Scientists have discovered: The origin of masturbation dates back to ancient primates, 40 million years ago

Photo: Pexels/ Timon Cornelissen

In the new study, evolutionary biologists write that the origin of masturbation dates back to ancient primates who lived on Earth tens of millions of years ago, reports The Guardian.

The findings come from the largest database ever collected on this activity and confirm that human ancestors also indulged in pleasure.

"What we can say is that this behavior was present about 40 million years ago, in the common ancestor of all humans and great apes. This is an ancient trait that has evolved over time," said Dr Matilda Brindle, lead researcher on the study.

Brindle and her colleagues delved deep into the history of primate behavior, hoping to understand the origins of what at first appeared to be an evolutionary puzzle.

To reconstruct the history of the act, scientists from "University College London", collected hundreds of publications, responses to questionnaires, personal notes of primatologists and zookeepers about masturbation. Then, they mapped the information and discovered how the activity changed over time.

The team of scientists describes that masturbation has become common among primates of all sexes and ages. In biological studies, research on females was neglected, so they did not have enough data for this research. While, for male masturbation, the findings have established that it increases the chances of getting the partner pregnant.

Also, scientists have found that the frequency of masturbation among primates has increased with the rise of sexually transmitted diseases. Well, one explanation is that masturbation after intercourse helps to clean the genital tract, thus reducing the risk of infection.

Brindle says more data is needed to determine the evolutionary drivers of female masturbation. One idea is that masturbation before intercourse allows females to influence which male will impregnate them.

"This is a common behavior in the animal world, so it is surprising that no one has investigated it before. People think masturbation is wrong or unnatural, but it's a perfectly natural behavior and part of our sex life," says Brindle.

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