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Primate Sex and Its Role in Pleasure, Dominance and Communication

By Esther Clarke, Katie Bradshaw, Kieran Drissell, Parag Kadam, Nikki Rutter, Stefano Vaglio

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Sexual intercourse in the animal kingdom functions to enable reproduction. However, we now know that several species of non-human primates regularly engage in sex outside of the times when conception is possible. In addition, homosexual and immature sex are not as uncommon as were once believed. This suggests that sex also has important functions outside of reproduction, yet these are rarely discussed in sex-related teaching and research activities concerning primate behaviour. Is the human sexual experience, which includes pleasure, dominance, and communication (among others) unique, or do other primates also share these experiences to any extent? If so, is there any way to measure them, or are they beyond the rigour of scientific objectivity? What would be the evolutionary implications if human-like sexual experiences were found amongst other animals too? We comment on the evidence provided by our close relatives, non-human primates, discuss the affective and social functions of sex, and suggest potential methods for measuring some of these experiences empirically. We hope that this piece may foster the discussion among academics and change the way we think about, teach and research primate sex.

Publication Title Animals
Volume 12
Issue 23
Pages 3301
ISBN/ISSN 2076-2615
DOI 10.3390/ani12233301
Language English
Additional Language English
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Experience
  2. open access
  3. Primates
  4. Sexual behavior
  1. open access