The act of penetrative sexuality has evolved over millions of years as such mechanisms to deliver sperm to eggs and initiate pregnancy. But theres more to sex than simply the meeting of two defines of genes. The Whats the phase of sexuality? series examines biological, physical and social aspects of sex and gender . Todays piece describes physical, social and mental health benefits that are a consequence of consenting sexual relationships, or the pursuit of them .
Whether you talk about it in polite society or not, sexuality is central to who you are as a person. In fact, we are all here as a result of meaningful lookings, snatched moments, sweaty palms, clumsy first touches, tangled limbs and orgasms.
Were sex only important for procreation, it would more than do it undertaking from an evolutionary perspective. However, proof have suggested at a physical and social level, sexuality is about much more than constructing babies.
Most nonhuman animals have no interest in sexuality outside of a reproductive context. But women have sex throughout their menstrual cycle despite being fertile for only a few cases days each month, and go on having sex long after menopause renders them infertile. And of course, couples who are of the same sexuality, employing contraception or infertile are no less keen for congress than any pregnancy-focused counterparts.
Ultimately , no one knows for sure what the point of all this sex is, but its other biological impacts may provide clues.
Sex brings people together
Have you ever gratified someone who is right for you on paper, but when push comes to shove their fragrance seems wrong, or the spark isnt there? Our bodies can tell our minds who we dont want to be with. Similarly, our bodies can give us strong signals about whether we want to stay close to somebody.
When we touch, kiss and have sex, our body reacts with a release of hormones links between bonding. Most important among these appear to be oxytocin and vasopressin.
Such releases are particularly marked during sexual exhilaration and orgasm. The release of these chemicals is thought to promote love and commitment between couples and increase the opportunity that they stay together.
Some research supporting this comes from surveys of rodents. For instance, female voles( sturdy little mouse-type beings) have been found to bond to male voles when their copulation with them is paired with an infusion of oxytocin.
In humans, those couples who have sex less frequently are at greater risk of relationship dissolution than are friskier couples.
But oxytocin is not just good for pair bonding. It is released from the brain into the blood stream in many social situations, including breastfeeding, singing and most activities that involve being together pleasurably. It seems oxytocin plays a role in a lot of group oriented and socially harmonious activities, and is implicated in altruism.
Bonobos( a species of great ape) appear to take full advantage of the link between harmony and sex, often resolving conflicts or comforting each other by rubbing genitals, copulating, masturbating or performing oral sex on each other. This isnt something to try during a tense board meeting, but such findings hint at the potential role lovemaking may play in reconciliation among couples.
Sex is a healthy activity
People with poor physical or emotional health are also more likely to have sexual problems. Here causality is hard to establish healthier people will tend to be up for more sexuality, but it is also likely that the physical workout and bonding benefits bestowed by fulfilling sexuality lead to healthier, happier lives.
Its also possible our long, energetic and physically demanding style of sexuality evolved to assist us asses the health of potential long-term partners.
Sex can induce us creative
In a society in which theres at least some selection available in whom we mate with, competition is likely to be fierce. Consequently, we need to display characteristics that will make us attractive to those we are attracted to.
In humans, this is thought to result in competitive and creative showings, as well as displays of humour. We certainly see evidence of the success of this tactic: musicians, for example, are stereotyped as never lacking a potential mate. Picassos most productive and creative periods usually coincided with the appearance of a new mistress on the scene.
Science says: go for it
What then does science tell us? Simply put , non-reproductive sex is an activity that can bring biological rewards. It can bring people together, help drive creative attempts, and contribute to good health.