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 people 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.
We are all a product of genetic material from one man and one woman. Reproduction relies on a man impregnating a woman through intercourse. So sexual activity is crucial to men’s sense of emotional well-being. A man is incentivised to protect a woman who offers him regular intercourse.
The male and female body fit together to provide a sexual coupling. A man has a protruding phallus (the penis) and a woman has an orifice (the vagina). When a man is aroused, his penis becomes solid and erect. A man has a genital focus but a woman focuses on upper body lovemaking. After he has inserted his penis into a vagina, the pleasure of thrusting causes a man to ejaculate quickly. After ejaculation the penis returns to its usual flaccid state.
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. Sex is relatively insignificant to a woman compared with the much greater investment in time and effort she has to invest in order to successfully reproduce (produce another self-sufficient adult).
Conception occurs inside the woman’s body after a man has ejaculated semen, containing millions of spermatozoa (sperm for short), into her vagina. If the woman has recently ovulated, an egg will have been released from one of her ovaries. A new life is formed when an egg is fertilised (the nucleus of the egg and sperm join) inside the woman’s body. Once fertilised, the cells divide and multiply rapidly to form a cluster (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.
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 relatively common and can occur at any time during pregnancy. Childbirth is dangerous and even with medical assistance, childbirth can be life-threatening both for mother and child.
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.
Intercourse involves a man depositing his semen in a woman’s vagina. Without the benefit of modern contraception, this act potentially obliges a woman to carry the man’s offspring in her uterus for 9 months. After this time, the social responsibility for the child is clearly hers. She is obliged to breastfeed the child and care for it until it can fend for itself. Many of the world’s children are produced because of an act that a woman may not welcome or that is forced on her. The success of human reproduction is foremost down to men’s determination to obtain intercourse with women.
… 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)