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The Nature of Being

rethinking the facts of life

Month

May 2017

Queer Animals: Make Love Not War

The following post is going to be the last one dealing with sexuality of animals from my side. For that reason this time I chose a species that really does not seem to care about gender at all when it comes to pick a partner for sex. This is one of the reasons why they are considered as hippies, another reason is that they seem to use sexual practice to avoid or to solve conflicts. Therefore they are also called make-love-not-war-apes. The species I talk about is the Bonobo, one of the smaller representatives of the great apes. Bonobos break all rules about sexuality that were ever made. They do not only ignore gender, they also seem to ignore age, because even the young ones participate in sexual activities. Moreover they use different positions and practices like for example oral sex. Scientists often observed that bonobos started to have sex when conflicts arise. For example when two bonobos see something to eat, the conflict that they both want it for themselves is followed by sex between them and afterwards they share the food peacefully. In fact this can not be the only reason for them to have sex as they do it very often during the day. My first reaction to this theory was to think that it is another way to negate sexual activities among animals that are not heterosexual. But I think the difference is that in this theory the interaction is still seen as sexual even if it is said that it has another reason than reproduction. Bonobos seem to make clear that there are different reasons and different ways to have sex. German media seems to be kind of excited about the bonobos’ strategy to organise their social live. Us humans, we live in a reality that is totally different and seems to be not as good as the peaceful way of life bonobos share. For many of us it is an utopia to live that way instead of leading wars and exploit each other and the most exciting thing is that bonobos are one of the two species that are related the closest to humans. But coming back to reality it is obvious that we cannot just all start to have sex every time we have a conflict like bonobos do. Again we come to the border of seeking our natural behaviour by watching animals. We have our culture, our social rules which we should try to question and to improve as much as we can, but not by looking for the most natural thing because this is neither interesting from a moral point of view, nor even possible for us to discover. It is inviting to look at the bonobos and draw the conclusion that we are all born to have sex all day and be peaceful, but the second species that is as close related to us as the bonobos, the chimpanzees, is a very aggressive species that has a totally different social structure. We can surely choose one of the two for a role-model but we should be aware that this can only be for inspiration and does not reveal a deeper truth about our own nature.

 

References

 

http://sz-magazin.sueddeutsche.de/texte/anzeigen/44135/Das-Liebesdiktat-der-Hippie-Affen

 

https://www.welt.de/lifestyle/article5679413/Bonobos-sind-Meister-der-sexuellen-Versoehnung.html

 

http://www.focus.de/wissen/natur/forschung-und-technik-sex-fuer-den-frieden_aid_168490.html

Queer Animals: Lesbian Albatrosses

The animal I want to talk about this time is a bird which has been seen as an icon for heterosexual monogamy. That was the image of the Laysan albatross until 2008. The reason for this image is that most of these birds nest with the same partner for their entire lives. Even the former first Lady Laura Bush praised their lifestyle in a speech about Oahu, an island of Hawaii, where a big colony of the birds live. Imaginable that Laura Bush was not amused when in 2008 an article of a team of scientists revealed that almost one third of the couples of albatross consist of two females, at least in this area. The reason why this has been undiscovered for such a long time is the fact that the sexes of albatrosses are very difficult to distinguish, paired with the heteronormative ideology of past scientists who did research on the albatross. Whenever two animals are seen together doing something that is linked to reproduction, it is automatically assumed that they are male and female. Considering the albatross a pair is defined by two individuals that incubate eggs and raise chicks together. The female-female pairs are able to do this because their eggs get fertilised by male individuals which are often themselves part of a pair. The fact that there are so many same-sex couples among these birds was however a bigger scandal than the infidelity of the paired males. Although one of the researchers said that they were very careful in their writing, which probably means that they tried to not make it a political pro homo article, it was on the one hand used to argue in favour of homosexuality and on the other hand attacked for being pro homo propaganda. When I read the article I thought that it actually lets the female-female pairs appear in a more unflattering light, using descriptions likefemalefemale pairing in the interim appears to make the best of a bad job[1]. Of course good and bad refers here to the reproductive success. But still negative judgemental words are used and the relationships between the birds are not euphemized at all. Nevertheless to me it seems like the scientists really tried to be neutral and to stay with biological terms. For example Lindsay Young who is cited and interviewed most often, refuses to call the female-female pairs lesbian and the male-female pairs heterosexual and insists that these terms have nothing to do with her researches. Unlikely that she manages to be totally neutral because we are all up to some point bound to our culutural ideology. This might be part of the answer to the question how we can stop imposing our cultural images on animals, which I posed in my first post. It seems not to be possible, even if a scientist does their best on being neutral, one never knows what the further usage and interpretation of results will be.

 

References

 

https://www.welt.de/wissenschaft/tierwelt/article7243977/Wenn-schwule-Tiere-moralische-Werte-bedrohen.html

 

http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/4/4/323

 

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/06/02/female-albatrosses-set-up-same-sex-partnerships.html

[1] Lindsay C Young, Brenda J Zaun, Eric A VanderWerf; 2008

Queer Animals: Hyena Genitals

In this post I will focus more on the anatomy of an animal than on their behaviour. If we have a look at animal genitalia, the spotted hyena is a species that is kind of mysterious for scientists. What makes the anatomy of this kind of hyena unusual is the large clitoris of the female. Large means here it can be as long as the penis of the male. It is used for urination, for reproduction and for birth. indexThis seems so uncommon to us that a bundle of questions turns up. But before answering them I would like to have a look at the way female hyena are described. Two aspects are striking in the description. Above all the female hyena is described as masculinized. This applies to its genitals which are described as „pseudo-penis“ but also to her bevaviour which is quite aggressive. Due to this and their body size which is bigger than the size of the males, they always have a higher rank in the clan than the male individuals. It seems that people are confused about these characteristics that do not fit into our ideology and the only way to escape this, is to use words that on the one hand show how extraordinary it is and at the same time imply how it normally should be. The second eye-catching thing about the reports is that they use a lot of negative judgmental words like for example awkward, weird and bizarre. All of this leaves no doubt about what is normal and what is abnormal, even though for a female spotted hyena having a penis and being strong and aggressive is the most normal thing in the world. Now let’s move on to copulation and giving birth. To reproduce the male has to insert his penis into the clitoris of the female. Like many animals this happens while the male mounts the female. This surely is more difficult and therefore takes more time than it does for other mammals, but I think here the descriptions are again exaggerating when they stress how painful it is, how hilarious it looks and especially how tough it is for the male. Seriously, which animals do not look funny when they have sex? Besides, this way of narration implies that hyenas are not really enjoying it but only doing it to produce descendants, which is quite doubtful. That the female hyenas give birth through this clitoris seems to be a problem too. Proof of this appears to be the fact that the clitoris tears during birth, which kills some hyenas after getting an infection. But if we, for a second, think about the large number of human women who get a tear of perineum and that this does only not pose a problem because most of our birth happen under medical observation, the problem seems to relativize. The way spotted hyenas are described still gives us the feeling that something went wrong which matches the bad reputation hyenas have. But they are just one species under millions of totally different species and should not be considered ugly, abnormal or pitiful just because they do not fit into our ideology.

 

References

 

http://www.spektrum.de/alias/soziobiologie/muetterliche-aggression-als-vorteil/1054058

 

http://www.livescience.com/699-painful-realities-hyena-sex.html

 

https://curiouscox.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/the-spotted-hyenas-she-penis/

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