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Sexual Receptivity explained using a Study on Primate Female Sexuality Essay

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Updated: Jul 16th, 2019

Stakeholders continue to spend considerable amount of time and resources to understand the sexual behaviours exhibited by a wide range of living organisms. Wallen & Zehr (2004) set out to understand the evolution and development of sexual behaviours in primates by studying female rhesus monkeys.

In their article, the notion that sexual behaviour is fundamentally required for reproduction to take place is clearly outlined. In many non-primate species, reproduction poses considerable social and physical threats. As such, the females in a variety of non-primate species have developed physical and behavioural mechanisms that are used to confine sexual appetite to when females are fertile.

According to the researchers, these behavioural mechanisms are controlled by hormones. In sharp contrast, hormones do not control the capacity and ability to engage in sex or the physical capacity to mate in both male and female anthropoid primates (Wallen & Zehr, 2004). The article reveals that sexual motivation is the fundamental coordinator linking sexual behaviour and fertility in female primates.

According to the study results, the dependence upon psychological mechanisms to synchronize physiology with sexual behaviour is probably exclusive to primates, including humans. The synchronization is critically important as it allows a multiplicity of non-physiological characteristics, predominantly the social context, to control and regulate sexual behaviour.

The study also revealed that the independence between primates’ hormonal state and sexual behaviour facilitates sex to be used by the primates for social reasons (Wallen & Zehr, 2004). In the study, female adolescent monkeys experienced hormonally inclined sexual motivation coupled with socially adaptable sexual behaviour.

In brief, the study was interested in showing how social environment and hormonal state of primates interact to modulate or adjust adolescent and adult sexuality. The study was successful in showing the discussed suppleness in sexual behaviour coupled with a tight regulation of the primates’ sexual motivational mechanisms that allows them to use sexual behaviour for leisure purposes while still guaranteeing its occurrence during times of female fertility (Wallen & Zehr, 2004).

According to the researchers, this flexibility in sexual behaviour reflects the fundamental significance of sexuality to primates’ social attraction, dominance and cohesion in their social systems.

The above findings can be explained in terms of sexual receptivity. According to Stanford, Allen & Anton (2009), sexual receptivity can be described as the “willingness and ability of a female to mate, also defined as fertility” (p. 192). The authors argue that all behaviours that we observe from all living organisms have immediate or proximate causes.

The behaviours exhibited may be caused by hormonal, physical, psychological or physiological influences such as fear, hunger, injury or sexual urges. This is in line with Wallen & Zehr (2004) study findings which revealed that some non-physiological characteristics such as the social environment controls and regulates the sexual behaviour of primates, including their mating patterns.

The willingness of the female primate to mate is brought about by the flexibility in sexual behaviour of the primate in conjunction with a rigid regulation of sexual motivational mechanisms, also occasioned by immediate or proximate causes. In essence, the sexual receptivity as discussed by Stanford, Allen & Anton (2009) facilitates the primates to use sexual behaviour for non-procreation purposes while still guaranteeing its occurrence during occasions of female fertility.

According to Stanford, Allen & Anton (2009), female primates utilize sexual receptivity signals to enhance their reproductive success. These signals can be physical, behavioural, anatomical, psychological or physiological. Accordingly, the fact that the female primate’s status can actively influence her reproductive success is undeniable.

In sexual receptivity techniques, female primates have been known to “choose dominant males more often than low ranking males” (Stanford, Allen & Anton, 2009, p. 192). This attribute of social receptivity is well reflected in Wallen & Zehr (2004) study, which revealed that female rhesus monkeys chose their mating partners according to the males’ dominance in the social setting.

According to the study, male primate dominance is viewed as a form of sexual motivation that acts as a coordinator linking sexual behaviour and fertility in female primates.

Reference List

Stanford, C., Allen, J.S., & Anton, S.C. (2009). Exploring Biological anthropology: The Essentials, 2nd Ed. Prentice Hall. ISBN: 9780132288576

Wallen, K., & Zehr, J.L. (2004). “Hormones and history: The evolution and development of primate female sexuality.” Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 41, Issue 1. Web.

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IvyPanda. "Sexual Receptivity explained using a Study on Primate Female Sexuality." July 16, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sexual-receptivity-explained-using-a-study-on-primate-female-sexuality/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Sexual Receptivity explained using a Study on Primate Female Sexuality." July 16, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sexual-receptivity-explained-using-a-study-on-primate-female-sexuality/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Sexual Receptivity explained using a Study on Primate Female Sexuality'. 16 July.

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