Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
17 Feb

8 Health Reasons to Have Sex (As If You Needed Them)

As promised in last week’s Hunter-Gatherer Fitness post, I’m stirring up the (apparently much awaited) subject of sex – specifically the benefits for physical and mental well-being. Uh, you mean coitus? Yup. Thanks to everyone who responded to the announcement with rousing enthusiasm as well as comments and questions.

What could be more Primal than sex, many of you have suggested. Absolutely right. It was probably one of Grok’s most valued pleasures. (Are people today much different?) For our part, however, we have new freedoms in a manner of speaking. Although we might honor the evolutionary imperative behind our primal appetites with eventual procreation, we’re not beholden to the natural odds with every tryst. As I’ve said many a time, I love studying and learning from the example of Grok and his kin. Nonetheless, I’m a happily modern man in this instance as much as any.

I’m not just talking hedonistic indulgence here (not that there’s anything wrong with that). There are genuine health benefits to be garnered after all. Today I’m after those copious “ancillary” benefits of bonk – the gratifying (albeit overshadowed) enhancements to our physical and mental health that come from the physical exertion itself as well as the biochemical cascade of everything from estrogen to testosterone, prolactin to oxytocin to beta-endorphins.

Before we proceed, let me offer the expected and requisite Primal caveat: I’m talking here about safe sex ideally with a committed partner. What good does it do to blow the overall health benefit by putting yourself at risk for the myriad of sexually transmitted diseases. Likewise, why negate the mental health boost by pursing sex in a relationship/liaison that isn’t emotionally healthy? ‘Nuff said?

Now for those long awaited advantages…. Let’s cut to the chase here, get to it, and jump right in. After all, there’s much to discuss and disseminate today. Lot of ins, lot of outs. (All right, I’ve had my fun….)

1. Improve Your Stress Response – And Your Blood Pressure

Sex certainly has the power to take the edge off. (Stress just kind of slides off….) The process of arousal and orgasm, of course, let loose a mesmeric elixir of natural pain killers and relaxers. What’s not to love? Though sex generally offers the most intense dose of aforementioned chemical cocktail, caresses of all kinds can impart generous benefits. (All the more reason to take your time and relish the full experience, I’d say.) Research has shown that a partner’s touch – whether curling up under the sheets or simply passing in the hall – initiates the release of oxytocin, which in turn can lower blood pressure and heart rate. The effect goes for so-called cardiovascular reactivity, the response of the cardiovascular system to stress. Participants who received comforting touch from their spouses before stressful events displayed lower blood pressure and lower heart rates. If that’s what a simple hug can do, imagine the inspiration you can give your partner the morning of a big presentation?

2. (While You’re At It…) Cut Your Risk for Cardiac-related Death

On a more dramatic note, the unique closeness of sex can have more consequential impact in the cardiovascular realm. In a 20-year long cohort study, researchers followed more than 900 men and found that having sex twice or more a week decreased a subject’s risk for a fatal heart attack – by more than 50%. That’s nothing to shake a stick at.

3. Upgrade Your Immune Function

An often cited study from Wilkes University suggests regular sex might offer a surge of immune potency. Among the 112 surveyed students, those who had sex 1-2 times a week showed a rousing 30 percent boost in salivary immunoglobulin. Those who had sex less frequently than once a week had a slight IgA edge over total abstainers. (In an interesting wrinkle, the “three or more times a week” crowd showed slightly lower IgA levels. To their possible chagrin, the researchers didn’t ask participants about the number of partners or other potential “relationship” factors that might have influenced the findings. Hmmm…lack of sleep?) Although it’s a study to take with a grain of salt, the basic premise is probably sound. As welcome as it is, the usual exchange of fluids (or the body’s anticipated exchange) represents contact with a foreign substance that likely contains some kind of microbial profile.

4. Get Some Pain Relief

Anyone who’s gotten jiggy with it when they’re sick knows sex can offer a temporary respite from their symptoms – especially when it comes to pain. (Kind of turns the proverbial headache excuse on its ear.) Both arousal and orgasm trigger the production of oxytocin, which then initiates a sensational rush of endorphins and corticosteroids – both fairly potent pain killers. Post coital bliss indeed.

In a study published in the Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine, subjects who were given a dose of oxytocin saw their pain thresholds balloon by more than 50% during the course of the experiment. Seriously, who needs Advil for an analgesic?

5. Steady Your Cycle – and Possibly Increase Your Fertility

Physicians prescribe the birth control pill left and right to women who have irregular menstrual cycles. Regular sex might present a more enjoyable alternative for that particular purpose. Women who have sex with male partners once a week or more, research has shown, are more likely to experience consistent menstrual cycles and (as a result) have fewer fertility problems than women who had sex less often or abstained entirely. One possible reason? Male pheromones. Researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine honed in on the pheromone link by applying men’s underarm secretions obtained to the upper lips of women subjects. (The image itself is kind of mood killer.) Whether absorbed or inhaled, the magic mix of aromatics in the male samples caused the women’s cycles to normalize toward a consistent 29 ½ day cycle.

Frequent sex with the same partner over several months or more can also “prime” a woman’s body for a healthy, full term pregnancy. Research at the University of Adelaide in South Australia showed that women who engaged in frequent sexual activity with their committed partners (including oral sex, which actually appeared more effective in the study) had higher rates of conception and fewer incidences of miscarriage, preeclampsia, and high blood pressure. Women’s bodies, the researchers suggest, literally learn and come to accept the particular proteins of their partners’ semen in a process called immune modulation. Having become accustomed to the familiar semen profile (oh, you again), the woman’s body is less likely to reject the fetus and placenta that result from conception with that partner.

6. Reduce Your Risk for Prostate Cancer

Research has linked frequent ejaculations (yes, the solo gig counts here) with a slightly lower risk for prostate cancer in later life. The golden frequency in this study? Twenty-one times per month. It’s a tall order, but I know you can do it.

One possible explanation for the decrease is the “flushing” theory. In its efforts to concentrate minerals and other necessary substances from the blood to make semen, the prostate can end up collecting a concentration of toxins as well. Releasing the semen – with said toxins – flushes the system of said impurities. (Gives a new meaning to cleaning out the pipes.)

7. Look Better

Now we’re getting to the good stuff. (Kidding.) Yes, there’s the ever flattering afterglow. It’s a shame they can’t bottle that. There’s so much more to gain, however, or maybe lose. How about calories for instance? Estimates vary but average around 85-100 calories per half an hour. Of course, real life expenditures diverge depending on how zesty an enterprise you enjoy. In terms of calories burned, you’re looking at low to moderate level activity, but your heart rate can easily climb to high intensity levels. It’s probably the most enjoyable cardio you’ll pursue any day of the week.

Then there’s the workout itself – a toning and stretching and strengthening that includes muscles you didn’t even know you had – ala that next morning ache. (Don’t forget about those less obvious – and all important – pelvic floor muscles, which support everything from orgasm intensity to urinary continence.) On the chemical front, intercourse offers a boost in testosterone for stronger bones and muscles. Finally, how about the appeal of a totally relaxed face and body – and the inevitable smile?

8. Finally… Feed Your Primal Self

I’m talking about more than your primal with a lowercase “p” appetite here. I mean your more inclusive, nuanced Primal (as in PB) self. As I’ve said many a time, living Primally isn’t an exercise in asceticism or deprivation. It’s about knowing and inhabiting your physical self more appreciatively, more pleasurably as well as responsibly. Sex isn’t just a procreative act. (Even in Grok’s day it served many more purposes than that.) Though technically unnecessary, it’s far from some isolated, tangentially relevant act. The desire and delight of sex is unique. It’s not an interchangeable element of our human experience. The shared intimacy and individual rapture teaches us, reveals to us, unfolds layers of our humanity, and lays bare a sensitivity and vulnerability, a vigor and power otherwise unknown to us. Even in its absence, sex helps define who we are and how we connect with life.

Not surprisingly, our sexual enjoyment extends far beyond the immediate physical crescendo. It has significance in our broader fulfillment. A cross-national study (PDF) revealed that both men’s and women’s sense of sexual well-being significantly correlated with their general life satisfaction.

When it comes to garnering all the good health benefits of sex, a lot of readers ask about frequency. As I mentioned in last week’s fitness post, your start racking up the health gains at once a week, but the composite of research suggests that two to three times will maximize overall advantages. Needless to say, it’s well worth working into the calendar.

Okay, the floor is officially open to discussion. I’ll be interested to see what comes of today’s post and its suggestions… Thanks for reading, and I hope you were inspired today. Have a great day (or night, as the case may be), everybody.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I certainly miss this. My (recent) ex was amazing in bed. From beginning to end, with cuddling after, I felt fulfilled on a fundamentally primal/human level. Sex is an amazing thing.

    barefoot paul wrote on February 17th, 2011
  2. “Uh, you mean coitus?”
    Was that a Big Lebowski reference?? Love it!!!

    The Grok abides.

    Joe wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • :)

      fritzy wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • That does it — I really HAVE to watch this movie!!!

      Elaine wrote on February 23rd, 2011
    • well that’s like just you’re opinion man

      chris wrote on September 28th, 2011
      • Obviously, you’re not a golfer.

        Jessie wrote on June 12th, 2012
  3. Sex? I’ve heard of that …

    Onkel Kostja wrote on February 17th, 2011
  4. NOW SHE HAS NO EXCUSE!!! lol (Kidding)

    Awesome post – wonder how many are rushing to show their other halves as soon as they’ve read it.

    Craig wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • FIrst thing that crossed my mind was, should I email him the link or send an instant message?

      Danielle wrote on February 17th, 2011
      • LOL! I emailed the link 😀

        Jen Duncan wrote on February 17th, 2011
        • Oh, I emailed the link right away. But we are both Primal and we definitely enjoy our sex life. Just confirms why we are so happy, hehe.

          Troy wrote on February 17th, 2011
      • I emailed the link. :-p

        Tamara wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • Yep… I emailed it too… LOL!

      Steve wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • First thing I did was to send the link to my better-half!!!
      Good to know we are practicing preventative medicine!!lol

      Jenn wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • It takes two.

      Annie wrote on April 1st, 2011
  5. I definitely have a better outlook on life in general when I’m getting some regularly. It is definitely good for maintaining a healthy mental state.

    Shawn wrote on February 17th, 2011
  6. Hey, sex with a non-committed partner can totally be “emotionally healthy.” (Anyway, how much more primal can it get than that?) I definitely get a “mental health boost” from non-boyfriend sex.

    …I’m sure men have their own opinions on this too.

    C wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • Agreed:)

      Babs wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • Agreed +1 ; sex and romantic love are two different things that don’t always have to coexist

      mm wrote on February 18th, 2011
    • Now that’s classy.

      Annie wrote on April 1st, 2011
    • Well, send me your number and I’ll agree :)

      Shannon wrote on May 17th, 2012
    • Philos and Eros. The former being the love of a person or thing because of itself, because it exists. The latter is just good old fashioned carnal pleasure. Nothing wrong with that, but if the two come together, great.

      D. M. Mitchell wrote on February 14th, 2013
  7. Wow, with that you get the benefits of walking, sprinting and play :-) Perfect

    Vance Gatlin II wrote on February 17th, 2011
  8. Going to print this out and take it with me to the topless bar.

    rob wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • +1

      Drama wrote on February 23rd, 2011
    • Scummbag remark.

      Annie wrote on April 1st, 2011
  9. I view it as a more of a high intensity interval session than a low to moderate activity.

    Just a personal preference of course…

    Nicky Spur wrote on February 17th, 2011
  10. ha! The benefits of bonk.
    Love it 😉

    Jen Duncan wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • Yeah, I was wondering if that was anyone else’s favorite part, too!

      Rebecca wrote on December 20th, 2011
  11. Excellent – further proof why the Primal Blueprint is the way forward (as if we needed any).

    Michael Wilson wrote on February 17th, 2011
  12. oh I wish wish wish I could — but my BF is away at basic training for another month!

    I’ll go do some squats I guess 😉

    sma wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • I feel your pain, my hubby is off to do his 5s (last level of EME trades training in the Canadian Forces). The lack is going to kill me… unless the army pays to send me with him ^_^ “preventative medicine” or “alternative therapy” might not fly though.

      Jasmine wrote on February 18th, 2011
    • The “solo gig” applies here as well!

      Maxmilliana wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  13. For more on this topic, Check out the “Feeling Sexy” thread in the Odds and Ends Forum.

    Pebbles67 wrote on February 17th, 2011
  14. I saw a show on the Travel Channel recently that said it’s possible to have really excellent sex with ghosts. This is known as Spectrophilia. Do you suppose that has any added benefits, or elevates some previously unknown hormones, for example scareotonin? Just wondering. 😛

    Anna Barlowe wrote on February 17th, 2011
  15. Funny and thoughtful article with some interesting statistics. Primal Law 11: Get some.

    ThePrimalBrett wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • Sure it doesn’t just fit under “Play”?

      Twibble wrote on February 17th, 2011
  16. Okay, You’ve sold me on this whole “sex” thing.

    Poppabear wrote on February 17th, 2011
  17. What if it crosses the line into high intensity? Can we mark off our metcon workout for the week? 😉

    Gary Deagle wrote on February 17th, 2011
  18. After all this time worrying (okay, maybe not so much worrying) that my girlfriend and I would be the death of one another with our *ahem* activity level, it’s good to know that it has medicinal benefits.

    And I’ll have to remember that ‘sex cures headaches’ bit, just in case.

    Bennett wrote on February 17th, 2011
  19. Primal is totally flawed because meat is highly acidic, if you want to increase your risk of diseases later in life, eat the primal way!

    Sean wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • …yep, and fruits and veggies are ‘highly base’, gotta love the balance in that, right? 😉

      Urban Caveman wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • Great post, Mark. But for all of you who like to take the caveman thing to absurd levels, be wary:

      Tim wrote on February 17th, 2011
      • I’ve not read the book but in the third bit it falls apart, evolutionarily speaking. Humans may be closely related to bonobos genetically but we differ behaviorally and physiologically. Testicle ratio indicates that humans were mostly monogamous with occasional forays into cuckoldry. The bonobo, which will have sex with any member of the group for any reason, including same sex pairings, has a significantly higher testicle ratio than human males do. This suggests that the sperm of bonobo males compete with the sperm of other males. Humans have a slightly increased testicle ratio, meaning it happens, but generally not.

        Sandy wrote on February 18th, 2011
        • I have read the book Sex At Dawn, and find it to be incredible. It’s the best sex research on Grok ever done, and it smashes to smithereens any notion of humans being naturally monogamous.

          Devin wrote on February 23rd, 2011
    • Sean;

      Your comment on two seperate threads demonstrates your lack of knowledge about the subject. This is not an all-meat diet and for that matter not JUST a diet. Primal is a lifestyle with many facets (as this very post demonstrates.)

      Instead of trolling around making baseless claims, try reading the book and doing some actual research on the subject. Yes, we all know, meat is acidic and yet somehow, people are turning their health around and regaining control of their lives with this approach.

      Snide comments are fruitless.

      fritzy wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • Meat also has its own built-in buffering agent. Go search on Wikipedia for the amino acid glutamine. And quit getting all your nutrition information from PETA. Half of them are cheating with cheese.

      Dana wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • The Inuit’s (eskimos) native diet consists mainly of whale and other animals and lots of fat! They thrived until adopting the western diet, and now may are diabetic.

      Maxmilliana wrote on February 26th, 2011
  20. I have noticed that when we are strictly following the primal diet (which is most of the time) our desires increase. Anyone else noticed increased sex drive with better nutrition.

    Anyway my Grok is a little piggy and I’m reaping the benefits!

    Melanie wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • Think it must be the testosterone with going primal. I can honestly say I have never had or wanted to have so much quality bedroom activity in all my 50 years and my GF say’s the same thing.

      Marc wrote on February 17th, 2011
      • Go check out the link Mark (and Pebbles67) mentioned above Feeling Sexy, you are not alone my friends … I would have commented yesterday after reading this but had an appointment with my kayaking buddy!

        Kelda wrote on February 18th, 2011
  21. “What good does it do to blow the overall health benefit by putting yourself at risk for the myriad of sexually transmitted diseases.”

    Amen to that.

    Alison Golden wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • Girlfriend,
      It diminishes the benefits, and they go from a health positive to a health negative! Today more than ever, are the strains of STD’s so varied and difficult to control.
      In viral STD’s alone the strains are in the 1000’s. Same diagnosis, different strain! Combine different strain and the mutant DNA of the virus become deadly, not just some sort of break out, but deadly, Cyto Megly Virus occur over 90% of the time with any viral STD!
      Look at that one on google, then wonder what that strain of CMV is. That is just on a virus! Not bacterial, not fungal, not even a simple yeast type of STD!
      Make sure they wear their raincoat!

      Dr. Bob wrote on July 26th, 2012
  22. Great primal points I mean who could argue? LOL …

    I love body building and I believe it helps increase testosterone levels?

    And how better to feel closer to your partner (Is that a male talking or what?)

    Excellent topic,Thanks

    Raymond-ZenMyFitness wrote on February 17th, 2011
  23. But do you have to involve someone else in this “sex” business, or is it fine to do it by yourself?

    Single4Life wrote on February 17th, 2011
  24. I’m thinking it’s more fun with a friend anyways,… 😉

    AB Smith wrote on February 17th, 2011
  25. I miss my libido. Insulin issues have pretty much killed the libido increase I was seeing from going Primal and being healthier.

    Melissa Fritcher wrote on February 17th, 2011
  26. I am so in……
    I approve of this massage.

    GROK ON…top..underneath..sideways…

    DAVE PARSONS wrote on February 17th, 2011
  27. Mark how valid are these “studies” you refer to?

    Do they make allowance for causation and correlation?

    I think some may say at times you are guilty of cherry picking medical studies.

    As we all know you could say that one study (for example) that says the people that have more sex are at less risk of a heart attack is simultaneously saying people who have healthier hearts to begin with have sex more frequently.

    JohnC wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • No response? Disappointing.

      JohnC wrote on February 18th, 2011
      • I stand behind what I say and publish. Of course, all studies are open to interpretation and I encourage everyone to read each study and draw their own conclusions. This is about taking control of your own health which involves taking a critical look at everything you’re told; even the things I write. As a matter of fact, I encourage critique. If you see something you don’t agree with point it out and we’ll talk it.

        Cherry picking? Meh.

        The study you reference? Obviously it is difficult to determine causation in studies like these. Here are the study authors’ own words:

        Conclusions: The differential relation between frequency of sexual intercourse, stroke and coronary heart disease suggests that confounding is an unlikely explanation for the observed association with fatal coronary heart disease events. Middle aged men should be heartened to know that frequent sexual intercourse is not likely to result in a substantial increase in risk of strokes, and that some protection from fatal coronary events may be an added bonus.

        Mark Sisson wrote on February 18th, 2011
        • Hmmm…Confounding is *always* a likely explanation when no allowance is made for it.

          I’m not trying to stir up anything. I agree wholeheartedly with what you’re doing.

          I just don’t see the difference between dismissing a bad study one day that advocates a low fat diet then using an equally iffy study on another occasion to backup a point you agree with.

          There are methods to reduce “Confounding” in proper medical studies and they don’t involve just saying it’s “unlikely”.

          I only bring this up because I’m really hyper aware now of the flaws in medical studies after reading about the work of Dr. John Ioannidis which, if I’m not mistaken I came across from *this* site linking to this article originally:

          I actually agree with your reasons to have sex and this article, it just makes sense based on experience.

          I just thought you shot yourself in the foot when you started quoting dubious medical “studies”.

          JohnC wrote on February 18th, 2011
        • How could an activity, which increases oxytocin and lowers cortisol, NOT be extraordinarily healthy?

          The health studies are interesting, sure, but I’m betting those of us enjoying primal activities such as this, know the benefits… we’re LIVING the benefits.

          Danielle wrote on February 18th, 2011
      • The study demonstrates (at least) correlation. Does it really matter whether more sex leads to better health, or better health leads to more sex? The message is pretty clear: health and sex come together… No pun intended 😛

        Ben wrote on February 19th, 2011
        • If it doesn’t matter then there’s no reason to quote the study in the first place.

          JohnC wrote on February 19th, 2011
  28. Great post Mark. As a long time reader and occasional poster, I have often though there was something missing from the 10 Primal Laws … as you say, what could be more primal than sex? After all, it is probably when most of us feel most animal, vital, and well… human.

    One could shoehorn a healthy sex life into Primal Law 2 (hmmm maybe), 3 (if you’re feeling energetic), 4 (well, from time to time), 6 (sort of), even 9 (if you’re Sting!). But it just feels right for a healthy sex life to be a fundamental in its own right. It’s not really exercise, play, or a mental activity (though it can be all those things).

    That’s not to say that therefore we all need to be getting it all the time to be happy (although …) – just that the quality and quantity of sexual experience may want to be in balance with your desires over your lifetime. You could be living all the 10 laws to the max, but lets face it, if you’re not happy in the sack then something just don’t feel right.

    As a lifestyle built on evolutionary thinking, this may deserve a more nuanced examination. It would be hard to avoid considering sexual drives in the evolutionary context … the male trendency to spread his genes widely and the female tendency to select a mate more carefully. This is well documented and rehearsed elsewhere, but how we choose to respond to this primal complexity in modern, faithful, loving relationships with is ideal ground for ‘Primal Living in the Modern World’. Like you Mark I too am a happily married (and faithful!) modern man! One could even consider the full range of sexual and romantic behaviours in the primal bracket … flirting, courting, love gestures, jealousy, commitmement, break-up, and so on.

    Interesting post, more on this area please!

    Mark wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • I still have this knee-jerk impulse to get all grrr about the excuses men make for sleeping around (“it’s evolutionary!”), but on the other hand, some folks believe human beings developed polygyny (multiple wives) to give each wife a break in between pregnancies. Of course that assumes a patrilineal household (where the woman goes to live with her husband’s family, pretty much the norm worldwide now), and also assumes they don’t have modern knowledge about pregnancy prevention. A smart Grok spaced his kids so they’d have a better chance of developing well, and so their mom would have less of a chance of dying in childbirth.

      Dana wrote on February 17th, 2011
      • Reproductive spacing is naturally accomplished by the hormonal effects of naturally patterned breastfeeding, which delays pregnancy. In the modern world that’s not very common since women rarely (if at all) breastfeed after 6 months. Among natural HG humans it’s not anything that needs to be explicitly planned…and females are as or more likely to be promiscuous as males in normal higher-primate band behavior.

        John wrote on February 17th, 2011
        • I don’t think breastfeeding is a great way to delay pregnancy. After 9 months my son was still breastfeeding “almost” exclusively and I got pregnant anyway. I think in my case a little planning would have been in order. Proper child spacing is not only great for mothers, but beneficial for children.

          I do believe your point about females being more promiscuous. Rawr!!

          Melanie wrote on February 18th, 2011
        • Nursing frequency is as important as exclusicity, and that’s where westerners tend to fall short and loose out on the pregnancy-prevention effect.

          Lilian wrote on February 18th, 2011
        • It’s a great way to delay pregnancy for as long it prolongs fertility. It certainly isn’t normally going to slip a woman’s attention that she’s starting her cycle again, at which point technology can be employed if that’s the desired intent. My wife isn’t fertile again until the last baby tailors off of regular nursing.

          John wrote on February 19th, 2011
        • It’s a great way to delay pregnancy for as long it delays fertility. It certainly isn’t normally going to slip a woman’s attention that she’s starting her cycle again, at which point technology can be employed if that’s the desired intent. My wife isn’t fertile again until the last baby tailors off of regular nursing.

          John wrote on February 19th, 2011
        • I have 4 children (now adults) 2 years apart in age. Never took, or used birth control. As soon as I weaned them I became pregnant again almost immediately ( due to medical reasons I had a tubal ligation after our 4th child). I breast fed each exclusively. No breast pumping, no pacifiers, no supplemental bottles ever. Until they were 7 months old they had breast milk only, and then I started them on small amounts of solid food after that age. I nursed them whenever they wanted to be nursed. Sometimes they just wanted the closeness and cuddling and didn’t consume much milk. I did this in private, or only in the presence of my husband and young children. Some people aren’t that modest, but I would never feel comfortable on display. And, nursing for me was all about the comfort and enjoyment for me and my child during this very brief moment in our lives. The added benefits were they didn’t get childhood diseases, cavities, or emotional distress during their childhood. Also, my husband enjoyed watching me nurse our children, and found me even sexier. We have had a fantastic, faithful, intimate relationship for almost 40 years without having the burden of birth control or sexually transmitted diseases.

          Cara wrote on January 17th, 2012
      • Excellent point about patrilineal households and polygyny. There’s another point that I think needs to be made, especially if we’re looking at things from an evolutionary perspective, which is that the polygynistic mode of society only works when there are a lot of resources to go around, e.g. somewhere like the Edenic wilds of the Great Rift Valley.

        In other more austere places they practice the opposite, polyandry (i.e. multiple husbands for one wife). I had the privilege to spend a week living in traditional family homes in Ladakh in northern India (culturally Tibet), where polyandry is still widely practiced. The resources in Ladakh are super scarce, with a very short growing season and one of the harshest, longest winters you’ll find south of the Artic circle. Ladakhi people developed polyandry as a method of population control thousands of years before any modern birth control methods existed.

        It makes a lot of sense, and I think it also proves that we men aren’t hard-wired to have multiple partners – in fact, it proves that, maybe with a little social conditioning, we’re perfectly capable of sharing partners with other members of our sex in just the same way that wives in polygynistic cultures are expected to do.

        Alhaddadin wrote on February 23rd, 2011
  29. I don’t know if anyone else was curious, but check it out, it seems that hunter-gatherer women have a natural “won’t get pregnant period” after birthing a child:

    “Births, for any given hunter-gatherer woman, are usually spaced at least 4 years apart. The continuous, on-demand nursing of children until they are 3 or 4 years old, which occurs in most hunter-gatherer cultures, apparently produces a hormonal effect that delays ovulation in women who are lean, as hunter-gatherer women are, and serves as a natural means of birth control.”

    Calvin wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • Weston Price reported that the primitive people he visited had actual taboos against spacing children too closely together. Sheds an interesting light on the modern practice of pumping them out as quickly as you can catch again. Even people who aren’t Quiverfull or similar don’t pay attention to spacing or proper postpartum recovery.

      Dana wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • I am a very long term nursing mother, having nursed my first child to 4.5yrs and my second child recently turned 4 and still nurses once each day. I also tandem-nursed the two of them for 3 years.

      All this childbirth spacing is a GREAT theory, but some women (like me), inspite of exclusively breastfeeding AND co-sleeping, still get their cycles back 8 weeks after giving birth. The average is 14 months without cycles though. Also, breastfeeding is only “good” for birth control if you are EXCLUSIVELY nursing on request, no formula, no other food of any kind, which generally means up to 6 months of age, AND have not gotten your cycle back yet. But even then its not a guarantee, as a woman can ovulate prior to having her first period, which, in theory would mean possible pregnancy.

      So while the primal theory of extended breastfeeding etc, is great, it definitely does not fit everyone, and women need to be fully informed about breastfeeding as birth control/child spacing.

      lisser wrote on February 18th, 2011
      • Thank you! While my son was nibbling on food here and there, he still nursed on demand at 9 months. No cycle to speak of and my kitchen floor rendezvous resulted in my beautiful daughter! Perhaps my increased interest should have twigged me that ovulation was upon me! Oops! What a beautiful mistake!

        Melanie wrote on February 18th, 2011
    • I’ve nursed my babies until 3.5 – 4 years and have resumed my cycles when each baby was about 26 months old. My first three children are almost exactly 3 years apart and my fourth baby was just born when his brother was 4.5 yrs old – (he stopped nursing when my milk dried up just over 4 yrs old when I was about 4 months pregnant.)
      In my experience, as soon as nighttime nursing ceases, my cycle soon follows.

      Meta wrote on February 24th, 2011
  30. This is great stuff! I have to say that prior to going Primal in my eating and exercising, I have a very low sex drive. One of the best side effects of eating Primal has been my increased want to get cozy and a very regular monthly cycle! I used to be the one with 32, 34, 20, 35 day cycles, never the same and never predictable! Now they are….every month for the past 4 months I have been right at 29 days! I can only hope that a good sex life, good health and good eating will helps us have a nice and easy time getting pregnant again and carrying the baby. Last go around was very difficult, two miscarriages and Gestational Diabetes with that pregnancy! That is what prompted our change….and I am oh so happy for it.

    Time for a little baby making practice?? LOL

    The Real Food Mama wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • Thanks for sharing this. I am not quite primal but I do believe this is the ideal dietary lifestyle. I am pre-diabetic and eating very low carb has been helpful. I think sex is easpecially healthy for those of us who lack adequate physical activity. It surprises me how easy it is to keep my weight down with sexual activity.No complaints here.

      mary titus wrote on April 18th, 2011
  31. a new pickup line for all the Sisson minions: “come on baby, it’s primal approved!”

    Sisson now we need a ‘definitive guide to sex’ too (just so everyone can attach their primal ego to ‘primal sex.’)

    Sam wrote on February 17th, 2011
  32. Grab your clubs, cave people!

    Primal Palette wrote on February 17th, 2011
  33. W/R/T number five, I actually think there are some downsides… I’d never had a boyfriend/been physically close with a guy until my mid-twenties, and I noticed that once I was, ah, up close and personal, I started getting waaaay more angsty every month. I’ve gone through some long (multi-year) single spells since then, and found that the angstiness goes away entirely eventually, but when I have a boyfriend the slightest delay in response to a gchat is clear proof that OH GOD HE HATES ME IT’S ALL OVER

    cate wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • Seems to me that this is perhaps a self-esteem/neediness issue that might need some reflection on your part, rather than a problem with the general concept of relationships/sex, perhaps. I find personally that I am happier and calmer in a relationship than out, and that the more and better sex I have, the happier I am all the time.

      But I’m a guy, so I just might not really “get it” from your perspective. Feel free to ignore me. :)

      Uncephalized wrote on February 17th, 2011
      • I have similar issues but I wouldn’t say “the slightest delay”–however, I will get very upset if he disappears for an entire weekend with no warning beforehand and no explanation afterward. (I’m single now, but this happened in my most recent relationship.) And people around me were telling me it was my self-esteem issues but seriously, that was rude of him. That type of relationship’s closeness is supposed to be on par with a parent’s relationship with their children–closer, in fact. If my teenager disappeared and spent an entire weekend missing without telling me where he was going, I’d have been calling the cops, never mind fretting by the phone and computer. Only reason I didn’t do that with the grownup was *because* he was a grownup and I didn’t want to hover and be all psycho and stuff.

        I’ve noticed a disturbing trend toward extreme self-centeredness in relationships. And I know exactly what I’m seeing because I’ve been guilty of a certain degree of that in some of my relationships too. It seems to be getting worse now though. Kind of makes me wonder why people bother pairing up at all. Myself, I’d been single for years before this guy came along, and it’s been five months since we broke up, and I just don’t even care if I ever find someone else.

        I’ll agree with Mark that sex is awesome, though. :)

        Dana wrote on February 17th, 2011
      • By the way, the ex didn’t pull that disappearing act once or twice, but several weekends during the time we were together. So this was not me flying off the handle over one incident. Just thought I better make that clear. I suppose you could argue I have self-esteem issues in that I stuck around that long, but he claimed he had a lot of work to do at his job, so I figured some of it was just him being busy–I think I stuck around because I was trying to get him to understand, “Hey, just let me know what’s going on.” Ladies, if some guy is doing this to you and you don’t know already, as the book title says, “He’s just not that into you.” Found out the hard way when a woman answered his phone. I s’pose that was my self-esteem’s fault too. Haha.

        To tie this back into Mark’s post, sex is awesome, but it’s even more awesome when you’re with someone you genuinely like and respect. If you don’t care about whoever-it-is, you’re wasting their time and yours, and that’s a real mood killer.

        Dana wrote on February 17th, 2011
        • Yeah, what you’re describing is certainly not acceptable “boyfriend behavior”. But what cate was talking about was “freaking out” over the slightest delay in response and overreacting emotionally. These are in totally different ballparks self-esteemwise IMO.

          Uncephalized wrote on February 18th, 2011
  34. This is a perfect post-Valentine’s Day post! If you spring one reason a day on your lover, then you’re left with a bonus reason for a repeat at the end of the week. Love it!

    jdperkins wrote on February 17th, 2011
  35. OK, maybe your next post could cover the overall effects on health of having to pay child support for 20 years to a woman who hates you.

    boo wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • Is the woman your child?

      Dana wrote on February 17th, 2011
  36. Mark–I’m curious if you’re familiar with Marnia Robinson’s work in this area? She has found both through scientific research and personal experience that while sex has numerous health benefits, orgasm may have significant negative consequences especially on mood. Her main book is Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow and she has a website as well as a Psychology Today column.

    I highly recommend checking out her work—she’s not anti-sex in the least, but emphasizes “bonding behaviors” (found in chimps and other evolutionary ancestors that promote pair bonding between couples) over bigger and better orgasms (which there is some evidence actually increases infidelity and the desire to look elsewhere for greener pastures). I think Grok may reluctantly approve…as long as Grok wants to stay close with lady-Grok.

    Duff wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • Hey Duff, I see we had the same ‘desire’ to share Marnia’s views. Just when I posted my reply, I saw that yours had come in!

      Irma wrote on February 17th, 2011
    • I’m going to guess she has never in fact *had* an orgasm. (I’m suspicious about that in general when it comes to women, ha-ha, actually.) A guy may be able to get off just fine without a lot of bonding behaviors, but if I’m just being jumped on and pawed at, I get nowhere near climax. And once I’ve gotten there, I am real doggoned happy and not at all inclined to go seeking attention elsewhere. That oxytocin release thing again.

      I even understand why men roll over and go to sleep afterward. If I’ve done it right and gotten all that arousal out of my system, I’m out like a light too.

      Dana wrote on February 17th, 2011
  37. I feel so inspired writing this post and knowing there are people with open minds going to read this!! Some of you may be really challenged, but hey isn’t it worth the risk (once more!)??

    My partner of 28 years and me have ‘discovered’ a totally different way of making love about 4 years ago. We generally avoid orgasms at all; it surely no longer is our final aim. This means we don’t experience the hangover that is thought to be caused by the release of prolactin.
    Instead we make love for long periods of time and ‘finish off’ with oxytocin (the ‘love drug’) still flowing through our body. This means that a few hours later, we love to come back to each other again and start all over again, and again and again. And in between we experience a very special, deep connection on an emotional level as well. There just seems to be this flow between us.
    There is not enough space for me to explain all this, but I recommend Marnia Robinson’s website of Reuniting ~ Healing with Sexual Relationships:

    Oh, how I think the world would be a different place if people knew about this way of making love as well as Grok’s way of life!

    Irma wrote on February 17th, 2011

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