“We have a lot of sex. In human culture, sex is so much more than a means of reproduction. Sex is emotional. Sex is communicative. Sex is fun. And when it comes down to it, for most of us, sex just feels good. We have sex for pleasure significantly more often than we have sex for reproductive purposes. Is this one of those things that makes us uniquely human?
“One indication that animals enjoy sexual activity is the act of masturbation. We’ve all seen our dogs do it. Male dogs will pretty much hump anything they can wrap their legs around. Masturbation in horses is also quite common. There’s even a seminal (no pun intended) paper on squirrel masturbation. In fact, a lot of animals go solo. Birds, walruses, sheep, turtles, elephants, bears, and many more species have been observed engaging in autoeroticism. Porcupines have even been witnessed to fashion vibrators out of sticks. Interestingly, although all of these animals have been documented to play with themselves, it is exceedingly rare that they actually get off. That is, masturbation to the point of orgasm/ejaculation appears to be a fluke outside of the human species (except maybe in squirrels).
What makes us so different that our masturbatory experiences are “goal-oriented” when other animals’ are not? And why is our masturbation frequency significantly higher than that of other species? Jesse Bering hypothesizes that it is because humans have the unique ability to form mental representations of erotic material. It may be the case that what sets us apart is our ability to write, produce, edit, and even star in our own mental porn.”
I find the differences in motivation and frequency the most interesting. With our greater capacity for thought, intuition, and imagination, our ability to enjoy sex, both alone or with partners, reaches depths beyond other animals. While we may have the upper hand, it is still important to acknowledge the similarities that we share with other species. People that believe masturbation is unnatural may not seek evidence, but the fact that other species engage in sexual activity purely for pleasure proves that we are all sexual creatures.
Image source: Mila Zinkova