Sex Is Fun!…but why?



There’s more to sex than meets the eye. More than meets the genitals too, for that matter.



Dear men and women, has the question as to why the other sex exists ever popped inside your head? I’m sure both sexes must be nodding as the statement “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” is clearly the mantra of the day. So, why are we designed to go through the trouble of finding a guy/girl (so called soul-mates) to populate ourselves? Why isn’t one gender enough?

Why do we need men?

In the tv-show Sex and the City, Charlotte suggests to her girlfriends that perhaps they could be each other’s soul-mates and not feel depressed at not having that special someone in their lives. My question is a wee bit more controversial. Why do men exist at all?

While the idea might seem alien or even outrageous to most of us, it isn’t foreign to nature. There are many species of snakes, lizards, insects and fish that have no use for males. As boring as they may sound, the females of these species do not have sex, but instead reproduce by laying unfertilized eggs. Rather than waiting for the 'right' sperm, they produce clones of themselves, hence the offspring are Xerox copies of their single mothers.

The Queen-B

On the other end of the spectrum, there are organisms that risk even their lives for sex. In the world of bees, the monarchy is still alive. The queen is bred in a special queen cell and fed royal jelly by her many male servants to induce her sexual maturity. Finally the virgin queen combats her rivals and mates with a dozen or so of her male bee workers. During this sexual escapade, the genitals of the unlucky males explode and snap off inside her majesty. As cold blooded as it sounds, this actually serves a vital purpose. The snapped-off penises inside the queen-bee reduces the chance of other males from getting the queen pregnant - hence the males use their penises in the battle of sex!

But what evolutionary purpose does sex serve? Why don’t humans exist solely as females or males and reproduce by the far more effective method of cloning?

Why sex?

Coincidently, the solution to this biological puzzle draws its name from Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece - Through the Looking Glass - , in which the evil Red Queen tells Alice, «It takes all the running you can do, to be in the same place.» The RedQueen hypothesis emerged in the late 1980s. It marvelously elucidates the evolutionary cycle between hosts and disease or predators and prey: As species that live at each other’s expense co-evolve, in a constant evolutionary battle, they need all the running they can do to survive while their surroundings constantly pose new threats to their survival.

Sex is pivotal for change. As a result of 'sexual' reproduction, each offspring possesses a unique cocktail of genetic material derived from two different individuals, inheriting half from their mother and the other half from the father. This constant shuffling of the genes equips the new generation to evolve with their ever changing environment, hence giving them a better shot at survival!

Let's consider for example the dreadful bacteria and viruses in our surroundings. They can break into our cells and even help themselves to our cell- machinery to propagate more of their kind. To do this they possess molecules that mimic keys which can fit into our 'locks' - molecules found on our cell surfaces. Moreover these little buggers are constantly inventing new keys by indulging in frequent sex – one night stands perhaps? The sex helps them to diversify their gene pool and make many different keys. For protection, it's imperative that we keep changing our locks. Every few generations the locks are changed to protect our cells from these constantly evolving menaces - all thanks to sex! as it enables the host cells to mix up their genes and evolve new genetic defenses against parasites.

The fun part

But why is sex so much fun? Is there more to orgasms, masturbation, and oral sex then meets the eye? According to Robin Baker, a biologist and author of Sperm Wars, deciphering the pleasures of sex changes our scientific understanding of what happens during the most critical moments of intercourse (popularly called 'love-making). It even shakes the many established notions we have about male and female sexuality. For instance, the typical idea that sperm exists with the sole purpose of fertilizing the egg isn’t true. The “egg-getters”, those who swim to reach the egg, comprise only 1% or less of a man’s sperm ejaculate. Other sperm function as guardians of the woman’s cervical crypts or as “killer-sperm” and attack foreign sperms. So even the male sperms can't resist picking a fight with other male sperms!

Besides the fact that most sperm are more prone to violence than making love, Baker also elucidates oral sex and female orgasms in the light of evolution. He claims that oral sex is a powerhouse of pleasure as it offers the mate an opportunity to taste, feel and smell recent fidelity and assess their partner’s biological fitness. According to him, the idea makes more sense if we consider how during our evolutionary history, baths were nonexistent or infrequent (eww).

Ooh baby and up-suck

His scientific views regarding the female orgasm are quite unconventional as well. In his book he introduces the concept of the female 'cervical filter' which consists of all the slimy mucus plus the ejaculated sperm. This filter is like a fog which the sperm has to cross in order to reach its beloved egg. The thickness of this fog aka filter depends on many factors, one of which is the time since the last orgasm. So masturbating closely before sex could thicken the fog and make the sperm work harder for its goal.

Baker’s experiments also suggest that although the female orgasm isn’t a ‘must’ for fertilization, its timing during sex can affect the likelihood of pregnancy. According to his studies during female orgasm, the woman’s cervix dips and gapes open much like an elephant’s trunk while sucking up water. So if a seminal pool is present in the vagina at that moment, many sperm would be helped along by this “up-suck”, increasing the likelihood of a date between the sperm and the egg. However these results remain very controversial as most research points out that the female orgasm serves NO evolutionary purpose and has one sole agenda, that being 'FUN.'

Did we ‘cum’?

So perhaps all our sexual treats and delights are in fact evolutionary forces in disguise pushing us to gladly propagate ourselves. At least this is what evolutionary biologists think. They believe that the roots to our behavior lie in our ancestor's lifestyle. Maybe this calls for a change in how parents warn their kids against sex. Maybe the youngsters should be able to excuse themselves now, «Mom, it’s not my fault, evolution is hell bent on making me enjoy it.»

CONVERSATION

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