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Understanding Reproduction

by Beth Divine 27 Jun 2019

It is pretty well-known now, that people make other people by having sex and getting pregnant, and that the vehicle for this tends to be ensuring that the sperm-containing semen is introduced to the ova at a time when the ova (or egg) is receptive and ready for insemination.

But this has not always been the case. In fact, prehistoric beliefs and understandings about reproduction were very different. In some primitive places, people believed – until fairly recently – that the man played no or little part in the pregnancy of a woman. Instead, she was gifted with a baby once the ancestors deemed her worthy of womanhood.

Even those tribes that realised that marriage and an active partner were necessary for baby-making hadn’t quite joined up all the dots. Instead, they believed that sex was a way to encourage a baby to arrive, and that the act needed to be performed several times in order for the baby preparedness to be complete: so they did not believe that sex caused pregnancy, rather that it helped it to become possible, thinking along the lines that, for example, a lightning rod serves to guide lightning, it does not cause the lightning, thus sex invites pregnancy rather than causing it.

Still other peoples had made the connection between semen and reproduction although these beliefs often involved the transference of fluids, preferably non-waste body fluids. Women passed their fluids (breast-milk) onto their children in the child’s infancy, thus gifting them the ability to reproduce. In some of these tribes, young men would fellate older ones, in order to have their ability to reproduce activated.

Often, in these tribes where the understanding of the importance of semen was established, there was a belief that if you came into a woman in any way: oral sex, anal or vaginal penetration all included, the female body would be able to take this precious fluid and make it into a brand new human.

This is perhaps why there are many representations of all types of sex in prehistory – all types, that is, except cunnilingus. There is no exchange of fluid during cunnilingus so it was never represented as a reproductive act, whereas fellatio, anal sex and vaginal sex were all considered to be part of the same process.