Let's (Scientifically) Talk About Sex
Certain anatomical parts, for all human history, have been there but we haven’t asked what are they for.
Jesse Bering, Ph.D., is a frequent contributor to Scientific American, Slate, and Das Magazin (Switzerland). His work has also appeared in New York Magazine, The Guardian, and The New Republic, and has been featured on NPR, the BBC, Playboy Radio and more. Bering is the former director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen’s University, Belfast and began his career as a psychology professor at the University of Arkansas.
Certain anatomical parts, for all human history, have been there but we haven’t asked what are they for. What’s the function of something that we’re so intimately familiar with? We forget to ask ourselves these things and it’s right in our face.
Well maybe not right in our face, but sometimes it’s in our face. And we skip those types of questions because it’s so close to the surface. It’s only when we sort of get a scientific perspective and step back and ask these sort of objective questions about something as common as the penis or female orgasm or female ejaculation. These sort of salacious things that people probably wonder about but they don’t necessarily pursue the scientific literature to understand them in any meaningful way.
Here's a good example. For a long time sexologists thought female ejaculation was a myth. They didn’t think that women could actually ejaculate. And I’m not talking about just sort of vaginal lubrication. I’m talking about expelling copious amounts of fluid, very much like a male seminal emission. But many women do report having these sort of ejaculatory experiences, and they thought they were urinating in bed. They thought that they were incontinent and the husbands and the boyfriends would get upset. “Why can’t you go to the bathroom before we have sex?”
They just didn’t understand that this was actually not urine. This was actually a type of sexual fluid that women experience when they’re intensely aroused. And it saves marriages. I mean, I think just having those facts and understanding that this is not anomalous, this is normal. This is not something to be ashamed of and looking at it from a very sort of clinical objective perspective reduces anxiety. It alleviates our sense of shame, and it has practical consequences for how we interact with each other.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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