Don’t drop off at the back there – yawning is really interesting. Proving this has become the mission in life of Dutch academic Wolter Seuntjens, whose thesis – The Hidden Sexuality of the Human Yawn – has earned him a well-deserved place on this week’s Improbable Research tour.
“The yawn has not received its due attention,” argues Seuntjens, of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, who set out to provide an encyclopaedic overview of all available knowledge about yawning, drawing on linguistics (semantics, etymology), sociology, psychology, the medical sciences (anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology), and the arts (literature, film, visual arts).
He then explores whether yawning has an erotic side.
Not all readers will agree he has really proved his point about the erotic yawn , despite citing a passage from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie as an example, but it is a good try.
Seuntjens believes there is no good explanation for yawning. He says the common explanation of hypoxia – that yawning is a way for the body to take in more oxygen – is untested.
Psychologically, too, it remains a riddle, Seuntjens has found after trawling through all sorts of literature. “In fact, we have really no idea what causes yawning and what purpose yawning serves or what mechanisms are responsible for yawning and even what the essential anatomical constituents of yawning are. In the age in which the human genome has been deciphered and space travel has become almost trite this verdict may sound like an affront,” he writes.
But the yawn and the associated stretch of the ‘stretch-yawn syndrome’ have been linked to desire and even of being in love, figuring in the courtship process both in the West and in passages in ancient Indian literature. Seuntjens has even found one pair of authors who described the feeling that accompanies the acme of yawning as a “mini-orgasm”.
He adds: “In discussing pathology I discovered that yawning and spontaneous ejaculation were mentioned concomitantly in terminal rabies.
“In discussing pharmacology I found a link between yawning and spontaneous orgasm in withdrawal from heroin addiction. Likewise, yawning and sexual response were associated as clinical side effects of several antidepressant drugs. In one publication an undeniable causal relation was reported: both spontaneous and intentional yawning provoked instantaneous ejaculation orgasm.”
But there are times, concedes Dr Yawn, when a yawn is simply a yawn – “even if a ‘simple’ yawn is not simple at all” – and we have to interpret every individual yawn as the occasion arises.
( Different article, same subject )
Yawning is a sign of sexual attraction, scientists claim
Yawning can be a sign of sexual attraction rather than a desire to sleep, scientists have claimed.
In fact, it can demonstrate a range of emotions including interest, stress and even wanting to have sex.
Unfortunately scientists are not yet able to differentiate between a yawn that signifies erotic arousal and simply the need to catch some sleep.
The new theory was introduced at the first International Conference on Yawning, held in Paris on Thursday.
Much about yawning remains a mystery, despite the fact that the average person yawns 240,000 times in a lifetime.
Scientists still don’t know exactly why we do it but – although it is certain that the favourite theory that it provides extra oxygen to the brain is completely wrong.
Wolter Seuntjens, a Dutch academic who is a pioneer in chasmology (the science of yawn studies) said: “We can send a man to the Moon but we cannot explain this most trivial of acts.”
The concept of the erotic yawn was created after Seuntjens noted that many sexologists were consulted by people who yawned during sex or foreplay.
In DH Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley is described as “stretching with the curious yawn of desire”.