A Brief History of Human Sex

http://www.livescience.com Heather Whipps

Birds do it, bees do it, humans since the dawn of time have done it.

But just how much has the act really changed through the millennia and even in past decades? Are humans doing it more? Are we doing it better? Sort of, say scientists. But it’s how people fess up to the truth about their sex lives that has changed the most over the years.

Humans have basically been the same anatomically for about 100,000 years—so what is safe to say is that if we enjoy it now, then so did our cave-dwelling ancestors and everyone else since, experts say.

 

“Just as our bodies tell us what we might like to eat, or when we should go to sleep, they lay down for us our pattern of lust,” says University of Toronto psychologist Edward Shorter. “Sex has always offered pleasure.”

Hard wired

Sexuality has a lot to do with our biological framework, agreed Joann Rodgers, director of media relations and lecturer at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

“People and indeed all animals are hard wired to seek out sex and to continue to do so,” Rodgers said in a recent interview. “I imagine that is evidence that people at least like sex and even if they don’t they engage in it as a biological imperative.”

It is nearly impossible to tell, however, whether people enjoyed sex more 50 years ago or 50,000 years ago, said David Buss, professor of psychology at the University of Texas and author of “The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating” (Basic Books, 2003).

There is “no reason to think that we do more now than in the past, although we are certainly more frank about it,” Buss told LiveScience.

Indeed, cultural restraints—rather than anything anatomical—have had the biggest effect on our sexual history, Shorter says.

“To be sure, what people actually experience is always a mixture of biological and social conditioning: Desire surges from the body, the mind interprets what society will accept and what not, and the rest of the signals are edited out by culture,” he writes in his book, “Written in the Flesh: A History of Desire” (University of Toronto Press, 2005).

That’s not to say that cultural norms keep people from exploring the taboo, but only what is admitted to openly, according to archaeologist Timothy Taylor of Great Britain’s University of Bradford.

“The idea that there is a sexual line that must not be crossed but in practice often is, is far older than the story of Eve’s temptation by the serpent,” he writes in “The History of Sex: Four Million Years of Human Sexual Culture” (Bantam Books, 1996).

Modern advances

Religion especially has held powerful sway over the mind’s attitude towards the body’s carnal desires, most sexual psychologists agree. Men and women who lived during the pious Middle Ages were certainly affected by the fear of sin, Shorter said, though he notes there were other inhibiting factors to consider, too.

“The low priority attached to sexual pleasure by people who lived in distant times is inexplicable unless one considers the hindrances that existed in those days,” Shorter writes. He points especially to the 1,000 years of misery and disease—often accompanied by some very un-sexy smells and itching—that led up to the Industrial Revolution. “After the mid-nineteenth century, these hindrances start to be removed, and the great surge towards pleasure begins.”

Many historians and psychologists see the late 1800s as a kind of watershed period for sexuality in the Western world. With the industrial revolution pushing more and more people together—literally—in dense, culturally-mixed neighborhoods, attitudes towards sex became more liberal.

The liberalization of sexuality kicked into high gear by the 1960s with the advent of the birth control pill, letting women get in on the fun and act on the basis of desire as men always had, according to Shorter.

“The 1960s vastly accelerated this unhesitant willingness to grab sex for the sheer sake of physical pleasure,” he said, noting that the trend ofopenly seeking out sex just because it feels good, rather than for procreation alone, has continued on unabated into the new millennium.

Global variations

But despite the modern tendency towards sexual freedom, even today there are vast differences in attitudes across the world, experts say.

“Cultures vary tremendously in how early they start having sex, how open they are about it, and how many sexual partners they have,” said Buss, noting that Swedes generally have many partners in their lifetime and the Chinese typically have few.

An informal 2005 global sex survey sponsored by the condom company Durex confirmed Buss’ views. Just 3 percent of Americans polled called their sex lives “monotonous,” compared to a sizable 26 percent of Indian respondents. While 53 percent of Norwegians wanted more sex than they were having (a respectable 98 times per year, on average), 81 percent of the Portuguese were quite happy with their national quota of 108 times per year.

Though poll numbers and surveys offer an interesting window into the sex lives of strangers, they’re still constrained by the unwillingness of people to open up about a part of their lives that’s usually kept behind closed doors.

And what if we weren’t bound by such social limitations? Taylor offers the promiscuous—and very laid-back—bonobo chimpanzee as a utopian example.

“Bonobos have sex most of the time … a fairly quick, perfunctory, and relaxed activity that functions as a social cement,” he writes. “But for cultural constraints, we would all behave more like bonobos. In physical terms, there is actually nothing that bonobos do that some humans do not sometimes do.”

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40 interesting things you never knew about sex

http://www.studentbeans.com

So then we thought – if our users are interested in sex, what about sex would interest them?

Interesting stuff about sex of course.

So here it is. Interesting stuff about sex. Oh, and we’ve stuck some weird one’s in there as well to spice things up a bit. You’ll never watch a pair of breeding black widow spiders in the same light ever again…

1.) You burn about 200 calories during 30 minutes of active sex.

2.) Sex makes women’s hair shinier and their skin glow because of all the extra oestrogen it causes them to produce.

3.) According to the Durex Global Sex Survey, people normally lose their virginity at 17 years old. In the UK, the average age is 16 1/2.

4.) These days, the Greeks have more sex than any other nationality. They’re followed closely by the Croatians.

5.) American Jonah Falcon has the world’s largest penis at 9.5 inches when flaccid and 13.5 inches when erect.

6.) The average penis size is 3.5 to 3.7 inches when flaccid and between 5.0-5.7 inches when erect.

7.) Whales are the owners of the world’s largest penises. The biggest recorded whale penis was the 8-footer of a killer whale.

8.) The world’s oldest father (Nanu Ram Jogi) recently fathered his 21st child, at the age of 90. He also admits that he is not certain how many children his series of four wives have borne him – but counts at least 12 sons, 9 daughters and 20 grandchildren.

9.) Homosexuality is a common thing everywhere in nature. A pair of male penguins, Roy and Silo from Central Park Zoo, were a ‘couple’ for years, even raising a baby penguin together in 2003.

10.) Women are more likely to orgasm just before or during their period.

11.) Experiencing ‘butterflies of love’ might sound romantic, but in France the phrase ‘papillon d’amour’ means having pubic lice.

12.) In Britain we have on average, 10 sexual partners in our lifetime. The Chinese have the most with 19 and the Vietnamese only get round to having sex with 2 1/2 people.

13.) There are roughly 100 million acts of sexual intercourse each day.

14.) Most turkeys and giraffes are bisexual.

15.) The Ancient Egyptians used dried crocodile dung as a contraceptive as it has spermicidal properties. How did they discover this?

16.) Both men and women can have multiple orgasms. But for men to achieve one, their first orgasm must occur without ejaculation and without losing their erection.

17.) In 2005, a couple broke the world record for the longest unbroken kiss. They did it for an exhausting 31 hours, 30 minutes and 30 seconds.

18.) 25% of couples over 75 still sexually active.

19.) Women who have been to university are more likely to engage in anal sex.

20.) The amount of wet dreams a man is likely to have increases in line with the number of years spent in formal education (which very much includes university I’m sure you’ll be glad to know).

21.) 80% of men living in the USA have been circumcised. Less than 20% in the UK have been.

22.) Besides humans, bonobo chimps and dolphins are the only animals that have sex for pleasure.

23.) Telling a convincing lie to someone is much more difficult when you find them sexually attractive.

24.) What do humans, fish and porpoises have in common? They all have oral sex.

25.) 70% of men refuse sex during their girlfriend’s period.

26.) Apparently on average foreplay lasts 11 to 13 minutes.

27.) Orgasms are a great way to relieve period pains.

28.) 70% of men in relationships always have an orgasm with their partner whilst only 29% of women do.

29.) In Imperial China, eunuchs held many of the top positions. These men kept their genitals in a jar on a high shelf to symbolise their rise to the upper ranks.

30.) A woman has twice as many nerve endings on her clitoris than men have on their whole penis.

31.) Believe it or not, people are on average hornier during periods of their life where they are having more sex.

32.) 94% of men say they masturbate, while 80% of women say they do.

33.) A quarter of penises are slightly bent when erect.

34.) Valentina Vassilyeva holds the record for most children birthed by a single woman. During her life she gave birth to total of 69 children. She had 16 pairs of twins, 7 sets of triplets and 4 sets of quadruplets between 1725 and 1765, in a total of 27 births. Miraculously 67 of the 69 children born survived infancy.

35.) Under half of men think their penis is too small whereas 85% of women are very satisfied with their partner’s penis size.

36.) Weight loss increases the size of a man’s penis. For every 35 pounds of fat lost the fat at the base decreases enough to give them an extra inch.

37.) 92% of women think that skint and sexy is preferable to loaded and ugly.

38.) Given the choice 75% of women would rather sleep with one man in a lifetime as opposed to 25% who would rather sleep with 100 men.

39.) The average amount of time spent kissing for a person in a lifetime is 20,160 minutes.

40.) The black widow spider eats her mate during or after sex. Worse still, the horny eight-legger can consumer as many 20 lovers in a single day.

Seems like a disturbingly logical place to end things…