Autonomic nervous system

If we study group behavior among our chimpanzee cousins, and if we accept the fact we were exactly like them prior to our breaking the time barrier, we can learn a lot about ourselves. In the wild, alpha males dominate physically in a passive way. They play an important role in the survival of the specie by spreading the best available genes while protecting the females and their offspring. But it’s the wily alpha females who lead the group to food sources and water holes and teach the extended family members the necessary survival skills.

Since we became intelligent, the female’s role has changed, but genetically, she hasn’t. As far as the specie is concerned, she is as invaluable as she ever was. But it seems that the opinion she has of herself has seriously deteriorated, and we should want to remedy that. To my way of thinking the three main culprits, when explaining the injustices done to the female, have to do with our breaking the time barrier, with her reproduction lifespan, and the Christian Church’s attitude towards her gender.

We have already seen in a previous posting how unkind nature was to women, when after breaking the time barrier and leaving the world of natural selection, some three million years ago, the males started dominating the females physically. But before I attempt to show how her reproduction lifespan and Christianity dampened her aspirations for freedom and equality, I think it would be helpful to better understand what ANS is.

All vertebrates have a reptilian brain sitting atop the spinal cord consisting mainly of the hypothalamus which links the endocrine and nervous systems. It’s the autonomic nervous system control center (ANS) that regulates bodily functions such as heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination, defecation, and sexual arousal without our conscious intervention. If we are to focus on our human values and establish parity between the sexes, we have to become more familiar with that primitive brain that can only be synced up with our human brain if we intervene consciously.

When the dinosaurs disappeared some 65 million years ago, we were small burrowing mammals and we lived by our fight-or-flight and feed-or-breed instincts. Danger was everywhere, in our burrows and in the sky above, and the constant stress we experienced was such that we didn’t live much longer than rodents do. However, as our modern brain developed, we learned to sort things out, and as our daily survival stress was reduced, we lived longer. We acquired a limbic brain, then a cortex and neocortex grafted themselves onto the limbic brain, and as little as 3 million years ago, we had the wherewithal to break the time barrier as explained in an earlier posting. Thereafter, though we were no longer subjected to the processes of ‘natural selection’ and ‘survival of the fittest’, our reptilian brain kept operating as it always had, and it caused havoc within the specie.

From the very moment we became intelligent, our brain gave us the means to live in sync with our ANS, but our will has always tended to falter when it came to our sex drive. Being fully aware of the exquisite and gratuitous pleasure that an orgasm procures, and with ever more time on our hands, when we became horny, we just didn’t try very hard to put on the brakes. Nonetheless, right up to the 20th century, we depended on the family for survival, and because we didn’t want to be shunned by it, we felt obliged to use some degree of self-discipline in order to control our urges. But when societal empowerment kicked in, fashion ads, social media, celebrity lifestyles and Hollywood seriously encouraged us to adopt lascivious and superficial behaviors. We still followed the group, but the group was becoming virtual and was being driven by the collective ANS.

We can’t escape the fact that sex is forced upon us by Mother Nature, and that we have no choice but to comply. It is all the more reason to be aware of this archaic breed-or-feed instinct that’s taking over our lives, and to establish education programs to help us channel it. Sex is a lot of fun and indispensable, but we have to put it in its proper place by using the brain we acquired as humans. Why do teachers, mothers and fathers have so much trouble explaining sex to children?

Ask any 10-year-old child what he or she thinks about dad sticking his penis into mom in order to make a baby, and he will quickly respond by saying that it’s gross. Perhaps that’s the reason untold generations have refused to talk openly about sex with children, but perhaps it’s simply because adults unwittingly want to cover up the fact that sex is ugly. Sticking a penis or a tongue in the vagina, the anus or the mouth of another isn’t beautiful. Hollywood, the media, and Christianity make it sound attractive or at least acceptable for their own purposes, and because we’re intelligent monkeys and don’t want to be labeled prudish, we adopt and even defend those view points. The end result is that though the ugliness of the act makes us uncomfortable, we act as though it’s cool. The only time we are totally in tune with our sex drive is when we’re horny, a time when we are forced to blindly answer nature’s call.

For the most part, horniness is brought on independently of our will, and when men are in that state, they may even go so far as to kill someone who stands in the way of their penetrating the targeted body in order to inject their semen. And women, of course, also display despicable behaviors when determined to get their man. So, how can we explain such behavior except to say that when our ANS forces us to reproduce, we sometimes go completely out of control, and adopt horrid behaviors? Traditionally, the group has tried to control sexual behavior by insisting on no sex before marriage, pretending sex is love, dressing it up socially, and condemning-confessing-repenting-forgiving the act, but those are band-aid approaches. We would be much better off if we faced the problem head on in a scientific and objective manner through education.

We can’t deny the beauty of some courtship displays preceding the sex act, and the sheer joy felt when welcoming a newborn into the world. When we write love poems, slow dance, walk hand in hand, whisper sweet nothings to each other, hug and look at each other languorously, what could be more beautiful? When we go gaga over a newborn, need we explain that feeling? But the middle game where one’s body penetrates or is penetrated by another is ugly, no matter what the fashion magazines or Hollywood tell us, show us, or imply regarding the matter. Penetrating the mouth, the anus or the vagina of another with one’s body parts is no prettier than the act of ejecting urine, excrement or vomit.

Nonetheless, excluding our sex drive, we did learn over time to deal with some of our ANS instincts in our daily imperatives. The use of knives and forks is today common, and we no longer act like pigs when we eat. And what about toilets and bathrooms that made urination and defecation banal? But we definitely haven’t learned to deal with fornication where a partner is indispensable. We willingly give in to it if we’re horny, drunk or drugged, that is, when we don’t have to think about it, but because we still refuse to face the issue in a rational manner, we continue to make a mess of it. For centuries, thanks in part to the sacrament of matrimony instituted by the Christian Church, we have amalgamated the words sex and love in order to deal with the grossness of the sexual act being forced upon us. And if we’re not sure of how we feel about the sexual act, all we have to do is picture the next-door neighbor copulating with his wife, and that should give us the answer.