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Evolutionary explanations for sexual behavior and orgasm most often posit facilitating reproduction as the primary function i. Other reproductive benefits of sexual pleasure and orgasm such as improved bonding of Beautiful ladies looking orgasm MN have also been discussed but not thoroughly. Although sex is known to be highly reinforcing, behaviorist principles are rarely invoked alongside evolutionary psychology in order to for human sexual and social behavior.
In this paper, I will argue that intense sexual pleasure, especially orgasm, can be understood as a primary reinforcer shaped by evolution to reinforce behavior that facilitates reproductive success i. Next, I will describe an evolutionary of social shaping. In particular, I will focus on how humans evolved to use orgasm and sexual arousal to shape the social behavior and emotional states of others through both classical and operant conditioning and through both reproductive and non-reproductive forms of sexual behavior.
Finally, I will describe how orgasm is a al of sensitivity to reinforcement that is itself reinforcing. Imagine the pleasure of seeing a cute, happy baby; sitting in the warm sunshine; eating something fatty and sugary; or getting relieved of a few minutes of low-voltage intermittent shocks. You would likely estimate the pleasure of orgasm as greater than any of these things. Evolution has used orgasm to train us toward adaptive behavioral ends; orgasm and high sexual arousal are currencies that tap directly into bliss states.
Reinforcement and reward are better motivators of behavior and are better at shaping new behaviors than punishment Pryor, ; Skinner, Given these two principles, the thesis in this paper is that 1 evolution has used orgasm to promote adaptive behavior including non-reproductive sexual behavior, 2 we have evolved to use orgasm and sexual arousal to shape one another's behavior, and 3 orgasm serves as a al to another person of devotion, vulnerability, and malleability, which is, in itself, reinforcing.
This paper won't go into how orgasmic pleasure works or the evidence that orgasm facilitates reproduction directly see Wheatley and Puts for a good overview and other papers in this volume. Instead, I will consider orgasm the pinnacle of a continuum of highly reinforcing sexual pleasure.
Animals have different primary reinforcers depending on which cues are most likely to be statistically associated with adaptive outcomes.
A reinforcer is any stimulus that increases the frequency, duration, or intensity of a behavior Schultz, Organisms that evolve to experience pleasure as a result of engaging in adaptive behavior will be more motivated to engage in such behavior. For example, when a dog is clicker trained, he hears a click when he is given food for a given behavior.
The click becomes a secondary reinforcer that can motivate future behavior because it has been paired with food, a primary reinforcer even after food is no longer paired with the click. Orgasm, in behaviorist terms, is a primary reinforcer, a pleasurable unconditioned stimulus that, without any classically conditioned association, is inherently and innately reinforcing.
Orgasm, like other primary reinforcers, can make stimuli that are paired with it e. Food, warmth, sex, and sleep are examples of primary reinforcers and these are evolutionarily conserved among many organisms.
Because evolved psychological mechanisms solve adaptive problems with biologically prepared inputs and because so many cues have been recurrently associated with these inputs, there are likely many primary reinforcers that exist for humans that don't exist for animals. Consider evolution as an agent that calibrates the subjective pleasure Beautiful ladies looking orgasm MN behavior based on how adaptive it is for the organism. It's no wonder that finding and consuming food and sex are primary reinforcers as they facilitate survival and reproduction.
However, considering sex as reinforcing can be taken one step further. According to an adaptationist of conditioning, any cues of courtship or reproduction that are consistently associated with higher reproductive success recurrently throughout evolutionary history can become a primary reinforcer. This can include practicing courtship skills e. Another prediction derived from an evolutionary perspective is that primary reinforcers differ over the lifespan and that different primary reinforcers have different salience depending on the adaptive problems that were recurrently faced by our ancestors during particular life stages.
For instance, parental praise will be a primary reinforcer for children but less so for adults. Attention e. We should also expect this with sex; sexual behavior will yield the most pleasure when it is fulfilling adaptive goals such as improved bonding between parents or forming a new bond with someone of high status.
For example, behaviorists would argue that a smile is a secondary reinforcer because it has been classically conditioned by being paired with food or another primary reinforcer. An evolutionary learning perspective might differ. Experimental evidence shows that infants, 2—7 months old, can be conditioned to prefer sounds using a smile as reinforcement Routh, This indicates a smile may be an innate positive reinforcer or, at least, that infants are biologically prepared to associate a smile with primary reinforcers like food or warmth.
For infants, the major adaptive problem they face is having an engaged and motivated caretaker who will provision them and protect them from harm; a smile is a cue that this adaptive problem is being solved by the behavior of the infant.
More salient to the topic of orgasm, pictures of nude adult women would be a strong primary reinforcer for men after puberty but would probably not be a primary reinforcer for prepubescent males. These studies show that social information in and of itself can act as a primary reinforcer. For the sexually inexperienced male rhesus macaques, both the photos of the high status male's faces and the genitals of the females had not ly been associated with food, sex, or other positive reinforcement i.
An evolutionary perspective would predict that sexual primary reinforcers do not show equipotentiality; they are differentially rewarding depending on how adaptive they are to an organism. This may be contingent on age, sex, and fertility status. While stimuli like nudity may or may not be innate or a primary reinforcer, we should expect that for stimuli that are very salient to reproduction, there is at least a biological preparedness for associating sexual stimuli with pleasure, thereby increasing their reinforcing qualities. The sex of the organism should also be an important variable influencing the valence of sexual pleasure.
Sex differences in orgasmic capacity and sexual pleasure can be explored within an evolutionary behaviorist framework.
We infer from the presence of ejaculation and context-dependent facial expressions that in many other species, only males consistently experience orgasm during sexual behavior Ferro, ; Lloyd, Ejaculation could Beautiful ladies looking orgasm MN associated with no more pleasure than urinating or defecating if ejaculation was not necessary for reproduction. An adaptationist perspective explains why males consistently experience the peak pleasure of orgasm from intercourse more than other sexual activities; orgasm motivates men toward the most adaptively important outcomes.
However, men also consistently reach orgasm more easily when engaging in other forms of sexual behavior. Men's gametes sperm are much less costly to produce and men have much lower obligate parental investment than women Trivers, For men to be reproductively successful, they need, on the low end, to only engage their time and resources as much as is necessary to have sex with a woman.
If there are two kinds of errors an organism can make, evolution will bias behavior toward the less costly of these errors. If you de a smoke alarm, it's better for it to be calibrated to go off in error when there is no fire than it is for it to remain silent when there is a fire. For men, sexual behavior has low potential costs compared with great potential reproductive benefits.
For the same reason, we should expect men to experience orgasm in a variety of conditions, even if they do not lead directly to fertilization. Experiencing orgasm when engaging in an act that cannot result in reproduction is a less costly error than not experiencing orgasm during an act that can lead to conception Figueredo et al. There is evidence for this both in humans and animals.
Men, more than women, are prone to fetishes and paraphilias, and easily pair sexual arousal with a given stimulus through classical conditioning Rachman, However, just because men are more likely to reach orgasm with myriad forms of sexual behavior and with different sexual partners does not mean that orgasm or sexual pleasure will be equal across these contexts. We should expect more adaptive conditions to lead to greater sexual pleasure and more intense orgasm more on this later. However, we should also expect plasticity built into the sexual motivation system through reinforcement.
Men have preferences for young, fertile women and various forms of attractiveness that al health and reproductive value Sugiyama, However, men will experience orgasm and sexual pleasure with women that are available to them even if they do not evince these cues. In terms of fertilization, evolution should maximize orgasmic pleasure for men who are with partners most likely to conceive, that is, women of reproductive age who are healthy enough to carry a pregnancy, but men will also be motivated with a history of orgasmic reinforcement toward women who will be more likely to choose them repeatedly as mates.
Many scientists have been puzzled by women's orgasmic frequency. Why don't women consistently experience orgasm and, conversely, why do women have orgasms at all?
The fact that women experience orgasm, at least some of the time, is one piece of evidence that orgasm is a primary reinforcer for some kinds of adaptive behavior. Some e. Prause, have speculated that it is precisely because orgasm is variable in women that it may be more reinforcing than it is for men; variable reinforcement has been found to be a greater driver of behavior that is resistant to extinction than consistent reinforcement e. For women, sex is much more costly both in terms of potential parental investment and sexually transmitted disease risk and thus we should expect evolution to be more selective about the sort of sexual behavior that should be reinforced with extreme pleasure.
In order for a woman to be reproductively successful, she must carry for 9 months and, until recent history, breastfeed for another 3 years. Women can have far fewer offspring than men over their lifetimes, have less variable rates of reproduction, and have little reproductive incentive to have sex with more men. A woman who has intercourse with men in a year will, on average, have no more offspring than a woman who has regular sex with one fertile man.
Moreover, women are much more susceptible to sexually transmitted infections than men and have much greater disease burden e. For these reasons, copulation isn't always adaptive and a woman who was easily orgasmic in a variety of conditions could be making a more costly error: being motivated to engage in behavior that is unlikely to result in the optimal reproductive outcome of conceiving with a genetically fit male who is free of disease Miller, Thus, it is useful to consider what kinds of sexual activity evolution would want to orgasmically reinforce in women for fertilization and conception versus for bonding.
I speculate that this disease risk and the concomitant focus of sexual pleasure away from the vaginal mucous membranes which are more likely to transmit disease upon contact than the clitoris and external vulva might have been a driver toward the variety of sexual practices e. Further evidence for this is that most women cannot achieve orgasm through vaginal intercourse alone Lehmiller, ; Lloyd, and most women do not consider the vagina to be the most important erogenous zone compared with the clitoris S.
Fisher, Later, we will explore Beautiful ladies looking orgasm MN orgasm may be adaptively calibrated for bonding between parents and social benefits that translate into increased reproductive success e. Pleasure and primary reinforcement are not binary phenomena.Beautiful ladies looking orgasm MN
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The female price of male pleasure