S(ex)ual intercourse – the Wikipedia entry (pun intended)

Oh Wiki, you shameless prude.

Vaginal sexual intercourse, also called coitus is the human form of copulation. While its primary evolutionary purpose is the reproduction and continued survival of the human species, it often is performed exclusively for pleasure.

I’m not really sure about the pleasure part, considering the fact that I once took a very fun freshman seminar that dealt, along with a whole lot of other monkey-business, the issue of Bonobos (which are, in actuality, apes – not that you care about the difference). Bonobos are fascinating, particularly when it comes to the way they use sex as a kind of commodity – particularly when it comes to building alliances and getting their fur searched for lice. Although then again, they also clearly appear to enjoy themselves. Scientists have long been speaking about why Bonobos do the things they do. The opinions I received in class were largely of the utilitarian variety – “they do it because it is practical, because nature is practical.”

Bonobos (our long-lost cousins, really) make me wonder about the latter half of that Wikipedia description – can sex ever be performed exclusively for pleasure?

I’ve often argued that it can, and so have many others. But even if we define pleasure as something that is both physical and emotional, we can’t overlook some of the more, er, practical purposes behind a sexual act that is not performed with the intention of conceiving a child (let’s lay aside both prostitution and Mother Nature’s own clever designs on the matter).

Sex is also a means of bonding, de-stressing, and even staying healthy. Masturbation is widely recognized to be a good way to relieve built-up tension by sexperts (I don’t know who made up that term, but I adore this person anyway) – and so is actual intercourse. And don’t even get me started on gay sex!

Wikipedia references Alex Comfort’s views that “three potential advantages of intercourse in humans, which are not mutually exclusive: reproductive, relational, and recreational… For example: A fertile couple may have intercourse while contracepting not only to experience sexual pleasure (recreational), but also as a means of emotional intimacy (relational), thus making their relationship more stable and more capable of sustaining children in the future (deferred reproductive). This same couple may emphasize different aspects of intercourse on different occasions…”

But Comfort (who’s outdated, and a bit creepy – though not necessarily in the above passage) and, in turn, Wikipedia present “recreational sex” as a kind of limited category. The fact that this form of behaviour can be beneficial in more ways than one is left out. And maybe this has to do with the fact that we would like to compartmentalize our sexual experiences, as in – “I did it just for fun,” or “We’re really trying to get pregnant,” or… whatever.

I don’t think that anyone ever really has one reason for screwing someone else – not to be too blunt about it, or anything. Even the “right” reasons are sometimes not enough – so much of sex is about power, prestige, the ability to cut your eyes slyly in the direction of a particular person and murmur “yes, we did it.”

Then there are the seemingly “weird” reasons – the idea that sex can bring you closer to God, the blurred boundaries between religious and sexual ecstasy. I know women who talk about angels as if they were the most purely sexual beings that they’ve never (never say never?) seen – and I distinctly recall enormous, embarrassing billboards for a show called “Guardian Angel” whilst on holiday in Ukraine – the billboards consisted almost entirely of male muscle in all its packaged glory.

The more I think about this, the more I tend to believe that our entire definitions of the “purpose” of sexual intercourse are both too vague and too specific at the same time – because we keep trying to draw a line between “good” sex and “bad” sex – and said line can be unfathomable and often doesn’t belong anywhere.

Oh, and, you know… Pure pleasure – it just doesn’t bloody exist. And I’m beginning to think that I was being quite puritanical when I argued that it did.

Thoughts?

4 thoughts on “S(ex)ual intercourse – the Wikipedia entry (pun intended)

  1. One the reasons I keep coming back to your blog is your fearless tackling of any subject, and look, here’s Natalia, tackling sex! Great post. I’m not sure what I have to say about it just yet, except that the line “so much of sex is about power, prestige, the ability to cut your eyes slyly in the direction of a particular person and murmur “yes, we did it.” ” is absolutely brilliant.

  2. “Pure pleasure – it just doesn’t bloody exist. ” Absolutely! Not for us humans anyway…;) No thinking human animal can ever experience pure pleasure without a long history of repression, guilt, shame, justification, analysis, and other such associations that society has built into that little three word. Sex is introduced to us as a pre-packaged product, with all of its baggage spilling out in an unseemly mess. So if we touch it at all, it is with the supreme embarrasment of a person who doesn’t want his/her personal items out in public for all to see.

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