex vocalizations contained information related both to the female’s reproductive state (the vocalizations were more complex when females were closer to ovulation) and to the status of the male “inspiring” any given vocalization (calls were longer and contained more distinct sonic units during matings with higher-ranked males). Thus, in these baboons at least, listening males could presumably gain information as to their likelihood of impregnating a calling female, as well as some sense of the rank of the male they’d find with her if they approached. (p.335)
*4. Semple (2001).

William J. Hamilton and Patricia C. Arrowood analyzed the copulatory vocalizations of various primates, including three human couples going at it.9 They noticed that “female sounds gradually intensified as orgasm approached and at orgasm assumed a rapid, regular (equal note lengths and inter-note intervals) rhythm absent in the males’ calls at orgasm.” Still, the authors can’t help sounding a tad let down when they note, “Neither sex [of human] … showed the complexity of note structure characteristic of baboon copulatory vocalizations.” But that’s probably a good thing, because elsewhere in their article we learn that female baboons’ copulation calls are clearly audible to even human ears from three hundred meters away.
Before you conclude that female copulatory vocalization is just a fancy phrase for a little excitement, think about the predators possibly alerted by this primate passion. Chimps and bonobos may be out of reach up in the branches, but baboons (like our ground-dwelling ancestors) live among leopards and other predators who would be quite interested in a two-for-one special on fresh primate—especially given a mating pair’s distracted, vulnerable state. As Hamilton and Arrowood put it: “In spite of the risk of exposure of individuals and the troop to predators these baboons habitually call during copulation, [so] the calls must have some adaptive value.” What could that be? The authors offered several hypotheses, including the notion that the calls may be a stratagem to help activate the male’s ejaculatory reflex, an analysis with which many prostitutes would presumably agree. Perhaps there is something to this idea,10 but even so, male primates are not known for needing a great deal of assistance in activating their ejaculatory reflex. If anything, the human male ejaculatory reflex tends to be too easily activated—at least from the perspective of women not being paid to activate it as quickly as possible. Especially given all the other convergent evidence, it seems far more likely that in humans, female copulatory vocalization would serve to attract males to the ovulating, sexually receptive female, thus promoting sperm competition, with all its attendant benefits—both reproductive and social. (p.337)
*9. These quotes are from Hamilton and Arrowood (1978).
*10. The intensity of the female’s vocalizations could, for example, guide the discerning male’s orgasmic response—thus increasing the chances of simultaneous or near-simultaneous orgasm. As we discuss below, there is evidence such timing could be to the male’s reproductive advantage.

Considering its almost total lack of muscle tissue, the female breast wields amazing power. Curvaceous women have leveraged this power to manipulate even the most accomplished, disciplined men for as long as anyone’s been around to notice. Empires have fallen, wills have been revised, millions of magazines and calendars sold, Super Bowl audiences scandalized … all in response to the mysterious force emanating from what are, after all, small bags of fat.
One of the oldest human images known, the so-called Venus of Willendorf, created about 25,000 years ago, features a bosom of Dolly Parton-esque dimensions. Two hundred fifty centuries later, the power of the exaggerated breast shows little sign of getting old. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgery, 347,254 breast augmentation procedures were performed in the United States in 2007, making it the nation’s most commonly performed surgical procedure. What gives the female breast such transcendent influence over heterosexual male consciousness?
First, let’s dispense with any purely utilitarian interpretations. While the mammary glands contained in women’s breasts exist for the feeding of infants, the fatty tissue that confers the magical curve of the human breast—the swell, sway, and jiggle—has nothing to do with milk production. Given the clear physiological costs of having pendulous breasts (back strain, loss of balance, difficulty running), if they aren’t meant to advertise milk for babies, why did human females evolve and retain these cumbersome appendages?
Theories range from the belief that breasts serve as signalling devices announcing fertility and fat deposits sufficient to withstand the rigors of pregnancy and  breastfeeding12 to “genital echo theory”: females developed pendulous breasts around the time hominids began walking upright in order to provoke the excitation males formerly felt when gazing at the fatty deposits on the buttocks.13 Theorists supporting genital echo theory have noted that swellings like those of chimpanzees and bonobos would interfere with locomotion in a bipedal primate, so when our distant ancestors began walking upright, they reason that some of the female’s fertility signaling moved from the rear office, as it were, to the front showroom. In a bit of historical ping-pong, the dictates of fashion have moved the swelling back and forth over the centuries with high heels, Victorian bustles, and other derrière enhancements. (p.340)
*12. For example, Symons (1979) and Wright (1994).
*13. See Morris (1967), Diamond (1991), and Fisher (1992).

…it’s worth noting that unless her breasts are artificially enhanced, as a woman’s fertility fades with age, so do her breasts—further supporting the claim that they evolved to signal fertility. (p.341)

Although many theories claim the human female has “hidden ovulation,” it’s not really hidden at all, if you know how and where to look. Martie Haselton and her colleagues found that men shown photographs of the same thirty women—some taken around ovulation and others not—were quite good at judging when the women were “trying to look more attractive,” which in turn corresponded to the women’s menstrual status. These authors found that women tend to dress more fetchingly when they are more likely to be fertile.
“Moreover,” writes Haselton, “the closer women were to ovulation when photographed in the fertile window, the more frequently their fertile photograph was chosen.”17
Other researchers have found that men preferred women’s bodily smells near ovulation and that women tend to behave more provocatively in various ways when they’re likely to be fertile (they wear more jewelry and perfume, go out more, are more likely to hook up for casual sexual encounters, and are less likely to use condoms with new lovers). (p.344)
*17. Haselton et al. (2007). Available online at www.sciencedirect.com.

In addition to enveloping eggs, a cervix that filters or favors sperm, and vaginal contractions that may expel the sperm of one man while boosting that of another, women’s orgasms provoke changes in vaginal acidity. These changes appear to assist the sperm cells of the lucky guy who provoked the orgasm. The environment at the cervical opening tends to be highly acidic and thus hostile to sperm cells. The alkaline pH of semen protects the spermatozoa in this environment for a while, but the protection is short-lived; most of the sperm cells are viable within the vagina for only a few hours, so these changes in acidity alter the vaginal environment in ways that can favor sperm that arrive with the female’s orgasm.
The benefits may run both ways. Recent research suggests women who do not use condoms are less likely to suffer from depression than either women who do use condoms or who are not sexually active. Psychologist Gordon Gallup’s initial survey of 293 women (data congruent with those from another survey still to be published that included 700 women) found that women can develop a “chemical dependency” on the boost they get from the testosterone, estrogen, prostaglandins, and other hormones contained in semen. These chemicals enter the woman’s bloodstream through the vaginal wall.30
If it’s true that multiple mating was common in human evolution, the apparent mismatch between the relatively quick male orgasmic response and the so-called “delayed” female response makes sense (note how the female response is “delayed” only if the male’s is assumed to be “right on time”). The male’s quick orgasm lessens the chances of being interrupted by predators or other males (survival of the quickest!), while the female and her child would benefit by exercising some preconscious control over which spermatozoa would be most likely to fertilize her ovum.
Prolactin and the other hormones released at orgasm appear to trigger very different responses in men and women. While a man is likely to require a prolonged refractory (or recovery) period immediately after an orgasm (and maybe a sandwich and a beer as well), thus getting him out of the way of other males, many women are willing and able to continue sexual activity well beyond a “starter orgasm.” (p.351)
*30. Gallup et al. (2002).

Our journey into a deeper understanding of the “feminine soul” begins in a muddy field in the English countryside. In the early 1990s, neuroscientist Keith Kendrick and his colleagues exchanged that season’s newborn sheep and goats (the baby sheep were raised by adult goats, and vice versa).
Upon reaching sexual maturity a few years later, the animals were reunited with their own species and their mating behavior was observed. The females adopted a love-the-one-you’re-with approach, showing themselves willing to mate with males of either species. But the males,even after being back with their own species for three years, would mate only with the species with which they were raised.1 (p.356)
*1. Wright (1994), p. 58.

2006, psychologist Meredith Chivers set up an experiment where she showed a variety of sexual videos to men and women, both straight and gay. The videos included a wide range of possible erotic configurations: man/woman, man/man, woman/woman, lone man masturbating, lone woman masturbating, a muscular guy walking naked on a beach, and a fit woman working out in the nude. To top it all off, she also included a short film clip of bonobos mating.3
While her subjects were being buffeted by this onslaught of varied eroticism, they had a keypad where they could indicate how turned on they felt. In addition, their genitals were wired up to Plethysmographs. Isn’t that illegal? No, a plethysmograph isn’t a torture device (or a dinosaur, for that matter). It measures blood flow to the genitals, a surefire indicator that the body is getting ready for love. Think of it as an erotic lie detector.
What did Chivers find? Gay or straight, the men were predictable. The things that turned them on were what you’d expect. The straight guys responded to anything involving naked women, but were left cold when only men were on display. The gay guys were similarly consistent, though at 180 degrees. And both straight and gay men indicated with the keypad what their genital blood flow was saying. As it turns out, men can think with both heads at once, as long as both are thinking the same thing.
The female subjects, on the other hand, were the very picture of inscrutability. Regardless of sexual orientation, most of them had the plethysmograph’s needle twitching over just about everything they saw. Whether they were watching men with men, women with women, the guy on the beach, the woman in the gym, or bonobos in the zoo, their genital blood was pumping. But unlike the men, many of the women reported (via the keypad) that they weren’t turned on. As Daniel Bergner reported on the study in The New York Times, “With the women … mind and genitals seemed scarcely to belong to the same person.”4 Watching both the lesbians and the gay male couple, the straight women’s vaginal blood flow indicated more arousal than they confessed on the keypad.
Watching good old-fashioned vanilla heterosexual couplings, everything flipped and they claimed more arousal than their bodies indicated. Straight or gay, the women reported almost no response to the hot bonobo-on-bonobo action, though again, their bodily reactions suggested they kinda liked it.
This disconnect between what these women experienced on a physical level and what they consciously registered is precisely what the theory of differential erotic plasticity predicts. It could well be that the price of women’s greater erotic flexibility is more difficulty in knowing—and, depending on what cultural restrictions may be involved, in accepting—what they’re feeling. This is worth keeping in mind when considering why so many women report lack of interest in sex or difficulties in reaching orgasm.* (p.358)
*3. Chivers et al. (2007).
*4. Much of the research reviewed here is mentioned in Bergner’s excellent article “What Do Women Want?—Discovering What Ignites Female Desire,” January 22, 2009. Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/25/magazine/25desire-t.html.

Every woman knows her menstrual cycle can have profound effects on her eroticism. Spanish researchers confirmed that women experience greater feelings of attractiveness and desire around ovulation, while others have reported that women find classically masculine faces more attractive around ovulation, opting for less chiseled-looking guys when not fertile.7 Since the birth control pill affects the menstrual cycle, it’s not surprising that it may affect a woman’s patterns of attraction as well. Scottish researcher Tony Little found women’s assessment of men as potential husband material shifted if they were on the pill. Little thinks the social consequences of his finding may be immense: “Where a woman chooses her partner while she is on the Pill, and then comes off it to have a child, her hormone-driven preferences have changed and she may find she is married to the wrong kind of man.”8
Little’s concern is not misplaced. In 1995, Swiss biological researcher Claus Wedekind published the results of what is now known as the “Sweaty T-shirt Experiment.” He asked women to sniff T-shirts men had been wearing for a few days, with no perfumes, soaps, or showers. Wedekind found, and subsequent research has confirmed, that most of the women were attracted to the scent of men whose major histocompatibility complex (MHC) differed from her own.9
This preference makes genetic sense in that the MHC indicates the range of immunity to various pathogens. Children born of parents with different immunities are likely to benefit from a broader, more robust immune response themselves.
The problem is that women taking birth control pills don’t seem to show the same responsiveness to these male scent cues. Women who were using birth control pills chose men’s T-shirts randomly or, even worse, showed a preference for men with similar immunity to their own.10
Consider the implications. Many couples meet when the woman is on the pill. They go out for a while, like each other a lot, and then decide to get together and have a family. She goes off the pill, gets pregnant, and has a baby. But her response to him changes. There’s something about him she finds irritating—something she hadn’t noticed before. Maybe she finds him sexually unattractive, and the distance between them grows. But her libido is fine. She gets flushed every time she gets close enough to smell her tennis coach. Her body, no longer silenced by the effects of the pill, may now be telling her that her husband (still the great guy she married) isn’t a good genetic match for her. But it’s too late.
They blame it on the work pressure, the stress of parenthood, each other…. (p.361)
*8. Little’s quote is from BBC News article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2677697.stm.
*9. Wedekind et al. (1995). A more recent follow-up that confirms these results is Santos et al. (2005).
*10. Birth control pills don’t just interfere with women’s ability to sense MHC in men, but appear to affect other feedback systems as well. See Laeng and Falkenberg (2007), for example.

Psychologist Richard Lippa teamed up with the BBC to survey over 200,000 people of all ages from all over the world concerning the strength of their sex drive and how it affects their desires.13 He found the same inversion of male and female sexuality: for men, both gay and straight, higher sex drive increases the specificity of their sexual desire. In other words, a straight guy with a higher sex drive tends to be more focused on women, while higher sex drive in a gay guy makes him more intent on men. But with women—at least nominally straight women—the opposite occurs: the higher her sex drive, the more likely she’ll be attracted to men and women. Lesbians showed the same pattern as men: a higher sex drive means more women-only focus. Perhaps this explains why nearly twice as many women as men consider themselves bisexual, while only half as many consider themselves to be exclusively gay. (p.361)
*13. Lippa (2007). Available online at http://psych.fullerton.edu/rlippa/bbc_sexdrive.htm.

In 2003, seventeen-year-old honor student and homecoming king Genarlow Wilson was caught having consensual oral sex with his girlfriend, who had not yet turned sixteen. He was convicted of aggravated child molestation, sentenced to a minimum of ten years in a Georgia prison, and forced to register as a sex offender for life. If Wilson and his girlfriend had just enjoyed good old-fashioned intercourse, as opposed to oral sex, their “crime” would have been a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of a year in prison and no sex-offender status.7 (p.369)
*7. Georgia has a serious problem with oral sex. Until 1998, it was illegal—even between a married couple in their own bedroom—and punishable by up to twenty years in prison.

Prescott concluded that in all but one of the cultures for which these data were available (forty-eight of forty-nine), “deprivation of body pleasure throughout life—but particularly during the formative periods of infancy, childhood, and adolescence—is very closely related to the amount of warfare and interpersonal violence.” Cultures that don’t interfere in the physical bonding between mother and child or prohibit the expression of adolescent sexuality show far lower levels of violence—both between individuals and between societies.10 (p.371)
*10. All quotes from this section are taken from Prescott (1975).

Circumcision remains prevalent in the United States, though varying greatly by region, ranging from about 40 percent of newborns circumcised in western states to about twice that in the Northeast.14 This widespread procedure, rarely a medical necessity, has its roots in the anti-masturbation campaigns of Kellogg and his like-minded contemporaries. As Money explains, “Neonatal circumcision crept into American delivery rooms in the 1870s and 1880s, not for religious reasons and not for reasons of health or hygiene, as is commonly supposed, but because of the claim that, later in life, it would prevent irritation that would cause the boy to become a masturbator.”15 (p.375)
*14. See http://www.cirp.org/library/statistics/USA/.
*15. Money (1985), pp. 101–102.

There’s a story about President Calvin Coolidge and a chicken farm every evolutionary psychologist knows by heart. It goes like this: The president and his wife were visiting a commercial chicken farm in the 1920s. During the tour, the first lady asked the farmer how he managed to produce so many fertile eggs with only a few roosters. The farmer proudly explained that his roosters happily performed their duty dozens of times each day. “Perhaps you could mention that to the president,” replied the first lady. Overhearing the remark, President Coolidge asked the farmer, “Does each cock service the same hen each time?” “Oh no,” replied the farmer, “he always changes from one hen to another.” “I see,” replied the president. “Perhaps you could point that out to Mrs. Coolidge.” (p.377)

The strongest explanation for the prevalence and intensity of the Coolidge effect among social mammals is that the male drive for sexual variety is evolution’s way of avoiding incest. Our species evolved on a sparsely populated planet—never more than a few million and probably fewer than 100,000 of us on Earth for most of our evolutionary past. To avoid the genetic stagnation that would have dragged our ancestors into extinction long ago, males evolved a strong appetite for sexual novelty and a robust aversion to the overly familiar. While this carrot-and-stick mechanism worked well to promote genetic diversity in the prehistoric environment, it’s causing lots of problems now. When a couple have been living together for years, when they’ve become family, this ancient anti-incest mechanism can effectively block eroticism for many men, leading to confusion and hurt feelings all around.22 (p.383)
*22. Additionally, the so-called Westermark effect appears to strongly dissuade sex between close familiars.

In the 1960s, anthropologist William Davenport lived among a group of Melanesian islanders who regarded sex as natural and uncomplicated. All the women claimed to be highly orgasmic, with most reporting several orgasms to each of her partner’s one. Nevertheless, reported Davenport, “it is assumed that after a few years of marriage, the husband’s interest in his wife will begin to pale.” Until the recent imposition of colonial laws stopped the practice, these Melanesians avoided monotomy by allowing married men to have young lovers. Rather than being jealous of these concubines, wives regarded them as status symbols, and Davenport claimed that both men and women regarded the loss of this practice the worst result of contact with European culture. “Older men often comment today that without young women to excite them and without the variety once provided by changing concubines, they have become sexually inactive long before their time.”26
Closer to home, William Masters and Virginia Johnson reported that “loss of coital interest engendered by monotony in a sexual relationship is probably the most constant factor in the loss of an aging male’s interest in sexual performance with his partner.” They note that this loss of interest can frequently be reversed if the man has a younger lover—even if the lover is not as attractive or sexually skilled as the man’s wife. Kinsey concurred, writing, “There seems to be no question but that the human male would be promiscuous in his choice of sexual partners throughout the whole of his life if there were no social restrictions.”27 (p.385)
*26. Davenport (1965).
*27. Kinsey et al. (1948), p. 589.

Susan Squire, author of I Don’t: A Contrarian History of Marriage, asks: “Why does society consider it more moral for you to break up a marriage, go through a divorce, disrupt your children’s lives maybe forever, just to be able to fuck someone with whom the fucking is going to get just as boring as it was with the first person before long?”34 (p.392)
*34. Squire quoted by Phillip Weiss in his provocative article in New York magazine: “The affairs of men: The trouble with sex and marriage.” May 18, 2008. Available here: http://nymag.com/relationships/sex/47055.

“The French are much more comfortable with the idea that their affair partner is just that—an affair partner,” writes Pamela Druckerman in her cross-cultural look at infidelity, Lust in Translation. Understanding that love and sex are different things, Druckerman says the French feel less need to “complain about their marriage to legitimize the affair in the first place.” But she found that Americans and British couples seemed to be reading from an entirely different script. “An affair, even a one-night stand, means a marriage is over,” Druckerman observed. “I spoke to women who, on discovering that their husbands had cheated, immediately packed a bag and left, because ‘that’s what you do.’ Not because that’s what they wanted to do—they just thought that was the rule. They didn’t even seem to realize there were other options…. I mean, really, like they’re reading from a script! “4 (p.396)
*4. These quotes from Druckerman were taken from a review of her book in The Observer,July 8, 2007.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *