On the origins and benefits of masturbation

2023-06-10 10:31:37

ABeyond the feeling of well-being, masturbation could also help protect against sexually transmitted infections by cleaning the genital tract, at least in male primates, according to a new study.

Header image: Bonobo. (Jutta HOF)

According to Matilda Brindle, an anthropologist at University College London, and her colleagues in their study, in which they assembled the largest database ever of recordings of masturbatory instances in 105 primate species:

We find that masturbation is an ancient trait within the primate order.

It is already known that masturbation is widespread among mammals and other animals such as birds. While some primates are notorious for their masturbation habits, bonobos use mutual masturbation as part of their social repertoire, and macaques have been caught in the act with sex toysother species seem less likely to do so.

Since examples of masturbation are found throughout the evolutionary tree of primates, stroking one’s own erogenous zones is likely an ancient pastime that was passed down to all primate groups from a common ancestor. But once the tarsiersthe size of a tennis ball, took a different evolutionary path than apes, masturbation became more common in some species than others, Brindle and his team explain.

The fact that the researchers found a pattern, not a fluke, supports the idea that masturbation is more than just a fun, incidental side effect of sex. Pleasure clearly has its advantages: it provides individuals with a compelling reason to mate and perpetuate the species. But the fact that masturbation persists in so many species suggests that indulging oneself may also have a specific purpose in itself.

The scientists analyzed observations recorded in scientific publications and the responses of primatologists and zookeepers, concerning both male and female animals and wild and captive primates. They revealed that masturbation is more common in males of species whose females mate with multiple males.

According to the researchers:

Masturbation also disappeared frequently in single-male mating systems, but almost never in multi-male mating systems.

This suggests that masturbation might somehow increase the chances of fertilization in competitive sexual scenarios. It’s not yet clear how, but there is a theory that masturbation may improve ejaculate quality by first expelling “stale” sperm.

But the team also found “strong evidence for the co-evolution between masturbation and the emergence of pathogens in men”, which suggests a second theory explaining the frequency of masturbation: the elimination of the microorganisms responsible diseases in the genital tract. Masturbation is also more common among males of large primate species who cannot bend down to orally groom their genitals.

According to Brindle and his colleagues in their study:

Masturbation was lost at a very high rate in the absence of pathogens, but almost never in their presence.

Examining the timing of masturbation, they say, could reveal what tendencies drive masturbation selection within each species.

If masturbation occurs most often before intercourse, this suggests that it improves male fertility, while after intercourse it could serve to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A 2010 study of African ground squirrels practicing post-sex masturbation is came to a similar conclusion.

None of these trends, however, were observed in female primate masturbation data. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that masturbation doesn’t also have a fitness function for these animals.

According to the researchers:

Importantly, there are far fewer reports of masturbation in female primates in our dataset. This is partly because arousal and masturbation in females may be less noticeable than in males, but it also reflects a more general dearth of information about female sexual behavior and morphology in males. biological sciences.

Participating in a “house of mine” relationship has many health benefits for men. Solitary fun times can promote sleep, relieve pain, boost self-esteem, and provide other health benefits. So whatever your gender, science encourages you to do what you do.

The study published in The Proceedings of the Royal Society B.: The evolution of masturbation is associated with postcopulatory selection and pathogen avoidance in primates and presented on the University College London website: The evolutionary origins and advantages of masturbation.

#origins #benefits #masturbation

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