Sex and the Five Senses
While most members of the animal kingdom use all five senses--sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch--in mating, the human animal generally chooses to use but one or two. What is it about societal constraints that compel us to resist our natural urges?
- The five senses . . .
- Our natural urges . . .
- The scent of him . . .
- Sweet nothings . . .
- Visual stimulation . . .
- The taste of her . . .
- What nature intended . . .
The five senses . . .
A woman confides that she enjoys watching adult videos depicting cunnilingus while engaged in sex with her boyfriend. A man confesses that he uses the scent of his wife’s nightie to stimulate masturbation when she’s away. A woman admits that she enjoys her husband taking dirty to her during intercourse. Do any of these habits describe you? Well, if you listen to the so-called moral majority, only “perverts” get off on porno, smelly underwear, or raunchy sex talk. But when you really stop to think about it, what are our five senses for if not to stimulate our natural sexual urges?
We acknowledge that it’s our sense of smell that enables us to savor the flavor of our morning coffee; our ability to hear that allows music to set or change our mood. We’re aware that our sense of sight lets us take in the delicate curves of a fine automobile--or a fine rear-end, for that matter; our sense of taste that conveys the subtleties of a piece of chocolate cake or a bottle of fine wine. And we never forget that we have our sense of touch to thank for the shiver we get from the feel of cool silk--or hot flesh. In short, we’re fully aware that it is our five sense that plug us into the world around us and enable us to be selective and discerning. Yet for some mysterious reason, when it comes to sex, many of us choose to rely solely on our sense of touch to provide stimulation. But, why? Why do so many of us automatically put our other senses on hold when it comes to performing what many consider the most enjoyable act known to humankind? Wouldn’t any sexual encounter be more heightened--more pleasurable and stimulating--if all our senses were on high alert?
Our natural urges . . .
Even an elementary observance of the animal kingdom shows the significance of the senses in the mating process. From the mighty lion to the strutting peacock to the lowly junkyard dog, it’s what the female of the species sees, smells, and hears that determines whether or not she’ll permit copulation. And that’s precisely why nature provides the male of most species with impressive fur or feathers, an alluring odor, or an impressive call. And it is quite often what she feels or tastes during that encounter that decides if she will allow a second coupling. So why should the human animal behave any differently when it comes to sex?
The scent of him . . .
Physical anthropologists believe the sense of smell was probably the first of man’s senses to develop. It’s very likely that his very survival depended on his ability to distinguish certain odors--the smell of an approaching enemy or dangerous animal, good meat from bad, clean water from contaminated. And equally important, early men had to be attuned to the “in heat” hormones females secrete during the fertile stage of their menstrual cycle to attract sexual activity. And though modern man doesn’t share his ancient brethren’s sensitivity to these primal triggers, science believes that most men still unconsciously respond to the scent of a woman’s body; the subtle odors emitted from her vagina and underarms. A natural facility that may have obvious benefits if acknowledged and purposely factored into sexual encounters. And it is much the same for the females of our species.
Science has long known that many women become sexually aroused by the faint musky odor men commonly give off after vigorous activity. (Many women enjoy wearing their boyfriend’s sweaty T-shirt to bed for that very reason.) This is attributed to primal adaptability that permitted prehistoric women to distinguish their own clan members from outsiders; to discourage inbreeding. And while few women are sexually attracted to what would be considered foul-smelling men--though there are some--there appears to be a need of detectable odor for their selective mating senses to be activated. Thus, there seems little doubt that we are biologically hard-wired to utilize our sense of smell in mating; each responding to the smells emitted by the other. So why then do we not automatically pay more attention to our lover’s scents during sex?
Sweet nothings . . .
And what about sound and sex? According to a number of surveys (going all the way back to the famous Kinsey and Hite studies), a great number of men and women find that certain sounds put them “in the mood.” Ravel’s famous tribute to intercourse, Bolero, was written specifically to awaken sexual urges in listeners--and has been played in countless bedrooms through the decades because of the passion it can unleash. And what about “dirty talk”? Also known as coprolalia or erotological, sexually-explicit utterances are a regular feature of many couples’ love life, often the more explicit the language the more intense intercourse becomes. So why not then the subtle sighs that come forth when we interact . . . the moans and groans we release . . . the sounds our bodies naturally make when we engage in sex? Why do we not all intentionally utilize the heightened state of arousal our sense of sound can provide?
Visual stimulation . . .
Statistically, both men and women find erotic imagery and sexually-explicit videos arousing. While it’s true that more men subscribe to “titty” magazines and visit pornographic web sites than women, almost an equal number of women peruse the pages of sex magazines and watch pornography, and nearly half the XXX video sites membership is by women. So apparently, sexual imagery is just as likely to make a woman horny as a man. This may explain why copies of the Kama Sutra and erotic art have been standard features of boudoirs around the world for centuries. But if visual aids help lead to more fulfilling sex, why then do so many of us have sex in the dark or with our eyes closed? Why do we put one of our natural senses on stand-by when we need it most? Do social standards determine what we will allow ourselves to enjoy in the privacy of our bedrooms even when they oppose our natural inclinations?
The taste of her . . .
While it’s true that our sense of taste is actually an extension our of ability to smell (taste is greatly limited when we can‘t smell), most men and women consider the mouth unsurpassed as a pleasure center. In fact, while a majority of women rate orgasm as the mark of an ultimate sexual encounter, they rate kissing as the most stimulating aspect overall. And while some men and women only symbolically caress their lover’s body, others prefer to taste them; especially their lips, breasts, and sex organs. And since nibbling, licking, and sucking the breasts, ears, neck, navel, (and often bottom) is considered common foreplay for some, tasting automatically becomes a part of it. The various tastes of their lover’s body becomes a pleasurable trigger for sexual interaction. So why then do we not routinely set out to incorporate our sense of taste into lovemaking? Why do we limit where and when we taste? Is it because social convention says that oral sex is depraved; perverted?
What nature intended . . .
Somewhere along the road to “civilization,” who we love, how we love, when, where, and why we love, somehow became the purview of our fellow man. A handful of society builders assumed the responsibility of deciding what is acceptable sexual behavior for us all--even behind closed doors. Many sociologists believe this may well we a major contributor to the divorce rate. And even though religiosity has certainly had a major impact on our societal as well as individual sexuality, we continue to stifle our natural tendencies even in these enlightened and liberated times. While in many Eastern cultures sex is a joyous celebration involving all five senses--and more--in many areas of the West sex is little more than a shameful act spawning self-loathing and shame. Could this really be as nature intended?