Re: Social evolution of hominids (too long)

Laurie Davison (
6 Jan 1997 18:02:03 GMT wrote:
>> Aila,
>> I think you're assuming that the clitoris is more important among
>> promiscuous breeders?
>Hmm, actually, I did not think about that, but when you mention it,
>I obviously should.

I would suggest two purposes for development of a clitoris:
1) Enjoyment comes instantly to mind, and yes, the clitoris is a
homologue of male penile tissue and derives from the same source in the
fetus. I agree with what you've said about the social benefits to the
female's ability to mate regardless of fertility. This is demonstrated in
many mammalian species. In fact, the survival benefits of forming strong
pair bonds or bonds within a group, or diffusion of social tensions as in
the bonobo, should certainly be enough to create selection pressure and
"evolution" of more effective means to this end... ergo, the greater
development of the clitoris.
2) Among "induced" ovulators (many mammals fit this category), the female
must be stimulated in some way before ovulation can occur (whether or not
this is "pleasurable" would involve a great deal of guesswork given that
we really can't "ask"). It certainly stands to reason that the clitoris
would serve this purpose. Other adaptations to this end include the
"barbed" penis of mice and cats, the bacculum (penile bone) of raccoons,
and very likely the jointed tip of the dolphin's penis, though I really
don't know whether dolphins must be induced to ovulate. With respect to
the penile barbs, there is certainly "stimulation, but "enjoyment...? I
dunno... Although in the back of my head I'm thinking that if any member
of the animal kingdom should "enjoy" pain, cats would be most likely to.
"Puss in boots... and leather":) But I digress...;)

>In fact, I believe that the mammal female needed means to be
>sexually excited just to allow mating. If this excitement, or the
>act itself, caused orgasms or not, was trivial, since it is the male
>whose orgasm is needed to complete mating. The same primordial
>tissue along the genital area where the penis originates, is the
>natural source for the excitable area or organ of females.

Ok... so, by "excitement" you're actually saying "some form of
stimulation" - regardless of "good or bad or in-between"? If so, I agree.
I'm not sure I'd agree that this stimulation must come from genitalia in
humans. In order for a woman to become pregnant - or any species that
ovulates due to maturation of an egg and the hormonal signals of the
ovary and hypothalamus, all that is truly required is recent ovulation
and sexual excitement of the male. Case in point: women who are raped may
well become pregnant - no enjoyment needed there. Just sperm and egg.
Sounds cold, but it's basically true.
Now I would say that the ability of the female to "enjoy" mating
certaily helps the whole process along and is beneficial to the society
as a whole as bonding goes. I can't help but think, though, that bonding
occurs in humans more with "attention" than enjoyment. I may be going off
the deep end, BUT... misguided though they may be, primate females will
form pair bonds with "abusive" mates, and if this mate is removed, at
least among humans, the female will select a similar mate to replace him.
Frightening, but true.
Still, I would agree that development of means by which the female
would enjoy mating would certainly assist greatly in social relationships
such as pair bonding. I would have to say, though, that I would almost
expect to see such an adaptation being *more* prevalent in induced
ovulators given that stimulation of the female is MANDATORY if there is
to be reproductive success. Interesting that this is not necessarily
true... I'll have to consider this more - I don't believe I've given it
much thought until now:)
I would love to go on, but I'd better get myself in gear and get back
to my labwork now that lunch is over! More later, perhaps? Interesting