Promiscuity, monogamy and our ancestral deposits

High time I gave you something good.  Winter has me hibernating with cotton canvases...

Let’s start with sex.  That’s always a good place to start.  If not, it’s great place to finish.  We should be able to accomplish both here today.

“Making love with a woman and sleeping with a woman are two separate passions, not merely different but opposite.  Love does not make itself felt in the desire for copulation (a desire that extends to an infinite number of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to one woman). – Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

This might get complicated, as sex and love and sleeping with women (or men) does eventually but I’m going to try to make it all simple.  The latest book I’ve read "Sex at Dawn" – which I had on my shelf since 2010 (serious shame) that could have really helped me narrow my theory I draft completed and abandoned in 2009.  (it's like a bad love affair so please let's not go there).  This book, Sex at Dawn, challenges typical notions about our ancestors and their sexual lives, most specifically, that we are a promiscuous species and not a monogamous one by nature.

I don’t believe true monogamy works optimally in our species in general, though cheating and serial monogamy has been quite popular as a solution.  I credit monogamy as a wonderful ideal concept, kind of like Utopia but we know that place ain’t near us permanently except when we close our eyes and fantasize.  It doesn’t stop us from attempting to pursue it but the reach is difficult to sustain - and "Sex at Dawn" paints a damn good picture as to why, at least monogamy, may be what's got us into a modern mess. 

Now, culturally we’ve been told and taught and pounded with the idea and “evidence” that our ancestors were brutal cavemen and had little control over themselves and thus, somewhat judgmentally, we assume their sexuality was similar.  They were rudimentary, primitive, brute, primal and reactive; Homo sapiens of the modern kind were above that and so begins the journey of biology suppression in lieu of brain power, choice and achievement. We’ve also been told us humans were meant to be pair-bonded to keep up with the concept of caring for our young for better survival rates for the species; to develop "love" as a way to keep the male and female focused on the family and basically creating the concept of the nuclear family as we have it today - a mythological tale extending on old serpent skin that holds the remnants of the Garden of Eden's man, woman and child at the center.  

The authors make a very convincing case for our prehistoric origins to have held more promiscuous factors in so called “pair-bonding” than culture or anthropologists to evolutionary psychologists really want to admit.  Who wants to know their ancestors fucked the village as though it were okay? These are the actions of an uneducated kind, no? This is a story about whores and studs, right? Yet, authors Ryan and Jetha want you to know and want to tell everyone about our ancestral promiscuity.  Why?  Because monogamy isn’t helping us nor our happiness and it's time science helps us because our sex, lies and porn tapes have not.

OH THE NOVELTY, MY MAN, I DO UNDERSTAND

"There seems to be no question but that the human male would be promiscuous in his choice of sexual partners through the whole of his life if there were no social restrictions." -Alfred Kinsey
  • If there is one thing you should hold on to in this writing, be it the above quote.  If you are a female, I beg you to accept this as fact and make course adjustments or you will be gravely disappointed that you weren't truly his "only one" at least by the standards society has created for you or your guy.  Being the "only one" is complicated. Perhaps his "only one" is the one to sleep with as Kundera mentions in his quote above, but rarely will that one be his only one to fuck or make love to.  Sure not all men are the same but they all have a penis and when you learn about it's biological determination, you might reconsider; but give me a dot island and I'll round up the group of men who don't fall into biology's hold. Shouldn't take long. And, it's not necessarily a bad thing he's wired for novelty; it's a bad thing we're rewired for modern thinking without flexibility on sex versus love.

Women may be into the romance novels but men are into the sexual novelty. Period.  Fact. Of. Life. While it’s difficult to hear, read, understand, accept, the reality is that men are not capable of withholding their biological needs of the Coolidge Effect - "the invigorating effect of a variety of sexual partners" (289) and they face - all of them - moments when that spice would be nice.  Of course, women have their own Coolidge effect but I think women can control it better - maybe because of our biology or maybe because we've been taught to keep ourselves so modest with love rather than vulnerable with sex.  

When you understand just how much of our reproduction and sexual desires and behaviors depend on factors so unconscious to us that we cannot detect it from our senses, then you have to momentarily step back and say “Hey, we’re Human Beings, yes, but still, we are primates; we are mere animals”.  Yes we have conscious control but how much of our sex life is guided by our unconscious chemical and cellular makeup? A lot more than you think. 

We need access to our primeval self and sex is a beneficial primal part of our core being that exists; except, we’re often not allowed access that part of the self because of societal rules, expectations, demands and illusions.  How to be sexually true to oneself and be part of "normal" society?  I don’t know. I've never been part of "normal" society. Just be you?

Easy to say, right?  This isn’t a “just be you" campaign where you shine on stage and sing your heart away – clearly an acceptable form of “just be you” expression, i.e. Ru-Paul.  A little weary in the beginning but the public got used to the strut and humored wit.  This is sex we're talking! What do you do when “just be you” is your sexual self and your current partner (spouse, boy/girlfriend, name it yourself) isn’t all that into the new authentic self you exposed? (I'm not suggesting homosexuality, just a sexual self like being vanilla and going rough or learning a new fetish or talking dirty or even just expressing vulnerability in whatever form you define it, whatever your thing is that is private, personal and intimately yours).  Most people never even discover or open up their authentic sexual selves in fear of well, fear. Sexual authenticity and its expression is something a lot of people deal with on many levels, surface to deep but I think most of you understand me on this: to be authentic in our self expression is only limited to the audience provided for that expression, otherwise you’re back to being alone expressing the authentic you to yourself.  Meaning, if your spouse or lover isn't into it, do you look to satisfy it elsewhere or do you block and suppress it?  If it's truly a true expression of your authentic self sexually, the stakes can get high and as politics has shown us, many good men have fallen off the Trojan horse to see over the fence.

This book was packed full of info I had no idea existed but the idea of a non-monogamous family and societal group wasn't far fetched to me, which made me feel really good and rather justified for once in that a good scientific case was made for it. It's deserving. Understanding most people, I can see why this book is thought to be revolutionary on the topic of our sexual origins as it exposes our true sexual nature to be promiscuous and in a monogamous minded society, that's prehistory shame.  "Sex at Dawn" is a good read I highly recommend.  Here are highlights of info:

THOSE DOMINATING SPERM

1)  Semen is good for you. While ejaculate is a merely 3 to 5 percent actual sperm, the rest of the white goo (that looks like my acrylic medium I paint with, which is disturbing sometimes) is packed with nutrients.  Packed. Nevermind protiens and vitamins, it’s full of neurotransmitters, hormones, endorphins, serotonin, oxycontin, melatonin, prolactin, estrone, immunosuppressants and about 50 ingredients in all, much of the vital stuff associated to positive feelings, pleasure and happiness.  Semen is most logically acting as an anti-depressant. Guys, just keep it cool on this one, okay? (a good SciAmer article on this topic to add to your knowledge base here on the semen but that also gets into why lesbians don't experience the "McClintock" effect like heterosexual women do which I don't want to tie up into this segment but it's worthy to mention.)

**(on a side note, semen is also infused with 2 female hormones, both of which are involved with female ovulation, one that triggers its onset. Why would male sperm contain hormones to trigger female ovulation?  It has a purpose.)

2) Since semen is so nourishing, it’s also self-empowering.  Scientists have observed that an ejaculate has approximately 3 to 9 “pumps” or "spurts" worth of fluid ejected. Spurt one has chemicals "that protect the sperm from the chemicals in the latter spurts of other men's ejaculate. Final spurts contain a spermicidal substance that slows the advance of any latercomers" ... so "competing sperm from other men seems to be anticipated in the chemistry of men's semen..." (228).  Why does evolution expect to find sperm in a monogamously wired Homo sapiens?

3) Speaking of ejaculate and penis behavior, the penis is specially designed to “pull out” those pools of other men’s cum so that it can deposit its own.  Clever domination of securing seed fertilization. 

4) Much more of reproductive success depends on sperm competition than fitness of the sperm itself.  While we think the fittest sperm will fertilize, the fact is that the fittest sperm for "that particular woman" is the chosen one and not just any fittest sperm in the group.  So basically, your child is officially "the chosen one" even if he or she isn't Jesus or Jewish. (to note, only one in 14 million ejaculated human sperm even reach the oviduct." (264) 

5)  Science proves that monogamous creatures such as Gibbons are relatively the same body-size dimorphism ratio male to female while polygynous - one male to multiple females - creatures such as Gorillas are almost twice as large male to female.  Curiously, promiscuous primates body –size tend to be 10% to 20% larger males to females - that's us.  Humans, bonobos and chimps fall under the promiscuous category if this body-size dimorphism is taken into account because bonobos and chimps share our body-size dimorphism and they are promiscuous so why wouldn't we be since we're so genetically close? Because agriculture and the rise of organized religion changed the use of our land, our mind, our behavior and our sexuality. (Body-size dimorphism refers to the average size differences between males and females in a given species (pg 215).  But wait! There’s more.

6) Testicle and penis size determines much too, and not just about sperm count and pleasure.  Sperm competition is BIG in the animal kingdom.  It happens either externally as in Gorillas fighting for the female for mate wins or it happens cellularly between the sperm in the vaginal canal.  The primates who fight for the female, who must expose dominance for the one female as in the polygynous Gorilla family, those have tiny testicles and penises. Imagine that jock joke!

Good thing human males have the longest and thickest dicks of the primates, ladies. We're in luck. All three primates closely related to each other – humans, bonobos and chimps – all have relatively larger sperm producing sacs (and larger penises) because they need more sperm to fight each other to get to the egg. It's an egg chase, people; it's all about the egg. Fuck the chicken. Male sperm competition happens inside the female for promiscuous species and not in the grounds of the jungle and as with bonobos versus Gorillas, “since everybody gets some sugar, the competition takes place on the the level of the sperm cell, not the level of the individual male” … there’s more on this in chapter 15. It's pretty powerful stuff.

7) Heard of female copulatory vocalization?  You did when the neighbors were doing it and she was the one making all the noise.  Evolution needed the female to vocalize her mating state: I AM READY! For bonobos, the males come hither because the female calls.  For human females? We put a pillow over our mouths to keep it down for the neighbors.  There's modern monogamy for you.

...Though, one male in the human village seems hardly enough for the developing female orgasm to hit its high note on a few minutes worth of copulation.   If our species was to be monogamous, us females should be quiet like the Gibbons, good pair-bond birds who don’t even make a peep when doing the wild thing.  Female copulatory vocalization aka mating call  promotes sperm competition (257) and biology demands boys play by its rules while girls scream for cream. (okay fine that was bad but I'm a mood)

8) AH!  But the male isn't all so clever.  Females have quite the chemical make up to keep sperm from getting to their destination, a rather harsh entrance envirnoment and according to the authors, "There is striking evidence that the female reproductive system is capable of making subtle judgments based upon the chemical signature of different men's sperm cells...[and] the genetic compatibility of different men with a given woman means that sperm quality is a relative characteristic". This means that her body "might be better informed than her conscious mind" about which sperm is the quality match. (264) 

8) Scent.  If we could bottle up our lover’s scent, we'd probably be horny all the time.  Good thing we can't.  Personally, I have to focus. 

What surprised me, both contextually and that I didn’t know this until recently, is that birth control pills affect a female's sense of smell of her man, especially if she falls for him while on the pill and then goes off the pill to get pregnant for example.  According to science, her olfactory centers may be way off from usual and her once sexy man now isn’t. This is a case of your nose knows better but your brain may not. Talk about unconscious marital problems. Pheromones are the leaders in the sex domain: our sense of smell is as primal as you can go.

9) Humans “outcopulate even chimpanzees and bonobos – and are far beyond gorillas and gibbons.” (242)  In fact, we spend more time on sexual activities than any other primate, never mind our time on porn. Makes you wonder who the animals really are, no?  I guess we're the smarter species because we found a way to make people pay per view.

10) Countless evidence exists of prehistory ancestors enjoying a promiscuous existence opposed to the monogamous one that is painted for us today if we consider some of the arguments Ryan and Jetha provide. Promiscuous wiring is a valid answer that makes sense and helps explain why 50% of marriages fail and millions of wives and husbands are cheating, even though they may still love each other. Sex is sex.  Love is love. Both genders confuse them when they are together because that's when the rules change, when the lines get fuzzy and the interpretations become Human minded, emotional. 

Of course, the next best choice to promiscuity in a marriage is divorce because that's helpful and solves the novelty problem. The ruined family is a mere consequence of trying to keep faithful to an idea created after the onset of power shifts created by the agricultural revolution and Christianity's beginnings.  

11) Researchers confirmed men get turned on by images “depicting an environment in which sperm competition is prevalent" and one woman with multiple males is in fact among the most popular porn viewed.  In fact, "there's evidence that men viewing erotic material suggestive of sperm competition produce ejaculates containing higher percentage of motile sperm than men viewing explicit images of only three women." (231) 

The book authors importantly ask why males in a species that have been “wearing the shackles of monogamy for 1.9 million years”  should be sexually excited by group sex where men ejaculate with one or two women. (231) Sperm competition is a demanding evolutionary reality, isn’t it?  I just wonder sometimes if men “controlling” their biological sexual needs is similar to females “controlling” their PMS.  Which gender has it worse?  We each carry our shackles and for that we should respect and support each other despite our inherent calls.

Biology is strong. Rather than fighting it, it's best to work with it and find coping mechanisms and strategies that lead to intelligent and mindful solutions. 

 

Sexual desire under the influence of birth control

A current article on Playboy by Dr. Lehmiller about the effects of birth control on sexual attraction blew my mind. 

In short, various studies have been conducted to validate the ovulatory shift hypothesis, which is the idea that a woman’s ovulation cycle changes her sexual attraction towards men. When at the height of ovulation and hormonal shifts, her desire for more masculine men increases ( as would her flirtation and chance of cheating) and when the cycle levels down to “normal”, her idea of a sexy guy can be different and it had nothing to do with anything anyone really did but everything to do with what her hormones did.  The kicker is women on birth control don't experience this cycle flux and thus have a more stable, so to speak, attraction towards particular men.  Really think about the implications of this in how we understand ourselves and the way we deal in sexual relationships.

If you thought relationships were difficult before, the involuntary activity of hormones has just thrown us a fundamental curve ball into the understanding of relationships and sexual desire even more than just "the menstrual period".  It's the ovulation that dampers or enhances the attraction and chaos of emotion and action. I keep saying it because it's true: everything is centered around sexuality. 

Ovulation doesn't just effect HER, the woman at "that time of the month" when men don't get it.  It effects HIM, the way the guy - boyfriend, husband or lover - is sexually attractive to her and she's not even in conscious control of it. If you want to talk about a loss of control, the guys are on the bad end of the stick here.  This puts both sexes into a confusing mess but for men it must be even more difficult to understand why or why she's not interested.  This also has some deep implications for questionable rape cases where she found his dominance erotic a few weeks ago and now she's changed her mind.  I'm not making light of rape but it does call into question the means by which her yes may have changed to a no and not clearly to him or her during the time of sex.  It adds a layer of complexity which might modify the blame factor to a different footing...not necessarily making it easier but if we seek truth then we must be open to the information that propels it to the surface. 

This birth control affects sexual desire information changes the spin on what we really know about ourselves and the control we have over our thoughts versus our actions affected through the interaction of hormones in our body.  It literally changes the perception men and women have of each other.  It begs deeper inquiry and contemplation to the fact that society prints too many regulations – moral, social and sexual – into these defining terms of what’s expected of and from us in “relationships”, “sex” and “love”. 

In my mind, after researching love and sexuality through philosophical means for over 10 years, I am continually drawn to the realization that free will works best for our interpretation from point B to point C, but from point A to point B, there’s a deeper force at work.  Call it hormones or call it divine, the reality is that there simply are mysteries that nudge us or force us into actions we might not have made while not under the influence of hormones. How responsible does this truly make us?  These are fine lines difficult to discuss because the tendency is to simplify blame and error onto "shoulds" that naturally might not be existing but merely from the perceptual seat of one's consciousness dictating demands over involuntary bodily mechanisms.

Relationships are challenging enough and when we dismiss the real effects of hormone shifts in us, we dismiss an inconvenient truth: we are not 100% in control of how we feel or behave; we merely attain to be and society, culture and religion create and demand strict efforts despite times when biology pulls its sovereignty on its own terms. This conflict is the Human life, to be in control of what is primal within us because our primal nature can be so unpredictable and wild. To balance them, the primal and the "consciously human" is the goal. Good luck with that too.  I'm still on the balance beam on that one. 

Taking Shame Out of Porn

                                                                       photo by michael s troop

                                                                       photo by michael s troop

There is no intrinsic shame in the four letter word of porn. The shame of and on porn comes directly from the subjective mind placing a value judgment on four letters with human backed meaning.   Specifically in the American South, some of that meaning comes from faith-backed meaning and hence, we’ve stumped our toe.


It’s important, though, to remember that porn isn’t shameful. Being ashamed of porn is shameful – if shame is to be placed anywhere. It means you can’t look at the most basic act of creation…but you can DO it?  Really think about this.  If you can’t face what you ultimately do to create life and pleasure, is the problem really pornography?

Certainly we can dive deeper into the complexity of porn’s variations such as fetish porn, hardcore, kink and violent porn and so forth but most mainstream porn isn’t too far off the radar of my paintings: reality with a little dose of fantasy. The ART PORN paintings represent the basic sex life of the average heterosexual erotic relationship with a minor, quite average deviance thrown in.  I wasn’t out to push fetishism, homosexuality or shocking imagery to my audience.  This is what everyone else does to their  audience.

I brought the natural to a conservative locale and let the audience decide their own shock factor.

I was surprised at some reactions to my paintings of what is essentially, pretty normal pornography.  When I say normal, I mean mainstream for the masses. I know I’m in the Bible Belt. I know. I know. I know.  But the Bible Belt has a libido too. While I had a good visitor turnout, my GA stats went through the roof once I made the paintings available for view online after the show. Through the roof.  Clearly many were interested but unable to make it in person and I’m confident shame or not wanting to be seen going in was part of it. So, if you’re one of those, and you’d like an invitation to privately view the 2016 art work online once it’s complete, sign up here and I’ll give you a backstage pass.

As an artist I’m disturbed that the Bible Belt would be generally offended by my work on the topic of pornography or my choice of the term in my title when I didn’t really offer anything truly offensive in the first place since the term “porn” has gone mainstream anyway and since most of the paintings depict sexual acts people have most likely participated in at one point or another, aside maaaaybe from the couple threesomes.

However, according to Naomi Harris, author and photographer of “America Swings: the secret life of America’s Bible Belt” – a rather eye-opening limited edition Tashen photo essay book-  the various states that make up the Bible Belt have a lot more behind closed doors than you might know about. The sex facade is big.

Interestingly, I feel like both, the Bible Belt community as much as myself, feel muted in specific yet different ways by living in conservative land.  

This photo to the left should represent a sexual fantasy play. Instead, I think it represents the silence of not only pornography in a conservative world, but of women in a patriarchal society.

Pornography isn’t shameful. Our idea of it has been shamed.  Pornography is your mirror. The discovery is that you are an animal.  

Besides, in sexuality we do nothing but call “Oh my God!” anyway.  What exactly is the missing link here?

What better way to get closer to “God” or to the concept of creation than a good orgasm and the wonderful exchange that comes from an intimate, physical and emotional connection with another Human Being? The fantasies, they’re all for that ultimate purpose, even if the fantasies are standard or unusual.  What they are is unfamiliar and/or erotic but truly, they are the “clothes on the flesh and bones” so that we can expand our sexual consciousness and human understanding.  Otherwise we have nothing but our animal nature to battle with. Pornography can help show and teach us this.

I believe that we all have to understand and cope with our dark side before we can decide to return to the light transformed. For some, pornography is their dark side.  They have to see its beauty before pornography’s existence is accepted as a potential positive rather than a fear or a blatant full-out negative as anti-porn propaganda has us believe.

I really don’t know how to express all this in words anymore, which is why I paint now. I try to paint that beauty of porn and sexuality, and the erotic elements of femininity and masculinity within it.

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