Dolphin is not a unique beast. We investigated its case, and have a clear view on the situation now. But people are quite unique, aren’t they? Shock, but they are the only creatures to do sex for reproduction!*
*that we know of
Seriously, can you imagine anything but a human going to his/her partner and asking to… make a baby? Not just have sex, but to breed… on purpose.
Yeah, it’s funny: popular culture tells one thing about us, yet the truth is as opposite as the South is to the North.
Q: How so that no animal (other than people) does sex for reproduction?
So many prerequisites to make this possible. For starters, to do sex for reproduction, one has at least to know that it entails reproduction. And that requires:
а) A brain capable to make logical conclusions of average complexity.
б) To live in a community. I.e., to be gregarious. So that an individual has the opportunity to observe many conspecifics living, doing sex and consequently giving birth. And deduce the correlation.
Sounds difficult as hell, even for humans. If I was to live in complete isolation from all the knowledge, surrounded by savages like me, I probably wouldn’t have seen the relation: savages would simply be f….ing and breeding incessantly, without anything directly pointing at correlation. That’s why there is the third, most important, prerequisite:
в) Developed communication in the community. It has to be a “pack”, not a “herd”. So that if one ever deduces that, he/she could spread the knowledge. That’s how science is done: it took thousands of years for one Einstein to be born, and now relativity principles are common knowledge.
Has to be so:
– male savages chat around a bonfire –
Bongo-bongo: Attention, my savage brothers. I’ve just solved the mystery of life. It turns out that females get pregnant because their males eat!
Bongo-bongo: Seriously. All females, whose males eat, get pregnant.
Ugi-ugi: Hmm… could be true. We need a test… Hmm… Ago-ago has many children already, let’s ask him to not eat.
– a month later –
Ugi-ugi: So, yesterday Ago-ago died of starvation, but his female’s pregnant anyway. Damn it!
Roko-roko: Hey, I have another theory!
Ugi-ugi: Again… Instead of bullshit theories, go do what I tell ya. We need more anti-stork towers!
Roko-roko: Seriously, I got it. Females get pregnant because their males do the nice thing to them.
Roko-roko: I am sure! All pairs that do the nice thing eventually get babies.
Ugi-ugi: I doubt that… hmm, wait… you’re right actually.
Bongo-bongo: You think?
Ugi-ugi: Yeah, I think so! Ever since Pogo-pogo’s thing froze and fell off, his female never got pregnant again. Too bad, my 20th will be born in three month… Damn it, I can’t do the nice thing anymore… I gonna freeze myself too, I think…
Aki-aki: Idiot, we just need some rubber thing. I gonna tell the others…
And yet the problem stays: had the animals such a knowledge, how would they use it? Savages, as you can see, didn’t hurry to make more babies, but hurried to make a rubber.
Breeding in the wild is a huge risk. No animal would risk without a good reason, which makes “breeding for breeding” a natural wonder. It takes social stability at least. The XXI century is the golden age to deliver a child (if you live in a developed country). Diapers, doctors, kindergartens, education, nannies… And yet, the urge towards procreation is spread, but far from universal. What are objective reasons for breeding anyway? None. Idealism only: the desire to continue one’s bloodline, the desire to share love. This is all so great, but wild animals have no time for idealism – they are over-occupied with survival.
Yes, the desire to have babies is our trait. What makes us human (right, I’m getting over-romantic). As for f**king for pleasure – even unicellular ciliates can do so*
*conjugating, to be precise – they don’t f**k in traditional sense 🙂
Q: But people go homosexual, do oral sex, copulate with sex toys. Animals don’t. Doesn’t that mean that we are the only ones who have sex for pleasure?
For starters, there are various “sexual deviations” in animals as well – that’s a topic for a separate article. So humans are not alone.
Let’s instead think why does it happen (in people, in animals).
The cause is the same that makes feeding instinct force us into eating junkfood (animals love crisps as well, by the way). All instincts can occasionally “malfunction” and point us into wrong direction. The problem of an instinct is that they are not directly connected to biological needs. In zebra’s brain, it doesn’t say “Do whatever is necessary to breed.” Doesn’t work like that. Instead, it says: “Look for something stripped, like yourself, but prettier and with better smell, approach from behind and jump, provided she let you”. You get the idea. In general, such an instinct works well, because it was polished by evolution for millions of years (if some male always tries to shove into the wrong place, he won’t have offsprings and his defect program will be discarded). But it’s not 100% failproof: some human decides to have some fun, builds a “zebra-doll” and puts it on display in the middle of savannah – no zebra male is prepared by evolution for that! There is a simpler experiment: do zebra a vasectomy and let it participate in breeding. Evolutionary, it would be wise for such a male to not mate – just preserve energy. But he’ll be trying. Again, instinct malfunction: it leads to sex, but not to reproduction.
Food – the same story. Sugar, for example. It’s valuable resource, high amounts of easily-extractable energy. Hence our tongue is programmed to respond with “pleasure” to sugar and thus stimulate us to look for it. But who could know at dawn of H. sapiens that bloody chocolate bars will be available at every store for $1 each. That people will become less active, which will make fast energy more of a hindrance than help. Let alone cola with zero calories (i.e., no carbs at all), but with some radioactive-poisoning shit mixed in it that nevertheless feels like real sugar – that’s totally beyond evolution’s imagination! Or sand goanna – the expert in hunting amphibians down. An amphibian is food, every goanna knows it. But then poisonous toads were introduced to Australia. Who knows how many goannas died because of them. Obviously, a goanna doesn’t have suicidal instinct. It’s still feeding instinct, just malfunctioned – something unexpected happened in goannas’ ecosystem.
Interestingly, the opposite is possible. E.g., people can resort to in vitro fertilization to have babies. It has nothing to do with instinct now – just conscious decision. Occasionally, instinct misses its target, but occasionally – target is reached without the help of the instinct.
Q: And yet, isn’t human the most sexual animal out there?
Now we are coming to conclusion of this not-so-easy topic. Notwithstanding everything told so far, sex seems to be more important to people (as a hobby) than to any other animal. It is probably true. Reason is simple: it’s culturally inoculated. We live in huge communities at age of accessible information. Community has the power to change ordinary stuff into exotics. There are food cults – a simple need for food is turned into rituals and trends. The instinct of comfort is turned into cultural phenomenon. Nice furniture, stylish house interior, tasteful clothes…
Now let’s be frank here: no need of humans is as trendy as need for sex. Every self-respecting human is supposed to have sex at least once a day. Impotency, loss of libido and other nasty stuff is far not the same as kidney problems or stomach perforation. It’s a bloody disaster, a hurricane! Ask any man if he would rather loose both lungs or both testicles, and he’ll say “lungs” without thinking, although it’s beyond illogical in context of survival imperative. One man in a million who thinks otherwise will never admit it. Students do not talk about great food they tasted yesterday or a super-comfy toilet seat they tried. They talk about you know what. Happy movie ending is not happy unless someone got lucky with someone, the Internet is full of porn and news about celebrities sleeping with other celebrities. And all of that – just another instinct! But try thinking about anything else when sex is everywhere. Obviously, there is no such trend in hippos or tigers. To them, sex is just… part of their lives.
Quote of the day: it’s all about attitude.
P.S. Actually, highly religious societies and some tribes don’t have such a sex cult. So, we are welcome to thank the sexual revolution for the pleasure!