But just how much has the act really changed through the millennia and even in past decades? Are humans doing it more? Are we doing it better? Sort of, say scientists. But it's how people fess up to the truth about their sex lives that has changed the most over the years.
Humans have basically been the same anatomically for about , years—so what is safe to say is that if we enjoy it now, then so did our cave-dwelling ancestors and everyone else since, experts say. Strategies of Human Mating" Basic Books, There is "no reason to think that we do more now than in the past, although we are certainly more frank about it ," Buss told LiveScience.
Indeed, cultural restraints —rather than anything anatomical—have had the biggest effect on our sexual history, Shorter says. Desire surges from the body, the mind interprets what society will accept and what not, and the rest of the signals are edited out by culture," he writes in his book, "Written in the Flesh: That's not to say that cultural norms keep people from exploring the taboo, but only what is admitted to openly, according to archaeologist Timothy Taylor of Great Britain's University of Bradford.
Modern advances Religion especially has held powerful sway over the mind's attitude towards the body's carnal desires, most sexual psychologists agree. Men and women who lived during the pious Middle Ages were certainly affected by the fear of sin, Shorter said, though he notes there were other inhibiting factors to consider, too.
He points especially to the 1, years of misery and disease—often accompanied by some very un-sexy smells and itching—that led up to the Industrial Revolution. With the industrial revolution pushing more and more people together—literally—in dense, culturally-mixed neighborhoods, attitudes towards sex became more liberal. The liberalization of sexuality kicked into high gear by the s with the advent of the birth control pill, letting women get in on the fun and act on the basis of desire as men always had, according to Shorter.
Global variations But despite the modern tendency towards sexual freedom, even today there are vast differences in attitudes across the world, experts say. An informal global sex survey sponsored by the condom company Durex confirmed Buss' views.
Just 3 percent of Americans polled called their sex lives "monotonous," compared to a sizable 26 percent of Indian respondents. While 53 percent of Norwegians wanted more sex than they were having a respectable 98 times per year, on average , 81 percent of the Portuguese were quite happy with their national quota of times per year. Though poll numbers and surveys offer an interesting window into the sex lives of strangers, they're still constrained by the unwillingness of people to open up about a part of their lives that's usually kept behind closed doors.
And what if we weren't bound by such social limitations? Taylor offers the promiscuous—and very laid-back—bonobo chimpanzee as a utopian example. In physical terms, there is actually nothing that bonobos do that some humans do not sometimes do.