Earth's Children

The Gift of Pleasure, also referred to as the Mother's Gift of Pleasure, the Mother's Gift, or simply Pleasures, is the Cro-Magnon term for sex. Cro-Magnon do not associate sexual intercourse with reproduction, instead believing that the Great Earth Mother gave them the Gift of Pleasure to bring themselves closer to other people and to honour Her. 

Pleasures are held as being a sacred act, given to all humans to enjoy. As a result, most Cro-Magnon cultures are very sexually liberal - people, provided they are adults, may share Pleasures with whomever they choose, regardless of gender or if they are in a committed relationship with their person or not. Many cultures hold Mother Festivals, often involving group sex, to honour the Mother. Any form of consensual sex is acceptable; however, sexual assault or sex through coercion are viewed as being a serious taboo and a perversion of the Mother's Gift. Most cultures also frown upon blood relations sharing Pleasures.  

Boys are often taught about Pleasures by an older woman when they reach adolescence, whilst girls go through a ritual deflowering ceremony called First Rites. Although Cro-Magnon do not initially associate Pleasures with conception, it is believed that a girl cannot get pregnant until she has been 'opened' and becomes a woman.  

By the end of The Land of Painted Caves, the Zelandonii come to realise that Pleasures between a man and woman result in conception, which Ayla had already deduced much earlier in the series. Although it is early days and not all are willing to accept this idea yet, it is implied that the realisation that the Mother's Gift and reproduction are linked eventually spreads across the world, changing human society forever.