Things have been a bit serious on GenderBen recently, so I thought, ‘hey, what do a lot of people enjoy looking at on the internet?’
After dismissing porn (because I’ve written about that already of course), I came up with cute fluffy animals.
But how about cute fluffy QUEER animals?
Okay, not really queer. and this has more to do with language and labels than anything else. Being gay, or queer, or any other label you care to mention that provides other people with information about one’s sexual habits says way more about the proclivities of our naughty parts, whether we like it or not. People categorise, and label, and simplify, and stereotype. With animals, all that can really be looked at is what we observe, rather than thoughts and relationships and all that complicated sociological interaction we have as humans. So really, in the realm of scientific study, common practice uses homosexual behaviour to refer to copulation, genital stimulation, mating games, and sexual displays.
It’s also interesting to note that despite animal mating bahaviour obviously having been studied for centuries, it’s only been relatively recently that same-sex-stuff has actually been noticed. This could be due to observer bias – where a scientist’s expectations (“bah, homosexuality only exists in criminal perverts, what”) influence the results of study.
Some of the strategies and behaviours that have been observed are really quite amazing – if not due to cuteness, then due to amusement value.
1. Black Swans
“I told you we needed more than a dab of sunblock on our beaks, but would you listen, no.” “we will talk about it later Cyril, please don’t make a *scene*”
These bad-boy swans have had their sexual capers known about in detail for over 40 years. As gay critters go, they seem to be quite keen on kids. They have been observed to steal nests – or form threesomes with females only to scarper once she lays the eggs. These homo-raised cygnets are also more likely to survive to adulthood, maybe as two males can control a larger territory, or are better at defending their young.
“But mum, Jack’s dads Cyril and Brendon let *him* go swimming…” “I don’t care, you’ve just been blow-dried”
I say ‘dolphins’ rather than a specific species because all sorts including the Amazon River dolphin and the Tucuxi, but mostly Bottlenose dolphins seem to enjoy the love that dare not chatter, squeak, or click its name. Not just penetrative sex either. Dolphins have been observed engaging in blowhole sex, the only nasal lovin’ so far seen in the animal kingdom. They’ll also have group sex with genital rubbing, which is thought to be simply for pleasure and bond formation. D’aww. It’s also been recorded that instead of combat, groups of Atlantic Spotted dolphins and Bottlenose dolphins will engage in cross-species romps. Make love, not war, indeed.
Speaking of making love not war, this is exactly how the Bonobo has been described by Frans de Waal in his book Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape. It seems that over 75% of sexual acts in the species are non-reproductive, and about 60% are girl-on-girl action. Reasons for this include conflict resolution, post-conflict reconciliation, and simply as a greeting. Practices such as treetop penis-fencing and drop-it-like-it’s-hot rump-rubbing are common.
Credit to image: the talented deviant art user Rainbowshrimp.
Male giraffes engage in behaviour called ‘necking’. Unfortunately, this doesn’t involve cute giraffe-hickies. Often it’s combative, swinging their heads like clubs and bashing their necks into each other to establish dominance. It can also be gentle however, with rubbing and leaning. The male who can hold himself erect for longer, wins. The imagery isn’t lost on me. Same sex activity has been recorded at between 30-75%.
“I’m sorry, I’m just not into ewe…”
From the perspective of husbandry, rams who’re exclusively into other dude-sheep are somewhat problematic, as they make up roughly 10% of the population, and so are no good for making lots of little profitable sheep-babies. A neuroanatomical difference has been found that gives some explanation for this. A chunk of brain called the oSDN is responsible for releasing a substance thought to be involved in the hetero-ram hornification process. This brain region seems to be smaller in homo-rams.
“Darling, I love you.” “I love you too.” “…would you get me a fish?”
Albatrosses are a near-monogamous species, usually pairing with the same bird every year for life (and they can live for up to 70 years). It was in the last 10 years that it was found approximately one-third of paired couples were actually both female, because male and female albatrosses are virtually identical. A detailed account of this discovery and the stir it caused amongst the public can be found here.
7. Bed Bugs
At first I tried to find an image of a real bed bug that also qualified as cute. This it turns out, cannot be done.
So bed bugs it seems will fancy just about any other bed bug, so long as they’ve recently fed, demonstrating good health. Unfortunately, bed bugs perform the violent practice of ‘traumatic insemination’ – where they stab their partner in the abdomen and inject sperm directly in. Females have evolved a structure called a ‘spermalege’, which is basically a ‘damage control’ organ for the rough bug-sex, reducing injury and immune response. Males don’t have this, so it’s not only mildly embarrassing for a dude bug when he accidentally shoves his bug-wang into another dude bug, but also, um, potentially fatal. To try and avoid being unwittingly pronged, males produce alarm hormones. Bed bugs chemically yell “I’M A DUDE, PLEASE DON’T STAB ME WITH YOUR PENIS”.
Chinstrap penguins (pictured above) gained particular fame due to a pair of penguins called Roy and Silo in Central Park Zoo, who paired and tried to steal eggs from other penguins to rear. Instead they were given an egg, which successfully hatched into a female called Tango – inspiration of the children’s book And Tango Makes Three. Tango herself has apparently paired with a female penguin, and various other same-sex pairings have also been seen. In China, visitors complained to zookeepers for separating a same-sex penguin couple from the other penguins for their egg-stealing attempts. They were given a surplus egg to raise, and were also successful.
So if there’s anything we can learn from this, I suggest it’s that you and me baby, ain’t nothing but mammals, so let’s do it like they do on the discovery channel.