Paper: The role of orgasm in the development and shaping of partner preferences

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This is an interesting, but narrowly focused, paper based primarily on rat studies. In essence, it examines the power of orgasm to reinforce preferences (for associated stimuli/places), and the neuroendocrine mechanisms involved.

Most of it is not about pair bonding species of rodents, and I think the authors are being a bit over-reaching in their assumptions when they suggest that sexual reward (alone) is the glue in pair-bonding species. Mind you, mating-frenzy is likely to play a role in initial bonding in pair bonders, of course, but it may be that attachment cues (bonding behaviors) are more important over the long haul. I'm always reminded of the statement of David Barrash, who pointed out that in pair-bonding species, most interactions (after the mating frenzy phase) are far tamer, such as mutual grooming and huddling.

Interestingly, an editor of the issue in which this paper was published points out that, even in rats (a promiscuous species):

a male rat only forms a preference for a female mate if he stays near her in the post-ejaculatory interval.

"Premature ejaculation" (ejaculation without sufficient pre-O jollies) also prevents preference in a male.

They also review findings demonstrating that disruption to preference-formation occurs when male rat ejaculation occurs with insufficient levels of arousal during copulation. Future work should investigate the degree to which these kinds of dynamics are present in humans and seek to understand how they differ between species and among individuals.

But is it "levels of arousal" or "repeated bouts of intromission?" (Rats typically chase each other around with multiple bouts of intromission during mating before climax.) From the paper:

Although the PEI [post-ejaculatory interval] is the main component that facilitates the development or shaping of partner preference, evidence indicates that what happens before ejaculation (pre-orgasm) may be also important for the whole experience of sexual reward and perhaps for the shaping of partner preferences. For example, rats that ejaculate too fast (i.e. treated with the serotonin 1A receptor agonist 8-OH-DPAT) or with no preceding intromissions are said to have a facilitated (rapid) ejaculation but not a facilitated sexual motivation or desire. Those rats fail to show ejaculation-induced CPP (Camacho, Castro, Hernandez, & Paredes, 2007), suggesting that an ejaculation that comes too quickly without increasing levels of arousal during copulation is either not experienced as rewarding or may not be processed as a salient-enough UCS.

Anyway, here's the paper in full: The role of orgasm in the development and shaping of partner preferences

Thank you

again, for doing the heavy lifting. I'm not going to read the article. I sure do appreciate your perspective on our very complicated mammalian selves.

Apples and Oranges.

I appreciate the article, and I think on one level I can see how you feel the authors are a bit over-reaching in their assumptions. Rats are not prairie voles, they're not pair-bonders. So, for one, there is that. If they're going to be saying anything about human behavior perhaps they should be comparing apples with apples and not oranges, not those promiscuous rodents.

When you ask about whether it is "levels of arousal" or "repeated bouts of intromission" are you suggesting that those repeated bouts of intromission (without ejaculation) may have more to do with bonding behaviors, and that is perhaps why these rodents are more likely to stick around after mating, so that it's less about arousal (and the reward) and more about the bonding? I just want to be sure because that's sort of what I'm reading.

This makes me wonder if those repeated bouts of intromission are not an indication that rats may be evolving to become more like prairie voles, or perhaps evolving out of being more like prairie voles. Sort of like when kissing was once related to feeding (and there's a word for that).

Sorry for all the questions? I just find this really interesting.

I guess that in my mind

repeated bouts of intromission might have more in common with karezza lovemaking, with its ebbs and flows. And that it might somehow register as more deeply satisfying to humans, even without the climax, just as the repeated intromissions seem more satisfying to the rats according to this paper.

But this is all purely theoretical "apples and oranges" at its finest. Unknw I found it curious that formation of a "preference" was dependent on post-O time together. 

Various mammal species may be like voles, in that there could be different mating strategies "just under the surface," waiting for various evolutionary pressures to come to the forefront or be pushed to the background. I sometimes wonder if humans are in the process of destroying their pair-bonding leanings (due to the pressure of online erotica and dating apps) and be moving to a more promiscuous strategy as generation after generation progressively ceases to model pair bonding. Time will tell.

Ultimately, the genetic success of offspring determines the preponderance of the pair bond to promiscuous ratio, if evolution is the only player. But with the brains we now have, pair bonds have much to offer - despite the "gale force winds" blowing couples apart.


That's more accurate the way you've described those intromissions as perhaps being more in common with Karezza lovemaking, and I guess that would include the bonding, but, yes, more the lovemaking as you said.

Jeez, I'd sure hate to see the day when we've all become like those promiscuous rodents. Makes my heart ache just to think about it. Like you said somewhere though, something about Yin and Yang. Life is cyclical. "First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is." Donovan used to sing that.

From my limited vantage point

From my limited vantage point (two kids in their early 20s and their friends), I see pair-bonding alive and well (both have steady, long-term mates), and certainly much stronger than when I was their age 30 years ago.

Kids are much different today -- and better -- from when I was growing up: less materialistic, less violent, less promiscuous, much less apt to drink and drive drunk, etc.

I see lots of things around me evolving for the better.