This is seemingly a simple question. But in fact it is a most difficult question, as of yet unanswered by science.
Many seemingly simple questions are, on close inspection, not at all easy to answer. One of these—perhaps the most interesting—is why we have sex. Why do you want sex? The usual answer is, of course, based on the known reproductive function of sex.
We want sex because our continued existence as a species depends on it. Children come from sex, one learns. And the thing about the stork is just a story. But the facts on the ground undermine this assumption. First, people continue to engage in sex long after they have stopped having children. Often, their sex lives actually get better, because there are no more worries about unplanned pregnancy or, a bit later, about Junior popping up bedside mid-action saying he needs to pee.
Which leads us to the following fact: On the contrary, most of those getting busy at this moment would be shocked and upset to find that their joyful acrobatics have resulted in pregnancy. An intense interest in sex and eroticism is not necessarily linked to heightened interest in producing offspring. In fact, those interests are often inversely related.
Moreover, many sexual behaviors we commonly engage in, even in the fertile years, are not related to reproduction at all. If sex is for reproduction, how is the mechanism of sexual pleasure organized regarding anal or oral sex?
And why are you holding hands with your boyfriend? Children do not come of it. Besides, you also hold hands with your three-year-old niece. What's going on here? And what is reproductive about someone pulling your hair?
In fact, why does the business of genital, reproductive pleasure spread to all kinds of remote areas not related to reproduction, such as shoulders very sexy in the nineteenth century , the neck sexual attraction in Japanese culture , or breasts contemporary American obsession? It is a pleasure. I have sex for fun. It turns out the desire for physical pleasure is NOT the most important reason for sexual activity. Research shows that the physical pleasure of genital stimulation is not necessarily an important component in the decision to have sex.
Researchers Cindy Meston and David Buss a few years ago asked students about their reasons for engaging in sex. So why are you having sex with your partner? And why, when you do masturbate, are you fantasizing about him or about someone, anyway? It turns out that the deep experience of sexual pleasure depends somehow on the presence, and conduct, of others.
A brutal illustration of this principle can be found in prostitution. On its face, prostitution is a cold business—the epitome of mostly male selfish pleasure seeking. The customer buys physical sexual release for money, plain and simple.
But the customer can give himself an orgasm, for free. And why is the customer's enjoyment increased if the prostitute produces the sounds of enjoyment and sexual arousal? If the client's motivation is selfish sexual release, the satisfaction of a biological urge, why does it matter to him if the prostitute is aroused? What excites him about the thought that she is enjoying herself?
Fundamental social, interpersonal dynamics are apparently present even here, inside the most alienated transaction. Beyond that, let's face it, sex is not automatically enjoyable. Remember your first sexual experience. It was not fun. And then he asked if you came. Or take for example the business of kissing. What is fun in exchanging saliva and dinner remnants with someone else? Even if we focus on the genitals, most of the sexual organs are very sensitive to touch—for better or worse.
If someone touches your genitals clumsily, or when you're not ready or do not want to be touched, the contact will be painful, offensive, and disgusting, not exciting and pleasurable. Good sex is learned; you have to work for it. It does not show up on its own.
And it is not just about you alone. Sexual pleasure, it seems, is set up, operated, defined, and organized by external factors. Human beings, fundamentally, are distinctly, spectacularly social.
Lonely and isolated, we cannot survive, let alone thrive. For us, power and meaning emerge through making connections. Sexual desire, thus, is not chiefly aimed at physical pleasure or the production of children, but at connectedness with others. Sexual pleasure is fundamentally a social construct, an emergent property of social exchange. According to Collins, we construct our world in an ongoing series of complex 'interaction rituals' that enable our existence physical and give it meaning mental, spiritual.
All aspects of our lives are conducted through these ceremonies. Conversations between friends, a day's work, a football game, Sunday at church—all these are interaction rituals.
They may be different in content, but they are similar in their underlying social and psychological processes: In this context, sex is an interactive ritual, and it follows the rules. In a sexual encounter, a small group gathers usually two, no more. Participants are aware of the presence of the other no one ever tells you in the middle of intercourse, "Wow, I just noticed you are here" , and their attention is directed to the common interest they 'make love '.
The results of such interaction rituals—whether at church or in bed--are also predictable: According to Collins, a thorough understanding of sexuality is only possible if we look at it from the perspective of the social context, rather than examining it from the perspective of the individual.
The dancer becomes such by virtue of the existence of the dance. Instead of saying "Every dog has its day," we should say, "Every day has its dog. You get sexual pleasure from the relationship. Your body parts do not charge the relationship with sexual pleasure. The interaction charges your body with sexual pleasure.
Pleasure is not derived from the physical stimulation of the genitals or from the possibility of giving birth to the next Bill Gates. In its most fundamental sense, sexual pleasure is derived from the synchronized cooperation between people. The whole of human contact is larger than the sum of its participating individual parts—possessing better resilience , greater wisdom , and deeper delights. Therefore we seek that whole everywhere, including in sex.
At the end of the day, sex is truly pleasurable because through it we may transcend our aloneness and form a meaningful bond with another human being.