Bangor University Primatology students were extremely lucky to have Matilda Brindle present a guest lecture on her PhD topic; Masturbation in Primates. Matilda is a PhD from University College London, Institute of Zoology, and is currently researching the evolution of auto-sexual behaviours (masturbation) in primates. Her previous project focused on the evolution of the penis bone (baculum), one of the most enigmatic structures in the animal kingdom. Matilda began the talk on why masturbation has become such a taboo subject. The history of masturbation reflects broad changes in society concerning ethics, sexuality and social attitudes. The bad stigma that surrounds masturbation has risen from centuries of misguided hearsay and is not an exclusive behaviour to just humans. Various animals have been shown to “self-pleasure” from dolphins to elephants to camels to penguins; but Matilda’s work focused on our close relatives the primates.
From here, Matilda went on to discuss the body-parts used, which I’m sure you all know what’s going on there, the techniques and tools used which is where the talk took a bizarre turn. Primates have been known to get pretty inventive when it comes to masturbation tools, from using chicken-wire to their mother’s toes; nothing is impossible. Matilda discussed why such behaviours have developed and the reasoning behind them. In males and females, masturbation has been used in preparation for copulation and in men, studies have shown that masturbation increases sperm quality. Masturbation is rooted within our evolutionary history and occurs throughout the animal kingdom. The mechanism that is masturbation varies between animals and masturbation is actually good for you.
Alongside a reverting and gripping talk, Matilda provided the audience with useful tips for pursuing a PhD. Her top tips included the importance of finding a project that you really care about and finding a supervisor that you can collaborate and work with well. As well as this, make sure you understand how you work best and remember to balance all the work with a few drinks at the pub.