Masturbating Man: The Defining Act of the Human Race

In 1759 when Linnaeus was naming our species, he went with Homo sapiens’, Latin for ‘Thinking Man’, as he believed that the most important feature of human beings is our intelligence.  

And still today in 2015 the common understanding of what separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom is our superior intelligence.  However, I would like to argue that it is actually our unique behaviour of masturbation until ‘completion’ that really sets us apart from the rest. 

When I was studying Evolutionary Psychology we spent the majority of our time focused on theories of the evolution of human intelligence, and comparing human cognition and behaviour to that of other great apes.  The general consensus among academics is that the human capacity for higher cognition; things like empathy and language, is what makes us unique as a species.

But, while exploring these higher cognitions, and looking at to what extent other species may display some of the related behaviours, my lecturers and all the books and articles I read managed to leave out one absolutely fascinating distinction that I learned of in a great book by Jesse Bering – HOMO SAPIENS ARE THE ONLY SPECIES TO REGULARLY MASTURBATE UNTIL COMPLETION! 

You would expect that the biggest hurdle to cross in order to be able to successfully masturbate would just be to possess hands capable of such a feat.  But even in other species with hands very similar to our own, it is an insanely rare phenomenon.  For example, one two-year observation study of several groups of wild grey-cheeked mangabeys reported only two occurrences of male masturbation leading to ejaculation over a 2-year period.  A 5 and a half-year study of red colobus monkeys in Gambia saw only 5 incidents of ejaculation from masturbation. 

Lets compare this to human males.  Without even bringing out the stats, I’m sure everyone reading this is aware that human males on average masturbate to ejaculation more than once a year.  And I’d like to hope that most human females do so as well. 

According to a 2010 large sample of humans aged 14-70+ the biggest masturbators are in the 25-29 year old age group, with 68.6% of males and 51.7 of females reporting masturbation over the past month.  A 2009 study of found that in this same age group found 20.1% of males and 5% of females reported masturbating 4+ times a week.  And there is a very good chance that data such as these are majorly under reporting due to respondent’s own reluctance to share such details.  While the extent of the large gender gap is most likely due to silly cultural and societal reasons, rather than anything else.

Furthermore, science has consistently found that masturbation to orgasm is a healthy and beneficial part of human sexuality.

So let’s celebrate what makes us human. 


Reference:

Bering, Jesse. Why is the Penis Shaped Like That?: And Other Reflections on Being Human. Random House, 2012.