WARNING: This section discusses elements of human sexuality that some people may find disturbing; it is not recommended for children, unless supervised by a parent or guardian. If you view human sexual behaviour from an idealistic perspective, I suggest that you do not read this chapter.
We cannot fully understand human behaviour without analyzing sexuality, and how it influences our actions. Reproduction is the primary driving force behind the behaviour of all living things. All other needs (food, water, shelter, etc.) are in place to facilitate surviving long enough to pass on genetic material, and ensure the perpetuation of the species. The species, not the individual component, is what is important in nature. From this perspective, almost every action is ultimately linked to sexuality. Only humans are capable of conduct totally unconnected to sexuality. Some of these actions can be construed as positive, while others are definitely negative: nevertheless, few aspects of human behaviour are not sexually motivated.
To begin our analysis, we must look at the physical mechanics of human reproduction. The scientific community has learned that there must be a reason for specific sexual attributes and variations: nature provides for efficient mating by adapting the members of a species to a common system. If there are noticeable differences between members of the same sex, then those differences are apparent to the opposite sex, consciously or subconsciously, and are there to allow for the selection of a suitable mate. Nature not only ensures the perpetuation of the species, but also controls the direction the species takes by making certain traits desirable.
The human male produces a continuous supply of millions of sperm, and is subsequently always fertile. There are two primary types of sperm which fertilise the the woman's egg and determine whether the child will be male (Y chromosome), or female (X chromosome). The Y-chromosome sperm are faster swimmers, but weaker than the X-chromosome type, and are therefore more likely to succumb to the acidic environment inside the vaginal canal. Because of this, the closer the sperm are deposited to the cervix, the more likely it is that the offspring will be male. These attributes are used to the advantage of animal husbandry labs, as well as specialised human fertility clinics – where sperm are placed on top of a viscous medium, and after an interval, those closest to the bottom are primarily male, and those higher up are primarily female.
Experiments performed by Robin Baker of the University of Manchester suggest there may be two additional types of sperm: a defensive variety which group together, their tails forming a net, entangling the sperm of other males while allowing the kindred sperm to pass through, and an aggressive type which seek out and kill sperm from a competing male. However, although initially rather convincing, the inability of other scientists to duplicate Baker's results rendered his conclusions questionable, at best.
The volume of ejaculate is subconsciously controlled by a man, and is dependent upon the perceived likelihood of other males potentially mating with his partner. As well, the specialised shape of the male glans, or head of the penis, is designed to channel preexisting semen to a point behind the glans on the inward stroke via the cleft on the bottom, whereupon the flare pulls fluids further away during the outward stroke. This action actually creates a slight vacuum in the vagina. Some animals share this particular physiology, while others have evolved a different strategy to combat competition.
Women ovulate once per lunar cycle and are consequently only capable of being impregnated during a three to five day period. The rest of the time the cervix is plugged with mucous to prevent sperm entry. A woman subconsciously regulates the timing of her orgasm to determine the likelihood of fertilization: if a female's orgasm occurs simultaneously with, or soon after, the male orgasm, she is over three times more likely to be impregnated. This is because of two factors that take place during female climax: a muscular ripple effect along the walls of the vaginal canal, forcing semen closer to the cervix (during intercourse, the average vaginal canal is up to twice as deep as the average penis); and a dipping or scooping (depending on body position) of the cervix into the sperm pool.
Males have evolved a system to combat this form of selectivity. Men, on average, require five minutes of stimulation to reach orgasm, whereas women average twenty minutes. This provides the opportunity for residual sperm to be present in the vagina during her subsequent couplings with other males, and if she chooses to promote impregnation by one of the later mates, the earlier sperm will still have a chance at success. Another adaptation to this situation is the ability of semen to congeal inside the female for a period of up to twenty minutes.
These sexual traits establish that humans are polygamous by design. In fact, research over the past forty years indicates that monogamy, in any living thing, is rare indeed; if it exists at all. Recent DNA testing on birds and primates has shown that fifty percent of offspring are not sired by the controlling/care-giving male. Past testing procedures on humans, though seriously flawed, have still yielded results as high as thirty percent (human trials were done voluntarily using only blood type comparisons). It is likely that, with proper testing, humans would parallel other species at fifty percent. If humans had not been designed as polygamous creatures, males would not have evolved mechanisms to combat the presence of competing sperm, and females would not have methods of promoting one male's sperm over others. Men vary in penile length, and X and Y spermatozoa differ in abilities, for a reason: to allow women to subconsciously shift the likelihood of offspring gender one way or the other. Males with longer penises will produce more male children, and smaller males will produce more females. Genital size in men is an obvious signalling method that allows women to correct imbalances in gender ratio, by choosing a different sire to suit the circumstances.
Behavioural studies support the physical evidence that humans are not monogamous. Numerous surveys have shown that a significant proportion of people are unfaithful to their partners: some as high as ninety-five percent within simple relationships, and ranging from twenty-four to seventy-five percent in married couples. The wide range in results is due to several factors. Men and women tend to portray themselves in the roles society has assigned them; therefore, men will exaggerate their sexual activity to a male interviewer, and minimize it to a female. Women will generally claim to have had fewer sexual partners to both sexes of pollsters. Humans create a self-structure that partially reflects a sociological ideal which, in this case, is that adultery and promiscuity are negative traits. People will use defense mechanisms, such as projection and repression, to convince themselves that they are far more moral than their actions suggest; and will justify sexual events in such a way that they can pretend their behaviour does not fit survey parameters. So many variables affect research based upon moral criteria, which cannot be verified independently, that results will never yield consistent data. The only safe conclusion is that the rate of infidelity tends toward the high end, simply because it would require such a rate to account for the provable paternity statistics.
Cultural, intellectual, and economic factors are significant to these studies of sexual behaviour. Western culture, being primarily Christian, is far more "sexually adventurous", and has higher rates of adultery and promiscuity; whereas Eastern society, following religions with stricter moral codes, exhibits much lower rates. Level of intelligence generally, but not always, reflects in economic position. People who are below average in intellect and/or income, have more children; and the offspring are less likely to be fathered by the husband. Statistics show that overall intelligence scores have been dropping by one percent per decade: simply because the more intelligent you are, the fewer children you will have; in this way natural selection now favours lower intelligence. This brings up an interesting question: is this situation the result of man tampering with the natural order, or is nature compensating for an imbalance by removing the trait that enables man to manipulate the order? To analyze this query, we must look at data concerning mate selection.
Humans are gregarious creatures, and therefore have a "pecking order"; subsequently, people base their own individual value on their position in this order: choosing mates that are the best available companions within their range. The most desirable mates of each gender are at the top of the order, and are universally recognized as such because they come closest to the ideals instinctively set by humans. Conversely, there are people who have the fewest of the desirable qualities. Everyone subconsciously rates themselves relative to the extremes of the scale, and each person chooses a mate they consider to be adequate for someone in their position. Humans may wish for a partner that has the maximum number of positive attributes, but they generally select one from their own station in life, and psychologically justify the shortcomings of the mate, and consequently themselves, in order to maintain the illusion that they actually belong in a higher position within the pecking order.
Surveys show that women, by far, rate financial stability as the most desirable trait in potential husbands. Females instinctively search for males that can provide and care for them and their offspring. In other animals that use the pair-bonding system, this is usually the healthy, dominant male that is best able to provide protection and gather food; in human structured society, it is manifest in material ways. Pair-bonding is only the illusion of monogamy; allowing creatures to fulfill their reproductive needs, which ensures successful breeding. Females are vulnerable due to the long gestation and weaning period, and require a partner that is dedicated to providing for them and their children; in return, the male receives regular sexual gratification, and the instinctive satisfaction that comes from possessing a mate: since males spend their lives competing with one another for females, gaining one is a demonstration of superiority. This system of pair-bonding is extremely successful for creatures that bear young requiring extended care. Although both sexes surreptitiously pursue other mating opportunities, both maintain the illusion of monogamy through self-inflicted ignorance: each gender believes that its own actions are not mirrored in their mates. Despite the fact that a large percentage of people admit to being unfaithful to their partners, only a tiny fraction of them believe that their mates are also unfaithful to them.
Selecting a partner for a pair-bond is not necessarily choosing the person you consider to be the best available DNA source. Each gender has its own agenda pertaining to reproduction. Theoretically, males are capable of inseminating millions of women, and therefore their most effective method of passing on genetic material is through frequent, and varied, couplings. This means that men have rather simple criteria in respect to mate selection: health, physical attributes conducive to child bearing and rearing, and perceived fertility; in other words, sexual partners are chosen by appearance. Males determine the health of females by initially checking obvious things: the eyes, for whiteness; the hair, for lustre; the skin, for blemishes and colour; the teeth, for condition; and body shape, with extremes of emaciation or obesity being undesirable. The child bearing/rearing attributes are the existence of feminine breasts and hips. Fertility is signalled to males by an evolutionary trait specific to the human female: distended breasts. No other living thing, when not lactating, possesses this physical characteristic. When humans evolved from a quadruped into a biped, the female genitalia were no longer prominently displayed. The swollen female mammary glands developed to serve two purposes. First, as a method of signalling femininity: humans rely on vision more than any other sense, and breasts allow males to identify females at a distance. Second, as a method of determining if a woman is in her child bearing years. Breasts do not develop until a female becomes fertile. Originally, humans did not live long enough to encounter menopause, but nevertheless, as a woman approaches her barren years, the breasts begin to drop down, and flatten against her chest, and are subsequently no longer prominently displayed. Female mammary glands developed to substitute, as a visual indicator, for the genitalia; hence the male preoccupation with breasts. Human females are actually poorly designed for nursing, and should have the elongated nipples and flattened breasts of other mammals; but attracting a male obviously has to be the first priority, otherwise nursing becomes an irrelevant point.
Females use a far more complicated system for mate selection. Whereas males do not differentiate between pair-bond partners and other potential mating opportunities, women have separate criteria for each. Females, due to the gestation period and limited years of fertility, follow a different reproductive agenda: men concern themselves with quantity, while women stress quality. When choosing a pair-bond partner, women look for attributes indicating that the man is a good provider and father: rating income, generosity, maturity, and other positive personality traits, as the most desirable: being a good genetic resource is secondary. This explains why young women generally choose their husbands by comparing them to their own fathers, often going as far as selecting males with the same physical shape: the paternal role model is a functional, rather than sexual, concern.
Once securing a pair-bond mate, a female then selects sexual mates based upon genetic criteria: health, and physical attributes conducive to producing the desired offspring. There will be instances where a good candidate for pair-bonding is also a good genetic choice; consequently, a woman will be less likely to require additional sexual partners. There will also be situations where the spouse is a suitable breeding companion, but an inadequate paternal choice: subsequently, the woman will be attracted to males that are frequently already married, and will tend to promote insemination in order to gain the attachment of the new mate.
Initial mate determination, for both sexes, is done visually: a potential sexual partner must meet certain minimum physical requirements. Men and women are subconsciously aware of the attributes that appeal to the opposite gender, and accentuate these features. Women spend an inordinate amount of time and energy on grooming their hair, highlighting their eyes, having cosmetic dental work, balming their skin, and shaping their figure. Women are as obsessed with breasts as males are: padding, exhibiting cleavage, wearing brassieres that raise and display, even resorting to surgery to enlarge or lift the breasts; all in order to appeal to male criteria. Even young girls will stuff brassieres, due to an instinctive desire to appear sexually attractive, and to compete with other females for male attention. You may argue that this is to appear mature; but, in nature, mature means fertile.
For the genetic (sexual) mate, competition among females is normally passive: just because a male has chosen to mate with one particular female, does not make him unavailable for other couplings. The fact that men can inseminate any number of women, at any time, means that a female does not need exclusive contact, and therefore has no instinctive reason to expend any effort beyond being available for that particular sexual act. Competition is also primarily passive when vying for pair-bond mates. A female attempting to gain another woman's mate, merely has to project sexual receptivity. A woman trying to retain a provider-male may be more aggressive. In all instances, female competitiveness is considered passive in comparison to that of the male, and because it normally takes a psychological, rather than physically demonstrative, form. Women tend to rely on innate reasoning ability and superficial displays, whereas men are more prone to reactionary responses.
The ultimate level of competition is reserved for the males. Instinctively, men are constantly in contention with all other males. Their reproductive physiology makes them opportunistic breeders, and are therefore always attempting to demonstrate superiority. Animal sexual drives are the root of male rivalry; from the obvious athletic contests, to the subtle body language used during encounters. Observing men meeting one another for the first time can be quite fascinating. Normally, eye contact immediately establishes pecking order: in a fraction of a second, contact is made, and one party momentarily averts his gaze; deferring to the dominant male. If status is not clear, then males will "display", by straightening their posture and drawing their shoulders back, in order to present a more imposing figure: this will be exaggerated in the presence of women, since men are aware that the inverted triangle form of the male torso appeals visually to females. The physically dominant males will try to demonstrate power through the strength of their grip during a handshake, or by intruding into the other man's comfort zone (the distance people automatically keep between themselves and others). The mentally dominant males will compete on a verbal level, trying to demonstrate superior intellect through vocabulary, or implying a material dominance (occupation, wealth).
Humans, like many other predators, use violence in same species conflict as a last resort: the possibility of physical damage to oneself during combat is counterproductive to reproduction. Society, through laws and moral codes, has created an environment where male dominance no longer has to be demonstrated in purely physical ways. The naturally superior male: who is large, healthy, and highly aggressive; now must compete against males who are desired by females due to financial considerations. Prior to the development of a structured society, the physically superior man was the provider-male; his strength and aggression enabling him to obtain the most food, and provide the best protection, for his family. Other physically dominant men were the genetic-resource males. Now: our culture has changed the situation, and males with material resources, or with the perceived ability to gain them, are the desirable pair-bond mates, while physically appealing males are the sexual choice.
Instinctive emotions play the major role in human sexual behaviour: specifically, love and desire. Desire ensures actual mating, and love establishes the pair-bond. Regardless of how complicated and mysterious humans wish to make these two emotional responses, their core function is to guarantee the success of the species. Other feelings that we refer to as love, such as between siblings, are present due to our gregarious nature, and are part of primate clan behaviour. Humans do not consciously choose a mate by logically evaluating their genetic attributes, nor do they usually compare paternal/maternal abilities using objective criteria: love and desire are the instinctive tools that validate selectivity. A man does not look at a women, and decide that she has sufficient genetic qualities to make her a good sexual partner; he desires her. A woman does not look at a man, and deduce that his potential paternal traits make him a good provider; she falls in love with him. The decisions people make when choosing a mate are dependent upon the subconscious drives that cause the feelings of love and desire.
What is woman's role in natural selection? Human females ultimately control the makeup of future generations. A man may believe that he chose his mate, and all of her subsequent offspring contain his genetic material, but this is far from the truth. Women have the ability to determine the likelihood of any particular male fertilizing their egg, and thereby establish trends in reproduction. If one trait is becoming more prevalent within the human race, then it is because people with that trait are producing a disproportionate number of the children. Studies in the mid-nineties have shown a slow, but uniform decline in the number of male births. This may be due to an outside force having an adverse affect upon Y-chromosome, and not X-chromosome, sperm; but it may be part of natural selection. It's possible, since males are primarily responsible for damage to the planet due to their competition (materialism leads to industrialization, domination leads to war), and only a few males are required to inseminate a large number of females; that women are selectively changing the gender ratio. I would suggest that women are the conduit through which nature enforces species direction. Instinctively, it is the female, not the male, that controls the destiny of mankind.
In conclusion, it must be made clear that although all living things are motivated by the instinctive drive to perpetuate the species, humans are not confined into purely sexual actions; we have the ability to go beyond innate tendencies. Most people may cheat on their partners, but some individuals never do. The majority of people are driven to engage in sex, regardless of the consequences, yet ten percent of the adult population chooses to lead a life of celibacy. There are individuals who take love far beyond the constraints of nature, and are capable of demonstrating devotion and self-sacrifice that is actually in opposition to instinct. The original emotion of love may only have a practical application, but humans are able to attain a spiritual level of commitment that surpasses anything in the physical realm. The fact that some members of humanity have demonstrated the ability to rise above the basic animal drives, provides the hope that we can still alter the destiny of mankind..