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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