This is quite the article. Our hapless male friend Brian is totally confused about those crazy lady-bits, and has decided to speak with some evolutionary biologists to figure out what the heck is going on down there.
Men just don’t seem to have the same number of unanswered questions about our biology. Male primates — male mammals in general — all have penises and testicles and sperm. We use them whenever we can. Unless we are sick or injured, we can make babies. And if anybody wants to know if we’re interested, all they have to do is look to see if we’re at attention.
…right. There are too many factual errors in each and every one of those sentences for me to properly parse. So it serves as a representative introduction to the rest of the piece.
Though some studies suggest that men and women do have an unconscious sense of when a woman enters a fertile period and is ripe for mating, there is no obvious outward sign as there is for most mammals. Many female monkeys, for example, get bright red butts when they release an egg. But women are poker butts, even to themselves, which is why they are left to temperature-taking and guessing in order to time ovulation.
Is it actually true that “most mammals” show outward signs of fertility? I’m asking that honestly, because I really don’t know, but it sounds a little questionable.
Dr. Leonard Shlain, a San Francisco surgeon and author of “Sex, Time and Power: How Women’s Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution,” speculates that ovulation had to be concealed because women wised up and realized sex led to pregnancy, which led to childbirth, which often led to death for the woman. “Once women understood they could die as a result of having sex, why wouldn’t they abstain from sex?” But if women did not know when they ovulated, they wouldn’t know when they had to abstain in order not to risk dying nine months later (a theory that assumes they had a choice about whether to have sex).
Shlain believes orgasm is a reward to women, a little something to entice them to have sex rather than focus on the prospect of death in childbirth. “Once she knows death is associated with sex, she needs to have an impetus to keep having her do it,” he says.
“Women have orgasms because men do,” insists Katherine Dettwyler, an anthropologist and colleague of Rosenberg’s. “The clitoris is the homologue of the head of the penis. I think orgasms are a reward to men to [have sex] as much as possible and also the muscles contracting shoot ejaculate out and so it gets as far it can. Women have a clitoris because that’s what’s left of the head of penis, like men have nipples.”
Rosenberg agrees, calling female orgasm an evolutionary “side effect.”
Aww, how sweet. So what about breasts? Why do we have those?
“When we stood up,” he says, referring to our early ancestors, “the anatomy of the pelvis changed. The vagina oriented itself more toward the front.” But this was a problem because most mammals, including primates, have sex doggie style. Hence the big red butts advertising “Sexy girl here!” meant to appeal to our visual sense. (Primates do not smell as well as, say, dogs.) So, since males began facing females for sex, the rough equivalent of big red butts “were transposed to the front of a woman” and became the breasts we know and love.
So every part of the female body is either some deviation from the male body, or created for male pleasure. I’m glad these completely neutral, unbiased scientists have cleared up these issues for us.
Thanks to Amanda for the link.
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