same-sex pairs in other species

The Easter NY Times Sunday Magazine has an article entitled “Can Animals Be Gay?”  As the title may suggest, it is in part about using terms for human sexuality to describe members of other species.  It also has some discussion of appealing to behavior in other species to support GLBT rights for  human beings.  There are some interesting examples of same-sex pairing  in animal species.  Finally, there’s an odd  series of photographs of pairs of animals by Jeff Koons in  his Manhattan studio, or so it says.  Along with those goes an arch statement about not making inferences about the animals that do appear.

I think it’s useful on two counts.  The first is that it is an example of a gently nuanced discussion of human sexuality and that of other animals.  If you are dealing with people who haven’t  ever given much thought to issues about anthropomorphising, it might provide a good first discussion.  It also describes reactions to the research that’s being done – such as assuming that everyone studying such behavior in animlas is gay – which is interesting.

I think it could also serve another purpose with Intro of Philosophy classes.  Having heard someone describe some advanced biology classes in high school in Chicago that tell students to believe their ministers on evolution, I assume that it is not only in the deep South of the US that one might find students enamored of the following sort of argument:

God hates X; therefore, its appearance on earth must be due to the misuse of man’s (sic) free will.

If “X” in this case is “same-sex coupling” then the article creates some big problems unless we assume that, e.g., little lambs have souls with free will.  And that, of course, is denied by standard interpretations of Genesis.  In fact, the article  could be used to suggest that the mind of God is not so easily discerned.

The Koons’ photographs could almost be a stand alone run through of Easter themes.  Perhaps there’s a subtle attempt to get us to reflect more generally on our representations of other species.  If so, that doesn’t include problematizing butchering a pig, which the recipe section takes  on.

2 thoughts on “same-sex pairs in other species

  1. Rob, many thanks; that is so useful. I’d strongly recommend that anyone interested read the commentary and consider saving it for students.

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