2009/2010: Sex: an evolationary succes story

In 2009 the 4th edition of the CONGres conference took place. In this edition the theme was ‘Sex: an evolationary succes story‘.

The theme of the CONGres in 2009 was ‘Sex: An Evolutionary Success Story’, for which ten researchers from different disciplines were invited to speak. Together they broadened our views on sexuality as a personal experience, a social phenomenon and an essential biological means to existence.

Dr. Ken Kraaijeveld provided the kick-off to the symposium with a lecture about sexual selection. Dr. Ellen Laan talked about the importance of sexual arousal for painless and pleasurable sex and the anatomical differences between men and women underlying this.

For the first time, parallel sessions were incorporated into the symposium. After the first plenary lecture, people could choose to go to one of four different lectures with varying subjects. Dr. Gert Hekma took a cultural perspective on the theme of sex. He advocated creating space for people’s specific sexual needs which are often described as perverse, which the ruling sexual and gender dichotomies don’t allow for. Dr. Tom de Jong talked about plant reproductive strategies, emphasizing the advantages of asexual reproduction over sexual reproduction. Dr. Rik van Lunsen, MD, argued for the importance of sexual health: approaching sexuality in a positive and respectful way and being able to have pleasurable and safe sexual experiences. Prof. Dr. Sjoerd Repping showed that the Y-chromosome is not yet done for, because important changes in the Y-chromosome are related to specialized functions and are determined by sex. The different lectures people chose produced a good incentive for discussion and the sessions were a success.

Continuing the plenary lectures after the lunch with an interesting story about pheromones in the animal kingdom, Dr.Tristam Wyatt showed us ‘the success of the smelliest’. Although pheromones are well known in the animal kingdom, research has only provided circumstantial evidence of human pheromones. Dr. Julie Bakker showed us many examples of the influence of sex hormones on the development of our bodies and brains: for example boy and girl toy preferences in monkeys and sexually dimorphe brain regions. Arguing for a better understanding of sex differences in disease and medicine, was Dr. Eva Becher. She explained how understanding these differences will improve medical healthcare for women and men. Among the many highlights of the day was the closing lecture by dr. Rob Knell on the evolution of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and their hosts. He managed to link illuminating stories of slutty animals with a horrifying tale of the first syphilis outbreak.

After the panel discussion, guests and speakers gathered for drinks and lot’s of bitterballen. The CONGres committee would like to thank all speakers, volunteers and sponsors that made the CONGres of 2009 possible.

Some remarkable quotes from the day:

Ken Kraaijeveld: “What are males really good for?”

Ellen Laan: “The part of the clitoris that we know is merely the tip of the iceberg; or rather, the tip of the volcano.”

Gert Hekma: “OK, so this man who fucked the donkey was not guilty of public indecency, because he left the barn with his trousers on, yes?”

Tristram Wyatt: “Although Darwin did not actually say this, pheromones actually make sexual selection the success of the smelliest.”

Julie Bakker: “In homosexuals, the relative length of the ring and index finger are different from heterosexuals. I know, I know; this is the part where all of you check to see if you are gay…”

Eva Becher: “A woman is not just a man with a malformed body.”

Rob Knell: “This part is going to have some maths, so if you’re allergic to that, just zone out and think about worms on cricket genitalia for a while.”