Wed | Aug 16, 2017

From animal to human

Published:Friday | August 21, 2015 | 8:45 AMPeter Espeut

Our family pet dog is in heat again, and our yard is being invaded by every male dog in the neighbourhood looking for only one thing. Panting and drooling, they follow her around, and will be discouraged neither by shouting (from me or their owners), nor sticks or stones, nor even pans of water.
Biology 101 tells us that when female dogs are ovulating, hormonal changes in their bodies cause them to exude a very strong, distinct scent that attracts males from miles around, and drives them crazy with sexual desire. This mechanism for ensuring the survival of the species has been very successful; without these biosexual triggers, it is hard to imagine how many mammal species would be able to perpetuate themselves.
The mammalian male is always able to have sex, and to produce sperm; it is the ovulation cycle of the female of the species that determines when reproduction can take place.
Is the human species much different? Well, the human male is always able to have sex, and it is the ovulation cycle of the human female that determines when reproduction can take place. Whereas female dogs are only fertile twice each year for a few days, female humans are fertile about a dozen times over a 12-month period. When women are ovulating, they produce copulins; when a man smells the scent of copulins, his testosterone levels rise, leading to sexual arousal. As strong as these hormonal changes are, they are not as potent as the canine variety.
The big difference between dogs and humans is in the brain – the intelligence. Despite sex hormones boiling in his blood, human males can choose not to ‘run down ‘ooman’, whereas male dogs cannot. And despite her maternal instincts and powerful sex drive, human females can weigh up the costs and benefits associated with nine months of childbearing, and a lifetime of childrearing, and can choose not to have sexual intercourse.
The survival of the human species would be in jeopardy if it weren’t for one additional evolutionary advance. Among all female creatures, only human women experience the intense ecstasy of the female orgasm; and it seems that the pleasure is powerful enough to overcome the prudence and caution which her intelligence provides.
The perverse practice of female circumcision is a clear attempt by insecure men to cancel this possibility for their women, hoping to ensure their fidelity. In the process, they deny themselves the pleasure of pushing their women into the realm of rapture.
The first task of our species is to be human, to break away from the bondage of our lower drives, and to strive for higher things; that is what our schools should be about. Those who are successful at CSEC and CAPE are usually those who are focused on their schoolwork. But we hear of dance-hall daggering, and after-school sex parties, and no-panty Fridays, and lap sex on public buses. Is there a connection between low academic performance in schools and early sexual initiation?
Looking around at the behaviour of my fellow men, I see people hostage to their hormones. I see men on bicycles and motorcycles sharking down women walking on the sidewalk. How similar is this to the behaviour of the dogs I see through my window running behind our family pet?
I have some sympathy for the neighbourhood male dogs, who are driven by the instincts written into their genes; there is no question of them having some decorum, or respect for the female of the species. This is lower animal behaviour, and you have to allow the ‘dumb t’ing dem’.
And then there are the ‘crufty’, ‘tough-back’ men, whether bus conductors, taxi drivers or ministers of religion, who take advantage of underage schoolgirls. These are clearly men who never learned how to control their lower urges, and who believe that every time they itch, they have to scratch.
Yes, they are at fault, and should feel the full force of the law. But just as guilty are those responsible for their socialisation: their parents, teachers, and church community. This generation of child molesters is not the first. This kind of behaviour is handed down. Dare we call it a Jamaican tradition?
Changing societal behaviour – and the norms and values which underpin them – will not come about through sermons and exhortations only. Carefully planned social engineering is required. It will not be easy, since usually our policymakers and those who must do the social engineering are part of the problem.

- Peter Espeut is a sociologist and Roman Catholic deacon. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.