Sexuality is about reproduction. Human reproduction involves much more than intercourse. A baby grows inside a woman’s body until it is mature enough to be born. This period of gestation lasts around 9 months and is called pregnancy. Even today, it is hard work for one parent to raise a child alone. So most women only plan a family once they have a loving and supportive relationship that is compatible with raising children to maturity.
The distinct roles of the male and female are apparent from nature. The female produces the egg and the male fertilises it. Both male and female sexuality contribute towards reproduction. Men focus on the sexual act of intercourse while women focus on their children: the consequences of sex.
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. Men’s prime reproductive role focuses on intercourse so sex is much more crucial to men’s emotional makeup.
Reproduction is much more crucial that we ever acknowledge. If women stopped having babies or men stopped producing sperm, the human race would be extinct within a hundred years. Women enjoy the platonic emotions of nurturing love, companionship and affection. A woman may also employ sexual behaviours to attract and retain a man’s interest in her.
Engaging in intercourse is a relatively small part of women’s reproductive function. A woman ovulates on a monthly cycle and becomes pregnant by engaging in intercourse. 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).
There is a natural fit between the male and the female body. The man has a protruding phallus (the penis) and the woman has an orifice (the vagina). A man has a genital focus while a woman focuses on upper body lovemaking. When a man is aroused, his penis becomes solid and erect. He can penetrate a woman’s vagina and soon ejaculates because of the pleasure of thrusting. Afterwards his penis returns to its usual flaccid state.
Conception occurs inside the woman’s body after a man has ejaculated into her vagina during intercourse. A new life is formed when one sperm joins with an egg. One spermatozoa (sperm for short) from the man’s semen joins with one egg in the woman’s abdomen (uterus). When an egg has been fertilised (the nucleus of the egg and sperm join) it is called a zygote.
The cells settle in the uterus (womb). The cells attach to the wall of the uterus and the placenta, starts to form. The placenta provides the growing cells with oxygen, water, nutrients and allows for the removal of 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 when the body has completely formed, it is called a foetus.
Problems with pregnancy are common and include: ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages and still-births. Miscarriages occur when a woman loses the child she is carrying before it is mature enough to survive. Miscarriages are relatively common and can occur at any time during pregnancy. Childbirth can be dangerous for a woman and the baby. Even with medical assistance, women can still die from childbirth.
During childbirth, the baby comes down the birth canal and out of the mother’s body through her vagina (from between her legs). The birth canal consists of internal anatomy that is inert. This is why intercourse provides little sensation for a woman. 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.
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. A mother’s breasts (mammary glands) produce milk so that she can feed the baby until it is weaned onto solid food. This allows for bonding between mother and child. Women continue to be much more involved in nurturing children than men typically are.
… 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)