Jill McDevitt explores why something as natural and necessary as sex is so taboo
MANY people like to believe that animals are more, well, animalistic and reproduction-oriented in their sexual behavior than humans. They believe animals don’t have all the complicated entanglements of relationships, pleasure and societal structures that people do. The following animal behaviours might come as a shock:
Masturbation with Toys: Many animals masturbate, even when a sex partner is available. If they have hands, some use them. Others create toys. Dolphins rub their genitals against rocks on the sea floor. Primates and porcupines have been known to make us of sticks. Many birds masturbate by rubbing against tufts of grass. Penguins rub against pebbles.
Homosexuality: Same-sex sex and courtship have been observed in more than 1,500 species. Male lions have been known to have sex and affectionately nuzzle each other, and there have been many incidences of male penguins caring for abandoned eggs and together raising the chicks as their own offspring.
Monogamy: Some mammals, and a large number of bird species, are monogamous. Some are sexually monogamous and others reproduce outside the pair bond but are socially monogamous, meaning they exclusively share resources and territory. Examples include swans, otters, foxes, angelfish and penguins.
Prostitution: Some animals will trade sex for important commodities, like female penguins which will exchange sex for the valuable stones they need to build their nests (are you seeing a theme with the penguin?)
Watching Pornography: Panda bears are notoriously poor breeders. Only 1,600 exist in the wild and less than 300 in captivity. To encourage mating, zoologists have shown male pandas videos of other pandas having sex in hopes that the “Panda porn” will boost the desire to mate… and it worked! In an experiment, male monkeys were willing to “pay” for porn. They happily traded a highly valued treat in exchange for seeing photos of female monkey behinds.
Orgies: Sheep, giraffes, lions, dolphins, whales and some species of snakes will often engage in group sex.
Bestiality: Some animals have been observed mating with animals of another close species (such as among primate or feline species) although there was one incident in 2008 where scientists witnessed and caught on film mammal/bird sex between a seal and a penguin. Those frisky penguins…
Jill McDevitt holds a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality and is currently completing her PhD, which will make her the only person in the world with three degrees in the field. She is the proprietor of Feminique Boutique on Church Street. Her book, Fighting the Crusade Against Sex: Being Sex-Positive in a Sex-Negative World, is out this month.