Copulatory durations

Many men are able to reach orgasm and to ejaculate quickly during sexual intercourse. Quantitative information on this subject is quite sparse, however, and particularly for non-westernized societies. In

North America, Kinsey, Pomeroy, and Martin (1948) found that 'for perhaps three-quarters of all males, orgasm is reached within two minutes after initiation of the sexual relation.' They also noted that 'for a not inconsiderable number of males the climax may be reached in less than a minute or even within ten or twenty seconds of coital entrance.' Kinsey et al. were well aware, however, that intercourse may last for much longer than this. Earlier studies carried out in the USA, by Dickinson and Beam (1931), had shown that in 362 married couples 17 per cent of men engaged in sexual intercourse for 15-20 min, and 9 per cent for 30 min or longer prior to ejaculation. In a small number of cases (3%), husbands reported that they could prolong intercourse and control attainment of orgasm as desired. Cross-cultural studies show that some societies favour the acquisition of such techniques of prolonged intercourse and delayed orgasm by males (e.g. among the Tro-briand Islanders, Balinese, Marquesans, and Hopi Indians: Ford and Beach 1951). The role of learning and experiential factors is probably very important in such cases. Suggs (1966), for example, says that among adolescent Marquesans, who often engage in clandestine liaisons, 'the sex act seldom takes more than five minutes, most often two or three minutes.' Interestingly, he reports that 'Marquesan girls apparently have practically no difficulty in experiencing orgasms; they seem to attain orgasm after a relatively small number of sexual experiences, learning to control it quite quickly.' Among married couples, however, 'the duration of intercourse increases up to ten minutes or so in many cases. Prolongation of the act by coitus interruptus is attempted____Obviously, the prolongation of the act is possible in a recognized union, as the fear of being apprehended is removed and the couple is completely at leisure.'

The question to be examined here concerns the evolutionary origin of human copulatory patterns. Were prolonged patterns of intercourse the norm for our species, or were matings typically brief? Is prolongation of intercourse due primarily to cultural factors, rather than reflecting the outcome of sexual or natural selection in remote ancestral populations in Africa? In an attempt to produce meaningful answers to these questions, it is helpful to place human copulatory behaviour within a comparative framework. How does the copulatory behaviour of

Homo sapiens compare with that of other primates, and with other mammals in general?

Dewsbury (1972) has produced a classification scheme which divides mammalian copulatory patterns into sixteen possible types (Figure 5.8). This scheme provides a useful taxonomy of copula-tory patterns. However, it has some drawbacks as regards its application to evolutionary questions, as will become apparent below. Dewsbury's classification is based upon the presence, or absence, of four traits during mating:

1. A genital lock

2. Pelvic thrusting movements by the male

3. Multiple intromissions prior to ejaculation

4. A capacity to exhibit multiple ejaculations

Let us firstly examine these four traits, as they relate to the human situation.

1. A genital lock is the mechanical tie which occurs between the penis and the vagina during mating in some mammals. In dogs, for example, the distal portion of the penis swells markedly once intromission has occurred, so that it becomes firmly lodged within the vagina. If dogs are castrated, their capacity to maintain a genital lock gradually diminishes (Beach 1970). In the hopping mouse, by contrast, it is the presence of large, androgen-dependent penile spines, rather than tumescence of the glans penis which facilitates a genital lock during mating (Dewsbury and Hodges 1987). Genital locks are rare among the primates. Some of the nocturnal prosimians, such as the galagos, have greatly enlarged penile spines and it is likely that a genital lock occurs in certain species (Dixson 1989). Among the anthropoids, the stump-tail macaque is unusual in having a greatly elongated, lanceolate glans penis; this forms a complementary fit with the narrow vaginal opening of the female. Stump-tails often remain together in a post-ejaculatory pair-sit and they are the only monkeys in which a partial form of genital lock is known (Lemmon and Oakes 1967). Humans, in common with the monkeys and apes in general, do not exhibit a mechanical tie between the sexes during copulation.

2. The next decision to be made when applying Dewsbury's classification of mammalian copulatory patterns concerns the presence or absence of pelvic

Copulatory lock?

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