Home Biological aspects of sexuality Human reproduction Intercourse involves reproductive risk for women

Intercourse involves reproductive risk for women

The vagina is involved in reproduction and provides male pleasure. So we assume that it must also have a role in causing female orgasm. But this does not follow. Female orgasm is quite separate from the reproductive process. Women are impregnated by rape, for example, which does not pleasure women. It is very tempting to assume that intercourse exists in order to provide everyone with sexual pleasure. Intercourse is a mating act that is aimed at maximising the chances of reproduction. Sexual pleasure is merely a by-product. Only men need to be motivated to engage in intercourse.

Men assume that because reproduction involves a woman being penetrated she must thereby experience arousal and orgasm. Naturally, such a situation would be very convenient for everyone but wishing doesn’t make it so. If a woman wants a relationship and perhaps a family, she needs to keep a man interested in her. The male sexual role is to impregnate a female and so penetrative sex is core to male sexuality. Men naturally assume that women must be equally motivated to engage in an act, which provides men with so much pleasure, but that potentially results in a woman becoming pregnant.

The success of human reproduction is foremost down to men’s sex drive. But if women behaved as men do, our species would not have been so successful reproductively. If women enjoyed the same pleasure from intercourse, they would engage in intercourse indiscriminately. They would be pregnant all the time but by unknown men. They would not obtain the support of one man and they would be left to raise children by themselves. This might be possible in a society that forces men to pay maintenance but not in the millennia of evolution that have made the sexes what they are.

Throughout history, married women have spent their whole lives either pregnant or breastfeeding. Women commonly died in childbirth. So women paid for intercourse with their life. If she was unmarried, a woman was blamed for bringing a child into the world without a father to pay for its upbringing. Women can avoid pregnancy because they are not driven to engage in intercourse. This conscious ability to avoid intercourse with an unsuitable mate is incompatible with being aroused and having a sex drive.

Before the 1960s there was no reliable contraception. A woman risked pregnancy every time she engaged in intercourse. A woman had to be capable of making a conscious choice to offer intercourse to a reliable and loving man who would support her through a pregnancy and decades of child-raising. Unless she has some reassurance that a man will support her in raising a child, no woman is likely to risk pregnancy without a fight.

As a result of intercourse a woman can be obliged to carry the man’s offspring in her uterus for 9 months. After this time, the social responsibility for the child is clearly hers. A woman is expected to care for a child on a daily basis until it can fend for itself. Without the protection of reliable contraception, few women would volunteer for unprotected intercourse. Women naturally avoid intercourse. Many of the world’s children are born because of an act that a woman may not welcome or that is forced on her.

Once reliable contraceptive became available, it was assumed that women would be free to enjoy the same pleasure from intercourse that men have always enjoyed. It was proposed that women would behave as men do. This has not happened. Men still need to date women before there is likely to be any sexual activity. Most women will only offer sex in the context of a committed and loving relationship. Men also continue to be the ones who propose. A marriage proposal represents a man’s offer of financial support.

Certainly, there are women today who are willing to have sex for no particular reason other than ego. But women’s motives are different to men’s. Women are not intent on their own pleasure but rather on what they might obtain by providing male pleasure. Reliable contraception cannot change women’s responses that have evolved over millions of years (even before homo sapiens). Women cannot choose to change their responsiveness or acquire a sex drive within the space of a few decades.

Men want intercourse for the pleasure they enjoy. This is not just sensual and emotional pleasure. Men need sex regardless of the risks, which are not just confined to getting a woman pregnant. Both hetero- and homosexual men risk their careers, political future or public censure. Others have risked death or severe punishments (especially gay men) to obtain penetrative sex.

In the days before reliable contraception and maintenance payments, if a woman became pregnant she had no choice about offering sex to obtain a man’s on-going support. So the emotional factors that make women amenable to sex only need to operate in the early days of relationships. These romantic factors may work later on if a woman obtains rewards from the wider relationship that compensate her for investing passively or actively in her sex life. Most women are only willing to offer intercourse when they are attracted to a man in such a way that they feel amenable to sex. This amenability is emotional and romantic rather than erotic. When a woman loves a man, she enjoys giving him pleasure. Men also provide for women’s material needs but they are less sensitive to women’s emotional needs.

Most males find it difficult to comprehend why females are not aroused by such graphic representations of sexual action … The wives, on the other hand, are often at a loss to understand why a male who is having satisfactory sexual relations at home should seek additional stimulation in portrayals of sexual action. (Alfred Kinsey 1953)