Tag Archive: sex

That Loving Feeling: The Science Behind Attraction

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What is love? It’s a hard enough question to contemplate, let alone answer. We all know what it feels like; flushed cheeks, clammy hands and a racing heartbeat are all sure fire signs that cupid’s arrow has struck home. But what about the science behind the emotion. How exactly is that loving feeling created, and just what are the physiological and psychological triggers behind it?… THE PHYSIOLOGY: Although research is still in its infancy, a number of hormones have been identified as key regulators in the development of love. To begin with, the brain and adrenal glands begin to pump out prodigious amounts of dopamine, which enhances testosterone release. Dopamine itself acts on various organs, including the genitals and the sweat glands, to produce those physically embarrassing effects of attraction that we all know so well. It also influences the senses, causing a shift in mood and emotions, which leads to feelings of increased energy, excitement and happiness. Meanwhile, testosterone continues …

Warblings about paternity: the divide between narrative and truth

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There are stories we like to tell ourselves about how birds live their lives. They’re models of loyalty and integrity when it comes to relationships, we like to imagine. They form pair-bonds for life, raise their offspring together, and remain faithful and monogamous, with any interlopers chased off efficiently by the vigilant male partner. Just like us then…right?  Well, maybe not. It turns out things might not be as simple as that, in either case. In a study published in PLOS One this May[i], researchers from the Konrad-Lorenz-Institute of Ethology in Vienna tried to put the stories to the test. They used a caged male reed warbler to simulate an intruder situation, watching how the male-female ‘couple’ reacted to its presence. Some of the results were expected: the male of the pair tried to chase the intruder away. However the males reacted with seemingly much more aggression when their female partner was present, especially if she tried to approach or …

Faking it – the science of pretend orgasms

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One of the greatest insecurities many men have is that their lady might not be as pleased in the bedroom as she actually seems. In essence – she might be faking it. It is the women, however, who are the insecure ones , as new research shows faked orgasms are much more likely to occur when the women is afraid her partner might leave her.   Over 50% of women report having faked an orgasm at least once in their life, usually to satisfy their partner. Why should a pretend orgasm be pleasing for the man? The current belief about the female orgasm is that it evolved as a way for women to separate the men from the boys. Men with good genes – who were more attractive in other words – give more orgasms. Muscle contractions that take place during the orgasm help move sperm around to where it can more easily fertilise the waiting egg. This idea has become delightfully known as  the …

Dinosaurs in bed – the cigarette after

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In my last post, I wrote about the biomechanical issue surrounding sexual activity amongst the saurpod dinosaurs (the really big, long necked ones) and those with spiny backs. In today’s post, I’s like to consider some of the solutions which have been offered. Of those who have considered the problem, as we have seen, many initially suggested that they did it doggie-style, but copulating in this position, as we saw last time presents all manner of biomechanical and hydraulic problems. Some animals, particularly birds, do not engage in penetrative sex, but rather perform what is anthropomorphically known as a cloacal kiss: that is to say, no penis is, strictly speaking, necessary, and the sperm is exchanged during a brief period at the climax – as it were – of the mating ritual. The big problem here is trying to work out how Mr. Dino manage to get his cloaca anywhere near that of Mrs. Dino, since they both had great big fat and rather stiff tails? It has even been suggested …

Dinosaurs in bed – foreplay

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What do dinosaurs getting it on have to do with engineering one might well ask? The answer is: surprisingly, rather a lot actually. In fact, all structures, including living things, are subject to engineering principles. Like all structures, animals too are to a large extent optimized for the stresses and strains of their daily lives, and surprisingly, to a certain extent, because they are living things, their structures can adapt to changing conditions. This is why astronauts, once they get into the microgravity of space for example, start losing bone and muscle mass as their bodies adjust to the changed demands placed upon their bodies by their new gravitational regime. Of course, there are tolerances built in, and overall the bodies and skeletal structures of animals are extremely well adapted to deal with the physical stresses of the environment they evolved to live in. In a way, this is why when engaged in normal physical activity like running and jumping, …

Married horseshoe crabs produce less poo

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You wouldn’t think that the sex life of the horseshoe crab would be that complicated, but you’d be wrong. Like every red blooded guy out there, horseshoe crabs have to think long and hard about the best way to attract a mate (even though horseshoe crab blood is actually blue). While human males have many options to choose, from say writing a romantic poem, or buying a lovely bunch of flowers for their sweetheart, crabs are generally limited to two different options. In animal behaviour circles, these choices are called alternative reprodcutive tactics (ARTs). For horseshoe crab males, the first option is to attract a female out in the sea, attach together and make the long journey to the spawning beaches, where they can get freaky. This option is dependant on the male being attractive enough in the eyes of the female to be worth attaching to. The second option decidely third-wheel-ish. Instead of putting the effort into attracting a …

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