Neuron Culture

Why Good Sex is No Rat Race

I’m wondering why I don’t write about sex more often, now that I’ve done it and found it so pleasing. Scientific American just published online a piece I wrote — brief but gratifying, I pray — about pacing in rat sex: “Good Sex is Not a Rat Race.”

The study in question seems to contradict many previous findings and much conventional wisdom about male rat (and human) preferences, namely that it’s the natural way of things for males to X and run. This clever study, working the usual rat-sex research tools in some new ways, found that if a female rat is allowed to “pace” mating in a way that slows the wierd, multibout rat-sex business sufficiently, she will not only raise her chances of getting pregnant (which was already known) but will create in the male a stronger preference for spending time with her. A male rat who would go off in search of another partner if mating is shorter will become faithful to his first love if the courtship and consummation run longer. Pacing, in short, creates loyalty.

Of course we’re talking only about rats in cages here and must hesitate to extend this elsewhere!

Nevertheless, I responded quickly to the invitation to write about this study, for it immediately brought to my mind a date I had with a woman who lived on the next block from me here in town. It was our second date, and it brought our first kiss — a doozy of a kiss, indulged in heavily and replicated and experimented with robustly as we stood in a light spring rain at the bottom of the long, long flight of wooden steps leading up to her third floor apartment. One kiss led to another … and … when I inquired perhaps whether we should go up the stairway and inside, as we were really getting quite wet out in the rain, I was a bit stunned, considering what a good time we were having, when she said No. Her explanation, offered with great tenderness and wisdom, was, “It’s a matter of pacing.” We’re married now, quite happily), and now I know why.

Check it out — the study, not the marriage — at Scientific American.