Thursday, April 14, 2005

EOTM: The Biological Foundations of Sexuality

Sexuality by itself is a very simple process which is easy to observe objectively. There are a great many other aspects which are very complex, difficult to observe, and prone to much distortion due to their subjective nature. No one spends much time worrying about why human beings don't eat rocks, the reasons are pretty obvious to anyone with an IQ above single digits. No one applies moral concepts to the fact that we don't. However, human values, desires, and vague concepts of "morality" cloud most peoples' ability to regard sexuality with any degree of objectivity.


I suspect that you came here looking for answers in one of the topics in the table above. If you are one of those people who always reads the last page or chapter of a novel first, there is nothing I can do to prevent you from skipping over the contents of this page to "get right to the meat". However, if you do, you will have wasted your own time as well as mine because an understanding of these basic concepts is fundamental to understanding their expression in human behavior.

Second, since this is a web page and not a graduate school textbook, some definitions to explicitly narrow the topics to ones which can be productively deal with in such a brief forum:

Sex - (from the latin secus, division, the same root that gives us section and segment.) A general term covering all aspects of the form of biological reproduction which involves two separate packages (or cells) of genetic material, gametes, uniting to form a composite cell, a zygote or embryo, which has the capacity to develop into a mature member of the same species. Virtually all multi-celled organisms reproduce sexually. It is nearly universal in the animal kingdom and one of several reproductive strategies in the plant kingdom.

Sexuality - having sexual characteristics, ie. differentiated into one of 2 genders and possessing the attributes characteristic of that gender which allow differentiation.

Male - the gender whose role in reproduction is limited to handing over its genetic material to the other gender, called female. The male package of genetic material is generally called a sperm.

Female - the gender whose role in reproduction is to receive genetic material from the male, provide the environment for joining of the 2 gametes, and provide the food source and environment necessary for the zygote or embryo to develop to the point where it can survive outside that environment. The female package of genetic material is generally called an ovum or egg.

Humans, like all animals, are divided into male and female. ("male and female they were created"). Each plays a specific role in reproduction which is essential to survival of the species. You are here to read this because thousands of generations of humans have engaged in sexual reproduction to keep our species from dying out. As eating (something other than rocks) is essential to survival of the individual, reproduction is essential to the survival of the species.

All this seems so simple and obvious that it seems ludicrous to have to state, like explaining that people don't eat rocks and why. But, in a culture where some emotionally ill individuals are able to classify ALL sex between human beings as a violent crime (and be taken the LEAST BIT SERIOUSLY!) and women feel compelled to paint their faces with an amalgum of animal waste products and toxic pigments in order to attract the attention of men, it is obvious that a return to the basics is long overdue.

An individual member of any species is the result of the joining of an ovum and a sperm. These are specialized cells within a multi-celled organism made up of many types of differentiated cells. Blood cells carry the oxygen we need to live, bone cells make us different from jellyfish, muscle cells allow us to move, gamete cells allow us to reproduce. Every warm blooded creature on the face of the earth is the result of the union of one egg with one sperm, how in the world did the mechanics of bringing this about get so incredibly confused?

Every living thing has a life cycle. Nothing lives forever. New life starts, grows, reaches reproductive maturity, ages, and dies. There is a, often brief, time window of this cycle when the conditions which will allow successful reproduction prevail. In order to avoid extintion, males of the species must deliver a sperm cell to unite with an ovum cell within that window. Human females often speak of this phenomenon as their "biological clock".

At this point the female element of the pair takes over, retaining posession of the ovum+sperm composite and adding or providing nourishment to it which allows it to develop beyond the single cell stage. The male element is now done with his part of the process and is totally superfluous. In many species he dies. This is true of all flowering plants, many insects (and their relatives the arthopods or spiders), and some fish (salmon being the most familiar example). In the reproductive sense, males are utterly expendable once they've done their sperm donor duty.

There are several key concepts within this which need to be highlighted. First, if the male delivers the sperm either too early or too late the whole process is wasted. The egg will die unfertilized. Second, and this is extremely important, since the egg is the gamete that will eventually develop, nature significantly favors it when allocating biological resources. It generally contains many times the amount of cellular material that the sperm does so it has the energy to develop once fertilized. Third, it stays in place while the sperm is mobile so the amount of cellular material does not hamper its ability to play in the reproductive olympics. Sperm, on the other hand, would have their mobility hampered by excess weight so they are lean and mean. Many simply do not have the energy to make the entire journey and die en route. If there were an equal number of sperm and ova produced, this would mean that many ova would also die unfertilized. Therefor sperm are produced in numbers far in excess of the number of eggs. The ratios are millions to one. This also goes with the second point, because the amount of cellular material required to produce one sperm is only a minute fraction of the material required to produce an egg. Mother nature is pretty efficient. Given the same amount of raw material she can manufacture either one egg, or multiple thousands of sperm. Given two loads of the material she manufactures one egg out of one load, and millions of sperm out of the other. The vast majority of sperm are simply discarded. As long as one gets to the egg at the right time, everything is copacetic.

The right time is the key phrase here. An ovum is receptive to fertilization for a very brief time. Thus any male element of a species which delivers the sperm at the wrong time will have its genetics drop out of the gene pool by the process of natural selection. Only those males who manufacture and deliver their sperm at the same time the egg is ripe get their genes to play in the next round of the evolution sweepstakes. In plants, the bloom contains both the male and female elements so that the pollen (male) and the ova (female) develop and ripen concurrently. (To all you hay fever and allergy sufferers, I hope you find it humorous that all your suffering is caused by leftover plant sperm.) In animals, there is a condition or state known as estrus, or heat, which the female enters when she is fertile. Like her distant plant relatives' condition of blooming, this state is clearly distinguishable from her normal state of infertility. And like their male counterparts in the plant world, the stamens of the bloom, male animals are stimulated to let loose their sperm at that time.

That, in a nutshell, is MALE sexuality.

Now I seriously doubt that you came here looking for Biology ½. You were probably curious about the sexuality of human males and explantions of their sexual behavior in the 1990s. Unfortunately, it is precisely the ignorance and denial of the role of the biology of maleness which is causing so much pain, confusion, and animosity these days. If this were fully understood and accepted, there would be little more discussion of it than of eating rocks. Misconceptions regarding Love, Romance, Marriage, and Human Behavior dominate the public discourse. It is to these topics we now must turn.


The Biological Context of Sexuality and Mating

Sexual Psychology

The Nitty Gritty of Male Sexuality



Shocking! Simply Shocking!

The Socio-Cultural Context of Sexuality and Marriage


Back to “Gender War, Sexuality, and Love”