The paradigm shift in human sexuality and pair bonding – Varghese Papmplanil

The short presentation below deals with sexual behaviour and pair bonding pattern viewed as normal biological phenomenon, delinked from religious and moral absolutisms and prescriptions. Here sex is examined as a natural biological human activity; not any sinful  guilt provoking and shameful act.

Zoologist Desmond Morris calls  the  human, “Naked Ape” since out of 193 living species of monkeys and apes, 192 are covered with dense hair. The exception is the comparatively hairless ape, called  Homo sapiens. The human primate, evolved from the ape family —and turned out to be an unusually and highly successful species —  spends a great deal of time pursuing  motives considered sublime. In the present cultural milieu setting apart time for dealing with basic   natural instincts is considered bad.

In the matter of sexuality, the naked ape is in a no man’s territory pulled in different directions. The innate sexual qualities of the naked ape is the continuation of its instincts as fruit picking forest dwelling creature, opting later, for open country hunting way of life. However, the outer layer of the veneer of civilisation seems to have prevented expression of the natural sexual behaviour of the human have been suppressed in an unhealthy way. Viewing from another perspective it is sexual behaviour that  has moulded  the shape of human civilisation. To understand this,  we must establish precisely how the naked ape does engage in sexual activity.There are many variations in the human sexuality within and between  societies. 

The pattern of sexual conduct of our species goes through three characteristic phases: pair-formation, pre-copulatory  activity ending up finally in copulation, but not always in that precise  order. The pair-formation stage is remarkably prolonged compared to other  animals. Sometimes it lasts  months. In an open society, the process encompasses, factors such as sexual attraction,  conflicts, fear and doubt and even aggression. Once the tentative phase is over, the courting couple may reach the stage of “murmuring sweet nothings”. After the initial stages of visual and vocal display, simple body contacts, hand-to-hand and arm-to-arm contacts,  mouth-to-face and  mouth-to-mouth ones happen, ultimately sexual inter-course. In modern societies premarital sex is common. It may be the revival of the ancient norm where the onset of the female puberty signalled readiness for sexual activity. 

There is  more sexual activity in our species than any other primates including our closet relations; monkeys and apes. Clearly, the naked ape is the sexiest primate alive. For the naked ape’s primate cousins,  the lengthy courtship  phase is missing. Hardly any of the monkeys and apes develop a prolonged pair-bond relationship. Their pre-copulatory patterns are brief. Clearly the naked ape follows an elaborate pattern for the sexual act. This way of sexual bonding is not applicable in a situation where arranged marriage is the norm. 

Unlike other animals, humans have longer childhood. In the old days the  female had to  stay put and mind the babies while the male went hunting. The leader of the hunting expedition had to ensure cooperation of all the males in the group. Hence unlike the animal kingdom, where the Alfa Male alone has  access to the females in the group for copulation, to ensure cooperation of every male in the hunting group was given the right to have access to at least one female as a sexual partner. The male is prone to ensure faithfulness of his mate when she is left alone. In normal circumstances, no male is inclined to take responsibility of the offspring except the one fathered by him. Parental  duties are generally shared between the female and the male, a good reason for a strong pair-bonding. In highly patriarchal set up, the female alone is forced to look after the offspring.

The increased sexual  receptivity by the female cannot be explained only in terms of increasing the birth rate. The vast bulk of copulation in our species is not exclusively for producing babies. It is meant for cementing the pair-bond relationship by providing mutual physical rewards for the sexual partners involved. 

Repeated sexual consummation of mated pair is not an decadent outgrowth of modern civilisation but a deep rooted biologically based and evolutionarily sound tendency of our species. The Church imposed restrictions on sexual intercourse, except solely for procreation causes friction between paired couples. It would be dangerous to frustrate the male for too long a period as it would endanger the pair bond relationship. If one searches for the roots of alcoholism, prostitution and gambling, raping of innocent children, killing after sexual satisfaction,  the root of the problem would be females implicitly obeying the church diktats of having sex solely for producing children. The aim of the Church obviously is more people to fill the gargantuan churches; more the faithful more money in the collection boxes and more potential Man Fridays and even martyrs (“chaverukal”). People who use the grey matter under their skulls have seen through the cynical game of the Church . Also economic  compulsions also have contributed for the low birth rate among Syro-Malabar Catholics. 

The naked ape with all its erotic complexity is a highly sexed pair forming species having many unique features; a complicated blend of primate ancestry with extensive carnivore modifications. “The enlarged brain that accompanied the transformation of the un- sophisticated forest dweller into a cooperative hunter and onwards to a technological innovator. The simple tribal hamlets of less than 100 persons have became vast metros and cities with population of millions. The naked ape is now poised to  explore the vast universe and aim to colonise other planets. 

But what effect did the acquisition of all the gloss and glitter of the upmarket on the sexual behaviour of the species? Very little seems to be the answer. The changes in the external environments have all been too quick, too sudden for any fundamental biological advances to occur. Superficially they seem to have occurred, but this is largely make believe. Behind the façade of modern city life,  there dwells the same naked ape. Only the names have been changed: for “ hunting” read “working”, for hunting ground read “place of business”, for “home base” read “house”, for pair-bonding  read “marriage”, for “mate” read “wife”’, and so on”. American studies of contemporary sexual patterns have revealed that the physiological and anatomical equipment of the species is still put to full use. This is the basic picture that emerges, once the gloss of the  varnish of public moralising has been wiped away. It is the biological nature of the human beast that has moulded the social structure of civilisation and not the other way round.

Overt controls in the form of artificial moral codes or sexual laws are unwanted. Every society will settle down in the appropriate moral equilibrium suitable to it. There cannot be and should not be an externally imposed moral standard. Ethical beliefs vary considerably  from  culture to culture.

In their natural environment, normally animals do not mutilate themselves, masturbate, attack their offspring, develop stomach ulcers, become fetishists, suffer from obesity, form homosexual pair bonds or commit murder. Among human city dwellers, all these things do occur. The modern human animal on longer lives in natural conditions but in an environment akin to a human zoo. Despite the inherent pressures under this arrangement, the human has time to spare; prolonged inactivity is difficult to manage as the human brain by nature is essentially exploratory and inventive. The  human is unable  to relax for a very long period and likely to be driven on and on and to more and more elaborate activities ;plunge deeper even more. This process eventually lead the human to move farther away from her/his natural tribal state in which the human ancestors existed for a million years.

The story of the modern human is a story of the struggle to deal with the consequences of this difficult advancement. The picture is bewildering and complicated , partly because we are involved in it in a  dual role, at the same time, both spectators and participants. We have, in our relentless social progress, gloriously unleashed our powerful inventive explorative urges. They are innate part of our biological inheritance. There is nothing artificial or unnatural about them. They provide us with our great strength as well as our great weaknesses.

The majority of copulatory activity occurs when the partners are in pair bonded state; in the form of officially recognised marriage or informal liaison  of some sort. The possible high frequency of non- martial copulation which may take place should not be construed as random promiscuity. In the Western society approximately 50% of the females and 84% of the males would have experienced extramarital copulation. The pair bonding mechanism in our species, though very powerful, is far from perfect.

The Covid- 19 induced lockdown is reported to have caused increased sexual activities of all sorts. Tensions among men and women in the matter of sex are at breaking point. Domestic violence on account of the refusal by females for frequent sex as demanded by their male sexual partners has become another pandemic. Somehow the western in developed societies. Hence self satisfying but not harmful masturbation has been recommended. 

It is wiser for religious outfits keeping a safe distance unless they want scald themselves severely.

Varghese Pamplanil. 

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