Carnal desire isn’t just for humans.
The animal kingdom is often provoked when sheer human emotion isn’t enough to describe the passion we feel. “Animal lust” is a sort of feeling that stretches beyond the bounds of our species, into something far more primal—and it seems like that descriptor isn’t without merit. After all, humans aren’t the only species that have sex for fun.
Reproduction is only one reason for people to have sex—we know that thinking otherwise is an incredibly limited view of sex and sexuality. It turns out, the same is true for primates. In an article published in 1997 in the International Journal of Primatology, researchers found that bonobos, both in the wild and in captivity, have sex for reasons other than procreation: they found instances of same-sex intercourse between male bonobos and sex between male and female bonobos, at times when the female was unable to become pregnant (like when she was already pregnant or nursing). On top of this, there is general scientific consensus that non-human primates—males and females—also orgasm, Popular Science reported.
All female mammals also have clitorises, The Conversation reported, and while this can have an evolutionary advantage (basically, enhanced enjoyment during sex can encourage a female to engage in sex for a longer duration of time, heightening the chances of conceiving), there’s still research to be done before we can say whether or not all mammals have sex for fun. The clitoris is already under-researched in humans—so it may be a while before we can confirm how other animals experience the female orgasm.
We do know, however, female dolphins have sex for fun, in part thanks to their highly developed clitorises, Newsweek reported in 2019. Dolphins also have sex year-round, not just when they’re able to conceive, Science magazine reported (which is why they are the most well-known example of animals having sex for fun).
Oral is also on the table for non-human species. Scientists have found that fruit bats engage in fellatio during copulation, but they weren’t able to determine if there’s an exact reason for this behavior (other than the reasons that are already quite familiar to humans). And while the researchers say that oral sex is rarely documented in other species, Mel magazine pointed out that biologist Bruce Bagemihl, Ph.D., cataloged in his 2000 book Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity many other species that have been observed doing the deed, including cheetahs, caribou, manatees, and gorillas.
Animal lust may be fully explained by research at this time, but we do know that there are enough instances of non-human species getting it on for reasons that Darwin might not have been able to explain—and that’s enough to reason that humans aren’t the only pleasure-seekers on the planet.