Tag Archives: sex

Female Orgasm as Mate Screening

Where­as Robin­son sug­gests the evol­u­tion­ary under­pin­nings of orgasm lie in the ‘Yes!’ factor of gene con­tinu­ation, in How Women Got Their Curves and Oth­er Just-So Stor­ies: Evol­u­tion­ary Enig­mas Dav­id Barash and Judith Lipt­on believe it could be, at least for the poten­tially multi-orgas­mic female, an “anti-infant­i­cide insur­ance policy” that spurred women to mate suc­cess­ively with mul­tiple males, or, more likely in the authors’ opin­ions, an evol­u­tion­ary mech­an­ism for mono­gamy (link to chapter five from the afore­men­tioned book, titled The Enig­mat­ic Orgasm).

As Robin Han­son explains quite suc­cinctly, female orgasm could be evol­u­tion’s way of allow­ing females to screen pro­spect­ive mates—a meth­od of enabling females to dis­cov­er the most com­pat­ible and suit­able males.

First sug­ges­ted by Dav­id P. Barash nearly three dec­ades ago, the idea is that orgasm might be a way a woman’s body speaks to her brain, “telling her­self” that she has been hav­ing sex with a suit­able partner—that is, one who is not wor­ried about being dis­placed by a com­pet­it­or, who is self-con­fid­ent and unhur­ried enough to be sat­is­fy­ing to her. […]

Research on a large cap­tive group of Japan­ese macaque mon­keys is also sug­gest­ive. […] Dur­ing 238 hours of obser­va­tions in which 240 cop­u­la­tions were observed, female orgas­mic responses occurred in 80 (33 per­cent). Of these orgasms, the highest fre­quency took place when high-rank­ing males were cop­u­lat­ing with low-rank­ing females, and the low­est between low-rank­ing males and high-rank­ing females. […] Maybe, [female orgasm] is designed to be more than a little hard to get, adapt­ive pre­cisely because it can­’t be too read­ily summoned, so that when it arrives, it means some­thing. […]

What about fak­ing orgasm? […] Orgas­mic pre­tense might increase the man’s con­fid­ence regard­ing patern­ity of any off­spring, build­ing on his likely assump­tion that a sexu­ally sat­is­fied woman would­n’t have sought to mate with someone else. […] [This] would dimin­ish the like­li­hood that the man will engage in “mate guard­ing,” thereby facil­it­at­ing a woman’s abil­ity to engage in extrapair cop­u­la­tions. […]

Rates of extrapair patern­ity are about 2 per­cent in many human pop­u­la­tions and about 10 per­cent in tra­di­tion­al soci­et­ies. … One study has found that women are sig­ni­fic­antly more orgas­mic when paired with men who are more sym­met­ric. […] [and] are more likely to exper­i­ence ostens­ibly “high sperm reten­tion orgasms” – that is, cli­maxes that occurred in close tem­por­al prox­im­ity to the man’s.

Sex Without Orgasm Could Lead to Healthier Relationships

One solu­tion to the “wide­spread dis­har­mony in intim­ate rela­tion­ships” is to “change the way you make love”, pro­motes Mar­nia Robin­son, sug­gest­ing that through ‘con­ven­tion­al sex’ we keep our dopam­ine and pro­lactin levels “uncom­fort­ably high or uncom­fort­ably low”. Instead, to ensure a stable rela­tion­ship (through a more stable neuro­chem­istry), we should prac­tice ‘con­ven­tion­al orgasm’-free sex with our part­ners.

The point is that con­ven­tion­al sex can play hav­oc with your neuro­chem­istry. Your dopam­ine levels will be uncom­fort­ably high or uncom­fort­ably low.

This is why the ancient Taoists and oth­er sages through­out his­tory have recom­men­ded mak­ing love without con­ven­tion­al orgasm. By avoid­ing the extreme highs that over-stim­u­late the nerve cells in the prim­it­ive brain, you also avoid the tem­por­ary lows that accom­pany recov­ery. You keep your dopam­ine levels with­in ideal ranges. This pro­duces a sense of well­being, which pro­motes har­mony in your rela­tion­ship.

Con­clud­ing with:

Both low dopam­ine and high pro­lactin make your world look bleak—and increase your crav­ing for bet­ter sex or new part­ners who would raise your dopam­ine levels (and set you on anoth­er addict­ive cycle of highs and lows). Togeth­er these neuro­chem­ic­als prob­ably account for the “end of the hon­ey­moon,” which nearly all couples exper­i­ence with­in a year of mar­riage. To heal the under­ly­ing prob­lem, you may just have to change the way you make love.

Robin­son has writ­ten a more access­ible ver­sion of this essay for The Huff­ing­ton Post, say­ing

As I learn more about the effects of sex on the brain, I real­ize it makes sense to take into account how recently, or intensely, we have cli­maxed. It appears that fre­quent, or espe­cially intense, orgasm can cre­ate tol­er­ance (a need for increas­ing stim­u­la­tion to achieve future orgasms). It can also lead to sati­ety and habitu­ation, which may show up as sub­con­scious irrit­a­tion, out of sync libidos, per­form­ance demands and insec­ur­it­ies. And it may pro­mote the use of risky sexu­al enhance­ment meas­ures as lov­ers try to over­come their built-in bio­lo­gic­al brakes with force. […] Per­haps we are pres­sur­ing ourselves to reach unreal­ist­ic bench­marks.

Addendum: Being one who is par­tic­u­larly fond of charts and lists, I rather liked the author’s Feel­ings & Beha­viours Asso­ci­ated with Vari­ous Dopamine/Prolactin Levels chart.
Robin­son’s essay, with­in the open­ing few para­graphs, men­tions one of my all-time favour­ite and most dis­cussed exper­i­ments con­duc­ted on rats.
I would­n’t mind get­ting Dr. Petra Boyn­ton’s opin­ion on all of this.

Female Sexuality Research: What Women Want

The ques­tion ‘What does a woman want?’ was, accord­ing to Freud, “The great ques­tion that has nev­er been answered”. One per­son try­ing to answer this ques­tion, how­ever, is Meredith Chivers—a psy­cho­lo­gist spe­cial­ising in sexu­al beha­viour whose work was extens­ively dis­cussed in The New York Times earli­er this year.

The art­icle, focus­ing on female sexu­al­ity, is eye-open­ing in many ways, espe­cially in show­ing the gulf between male and female sexu­al­ity.

The men, on aver­age, respon­ded gen­it­ally in what Chivers terms “cat­egory spe­cif­ic” ways. […] The men’s minds and gen­it­als were in agree­ment.

All was dif­fer­ent with the women. No mat­ter what their self-pro­claimed sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion, they showed, on the whole, strong and swift gen­it­al arous­al when the screen offered men with men, women with women and women with men. […] With the women, espe­cially the straight women, mind and gen­it­als seemed scarcely to belong to the same per­son.

via Green Oas­is

Gluttony and Adultery

Are our evolving social and cul­tur­al judg­ments about sex and food related? Mary Eber­stadt, fel­low at Stan­ford Uni­versity’s Hoover Insti­tute, believes so.

Pulitzer Prize-win­ning op-ed colum­nist George Will dis­cusses Eber­stadt’s the­ory, stat­ing that nowadays we judge people more for their food choices than their sexu­al beha­viours, where­as a gen­er­a­tion ago these mor­al poles would have been reversed.

In a Policy Review essay, Is Food the New Sex? – it has a sec­tion titled “Broc­coli, por­no­graphy, and Kant” – she notes that for the first time ever, most people in advanced nations “are more or less free to have all the sex and food they want.” One might think, she says, either that food and sex would both be pur­sued with an ardor heed­less of con­sequences, or that both would be sub­jec­ted to ana­log­ous codes con­strain­ing con­sump­tion. The oppos­ite has happened – mind­ful eat­ing and mind­less sex.