7 Animals That Have Sex for Pleasure

gorillas fighting
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Written by Chanel Coetzee

Updated: October 3, 2023

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Many people believe that humans are the only beings on this planet that enjoy sex. But there are several animals that have sex for pleasure. But how do we know that these animals enjoy sex? One example is bonobos; they will mate even when pregnant, proving they get pleasure from being intimate.

In addition, there are some species that mate with members of the same sex, which serves no purpose except to provide themselves with pleasure.

So, continue reading to curb your curiosity about which animals have sex for pleasure and why they are so different from species that only mate to reproduce.

1. Dolphins

two dolphins

Dolphins have been seen touching each other’s genitalia with their flippers, snouts, and flukes.


Similarities between humans and dolphins aren’t just limited to intelligence. These smart marine mammals have large clitorises, providing them with a pleasurable sensation while mating.

Even though the pelvis of a dolphin is entirely different from that of a person, their vulvas are surprisingly similar to the shape of humans. In addition, the clitoris of a dolphin has many features suggesting its function is to provide pleasure.

In fact, bottlenose dolphins have an enveloped hood over their clitoris. As they mature, it becomes wrinkled, causing the tip of the vulva to become engorged with blood when sexually stimulated.

Scientists were surprised by the size of the nerves in the dolphin’s clitoris. Some measured more than 0.019 inches in length. In addition, dolphin vaginas are in an area where sexual stimulation is almost inevitable.

Lastly, these marine mammals have sex whenever they want; they don’t have a specific time of the year for mating. This includes periods where there is no possibility of conceiving, like when they are pregnant. Dolphins have also been seen touching each other’s genitalia with their flippers, snouts, and flukes.

2. Bonobos

Bonobo holding its head

Bonobos mimic human behavior better than most other primates.

©Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock.com

Primates and humans have a lot in common, and that is due to our sharing a common ancestor. Although that happened more than 5 million years ago, we still share a lot of behaviors like social bonds, dealing with conflicts in groups, a long infant dependency period, and reliance on learning how to find food and what to eat.

But there are two species that mimic human behavior the most: chimpanzees and bonobos. However, scientists know more about chimpanzee behavior than bonobos because bonobos are harder to find. This is because these primates only live in a small area in Zaire, Africa.

Male and female bonobos often mate face-to-face, which is an unusual position for animals. However, the male will typically mount the female from behind, but females seem to prefer the face-to-face position.

Usually, when the male mounts from behind, the female bonobo will stop. By this time, the female is very excited, and she will change position and mate face-to-face.

Researchers assume that the reason for this position is due to the female anatomy. Female bonobos have enlarged clitorises, and their sexual swellings are positioned far forward, meaning the face-to-face position feels better.

The Bonobo’s Crazy Sex Life

Bonobos are very similar to humans when it comes to separating sex from reproduction. They treat sex like some sort of social glue to determine relationships and seem to find it intensely pleasurable.

The majority of the time, bonobos don’t mate to reproduce. In fact, they have sex more frequently and in various positions than the average human couple. For example, males and females both mount each other, and female bonobos will rub their genitals against other females.

In addition, males will stand back-to-back and push their scrotums together. Surprisingly, juveniles also participate in sexual exploits by rubbing their genitals against adults. However, ethologists don’t believe that adult males will penetrate juvenile females.

The younger bonobos will perform oral sex on each other; for example, males will French kiss and suck on each other’s penises.

When a bonobo couple initiates sex, others will join in by sticking their fingers or toes into their anuses or the female’s vagina.

3. Lions

Female lion roars

In some cases, both male and female lions attempt to have sex with members of the same gender.

©Seyms Brugger/Shutterstock.com

Researchers believe that lions find sex pleasurable because of the number of times they mate in a short period, not to mention that they breed all year round.

For example, as soon as the female’s cubs are weaned, she will immediately be interested in sex again and flirts shamelessly with the male. Her flirtatious behavior is apparent. She will vigorously rub against him, lay in front of the male, wrap her tail around his head, and moan continuously.

Once mating begins, the couple will have sex over and over again. This is because lions are stimulated ovulators, meaning the female lion will not ovulate until she is encouraged by continuous penetration. Therefore, they will mate for approximately 15 min to 30 min over 3 to 4 days, which amounts to 200 to 300 times over 3 days!

While they are in their mating bubble, they are inseparable and will not hunt or eat. However, they must drink to stay hydrated for their sex marathon, but they need to be quick cause another male could sneak in and claim the female. So, while the number of times they have sex is impressive, they mate for less than a minute each time.

In addition, both male and female lions attempt to have sex with members of the same gender. However, scientists don’t know if this is an act of dominance or sexual pleasure.

4. Gorillas

A female western lowland gorilla.

Female gorillas have been observed to climb on top of each other and push their bellies and genitals together.

©Mike Price/Shutterstock.com

Gorillas are animals that have sex for pleasure, and females will engage in lesbian sex when males reject them. In fact, many species of primates are notorious for their homosexual behavior.

Scientists have observed female gorillas climbing on top of each other and pushing their bellies and genitals together. Therefore, they have deduced that these courtship displays are purely sexual and do not reflect their sexual orientation.

While this lesbian experience usually occurs when a male rejects a female, they also turn to members of the same sex after becoming aroused by witnessing other gorillas mating. In addition, there is a theory that female gorillas engage in lesbian sex to attract males.

5. Macaques

Rhesus Macaques hugging

Female macaques are more likely to experience orgasm when mating with a high-ranking male.

©iStock.com/Zane Michael Cooper

Researchers believe that macaques have sex for pleasure because their sexual behavior is similar to humans. For example, macaques experience elevated heart rates and vaginal spasms when mating.

In addition, when females orgasm, they often turn their heads to look back at their partners and reach backward to grasp the males.

While it’s impossible to prove this behavior results from pleasure, the similarities between macaque and human sexual behavior are too good to ignore.

Another interesting fact is females are more likely to experience orgasm when mating with a high-ranking male, suggesting that the intensity of arousal depends on the social hierarchy of the male.

6. Chimpanzees


Male chimpanzees will violently compete for sexual partners.

©Azahara Perez/Shutterstock.com

The chimpanzee is humans’ closest relative, so it’s easy to see why we are so similar. And, just like people, chimps are social creatures that form stable communities, with males, females, and juveniles living together for extended periods.

However, there are many differences between the two species. Female chimpanzees tend to be more promiscuous and wait longer between births. In addition, both male and female chimps engage in a greater variety of sexual strategies than humans.

Another thing chimps have in common with humans is they become sexually mature at approximately the same time. However, they differ in their social structures, especially the fact that there are strict male hierarchies, and females are subservient to their male counterparts.

But, the most significant sign that chimps have sex for pleasure is that they will have sex even when copulation is impossible, like while the female is already pregnant.

Female chimps generally mate with several males at the peak of their fertility. However, sometimes, the dominant male will prevent the female from having sex with other males, even if they are not interested in that female.

In some groups of chimpanzees, sexual partners will leave the community for days or weeks, where they will mate over and over again. But some females will join troops outside their communities and participate in group sex.

In addition, males will violently compete for sexual partners. They also mate all year round, which strongly indicates that they take pleasure from sex, but it’s not all fun and games.

Female Chimps May Not Be Able To Choose Their Mate

Females aren’t always willing participants, and males will often become violent to coerce females into mating. While males believe they are disarming the females’ resistance to sex, their behavior is similar to sexual assault or rape in humans.

However, males can be more indirect by keeping females away from other males, so they have no choice in who they mate with. Unfortunately, this behavior negatively impacts the chimps’ population numbers, as keeping an ovulating female to themselves limits sperm competition and may result in fewer pregnancies.

Another way males forcefully coerce females into sex is by killing infants they believe are not theirs. By doing this, the female will become fertile again, and the male can have his way with her. But strangely, females have also been known to kill the babies of other chimp mothers.

7. Male Sea Otters

incredible sea otter facts

Male sea otters are extremely aggressive during sex.

©Laura Hedien/Shutterstock.com

While male otters may be cute and cuddly, their behavior has a dark side. They are extremely aggressive during sex; the male will grab the female, bite her nose, and hold on for dear life. These acts of aggression usually result in deep cuts and lacerations.

Once the male has penetrated the female, the two will spin around until insemination; only then will the male release his grip on the female. Unfortunately, sometimes, this ritual results in the death of the female from either physical trauma or drowning.

But this aggressive sexual assault is not limited to female otters; males will also attack juvenile harbor seals and forcefully copulate with them, most times resulting in the pup’s death from injury or drowning. Furthermore, these male otters will often have sex with the pups long after they have died, up to 7 days.

But what is the reason behind this bizarre and terrifying behavior? Scientists aren’t exactly sure why; some speculate that the males get pleasure from this barbaric ritual, but others think it’s due to the male-female ratios.

Otter populations are increasing, but because so many females die during sex, there are more males than females. As a result, many males are denied opportunities to breed, making them aggressive and frustrated.

Summary of 7 Animals That Have Sex for Pleasure

Here is a list of seven animals that seem to have sex for pleasure – not just to reproduce:

7Male Sea Otters

What Animal Has the Lowest Sex Drive?

PANDA TRIPLETS HALF-BIRTHDAY The triplets, which reached 6-month-old on Feb. 1., were the fourth set of giant panda triplets born with the help of artificial insemination procedures in China.

Female pandas are only fertile for 24-72 hours once a year in early spring.


It stands that an animal species that is seriously lacking in sex drive may be in decline. Unfortunately, that is indeed the case for the giant panda. While researchers at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding are trying desperately to save the endangered species, they aren’t having a lot of luck, due to the low sex drive of these bears.

Their biology is a factor. Female pandas only enter estrus once yearly for a small window of time in the spring–24 to 72 hours to be exact. The male panda must impregnate the female during that time or it’s a no-go until the next year. This puts the female panda at the top of our list of animals with the lowest sex drive on Earth.

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About the Author

Chanel Coetzee is a writer at A-Z Animals, primarily focusing on big cats, dogs, and travel. Chanel has been writing and researching about animals for over 10 years. She has also worked closely with big cats like lions, cheetahs, leopards, and tigers at a rescue and rehabilitation center in South Africa since 2009. As a resident of Cape Town, South Africa, Chanel enjoys beach walks with her Stafford bull terrier and traveling off the beaten path.

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