Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Monkeys embrace 'friends with benefits'

When did the word “dating” start sounding dated?

The new romantic comedy “Friends with Benefits” features Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake, acting out the idea that men and women can be both friends and occasional sex partners, without any romantic rituals or messy emotions.

So is this concept a step forward or back on the evolutionary scale?

Rhesus monkeys, known for their brief and frequent sexual liaisons, appear way ahead of humans when it comes to having friends with benefits. The females are the ones in charge of this system.

“Because of the social structure, females essentially control what goes on in a rhesus monkey group,” says Emory psychology professor Kim Wallen, who studies the behavioral neuroendocrinology of sex. “The females control pretty much everything, including sex.”

Although rhesus monkeys don’t form committed sexual relationships, it is not a random free-for-all. They are still constrained by their social structure and social contexts, Wallen says.

“I think that a common theme of what we know from rhesus monkeys and what we know from humans is that sex is actually not a behavior that can be taken lightly. Even though rhesus monkeys may be promiscuous by human standards, sex is actually still a very difficult and challenging aspect of the social life of rhesus monkeys. It threatens the social structure, so they’ve had to develop behavioral ways of dealing with sex. And I think the same is true of humans.”

The strange science of female pleasure

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