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The Real Reason for Sex

orangutan hanging from tree in jungle

Pexels/Cesar Aguilar

Most humans have burdened sexuality with lots of baggage. Here’s what we did before we could tell stories about our most intimate acts.

Most humans have burdened sexuality with lots of baggage. Instead of seeing it as a natural part of our bodily functions and desires, we often see it as some­ thing complicated, hidden, dirty, or amoral; we rarely classify it as such a natural act as eating or drinking. Among the books in my library, I have copies of medieval penitentials (guidelines for Catholic priests) in which coitus interruptus demands 10 years of penitence and anal inter­ course, 15. The worst crime, according to these texts, is oral sex, which demands a lifelong pen­ ance —while premeditated murder requires only seven years. In parts of the world today, these types of beliefs are not considered medieval at all. For years I worked as both a theologian and research scientist at the M IT Artificial Intelligence Lab. Our project was to build a humanoid robot. In this atmosphere, we referred to real humans as “meat machines” and did our best to avoid the word “con­sciousness.” My favorite robot, Kismet, was built to mimic emo­tions. People reacted emotionally to Kismet as if it were human, making up stories about their interactions. …

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