Sexuality is about reproduction. Human reproduction involves much more than just the act of intercourse. A woman has to carry the baby in her body until it is mature enough to be born. This period of gestation is called pregnancy. Parents need to provide a home and have a relationship that is compatible with raising children to maturity.
Young children are interested in pregnancy and babies, rather than the act of intercourse itself. Children need to be told that a man and a woman make a baby together. When a man and a woman make love, a sperm (short for spermatozoa) from the man joins with the egg inside the woman’s body.
The distinct and separate roles of the male and female animal are apparent from nature. The female produces the egg and the male fertilises it. A woman, like all female mammals is disadvantaged (compared with a man) because of her vulnerability during pregnancy. The evolution of human intelligence means our offspring need longer to reach maturity.
When an egg has been fertilised (the nucleus of the egg has joined with that of the sperm) it is called a zygote. This is called conception. The cells settle in the uterus (womb). Once the cells have attached to the wall of the uterus an organ, called the placenta, starts to form. The placenta provides the growing cells with oxygen, water and nutrients and removes waste products. The cells divide and multiply rapidly so that after about 4 days, the zygote consists of 32 cells. At this point it is called an embryo. After 9 weeks the body has completely formed and it is called a foetus. During childbirth, the baby comes down the birth canal and out of the mother’s body through her vagina (between her legs).
Pregnancy lasts approximately 9 months. Various things can go wrong with a pregnancy: ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages and still-births. Women still die from childbirth even when they have medical assistance. There are three stages of labour: dilation of the cervix (neck of the womb), the baby passing from uterus to the outside via the birth canal and the placenta detaching from the wall of the womb.
After birth a woman is also more involved than a man in nurturing the young because the mother’s breasts (mammary glands) produce milk so that she can feed the baby until it is weaned onto solid food. A woman’s breasts enlarge during pregnancy. For the first few days after birth her breasts produce antibodies to protect the baby from infections. When her milk first comes in her breasts are very tender and susceptible to mastitis until the swelling subsides and regular breast-feeding is established.
It takes a man and a woman to produce another human being. Men’s biological function in reproduction involves impregnating a woman through the act of intercourse. Women’s biological role in reproduction is to ovulate monthly and become pregnant by engaging in intercourse with a man. Men’s prime reproductive role is their contribution during intercourse so this makes sex much more crucial to their emotional makeup. Sex is only a relatively small part of women’s reproductive function. So sex has a much lesser importance for women compared with the much greater investment in time and effort that she has to invest to successfully reproduce (produce another self-sufficient adult).
Reproduction is of no value if women desert their offspring at birth to fend for themselves. Women used to commonly die in childbirth but children were looked after by other relatives or orphanages. So women’s reproductive function ideally includes not only pregnancy and childbirth but also breast feeding and raising a child to maturity with the help of family (a man or other relatives).
Both men and women have responses that are sexual in that they both work towards reproduction. But men’s responses are more focused on genital activity. Women are focused on the platonic emotions of love and affection. Women also employ sexual behaviours to attract and retain a man’s interest in her. Men and women’s different responses are equally valid and required for successful human reproduction. Reproduction is much more crucial that we ever acknowledge. If women stopped having babies or men stopped producing sperm, then the human race would be extinct within a hundred years.
Reproduction involves a natural balance. Men focus on the sexual act itself whereas women focus on their children: the consequences. Men’s prime reproductive focus is the mating act. Women’s prime reproductive focus is bearing and nurturing children. Because of male sex drive and the resulting temptations of promiscuity for men, women compete against each other for male attention. There is a saying “There is honour among men”. But there is little honour among women. It’s not that human nature varies between the sexes but there is always a desire to protect one’s own interests.
… the average female marries to establish a home, to establish a long-time affectional relationship with a single spouse, and to have children whose welfare may become the prime business of her life. Most males would admit that all of these are desirable aspects of a marriage, but it is probable that few males would marry if they did not anticipate that they would have an opportunity to have coitus regularly with their wives. (Alfred Kinsey 1953)