April 2, 2018

A lot of us think sex is a biological urge driven by the evolutionary reflex to help the species survive. In simpler terms, our bodies demand sex so that we can have babies and keep the human race alive, and we have no say in the matter. In reality, though, sex seems like the exact opposite. Our obsession with learning how to last longer in bed has nothing to do with making babies (that only takes a few seconds, biologically speaking).

Also, most of our sexual efforts are focused on not getting pregnant. In fact, it seems the entire sex industry is driven by our need to thwart this so-called biological urge. So if it’s not about babies, then why do we have sex? According to sociologist Randal Collins, sex is more of a social instinct driven by our desire to connect with other human beings.

No man – or woman – is an island

The basis of his theory is that for all of us, regardless of sexual circumstances, we enjoy longer lasting sex more when our partner seems to be enjoying it with us. This happens even in transactional sex, like prostitution. Even though the sex is being purchased – just like any other commodity – the client enjoys it more when their partner expresses pleasure.

Similarly, the very fact that people are willing to pay for sex – even though they can get orgasmic pleasure through masturbation proves that having someone else share the sex act is a big part of the process. We enjoy sex with a partner – any partner – more than we enjoy having sex by ourselves, even though masturbation has a surer rate of orgasm.

More sex after kids

When we are younger, our sex drive is higher. That’s likely to be biological, because of increased fertility and stronger testosterone levels. But for many couples, the sex is better once they’re done having kids because they no longer have to worry about unplanned pregnancy or toddler-interruptus, and also because they’re more skilled at it.

At this point, sex is about connecting as a couple and bonding through mutual pleasure, which is probably why early ejaculation can be so frustrating.  On the other hand, couples can still bond even if their sexual experience isn’t pleasurable. Early sexual experiences – in teens or even the first sexual encounter of any relationship – is often awkward and unsatisfactory. Couples often pursue a second ‘sex date’. It’s not always about pleasure.

Sex as a social function

Psychology professor Noam Shpancer, PhD, writes that sex is a social construct. He calls it an ‘interactive ritual’ governed by rules that separate the couple involved from the rest of the world, whether they’re behind a closed bedroom door or in the back seat of a car. As a result of this interaction, they form a mutual unit that may or may not extend after the act.

And the more one interacts with the same sexual partner, the stronger that bond becomes. Sometimes, the bond is formalised through a relationship or marriage that results in children. However, these children are a result of sex rather than the reason for it.

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