The "raft of pleasure": experiment on sex and aggressiveness

The "raft of pleasure": experiment on sex and aggressiveness

In the history of science and psychology there are experiments that were very successful and obtained proven results. However, others did not suffer the same fate, such as the pleasure raft experiment.


  • 1 What was the experiment?
  • 2 What was the result of the “pleasure raft” experiment?
  • 3 Violence and sex. They are related?

What did the experiment consist of?

The idea of ​​this experiment was forged in the mind of the Spanish Santiago Genovés, from the early age of 15 years. At this point in his life, he had to flee his native Spain to Mexico because of the Spanish civil war.

Years later, I would study to become anthropologist, so he continued to question himself and study the reasons and consequences of the human being. Chance or not, fate made me meet again with violence.

Well, in 1972 he was the victim of a kidnapping aboard an airplane. Two years later, driven by the idea of ​​continuing research, he embarked with his colleague Thor Heyerdahl on an adventure that would end up shaping what would be his most famous experiment.

They embarked together on a cruise aboard boats made of papyrus rushes from Africa to America. The goal was to prove that Africans could also have reached America, just as Columbus did in 1492.

In the middle of this adventure, He discovered that life on the high seas would be an excellent scenario to conduct his great experiment about violence and sex, so it didn't take much longer to get to work with it.

To do this, he selected 10 people, six women and four men. In addition, it gave women a more dominant role, thinking that this would generate more conflict between the two genders.

Since he wanted to have everything well tied, he made sure to choose psychological profiles that were theoretically incompatible each. With all this, they had to sail for 101 days in a row in a very small boat and with the minimum comfort.

The small ship departed from the Canary Islands to Cozumel, in Mexico. Santiago Genovés himself was quite reluctant to tell the press details, since he did not want any information to transcend so as not to influence the behavior of the participating individuals.

What was the result of the "pleasure raft" experiment?

Although Santiago Genovés thought he had everything perfectly calculated and the results of his experiment would be conclusive and satisfactory, the truth is that something happened that would not be expected at all.

And, although some of the individuals had sex with each other, the truth is that usually the behavior of all of them was quite good, even forging close ties of friendship.

Although there is something in which many participants did agree on aggressiveness and violence. Among all of them, there was one person in particular with the many of them fantasized about killing and eliminating the experiment, and moreover, they thought of ways to do it. And that person was Santiago Genovés!

The reason is that the anthropologist became so authoritarian and irritating to see that his experiment was not going as he had anticipated, that day by day the coexistence next to him became more unbearable, causing the rest of the participants not to endure and dream about the idea of ​​ending it.

At the end, Genovés was the only one who demonstrated aggressive behavior, because the rest of the people on board, leaving aside the fact that they did not tolerate Genovés, lived in a very peaceful and harmonious way.

All this was very far from the ideas of the press that assured that it would be a boat of passion, sex and uncontrolled orgies. And of course, further away from the idea of ​​aggressiveness and extreme violence that Genovés predicted.

Violence and sex They are related?

Like Santiago Genovés, many would agree that the union between violence and sex would be rather a stereotype, often driven by adult films or science fiction.

However, under extreme conditions in which survival prevails, it was shown that a group of people can unite peacefully and work for a common good, instead of facing violently, despite having very different characters.

Yes, the truth is that since it is a space of such small and uncomfortable dimensions, it would have been logical to think that friction would arise immediately, thus preventing coexistence and cordial relations between them all, but the turn of the matter could not be more unexpected

We must not forget that, in the case of participants chosen especially for their physical attractiveness, it was not surprising that they ended up having sex with each other. But in no case sex came to produce violence or vice versa.

Have you been wanting to know even more about the “raft of love” experiment? Well, you must know that there is a film based on its history: The raft. Certainly, although the experiment was a failure in that it did not demonstrate its initial theory, it did manage to arouse the curiosity of many.


Genovés, S. (1991). Expedition to violence (Vol. 453). USA Economic Culture Fund.