Study: sex may be pleasurable for dolphins

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Patricia Brennan studies sexual anatomy in nonhuman vertebrates.

New research suggests that sex may be pleasurable for dolphins — at least, if early findings on the morphology of their clitorises are any indication.

Patricia Brennan, assistant professor of biological sciences at Mount Holyoke, found that dolphin clitorises share key similarities with their human counterparts: the tissue is highly vascularized, densely packed with nerves and likely to become engorged in response to stimulation. The research was presented in early April at the annual meeting of the American Association of Anatomists, entitled 2019 Experimental Biology.

The bottom line of the findings: dolphins probably experience pleasure during sex, just like people.

Brennan has devoted her career to studying sexual anatomy in nonhuman species, a field with surprisingly large knowledge gaps — even the human clitoris was not fully described until 2012.

“It’s important that we study sexual organs,” said Brennan. “For every other organ we’ve ever studied, understanding how it works in other animals has been absolutely critical in how we understand disease and developmental issues.”

Equally important, the research sheds light on evolution and the survival of species.

“Sex is the currency of evolution,” said Brennan. “Sex should feel good. Animals that have high motivation to pursue sexual encounters are likely to be more successful at passing on their genes.”

Read the Newsweek story.