9/21/12 - obsessing about sex

In today's excerpt - no animal on earth spends a greater portion of its life on sex than Homo Sapiens:

"No animal spends more of its allotted time on Earth fussing over sex than Homo sapiens -- not even the famously libidinous bonobo [one of our closest primate relatives]. Although we and the bonobo both average well into the hundreds, if not thousands, of acts of intercourse per birth -- way ahead of any other primate -- their 'acts' are far briefer than ours. Pair-bonded 'monoga­mous' animals are almost always hyposexual, having sex as the Vatican recommends: infrequently, quietly, and for reproduction only. Human beings, regardless of religion, are at the other end of the libidinal spec­trum: hypersexuality personified.

"Human beings and bonobos use eroticism for pleasure, for solidify­ing friendship, and for cementing a deal (recall that historically, mar­riage is more akin to a corporate merger than a declaration of eternal love). For these two species (and apparently only these two species), nonreproductive sex is 'natural,' a defining characteristic.

"Does all this frivolous sex make our species sound 'animalistic'? It shouldn't. The animal world is full of species that have sex only dur­ing widely spaced intervals when the female is ovulating. Only two species can do it week in and week out for nonreproductive reasons: one human, the other very humanlike. Sex for pleasure with various partners is therefore more 'human' than animal. Strictly reproductive, once-in-a-blue-moon sex is more 'animal' than human. In other words, an excessively horny monkey is acting 'human,' while a man or woman uninterested in sex more than once or twice a year would be, strictly speaking, 'acting like an animal.'

"Though many strive to hide their human libidinousness from themselves and each other, being a force of nature, it breaks through. Lots of upright, proper Americans were scandalized by the way Elvis moved his hips when he sang 'rock and roll.' But how many realized what the phrase rock and roll meant? 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 f**k.' 'Rock,' by it­self, had pretty much meant that, in those circles, since the twenties at least.' By the mid-1950s, when the phrase was becoming widely used in mainstream culture, Ventura says the disc jockeys 'either didn't know what they were saying or were too sly to admit what they knew.'

"Though crusty old Ed Sullivan would have been scandalized to realize what he was saying when he announced this new 'rock and roll all the kids are crazy about,' examples of barely concealed sexual reference lurking just below the surface of common American English don't stop there. 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.'

"Forget the billions pouring in from porn. Forget all the T&A on TV, in advertising, and in movies. Forget the love songs we sing on the way into relationships and the blues on the way out. Even if we include none of that, the percentage of our lives we human beings spend thinking about, planning, having, and remembering sex is incomparably greater than that of any other creature on the planet. Despite our relatively low reproductive potential (few women have ever had more than a dozen or so children), our species truly can, and does, rock around the clock."


Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha


Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality


Harper Collins


Copyright 2010 by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha


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