The NonVerbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs & Body Language Cues

Love Signals V

She hath done wondrous naughty! --King Francois, on Katherine Howard, 5th wife of Henry VIII

Far from having a mind of its own, the penis is now known to be under the complete control of the central nervous system--the brain and spinal cord. --Irwin Goldstein (Scientific American, 2000:70)

Courtship. Any of several signs exchanged during the love-making phase of courtship.

Usage: From signals exchanged in the touch phase (see LOVE SIGNALS IV), men and women progress to the final (i.e., resolution) stage: sexual intercourse. In every society, men and women attain the extreme physical closeness of coitus through courtship, usually a slow negotiation based on verbal and nonverbal cues. Communication continues in the fifth phase of courtship, to orgasm and beyond.

Waning signs. After physically bonding in love, there is less need to renegotiate the closeness achieved in previous courting phases. Loving couples thus give fewer love signals. Because they take the distance between them comfortably for granted they give off fewer "come-hither" cues.

Neuro-notes. The joy of romance is rewarded by a short-lived spasm of pleasure known as orgasm. Triggered by nerve impulses from the clitoris and penis (through dorsal aspects of the spinal cord's pudendal nerve), orgasm is accompanied by vaginal contractions in the female, and in males by the ejaculation of semen into the female's body.

Anatomy I. Humans are primates, and the sexual skin (or perineum) of primates is replete with ancient receptors known as Meissner's corpuscles and Merkel's disks. The penis and clitoris (which are evolutionary equivalents), the perineal skin of the surrounding "saddle" area (i.e., buttocks and inner thighs), and the forehead, nipples, soles of the feet, palms of the hand, and fingertips, all contain dense concentrations of these encapsulated nerve endings, and are important in the tactile-arousal phase of making love.

Anatomy II. Before orgasm couples stimulate each other with tactile cues during foreplay. Known as the light or protopathic touch, caressing a partner's hairless thighs, e.g., registers in Meissner's and Merkel's receptors, from whence impulses travel an evolutionary-old pathway (the anterior spinothalamic tract) to pleasure areas where the sensations are consciously enjoyed. Protopathic cues draw the body into a relaxed,parasympathetic mode (see REST-AND-DIGEST) in which sexual tissues lubricate and enlarge. (N.B.: Fearful feelings latent in thesympathetic nervous system [see FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT] may be calmed through kissing, nuzzling, and gentle massage.)

Anatomy III. In stage five, the most effective touch zones (apart from genitalia) are a. the outer and inner thighs, b. the derriere, and c. the saddle area of the perineal skin. Touching these areas stimulates the pudendal nerve, which innervates the penis and clitoris directly. In tandem with the pudendal, gluteal and perineal branches of the posterior femoral cutaneous nerve (from the sacral plexus) may be pleasurably strummed in preparation for intercourse. (Branches of the latter are numerous in the inner thighs, backs of the legs, and gluteal area.)

Voice cues. While laying on hands, couples may use soft voice tones as well. Early in vertebrates, sound perception evolved from the sense of touch. (The first amphibians, e.g., "heard" vibrations conducted through the lower jaw.) Love talk, therefore, is an intimate form of "touching."

Eye signs. In the rush of excitement as couples align pelvises for sexual intercourse (and make thrusting motions stimulated by circuits of the reptilian brain), an optimal form of eye contact called en face enhances the pair bond. For men and women, sex is highly personalized as facial planes and eyes square up and align for maximum impact (the same eye-to-eye gaze is used to strengthen the mother-infant tie). Eye contact in sex gives the human touch, and copulation most often is performed front-to-front rather than front-to-rear, as in other mammals and primates.

RESEARCH REPORTS1. "Nuzzling behaviors, such as nose-rubbing among the Copper Eskimo and face-rubbing among the Gahuku Gama of New Guinea, can be regarded as cultural embellishments of infantile behaviors" (Givens 1978:352-53). 2. "The final stage is resolution. In true courtship, the culminating act is copulation" (Burgoon et al. 1989:328). 3. "Ejaculation and orgasm-the climax of sexual excitement-are brought on by a complex interaction of neuronal and hormonal processes, which are still incompletely understood" (LeVay 1993:51).

Sex in outer space. "While NASA officials don't categorically state that there has never been any sexual activity in space, they have consistently drawn a veil over public discussion of such questions." According to NASA spokesman, John Ira Petty, "We consider all aspects of long-duration space flight. Obviously there are various psychological stresses (that crews would have to face), but in terms of experiments in sex in space, that's just not on the agenda" (reported by MSNBC TV, February 24, 2000).

(N.B.: At or about age 12, girls all over the world begin applying makeup to their faces, while boys roll up their sleeves to reveal the biceps brachii of masculine arms. Generation after generation of adolescents dance to the heartbeat of courtship's primal routine. With little regard for logic or reason, they fumble toward a realization that the meaning of life in Nonverbal World is none other than life itself.)

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