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February 6, 2013

Why I LoveSex at Dawn, Volume 1




Because, you can never have too much bonobo porn--amiright? Or amiright?


No good excuse for the long dry spell this blog has weathered. I permitted the Day Job and its petty concerns to overwhelm me, a thing I vowed not to let happen again, but there it is. Until recently, my every waking moment was devoted to teaching, marking papers, and praying for the sudden deaths of faculty colleagues to the exclusion of all else. And since the school semester drew to a close a few weeks ago, I’ve been frantically trying to catch up on my ejaculating.

Somewhere in there, however, I finally got around to reading Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. And then I read it again. Hard to recall the last time I read a book a second time with no other reading matter intervening (apart from students’ papers and porn reviews, of course) so that tells you something right there.

Even after two careful readings, though, it is a tall order to synopsize this work in a way that encompasses its wide range of serious topics while maintaining the calculated breeziness that this blog always aims to assert. In essence, this is an iconoclastic work, and the main icon getting its ass clasted is Monogamy. Ryan and Jetha introduce what they term the “standard narrative” of human evolution, i.e., that we settled into lifelong pair-bonding not just because of the random social and economic choices made by our ancestors (e.g., the benighted notion that agriculture would be a really good thing), but because monogamy comes naturally to our species. Then they proceed to do to that narrative roughly what the unleashed horde of prison zombies did to T-Dog in episode four of The Walking Dead.

Really, the book’s multidisciplinary assault is so broad and ruthless and efficient that one almost feels sorry for poor old Monogamy after a while. And then you recall that Monogamy gunned down your Daddy one night in Reno, just to watch him die. Well, not really… But Monogamy certainly has had this coming.

Anyway, rather than attempting to summarize the entire book, I’d like to share with you some of what I found to be the salient take-home points in this blog over the course of what is likely to become a series of posts.

1. Ejaculation now, ejaculation for--well, anyway… Ejaculation now!

You know how, when you’re having genital intercourse with a lady and—most especially when there isn’t a condom involved to dull the sensations—it’s really, really, really hard to keep from ejaculating before the lady probably wants you to? Well, it turns out that there’s a specific evolutionary reason why that’s so hard. It’s because YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE!!

On the contrary, you’re supposed to just let loose and bomb away and (as they used to say in the “Johnson” Administration”—nudge, nudge) pull out quickly and declare victory. To linger in there for minutes on end would be the height of rudeness to all the semi-erect hominids lining up behind you for their turns with your girl.

Oh, sorry—I may have forgotten to mention that there would be other semi-erect hominids involved in this evolution-driven scenario. This is, after all, the way our nearest relatives do it: the chimpanzees, the bonobos, and the Van Zuidens of rural Mortonville, Illinois. Some chick decides to host an Open House in her vagina, invites every able-gonaded chap within hearing; then, gradually the crowd thins out, only to reform at another such event a few hours later.

And you know that huffing and squealing and hollering that ladies tend to engage in when they’re having intercourse with someone other than you or me? You know what I’m talking about if you if you are one of those online commenters harboring a love-hate relationship with Japanese porn. There’s actually a scientific name for that: Female Copulatory Vocalization.

Turns out it’s yet another genetic legacy from our common ancestor that modern ladies share with modern chimp and bonobo females. In those species, the female gets her sexy parts to swell up and then screeches a lot of gibberish to attract as much attention as possible—or, as it is known in human parlance, “the Full Kardashian.” The evolutionary function of all this hoopla is to make sure that the aforementioned line of serial penetrators doesn’t thin out before she’s had all the fun she came out to have. (And given that the average male chimp clocks out in seven seconds flat, that line will need reinforcements.)

Evolution, of course, doesn’t care whether this or that female primate goes home smiling or not, but it does insist that females optimize the times when they are most likely to conceive offspring. Hence, the jibber-jabbering, and hence the lineup of hominids, because more sperm means better odds.

So, next time you find yourself trying to conjure up all the U.S. Secretaries of Commerce in reverse chronological order as a tactic to delay your orgasm, just remember that bringing sexual gratification to your partner is not your sole responsibility. She can crowd-source that sucker.


Sperm Fight!

There’s an old Steven Wright joke that goes, “For my birthday I got a humidifier and a dehumidifier. I put them in the same room and let them fight it out.” Well, it’s funnier when he mutters it, but I bring this up because the same premise defines evolutionary competition as it is properly and naturally practiced.

Our primate cousins and, presumably, our remote ancestors did not over-react to some other guy’s consensual boning of a lady that they wanted to bone. In that situation, modern-day Goofus has been known to knife everybody on the premises and then speed away in his white Bronco. Ancient Gallant, in contrast, stands patiently in line for his turn, then uses the bulbous glans of his penis to create a vacuum inside said lady that will neatly and discreetly suck his rival’s sperm right out of there and clear the path for his own.

It’s a much more civilized attitude, I’m ashamed to admit, as someone whose fit of jealousy following a breakup inspired a couple of the most embarrassing memoir chapters ever published. As the authors state:

Rather than male bonobos competing to see who gets lucky, they all get lucky, and then let their spermatozoa fight it out… With harem-based polygynous systems like the gorilla’s, individual males fight it out before any sex takes place. In sperm competition, the cells fight in there so males don’t have to fight out here.

The lesson, as always: Gorillas suck.


Take My Wife—Please!

The authors make a convincing case that sexual jealousy is not an inherent, instinctive human reaction to someone else’s boning, but rather part of the still-now-accumulating baggage foisted upon mankind by the decision to embrace agriculture and civilization and settled living.

Referring to related species and to primitive human societies wherein everyone in the community pretty much bones everyone else anytime bone-fever whaps them upside the head*, the authors note:

Instead [of reacting violently], males can relax around one another, allowing larger group sizes, enhancing cooperation, and avoiding disruption to the social dynamic. This helps explain why no primate living in multimale social groups is monogamous. It just wouldn’t work.

This is the life that we could be leading, if not for the advent of agriculture, which, let it never be forgotten, sucks way more than gorillas could ever hope to.

To have concluded, as we have, that our species has an innate capacity for love and generosity at least equal to our taste for destruction, for peaceful cooperation as much as coordinated attack, for an open, relaxed sexuality as much as for jealous, passion-smothering possessiveness…to see that both these worlds were open to us, but that around ten thousand years ago a few of our ancestors wandered off the path they’d been on forever into a garden of toil, disease, and conflict where our species has been trapped ever since…well, this is not exactly a rose-colored view of the overall trajectory of humankind.


4. As I was saying, Ejaculation Forever!

Rather than leave you on that down note, let’s talk ejaculation for a change, shall we? You have probably assumed that any ejaculation, be it inside a willing partner, across a vintage centerfold from the Seventies, or into a shocking pink, battery-powered abomination missing half its face, is a good thing. But in fact, I’m here to tell you that an ejaculation is a really, really, really good thing, like, life-lengthening good.

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.

And moreover:

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.

Personally, when I read that in late autumn, I shrieked, and clasped my hands in ecstasy, and thereafter quickly unclasped my hands, the better to embark on my longest unbroken streak of daily ejaculations since 1993, a year marked by a particularly charming and flirtatious freshman class.

May you find your way as pleasant.





* More on these fun-loving human societies in an upcoming post.