What’s the Function of the Prostate?

I get lots of interesting questions from those who follow my tumblr, most of which I do intend to answer… eventually. But in any case, today I decided to tackle this one, from dancing-thru-clouds:

I would like for you to talk about the whys of evolving the prostate, please! Like, seriously, what function does the thing serve? And why does it get cancer so easily?

Excellent question, my dancing friend. The prostate- such an oddly magical part of the body (amirite, prostate owners?) yet so egregiously abused by fanfic writers. Guys, please, it’s just a delicate little gland, it needs a breather sometimes!

Flashbacks to 2009 aside, the prostate is really quite important for mammalian reproduction. It’s odd to me that it’s barely discussed in most sex ed classes- maybe they think that mentioning it will ~make kids gay~? (Regardless of the fact that enjoying prostate stimulation has nothing at all do do with one’s sexual orientation.)

Well, come with me (ha ha) and let’s learn about prostates. Warning- there are a couple of not-quite-safe-for-work anatomical diagrams behind the cut!

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Animals Masturbate Too- And Why That Matters

Juvenile rhesus macaque at the Beijing zoo. (Not Peanut.) Source.

Juvenile rhesus macaque at the Beijing zoo.  Source.

I have had my leg humped by a very small monkey named Peanut.

Peanut herself did not think that this was anything out of the ordinary; in fact, as she enthusiastically gyrated on my thigh, she kept glancing backwards to meet my eyes, her little face arranged in what seemed to be a contented expression.

At the time, Peanut and her companions at the rhesus macaque nursery I volunteered at were all less than three months old. They were just beginning to develop more complex behaviors than the scream-eat-poop trifecta (not that those three were any less present). The males were beginning to manipulate their own penises, and both sexes would frequently engage in enthusiastic humping sessions with objects and other monkeys. The other monkeys weren’t always thrilled about this.

I suppose this would make you imagine that the nursery just became a masturbatory frenzy at this point, but that really wasn’t the case. The vast majority of the time wasn’t spent in sexual exploration but in actual exploration, of their home spaces, of toys, of social behaviors like grooming, playing, and fighting.

I guess where I’m going with this is that when many humans are confronted with the idea of animal sex, they tend to fly to extremes: either animals are sex purists and only have it with the intent of reproduction (and NEVER use contraception!) or animals are hedonistic, lustful creatures that will spend every moment that they can touching themselves.

I think that this is because admitting that sexual behaviors- reproductive or not- make up a small but important part of an animal’s life is somehow more uncomfortable than either of those options. Perhaps it just hits a little too close to home.

But, as the title states, I am about to argue about why the study of animal masturbation (and other aspects of animal sex) is important. It matters. It matters for the ethical treatment of animals, it matters for conservation, and it matters because the study of something shouldn’t be limited by the fact that many people want to pretend that it never happens.

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