Natural Sex: Some examples

Arguments of the form “Some members of other species do X, so it is alright for humans to do so,” are pretty hopeless. Lots of creatures are just bad, if viewed in our terms.  But when there are those who claim that doing X is unnatural and that it is clearly offensive to God and against the divine plan, then the news that there are a lot of animals doing X is more interesting. God clearly is more tolerant of it than those who invoke the divine will against it..

So consider the Octopoteuthis deletron, the five and a half inch little squid that lives half a mile down in the Pacific Ocean:

Over the years, scientists have added one creature after another to the list, making it clear that although nature may abhor a vacuum, it seems to be fine with just about everything else.

Male squid, for example, pay no attention to the sex of other squid. Understandably so. They live alone in the dark, males and females are hard to tell apart, and only occasionally do squids pass in the night. Far better to risk wasting a few million sperm than to miss out on a chance to reproduce.     

This is only one among many sorts of same-sex sexual behavior. In some insect species, males engage in traumatic insemination, which is just what it sounds like, of other males and females alike. Among mammals, bottlenose dolphins and bonobos engage in lots of different kinds of sex. Male dolphins pursue sex with males and females equally, but the females show a preference for males. Bonobos pair off in all the combinations, often.

Laysan albatrosses form long-term female/female pair bonds, but for them the point is raising chicks, not sex. If one female can arrange a quick liaison with a male from another pair, the two females will tend the young. Noah might well have had two female albatrosses on the ark.

Not only is the squid a rather sweet looking little thing, but it also has the ability of more shallow water octopi to change its color and structure.

Vegetarian porn

The always-surprising folks at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have announced some details about their latest public awareness campaign: porn! Yes, that’s right. Porn. For the ethical treatment of animals. So obvious I’m sure the people over at the ASPCA are wondering why they didn’t think of it first.

By way of explanation, PETA – no stranger to racy ad campaigns, including those “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” photos – claims that their sexually charged publicity material has often been their most successful. So they thought it would make good sense to step things up a notch, and produce actual porn. For the animals, you see.

While there’s porn out there that’s made with specific ethical principles in mind, this is the only case I know of – though I’m not exactly a porn scholar – in which the porn itself is intended as a way of communicating an ethical or political message. One wonders how exactly they plan to accomplish this. How do you make porn that evokes thoughts other than “hey, check it out – porn!” (etc.)?

You can read more about PETA’s porn adventures (and see some. . .interesting pictures from PETA’s previous campaigns) here.

The Health Benefits of Female Masturbation

Somehow I’ve ended up the recipient of a lot of quite boring health newsletters. A recent one, however, broke the pattern, and contained a link to a very helpful article on female masturbation. Clearly, women don’t do it enough, they seem to suggest. Particularly for older women it has a role in counteracting ageing’s effects on the size and moisture of the vagina.

They also, perhaps inadvertantly, give some insight into the recent more public interest in sex on the part of older women, while possibly offering reassurance to others facing menopause:

The good news is that researchers say there are no differences between premenopausal and postmenopausal women when it comes to being physically able to get sexually aroused. When researchers have looked at vaginal congestion — increased blood circulation to the walls of the vagina, which is a marker of sexual arousal — in response to erotic stimulation, they have found that older women are just as able to become aroused when they are sexually stimulated as are younger women are.

Of course, notoriously now, the vagina is not necessary where it is at. One hopes they have reliable correlations.

Conference: Bodies in Crisis

Lisa Folkmarson Käll writes:

I am very excited to announce the program for the upcoming conference Bodies in Crisis organized by the Nordic Network Gender, Body, Health in collaboration with the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. The program can be found here. Check it out! Registration deadline is October 15.