Not tonight, dear; I have a headache.

Posted on August 17, 2008. Filed under: Sexual issues |

In a post on the Future of Humanity Institute’s “Overcoming Bias” blog, Dr. Robin Hanson discussed the “inexplicable shortage of sex” and the neglect of sex as a research topic. He asks the question: since sex is the greatest gift, what can we do to inspire more precious gift-giving? The question addressed is “why we have too little sex”. An implied question is “why have men evolved to desire sex more than women?”

First, the answer is not the physiology of achieving orgasm. There are thousands (millions?) of published opinions about female orgasm; I should not have to point out the well-known relationship between opinions and anuses. (a medical aside: when Dirty Harry, in The Dead Pool, observed that opinions and assholes were ubiquitous, there are a number of medical reasons why he was wrong; here’s one, for example, and there are many others. Harry wouldn’t have lasted long on Overcoming Bias). Given equal arousal states, clitoral stimulation produces orgasm as quickly and reliably as penile stimulation. And why shouldn’t it? The clitoris *is* the penis. And the mysterious “G-spot” is the clitoral crura. The penile crura are the reason that male perineal massage is pleasant, i.e., the “male G-spot”. A blastocyst of totipotential stem cells has all the same stuff, save the sex chromosomes, no matter which gender it becomes. Here’s a brief embryologic discussion. “There are no surprising facts, only models that are surprised by facts; and if a model is surprised by the facts, it is no credit to that model”. – Eliezer Yudkowsky.

Second, male and female orgasms have different evolutionary roles. The male orgasm is tied to reproduction; the female orgasm is a vestigial male function (the reverse example is nipples in men). In spite of the hundreds of references to increased fertility in orgasmic women, and the howling of feminist leaders, it just ain’t so. Dr. Elisabeth Lloyd  states: “We have many decades of sex research, most into reproduction, fertility, and their ties to sexuality, which failed to produce any evidence linking (female) orgasm to fertility.” The American Society for Reproductive Medicine does not mention female orgasm on its Web site at all. 

My point is that orgasm, you know, the part that feels really good for both genders, has a role in males for perpetuating genes, quite a solid foundation. It has a role in females for perpetuating memes, which, while important, is subject to modification by headaches. Ask Shere Hite. Oxford’s always-interesting Richard Dawkins: “We are survival machines–robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.” Female orgasms seem wonderful, and they aren’t limited by that pesky male problem of the “refractory period”,  a behavior in males selected by evolution in order that some work could be accomplished. Still, powerful, long-lasting, oxytocin-bathed female orgasms in strings of multiplicity that males can only dream about have nothing to do with gene preservation.

So is it likely that the relative quickness of memetic evolution (compared to the slowness of it’s genetic counterpart) is responsible for the aforementioned “inexplicable shortage of sex”? In this humble sexual specialist’s opinion, you bet your sweet ass it is. Paleontologist, Stephen J. Gould asked, “How can we possibly know in detail what small bands of hunter-gatherers did in Africa two million years ago?” Perhaps the best way is to look at the sexual customs of bonobos, genetically quite similar to Homo sapiens, but memetically stuck in pre-history. In their no-headache society, one sees the way it could be: the males have all the orgasms their refractoriness will allow, and the females cooperate with them. The girls know that once the males are satisfied, they themselves will be having even more sex, and orgasms, mostly with other females (you know, the gender that knows how to make a girl get off). If the reader did not click on the “bonobo” link, go back and check out the lifestyle of these creatures who still have such simple memes. Look how “evolved society” has cheated us!

Richard Dawkins also has observed :”In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky (my emphasis), and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

Here’s hoping we “get lucky”.

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5 Responses to “Not tonight, dear; I have a headache.”

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According to Wrangham and Peterson in Demonic Males, we’re much more like chimps than bonobos. I had a review of their book that turned into a Straussian interpretation of a “neo-Jacobite” blogger here.

Thanks for your comment, and for a truly educational experience in my own field. Regarding female animals that both copulate and give birth through the clitoris, I must say, like Johnny Carson, “I did not know that.” The titles of your blog widgets are perfect.

There may be some excess hype about Bonobos. Bonobos are nicer than chimps, but not obviously nicer than humans.
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/07/30/070730fa_fact_parker
Chimps and Bonobos are both probably hornier than humans though.

By the way, do you live in NYC? It’s always good to try to network with NYC transhumanists, that’s pretty much what I do full time. My email is michael no dot no underscore aruna at yahoo d-t com.

BTW, by way of relevant references, I have been doing summer work for the Singularity Institute so if you want to learn about AGI etc I’m a good source to look up.

On topics relevant to this post, I have written
http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2005/05/why_dont_people.html

The evolutionary psychology is obvious, but the question still stands so long as most women and exceptionally attractive men have less than their utility maximizing amount of sex, which is apparently the case.

Thanks for reading, Michael Vassar. I admire your comments on Overcoming Bias. I am sending email.


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    The director of the Sexual Medicine Center leaves penile implants behind, and launches a quest for knowledge about Artificial Intelligence, extended life, and the issues inside the health-care industry.

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