This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things.
There aren't many papers studying sex among foraging people, given that is a potentially taboo topic among all societies. But lately I stumbled upon this paper on the Aka, the pygmy tribe I have written about before. Jesse Bering wrote about how the paper describes a cultures where the homosexual orientation is unheard of. That's not surprising in a culture obsessed with fertility and could also have to do with unusually low levels of sexual dimorphism. What is really surprising to me about this paper is that the married Aka are actually having sex and lots of it:
This chart compares married Aka, with married Ngandu (nearby agriculturalists), and with married Americans.
We are a society obsessed with sex, but sexually unsatisfying marriages are almost a National joke.
When I posted this paper on Twitter though, people seemed most surprised that the men do not masturbate. Maybe they aren't masturbating because they are receiving all the real sex that they want and are in fact quite exhausted from it considering they have to do it several times a night and if they can't get it up their wives will divorce them. They fear this enough that they have developed several botanical viagras from local plants.
Just like the idea of not masturbating is foreign to Americans, the idea that married people aren't obligated to have sex is foreign to the Aka. And because American men generally don't get as much sex as they want, we have a multi-billion dollar industry that factory farms it for us: pornography, another thing many American men can't imagine living without. A large part of many porn-users sexuality is often compartmentalized into a private world of Incognito browser tabs. I wonder if more sexual people would tolerate relationships with people who don't seem to want much sex if it didn't exist.
As for why those people (mainly women) don't want much sex and think part of it is thinking sex needs to be an elaborate production each time and part of it is low-sex drive, which is often caused by poor nutrition. A stunning amount of women have never orgasmed before. The Orgasmic Diet is a low-carb diet supplemented with fish oil that some women have claimed has solved the low sex drive/no orgasm issue. I think the paleo diet probably works a lot better since it emphasizes a lot more libido-enhancing foods than just fish oil and forbids a lot of detrimental foods. Anecdotally I've heard people say a keto diet puts their libido into the stratosphere, but other people have told me it does the opposite.
I was reading the Weight Maven blog and she found this fascinating video series comparing the effects of processed food and pornography on the brain, which is worth watching (they also have a website with more info). It's an interesting new understanding on the phenomenon. We've moved away from understanding overeating as a moral failing and looking at it in terms of hyperstimuli that messes with our brain. That video does the same with our understanding of sexual hyperstimuli. It's probably worth saying though that pornography is better for society than habit of frequenting prostitutes that is more common in some agrarian cultures such as the Ngandu. Other cultures (the Masaai for example) have wife-sharing, which seems to have worked out well in the past, but since the advent of virulent STDs*, it has threatened some of these cultures with extinction.
* it's disputed when really threatening STDs really emerged. There are many ancient skeletons with lesions that could be syphilis, but they also could be a related non-STD disease called yaws. But there have been cases of really viruent STDs in wild animals. It's likely Tasmanian Devils will become extinct in the next few decades because of one.