He may have come down from the trees, but prehistoric man did not stop swinging. New research into Stone Age humans has argued that, far from having intercourse simply to reproduce, they had sex for fun.
Practices ranging from bondage to group sex, transvestism and the use of sex toys were widespread in primitive societies as a way of building up cultural ties.
According to the study, a 30,000-year-old statue of a naked woman -- the Venus of Willendorf -- and an equally ancient stone phallus found in a German cave, provide the earliest direct evidence that sex was about far more than babies.
Timothy Taylor, reader in archeology at Bradford University, reviewed evidence from dozens of archeological finds and scientific studies for his research.
“The widespread lay belief that sex in the past was predominantly heterosexual and reproductive can be challenged,” said Taylor.
He argues that monogamy only became established as hunter-gatherer societies took up agriculture and settled in houses, allowing the social roles of men and women to become more fixed.
Experts believe research such as Taylor’s may help overturn false assumptions that sex for the purposes of reproduction is the form closest to nature.
Petra Boynton, a relationship counselor and health lecturer at University College, London, found the study “refreshing.”
“So much evolutionary theory promotes the idea that humans, particularly women, are preprogrammed for monogamy, but that is often simply overlaying science on a pre-existing view of society,” she said.
Taylor, whose research is published by Haworth Press in the Handbook of the Evolution of Human Sexuality, says the human attitude to sex arose from the complex interaction of physical and mental development. By comparison with modern humans, who appeared about 300,000-100,000 years ago, apes have tiny male genitals, no female breasts and are hairy. But they are easily able to distinguish the sexes because males can weigh up to three times as much as females.
Humans, by contrast, are far less easy to distinguish by size. Taylor says that prominent male genitals and female breasts developed to aid recognition of the opposite sex in creatures of similar size and shape. The similarity in size, combined with the ease of face-to-face sex, allowed intercourse to become a vital part of social interaction, communication and inventiveness.