24

This topics seem to be widely debated (on unreliable sites):

As you might imagine, some of these links are NSFW (Not Safe For Work).

What evidence is available to support that oral sex is or is not instinctive behaviour in humans?

  • 11
    raise a kid without exposing them to such things and see if they develop the behavior, good luck doing that – ratchet freak Feb 23 '12 at 1:36
  • 4
    It could easily be argued that coitus is very instinctual. All animals that reproduce sexually exhibit mating behaviour (to include humans). As to oral sex and kissing, there are numerous analogues outside humans for that behaviour as well (for instance the fellatio performing bats). Add to that the extensive research on positive reinforcement of behaviour brought on by pleasure (or specifically the release of endorphins in the brain which happen with all these behaviours). – Larian LeQuella Feb 23 '12 at 3:04
  • 3
    @LarianLeQuella: The apparition of a behavior in the animal kingdom does not necessarily mean the behavior is innate, no matter how widespread. It could still be a meme (in the biological sense). – Borror0 Feb 23 '12 at 5:01
  • 3
    That it is not a common practice among many of the uncontacted tribes of the amazon would lead me towards no. I suspect that as general cleanliness increases the willingness to attempt such things increases as well. – Chad Feb 23 '12 at 20:06
  • 3
    Related question: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1026/origin-of-kissing – Sklivvz Feb 23 '12 at 21:13
28
+100

TL;DR: YES

Warning: Ancient depiction of sex ahead.

It is very hard to define what an instinctive behavior in humans is. Oral sex is not a reflex, and since babies don't do it it's very hard to find two people today that haven't heard about oral sex at all and test if when they have sex they reach this conclusion alone.

The fact that animals do it isn't enough. Apes are eating each other's lice, dogs communicate by butt sniffing and dolphins have nasal homosexual sex.

The best way to check this hypothesis is to check whether oral sex existed in different unrelated cultures, like Europe, Asia, America, Africa and Oceania, before they reconnected. This will show that ether this custom developed naturally in several different places, or that it's so ancient that it predates the spread and separation of humans through the world.

The easiest is to find evidence to it in ancient European culture.

A Greek vase depicting oral sex: greek sex

source, image of this vase also appears in Wikipedia.

Fellatio also appears in the Kama Sutra:

Indian sex

Source is in the same Wikipedia article, or the Kama Sutra.

In ancient Egypt:

Egypt Sex

source

And an Egyptian self-fellatio (for the win!):

If I could do this, I wouldn't leave home ever

source

This covers Eurasia, and shows that oral sex was popular all throughout Eurasia in Ancient times. The problem is that those places had indirect trade relations even back then. (Source: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond).

Lucky for the answer, it also existed in other societies.

Pottery of fellatio from the Mochica culture in Peru, from around 14th Century AD (before European contact):

pic 1

source

pic 2

source

pic 3

source

Also the Wikipedia article about Homosexuality cites

Herdt, Gilbert H. (1984), Ritualized Homosexuality in Melanesia, University of California Press, pp. 128–136

in saying:

In many societies of Melanesia, especially in Papua New Guinea, same-sex relationships were an integral part of the culture until the middle of the last century. The Etoro and Marind-anim for example, even viewed heterosexuality as sinful and celebrated homosexuality instead. In many traditional Melanesian cultures a prepubertal boy would be paired with an older adolescent who would become his mentor and who would "inseminate" him (orally, anally, or topically, depending on the tribe) over a number of years in order for the younger to also reach puberty. Many Melanesian societies, however, have become hostile towards same-sex relationships since the introduction of Christianity by European missionaries.

(emphasis mine)

So it seems that oral sex (at least on men), both heterosexual and homosexual was common place all throughout the ancient world in different isolated societies.

Finally, a joke: according to Ray Comfort, the penis was designed to be perfectly compatible for the mouth.

  • I prefer this theory over the animal-kingdom theory. Neither is a proof, but both theories, and I find this theory more solid. – Wertilq Apr 5 '13 at 12:01
  • Quite the contortionist in that second image! – Loren Pechtel Aug 19 '17 at 3:20
17
+25

In really short, I think that yes it is instinctive in animals. I don't usually use cracked.com as a reference, but they have this really nice articles on animals sexuality (which is by itself quite well referenced). The most important part for you question will be section 3) of the article, where they discuss a species of dolphin that practices oral sex (and some even stranger things). You have also the canonical exemple of the Bonobos.

As @Dave Hillier commented, the fruit bats also practice oral sex. There is this PLoS ONE article on how they use it to prolong copulation time.

  • It seems to be present in fruit bats too: msnbc.msn.com/id/33587754/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/… – Dave Hillier Feb 25 '12 at 21:59
  • 5
    Bonobos are genial. They use sex as the main exchange coin to get their society going. They have it better than us. ;-) Unfortunately, though, humans are not bonobos or fruit flies. So does it apply to us, too? – Sklivvz Feb 25 '12 at 22:48
  • 1
    @Sklivvz Of course we are not bonobos or fruit bats, but then we are back to the argument of nature vs nurture, and this can't be answered now (that I know of). But the idea is that we consider most animals as having mostly instincts (maybe more fruit bats than bonobos) and they show a certain behaviour. We thus can suppose that the same behaviour is maybe instinctive to us. I don't what kind of experiment could do better (of course isolating a couple of babies and checking how they grow and evolve together might bring the answer, but I doubt this will be done soon). – Zenon Feb 26 '12 at 0:58
  • 1
    It was not a matter of nature vs nurture. It's just the fact that different species have different genomes, and thus, different instincts. For example read here: news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2009/10/30-02.html - finding new species that perform oral sex is worthy of publication as of 2009, meaning that it's not so obvious that it's an undisputed instinct... – Sklivvz Feb 26 '12 at 1:55
  • 2
    Our genome is not very different from a bonobo though and we have a common lineage that only separated quite recently, so if it was innate in a bonobo, that would be very good reason to expect it to be innate in us as well (indeed it would be more surprising if it were not). – Dikran Marsupial Oct 22 '14 at 10:12
9

If oral sex is done first, followed by penetration, the saliva could help prevent STDs (like bats) - which may or may not have been enough allow selection of such behavior in our own species; or it could be an evolutionary left-over.

But I don't think we have enough evidence for our own species to answer that question with any confidence.

Does Oral Sex Confer An Evolutionary Advantage? Evidence From Bats: http://scienceblogs.com/thoughtfulanimal/2010/05/does_oral_sex_confer_an_evolut.php

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .