The whole point of sex is reproduction, not the pleasure that comes with it

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We need to clear up something in order for the ‘debate’ on the use of contraceptives to progress. In today’s modern societies, sex has been made out to be the be-all-end-all recreational activity to the point that Philippine Senator Pia Cayetano pushed hard to enshrine a woman’s “right” to “satisfying sex” in reproductive health legislation.

bobcaroltedaliceIt’s almost as if we are forgetting the original reason why sexual reproduction came to be to begin with. Sex is a (if not the most) powerful behavioural motivator not just in humans but in practically all animals that reproduce sexually. The drive to have sex is a costly behavioural trait. People and animals take immense risks to mate with their preferred partner. Deadly brawls among young males to impress the female of their species is a mating ritual seen across a variety of animals. Vast perilous distances are crossed for a momentary tryst with a lover. Great pains are taken to express heritable fitness — in the form of costly displays of physical and intellectual prowess not necessarily required for basic survival.

Why do we engage in all this risky and costly behaviour to mate? It is because individuals who manage to survive the often deadly battle to mate get to pass superior genes over to the next generation. Sex evolved to bring the sort of diversity asexual (cloning) propagation cannot bring about and with that openness to diversity comes the opportunity to ensure that the best-endowed genetically are given the best shot to sow their oats by making sexual consummation an intense competition amongst individuals.

It’s not about you, me, or Juan, it is about the overall collective robustness (brought about by diversity and the propagation of the best genes) of the species’ gene pool.

The drive to mate, being a high risk and often fatal motivator for many, is therefore deeply-ingrained in every sexually-reproducing animal. The pleasure we seek in sex, therefore, has that singular purpose in its design — to serve as a strong enough motivation to overcome our otherwise natural aversion to risk to life and limb that seeking out a mate often entails.

And so that is why sex is fun — and its urges difficult to ignore.

Sex is fun precisely because it is reproductive in nature.

That sex be fun for an organism that can think is important because that is essentially what will keep its mind focused on what is important in the bigger evolutionary scheme of things — propagating one’s genetic code through subsequent generations.

The thing with modern society is that it changed our survival prospects. Living to sexual maturity is no longer a 50-50 (or even 10-90) proposition. The vast majority of us do and most of our live births survive infancy. The trouble is, modern society did not change millions of years of sexual evolution. We still possess the same powerful motivation to mate that our primitive ancestors relied on to keep their species just short of the brink of extinction.

In that sense, the Roman Catholic Church is right — the whole point of sex is procreation. The trouble is, modern culture has made the pleasure that comes with sex its main point. It isn’t. The goal to reproduce is what pushed the evolution of powerful behavioural motivators both instinctive and cognitive — such as sexual pleasure. So, really, it is the other way around. The whole point to sex remains reproduction and the pleasure that comes with the act is just one of the means to ensure that people have sex — despite its cost to an individual’s energy and resources and its risk to its life and wellbeing.

So is artificial contraception bad, then?

It is, perhaps, if you choose to strictly adhere to Catholic dogma. In that, everyone has a choice (in modern free societies at least) — to remain Catholic and live in sin, or to embrace choice and refer instead to one’s own personal notions of good and bad.

But let’s not frame the debate around one’s entitlement to sexual pleasure. It’s a nice to have at best, but not the whole point.

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45 Comments on “The whole point of sex is reproduction, not the pleasure that comes with it”

  1. Benign0,
    I had to read your blog a few times to make sure if what you typed was read correctly by me. And still I am not sure how to read your blog.

    In a natural way, sex is the only way to procreate (make a woman pregnant).
    Through other ways, like IVF, a woman can also get pregnant. Hence, sex is not the only exlusive way.
    Not too long ago, I read a news paper article about a new “trend” (not sure if that is the most appropriate word to use), about people being asexual http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asexuality.

    I am certain and sure that most people (at least those in the west) have sex more often for pleasure than for procreation purposes. I wonder why?

    1. Technology and knowledge to prevent pregnancy during sex is only about a couple thousand years old. But sexual reproduction and its behavioural drivers are hundreds of millions of years old. Putting it from that perspective, you can see that our attempts to make sex anything more than what it really is are merely cultural, not natural.

      1. That evolvement stated precisely by you, sets us apart from animals.
        This came about more during the 1960s sexual revolution in which the contraceptive pill was invented.
        That invention gave women power and control over their own womb (thank god).

      2. Are we really that different from animals?

        Sex remains a pre-eminent behavioural driver in our society. It is the top driver of most social media activity and is behind the vast majority of discretionary purchasing decisions. So how different are we really from most other animals other than possessing a cerebral cortex that struggles (and often fails) to counteract the more ancient drives we share with other animal species on this planet?

  2. While I find the article interesting. I would suggest you read up on the role of sex in higher forms of primates like Bonobos and Chimpanzees. Sex it seems plays an integral part in Chimpanzee social structure. Sex for higher level primates seems to have gone beyond the purpose of procreation, and is equally meant for forming social bonds. One could argue that even in evolution, sex may have evolved another function in primate society, and I am inclined to think that the same is true for humans as well.

    1. Indeed, but then what purpose did those social bonds ultimately serve? The answer lies in how social bonds within communities have been found to improve the ability of social groups to compete with other social groups; i.e. tribes that are more cohesive (perhaps because of stronger social bonds within it) tend to win more wars against tribes with looser or weaker collective strength.

      So if sex happened to evolve to also contribute to strengthening social bonds which, in turn, conferred some sort of survival and competitive advantage to a community at a collective level, then so evolutionary pressures make these sexual drivers even more powerful.

  3. FYI:

    “For Homo sapiens, sex is primarily about establishing and maintaining relationships – relationships often characterized by love, or at least affection. Reproduction is a by-product of human sexual behavior not its primary purpose”

    from the article: “What Rick Santorum Doesn’t Know About Sex” Psychology Today, 2012 by Christopher Ryan, author of “Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex-dawn/201201/what-rick-santorum-doesn-t-know-about-sex

  4. I still prefer the belief that sex can be enjoyed for other purposes than reproduction. But certainly, the purpose of reproduction is obviously built in. Hard to miss.

  5. “And a man shall leave his father and mother; and shall Cleave to his Wife…the two shall be of one flesh. Whatever, has God put together; let no man put asunder…” from the Christian New Testament Bible…

    I believe that sex is for: procreation, for fun/relaxation and for intimacy with your wife.
    It is in “being” with her, that is the gist of it…we are not like those animals…we are human beings, above those animals…

  6. PS:

    If the hole point of sex is reproduction:

    Why do animals perform a bewildering array of sexual activities that do not result in pregnancy?

    Why is the clitoris located where it can be reached for self stimulation; rather than in the vaginal canal itself?

    1. PS: If the hole point of sex is reproduction

      – then why is there a clitoris after all?
      – although the G-spot is inside the vagina.
      – why do we have so many erogenous zones?

    2. I’m not a doctor or anything, but I always heard that the clitoris is the undeveloped female penis, which starts to develop before the embryo is assigned a gender however many days/weeks into the pregnancy. Same reason men have ‘pointless’ nipples, it’s in the basic template.

      1. I am a doctor. The statement “the clitoris is an undeveloped penis” is a male-chauvinistic thing to say.

        What would you guys feel if I say that the penis is a redundant clitoris? That can more often fail than work? That needs Viagra when it grows older (clitorises have never resorted to drugs). The tubings of a penis is so convoluted one can get lost in the maze. I mean, the female urethra is more direct and is not hampered by corpora spongiosa and cavernosa.

        Male and female genital tracts are homologous to each other. If you read up on embryology, you will find out that were it not for the vagaries of hormones and genetics expression, you could have been a phenotypical female even if you are an XY.

        So females are not entitled to sexual pleasure. If I agree with that, men should not be entitled to erections either

        1. I totally agree with you Manangok.

          But what worries me is why you had to state your profession. Were you afraid you wouldnt be taken seriously?
          Now what if, if you stated “I am a plumber” or what if, if you stated just simply nothing?

  7. I don’t know about that but I think pleasure is the main point of sex and reproduction the consequence. It’s like hunger. You don’t eat because you want to defacate afterwards. You eat because you are hungry aside from eating being a pleasureable act. 🙂

    1. That is precisely the argument I aim to debunk here.

      Any behavioural or physical trait in any living organism that survived hundreds of millions of years of evolution has a purpose as far as propagating an individual’s and a specie’s genetic code. At the same time, any trait that consumes resources that does not contribute to that singular goal of our selfish genes in a way that compensates for that cost to resources tends to be selected out.

      Sex and sexually-motivated behaviour, as I asserted in the above article, is a costly behavioural feature of all animal species. So, again, does pleasure trump procreation when it comes to evaluating the importance of sex in a species’ existence?

      What I am saying is sex is pleasure to ensure that a species continues to propagate its genetic code by engaging in a risky activity like sex.

      1. Do I agree that procreation is the consequence of sex? Absolutely. But I think there was a disconnect when we correlate the purpose for sex to that of the consequence of sex. Not all who engage in sex has the intent to reproduce, at least in humans. In fact, the desire for pleasure is more dominant every time we think/engage in sex.

        Procreation will never be trump by pleasure because unlike the latter procreation is not a choice. Ooops, did I say ‘choice’? Well, that’s where the contraceptives comes in. 🙂

        To say the whole point of sex is reproduction is like saying the whole point of eating is to defecate. I agree because it’s a natural process. But to insinuate that we engage in sex because of reproduction is short-cutting the process. I see the sequence of the process and not the summary. So, there’s attraction and then the desire for pleasure towards accomplishing the goal to engage in sex and then the result. That’s how I see it.

        I don’t know and I’m no expert. I just based my opinion on experience and observation. I think we’re just seeing the issue on different pages. You see it as the means to propagate the species or the process that promotes the cycle of procreation which I agree with. On my part, I see it (reproduction) as the end result of the process. I’m just emphasizing that the whole point will not be possible if there is no initial idea to consumate the act that will end in reproduction.

        1. Perhaps one should ask, why is reproduction and sexual pleasure found in the same activity? Why can’t there be separate activities to find each? Is there a way around it?

    2. Perhaps one should ask, why is reproduction and sexual pleasure found in the same activity? Why can’t there be separate activities to find each? Is there a way around it?
      ========
      I’m guessing as to what you meant but I cannot fathom why separation must be entertain. Reproduction is the end result of sex and pleasure is the idea that ignite such outcome. Both are part and parcel of a process. You cannot take one without rendering the other useless.

      To engage in sex and not feel any pleasure about it will not make any sense. I don’t see man wanting to engage in an activity that do not arouse his interest nor provoke the feeling of desire. Engaging in activity is anchored on the basic instinct that we find pleasure or satisfaction on it.

      Sex without pleasure is like a car without wheels. 🙂

  8. This is the first time I find myself disagreeing with you completely. Or at least, with your end point. The biological urges and the innate instinct for survival that have been wired into us humans have always led us to sex. The trouble is, unlike our fellow animals, we all started thinking. We all developed a flair (or folly) for reasoning. Our brains started to see and feel sex as this wonderful thing, as this activity that we liked doing again and again – and why can’t we engage in it without te literal weight of babies popping out after nine months.

    To frame your argument within the confines of Catholic dogma – taking it out of the realm of sexual pleasure and squarely characterizing it as a mechanical exercise in the propagation of the species – made me look to see if I was reading some right-wing traditionalist blog instead of one that “beg(s) to differ”.

    It’s the kind of reasoning that restricts women to the baby-popping role we men have burdened them with for thousands of years. Your reasoning aims to “put women in their place”.

    jameboy and that Haughton guy are as confused as I am to what you really mean, even if you claim it is “the same argument I’m trying to debunk”.

    Sexual pleasure is the pay-off to doing something so risky, yes, like bungee-jumping or motorcyle-riding when you could clearly smash your skull in – but the point is, well, it is the point.

    Artificial contraception gives men and women a controlled space by which to engage in this pleasurable activity. Our species took something that was meant for something else (survival of the species) and made it into something more. Not just giving us the means to live, but also one of the things that makes living worth it.

    And what the f*** is wrong with that?

    1. I make the assertion that procreation is the whole point of of sex, I don’t do so referencing any kind of religious dogma or “morality” framework like “some right-wing traditionalist” as you say.

      In short, I’m just saying: What else is sex for from a natural-scheme-of-things perspective other than a natural mechanism to propagate the species in a manner that contributes to the evolution of a robust gene pool made resilient by (1) the diversity sexual reproduction offers and (2) the opportunity for members within said pool to compete for dominance thereby creating a system that rewards DNA that produces superior individuals.

      I’m all for contraception — because our circumstances as a species have changed over the last 10,000 years. But even if that has changed and we now focus on sex because of the pleasure it brings, doesn’t change the whole point of sex from a the broader perspective of what makes a specie successful in the overall evolutionary scheme of things.

      The confusion probably arises on your part because you have limited your concept of sexuality to a cultural frame. What I expound on in the above article refers to cultural notions of sex as but a subset of the bigger frame that highlights the real point.

    2. What you said may be one part of the answer to Benign0’s question above, “what makes us different from animals?” Yes, we think. But what part of thinking makes us really different from animals if we’re only thinking “oh this is sex” then proceed to do it?

      I propose that the concept of restraint is the missing link. We are not like animals because we can choose not to do sex even if our bodies draw us to. Some people do this because they know they can’t afford the result of unchecked sexual intercourse (as in, the “traditional” type with genital insertion). So they refrain.

      So some people can’t refrain from sex because they can’t restrain themselves? That would make them closer to animals than humans. So this is closer to the point that some church proponents and others promote, that instead of contraceptives, people should check themselves. Can’t they refrain from “insertion?” Are people who will themselves to refrain from sex like that “stupid” (and some do use this word)?

    3. If you think about it, drawing a line between higher consciousness and the sort of primitive brain functions we share with other species is not that clear cut an exercise.

      When we go out to party the night away hoping to hook up with someone, for example, how much of that effort is motivated by our higher cognitive function and how much of it by the more basic instincts to mate that we share with other mammals?

      Food for thought there…

      1. The question of ‘how much’ is hard to quantify when we talk about behavior or social activity we share with other species. But framed in the question you raised, I think our desire to mate covers everything that can be said about motivation except that, unlike other species, our higher consciousness enables and provide us a control mechanism to affect whatever motivation we have.

  9. I can’t figure out what you’re trying to say here benign0.

    While you may be technically correct, what on earth does this have to do with the morality of contraception? If anything, it’s an argument in favour: because sex is such a primal drive, and modern society has removed the risks involved, reproduction will run out of control if not constrained in some way.

    The position of the CC has nothing to do with sin and everything to do with political control. A populace that’s poor and stupid can be manipulated any which way you like.

    Contraception is barely even mentioned in the Bible. The only instance I can think of is the specific case of Onan, IIRC, who was supposed to provide his brother with a child (this was somehow important, for some obscure reason). It’s certainly never listed as a sin. That’s just something the CC made up out whole cloth.

  10. You just pissed off the entire porn industry with your article.

    Having sex, be it for the purpose of procreation or not, is as natural as eating drinking and crapping. Barring asexuals and the truly disciplined, humanity would go crazy deprived of it.

    1. Noynoy, Mar, Butch and Franklin.

      They’re all f***ing each other and f***ing with the entire country.

      That’s what this is really about.

  11. I think it’s different with women (at least to me) since one, women are the ones carrying the “consequence” (when she got pregnant by “pleasurable” sex or have to carry someone else’s child since there’s also the case of sterility and same-sex union equals surrogate moms) and there’s great pain there up to nine months (and as long as you’re a parent) and two, women are the ones who would have to swallow contraceptives DAILY just so there will be no “accident” when this desire kicked in and one cannot refuse (or won’t) the call of family planning\responsible parenting. To say that a production of baby is just a consequence sounds detached to reality because when you’re planning to marry that perfect person and build a family, that baby is what will complete the union and is the extension of yourself, will carry your bloodline, will continue the cycle of creation or destruction or will continue to keep the world round. That sex more for pleasure put aside man’s sense of responsibility and their inherent superiority to deal with the arrival of new creation. See, there’s the whole universe for humankind but since every man’s intelligence or discoveries is not prospering as fast or in the same pace as they are producing new life, the idea is to prevent or stall creation. However, I won’t downplay the other purpose of sex as a means of gratification to one’s self since man is naturally wired for love.

    1. Also when you’re taking contraceptives, women has to undergo pap smear and cervical (or other) cancer screening. Pleasure is never without pain 😉

      1. Good exposition here. I would like to use this to explain my own point above. Wouldn’t it be better to exercise self-restraint (and yes, this is talking to men as well as women), rather than keep on giving to one’s animalistic and barbarian cravings for pleasure? Isn’t that what makes us different from the animals (or at least acknowledges that we are human, given the faculties of thought and reasoning)?

        1. @ChinoF,
          Exactly those pleasureable moments sets us apart from being animals.
          How much time do you need to have sex with your partner? Ten minutes, five minutes?
          How often do you have sex with your partner to make her pregnant?

          Now imagine this: one day your daughter comes to you and asks you: “Dad, can you still remember the day/moment you and mom conceived me?”

          When your true answer is no, then you really are an animal.

        2. Wait, Robert. I meant to say it wasn’t the pleasurable moments that separate us from animals. Because I’m sure animals can feel pleasure, too. What for me separates us from animals is the willingness to deny ourselves pleasure when we know it isn’t good for us. For example, avoiding having sex with your neighbor’s wife. Because pleasure isn’t the ultimate pursuit of human life or even sexual activity. It’s really part of the framework for survival. And since we’re intelligent, we should be beyond survival – thinking of pursuits other than sex. Beyond the threshold of the primitive.

      2. @Sick Amore,

        Any woman would like to do have the 2 procedures you mention. Have you ever witnessed a woman giving birth? Thats far more painfull and stressfull than those 2 you mention. The 2 you mention are a piece of cake (a walk in the park) compared to giving birth.

    2. @Sick Amore,

      “…women are the ones who would have to swallow contraceptives DAILY just so there will be no “accident” when this desire kicked in.”

      Women have access to many more and other forms of contraception. And pls dont forget that men can use the condom.

      “… because when you’re planning to marry that perfect person and build a family, that baby is what will complete the union …”

      Can we pls seperate marriage from building a family?

      1. @ChinoF, Thanks. There’s this passage in Ecclesiastes to support that “There is a time for everything… a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing (c.3 v.5)” so contrary to what most people think or to what some church leaders preach, only when one can support or could be responsible for his actions, that’s the only time he/she can indulge with it. We’re talking about the “real” point of sex here, right? If that’s the point, then it entails the right view on freedom.

        —-

        “Any woman would like to do have the 2 procedures you mention. Have you ever witnessed a woman giving birth? Thats far more painfull and stressfull than those 2 you mention. The 2 you mention are a piece of cake (a walk in the park) compared to giving birth.”

        @Robert,
        I’ve mentioned pregnancy in my first statement. Those two procedures are supplementary. Nothing is a walk in the park when alien trespasses in vagina are involved.

        “Women have access to many more and other forms of contraception. And pls dont forget that men can use the condom.”

        In the Philippines, contraceptives if not the natural family planning method is the most recommended scheme to prevent pregnancy and still please your partner. I’m not saying that you’re using of condom is not appreciated.

        “Can we pls seperate marriage from building a family?”

        I get your point. We can insert the idea of building a family in the long run of marriage, perhaps?

        1. @Sick Amore,

          – “trespassing” a vagina is not a walk in the park? I really think you are doing something wrong. Is your partner wet (enough) when you trespass her?

          – Which contraceptives are the most recommended in the Philippines? The contraceptive oral pill, I guess? But there are so much more to chose from. Pls take a look here:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birth_control

          – No, not in the long run but just while not being married.
          In a civilized country – like mine – any born child is a legal child and a legitimate child. And most children are born because 2 people love each other. Those 2 people dont need to be married per se to have a child.
          There are also couples (married and unmarried) who willingly do not want kids.
          And what about gay and lesbian couples?
          In my civilized country, they both can marry but most likely will have no kids (or maybe by adoption).

          Pls start to think “outside the box”. Its 2015.

  12. Stop genital mutilation,i.e. Male & Female circumcision.It is all designed to limit sexual pleasure in that it reduces the time a male can hold off climax.A Jew-ish creation, it is nothing less than mutilation of the sex organs and must be stopped.

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