Cunnilingus-assisted orgasm may not be such a big mystery

This week I ’ ve been wrestling with a particularly big writing project which has kept me away from posting in this column. But, staring into my Twitter prey in procrastination, I spotted much scandalization about a paper on the adaptive basis of cunnilingus-assisted orgasm. I had to head over to the diary Evolutionary Psychology to take a look .
The authors, Michael N. Pham, Todd K. Shackelford, Yael Sela and Lisa L. M. Welling, all of Oakland University in Michigan report the results of a bare view they administered to 243 men in committed, heterosexual relationships. They predicted that, in their own words :

among men who perform cunnilingus on their spouse, those at greater gamble of sperm competition are more likely to perform cunnilingus until their partner achieves orgasm ( Prediction 1 ), and that, among men who ejaculate during penile-vaginal intercourse and whose partner experiences a cunnilingus-assisted orgasm, ejaculation will occur during the abbreviated period in which female orgasm might function to retain sperm ( Prediction 2 ) .

It would be besides easy to sneer at the preferably joyless prose, here and throughout the composition, as some popular commentators have done. And it would besides be wrong. We expect scientists working on other less sensitive questions to make clear predictions that avoid imputing prize or emotion. And therefore should it be with predictions about oral sex.

This wallpaper is separate of a rich people vein of research in Evolutionary Psychology on the function of the female orgasm. In particular, it tests an estimate – one sky-high championed by Todd Shackleford ’ s group – that orgasm functions to enhance the probability of creation .
One mechanism by which this could occur is by inducing uterine contractions which draw sperm toward the testis, shortening the distance sperm have to travel. This is one conceptualization of an old idea, colourfully called the “ upsuck hypothesis ”. As Mary Roach points out in orient six of the television below, attest supporting “ upsuck ” is equivocal .

Legion studies provide circumstantial testify coherent with the theme of orgasm as a imprint of after-the-fact mate choice ( “ use the sperm of the guy who made you come ” ). Women with affluent partners report having more orgasms. More masculine and more attractive men tend to give their female partners more orgasms .
But when would women need to discriminate among men ’ second ejaculates ? When they mate with more than one man over a fertility cycle .
Studies on other animals, particularly insects, suggest that competition among males doesn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate arrest at sexual intercourse, but continues between the ejaculates when the female mates in sanely close succession with two or more males. And that females can differentially use the sperm of some males over others .
Studying these questions in humans is, intelligibly, ethically fraught, and therefore the testify for sperm contest is less directly. The size of men ’ s testes and the volume of their ejaculate suggests that human sperm contest is crucial but by no means rampant .
That is consistent with the attest that while humans show an challenging capacity for monogamy, we are besides often sky-high promiscuous .
thus, returning to the paper in question, what do Pham and colleagues mean when they talk about “ men at greater risk of sperm competition ” ? Did they secretly ask those men ’ randomness partners if they had been furtively mating with person else ? Nope. Turns out their measure, which they rather clinically name “ perennial gamble of sperm contest ” constitutes “ the bastardly of four variables : how sexually and physically attractive the player views his partner, and how sexually and physically attractive the participant believes other men view his collaborator. ”
So they asked men, four different ways, how attractive they thought their partners were. attractive partners, by their logic, are at greater gamble of having recently mated with early men .
And they found that men who rated their partners as highly attractive tended more often to have orally brought them to orgasm. Add this to another paper, recently published by Pham and Shackleford showing that men who rate their partners as attractive express greater interest in, and spend more time perform, oral sex on their spouse .
Being a defender of evolutionary psychology international relations and security network ’ thymine constantly easy. Most research in this playing field is conceptually interest, well-replicated and by and large robust skill. But the stuff that breaks into the news cycle and infests the Twittersphere therefore often tends to come from the weakest science the field has to offer. And I have to confess I find these studies among the most underwhelming I have recently read.

We biologists tend to forget that lecture about sperm competition and cunnilingus-assisted orgasm induces many folks to squirm. It international relations and security network ’ t the wiggle factor here that gets my capricorn .
It ’ s the way in which the detective ’ s favoured hypotheses don ’ t attract the disbelieving self-scrutiny they deserve. And in which alternative ideas aren ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate punctually considered .
And this includes considering the interrogate from the woman ’ s decimal point of scene. possibly gathering data from women. These weaknesses play helplessly into the worst stereotypes that critics of evolutionary psychology deploy to dismiss the biological report of human behavior .

Have you asked the womenfolk?

evolutionary explanations for the officiate of orgasm tend either to see orgasm as a form of match choice or as a by-product of the male capacity to orgasm at ejaculation. A holocene reappraisal of the evolutionary literature came down in greater favor of “ mate choice ” hypothesis than the by-product hypothesis .
The mind that men who view their partners positively might besides be more concerned in pleasuring them orally doesn ’ t get the nuanced exploration is credibly deserves. Giving and meet of sexual pleasure is function of the complex social-biological interplay that defines relationships .
Kind men who care enough about their partners to please them sexually may besides tend to view them as attractive. work force with attractive partners might work extra-hard to keep them sexually concerned. Because those partners have better options should they leave .
My target is not that Pham et aluminum are wrong. Their favor explanation, cloaked here in the psuedo-objective linguistic process of a dry hypothesis, may well prove full-bodied to more critical scrutiny. But there are a wealth of possible option explanations, some more probably than the favor matchless. I trust the Conversation ’ s busy commentators will, in typical manner, identify them all .
One of the things that irritates me about this newspaper is the direction in which the newspaper considers one explanation among hundreds, finds evidence in patronize of it, and then ignores the more complex context of the behavior. Female orgasm and oral sex are indeed rich subjects for cogitation. I would love to know more about why not all women orgasm, why those that do do indeed in different ways. And why oral arouse practices vary sol wildly among times, places and individuals .
It is this concession of the complex, social dimensions that concedes the most concern aspects of demeanor to those who blur it in social constructionist and post-structural mumbo-jumbo .
I wish my evolutionary colleagues would get stuck in to the much more complex social aspects of orgasm and sexual pleasure .

Double standard, much?

Bizarrely, while the affair of the female orgasm gets treated as a mystery, the male orgasm rarely gets an equal exercise ( discriminative stimulus whingeing from both sides of sex political spectrum ). Because male orgasm so much accompanies ejaculation, should we think of it as a mere reward for depositing sperm, motivating men to become rampant sowers-of-oats ?
besides, I don ’ thyroxine see a set of head-scratching about the functions of fellatio. And other practices that cause seed to be spilled in places other than a vagina connected to an ovulating uterus. We leave the ultraconservative nutbags to worry about these questions. so many of us stop uncritically at the affirmation that sex, for men, is fun.

Why is sex fun ? The answer, to so many of us, is obvious. But when Jared Diamond asked this question he exposed many far more intrigue questions that lurk below .
Anyone can conjure superficial answers to questions like “ why do women have orgasms ? ”, “ why don ’ t all women have orgasms ? ”, “ why do men orgasm when they ejaculate ” and “ what is the function of oral arouse ? ”. good answers based on solid science are much, much harder to come by .
But that shouldn ’ metric ton stop us from trying .

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