Home Biological aspects of sexuality Human reproduction Reproduction involves more than just intercourse

Reproduction involves more than just intercourse

Sexuality is about reproduction. Human reproduction involves much more than intercourse. The distinct male and female roles are apparent from nature. The female produces the egg and the male fertilises it. We are all a product of genes from one man and one woman. A man has a protruding phallus (penis) and a woman has an opening between her legs (vagina).

When a man is aroused, his penis becomes solid and erect, which makes penetration possible. After a man has inserted his penis into the woman’s vagina, the pleasure of thrusting causes him to orgasm. Male orgasm triggers ejaculation, which transfers genetic material (spermatozoa) from the man to the woman. After ejaculation the penis returns to its usual flaccid state.

A woman ovulates (as a result of an automatic or subconscious process) on a monthly cycle. She is impregnated by a man’s semen when she engages in intercourse. Compared with the much greater time and effort she has to invest to successfully reproduce (produce another self-sufficient adult), sex itself represents a relatively small part of women’s reproductive function.

Conception occurs inside the woman’s body after a man has ejaculated into her vagina. The millions of microscopic spermatozoa (sperm for short), together with other glandular secretions, are referred to as semen. If the woman has recently ovulated, an egg will have been released from one of her ovaries. When one of the sperm joins with an egg (the egg and sperm nuclei fuse) inside the woman’s body, a new life is conceived. Once the egg is fertilised, the combined cells divide and multiply rapidly to form a zygote.

The zygote attaches itself to the wall of the uterus (womb) and the placenta starts to form. The placenta is an organ that provides the growing cells with oxygen, water and nutrients as well as removing waste products. 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.

At the conclusion of intercourse, a man ejaculates sperm into the vagina. After conception, the baby grows inside a woman’s body until it is mature enough to be born. This period of gestation, called pregnancy, lasts around 9 months. It’s a simple principle of what goes up, must come down. During childbirth, the baby comes out of the mother’s abdomen via the birth canal. The vagina, together with the rest of the birth canal, accommodates a baby’s head and body during childbirth. This is why the vagina is insensitive to the relatively insignificant stimulation provided by the penis during intercourse.

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 outside the womb. Miscarriages are common and can occur at any time during pregnancy. Childbirth is dangerous and even with medical assistance, childbirth can be life-threatening for mother and child. There are various pain-relief methods available. 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. If a natural delivery is not possible, then the baby is delivered by Caesarean delivery (C-section).

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 a woman’s breasts feel very tender and are 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.

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. Even today, it is hard work for one parent to raise a child alone. Most people only plan a family once they have a supportive relationship that is compatible with raising children to maturity. Women continue to be much more involved in nurturing children than men typically are. This devotion to their children motivates women to provide the regular intercourse that men need to obtain a sexual release.

A man’s view of relationships is short term (from one erection to the next). If he has an erection he thinks about a partner. If not, he goes about his own business. Women’s instincts are to nurture because they care for children on a daily basis. A woman loves all the time. If a man ignores her need for affection and companionship, she sees this as evidence that he doesn’t care. A woman interprets a man’s neglect as on-going proof that he does not care about her. Men need to invest in showing affection and consideration. A consistency of behaviour provides women with the evidence that men are sincere rather than just trying to obtain sexual favours.

… 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)