The short answer is: YES, sex for pleasure can be found in the animal kingdom.
We don’t commonly associate animals with sex for pleasure. There are several reasons for this. First, we cannot simply ask animals how it felt. Was it good for you? Did you come? It’s utterly impossible.
Of course, in species where torturous sexual techniques involve participants getting stabbed, strangled, or killed, it is probably safe to assume that this would not afford physical pleasure.
What we can do is observe. We can look at the behaviour, the body language, and the brain waves of these animals to determine if they are experiencing pleasure or not.
What Animals Might Choose Sexual Partners for Pleasure?
Some Mexican guppies have epidermal outgrowths, similar to moustaches, which appear to provide them with an advantage. Females prefer to copulate with moustached males despite there being no clear biological or physiological advantage. We can conclude that the filaments provide a pleasurable stimulation when the males perform a “nipping” routine that involves repeated contact of their moustaches with the female’s genital area.
Some earwig males have extremely long penile appendages, and others not so much. Males with large members are otherwise no different from those with short ones. They aren’t more socially dominant, larger, or healthier. One might conclude that short-membered males would experience more sexual success, based on the time it takes for sperm to move through a long tube rather than a short one. A female earwig would be better off copulating quickly in order to save time for other biologically relevant activities. However, females repeatedly choose to copulate with long-membered males over short ones.
Can Animals Orgasm?
Buffalo weaver males possess an enlarged phalloid organ located anterior to their cloacas. The phalloid is non-erectile and has no sperm duct. In fact, it is composed entirely of connective tissue. Its mere existence has puzzled scientists for hundreds of years. Recent work has demonstrated that the phalloid plays a key role in facilitating ejaculation in males. Buffalo weavers may be the only male birds to experience orgasm.
For primates, many females exhibit an increase in heart rate, respiration and blood pressure associated with vaginal and clitoral stimulation. Involuntary, rhythmic muscle contractions in the vagina, uterus, and anal sphincters occur at orgasm in human females. Other primate females demonstrate these same contraction patterns. This can lead us to the conclusion that other ladies experience orgasm as well.
In chimpanzees, bonobos, and macaques, female orgasm is also associated with a reach-back response. Females clutch their sexual partner and reach backwards while emitting distinctive vocalizations and exhibiting a characteristic facial expression.
This post is an adapted excerpt from my book “Wild Sex: The Science Behind Mating in the Animal Kingdom.”
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