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March 31, 2010 12:42 PM   Subscribe

In recent years though, more biologists have been looking objectively at same-sex sexuality in animals — approaching it as real science. For Young, the existence of so many female-female albatross pairs disproved assumptions that she didn’t even realize she’d been making and, in the process, raised a chain of progressively more complicated questions.' 'A Denver-based publication for gay parents welcomed any and all new readers from “the extensive lesbian albatross parent community.” The conservative Oklahoma senator Tom Coburn highlighted Young’s paper on his Web site, under the heading “Your Tax Dollars at Work,” even though her study of the female-female pairs was not actually federally financed.'

'Two years ago, Young decided to write a short paper with two colleagues on the female-female albatross pairs. “We were pretty careful in the original article to plainly and simply report what we found,” she said. “It’s definitely a little bit of a tricky subject, and one you want to be gentle on.” But the journal that published the paper, Biology Letters, sent out a press release a few days after the California Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. At 6 the next morning, a Fox News reporter called Young on her cellphone. The resulting story joined others, including one in this paper, and as the news ricocheted around the Internet, a stampede of online commenters alternately celebrated Young’s findings as a clear call for equality or denigrated them as “pure propaganda and selective science at its dumbest” and “an effort to humanize animals or devolve humans to the level of animals or to further an agenda.” Many pointed out that animals also rape or eat their young; was America going to tolerate that too, just because it’s “natural”?'
posted by VikingSword (29 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Tom Coburn lie? Only when his lips move.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 12:57 PM on March 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Dang. Now I want to change my username to Lady Gagabatross.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 1:00 PM on March 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


Tom Coburn lie? Only when his lips move.

If it were only in politics... but science itself, being done by scientists who are human beings full of the pride and prejudice of their peers in the society at large, are often not above being influenced by their biases. From the link:

"“There is still an overall presumption of heterosexuality,” the biologist Bruce Bagemihl told me. “Individuals, populations or species are considered to be entirely heterosexual until proven otherwise.” While this may sound like a reasonable starting point, Bagemihl calls it a “heterosexist bias” and has shown it to be a significant roadblock to understanding the diversity of what animals actually do. In 1999, Baghemihl published “Biological Exuberance,” a book that pulled together a colossal amount of previous piecemeal research and showed how biologists’ biases had marginalized animal homosexuality for the last 150 years — sometimes innocently enough, sometimes in an eruption of anthropomorphic disgust. Courtship behaviors between two animals of the same sex were persistently described in the literature as “mock” or “pseudo” courtship — or just “practice.” Homosexual sex between ostriches was interpreted by one scientist as “a nuisance” that “goes on and on.” One man, studying Mazarine Blue butterflies in Morocco in 1987, regretted having to report “the lurid details of declining moral standards and of horrific sexual offenses” which are “all too often packed” into national newspapers. And a bighorn-sheep biologist confessed in his memoir, “I still cringe at the memory of seeing old D-ram mount S-ram repeatedly.” To think, he wrote, “of those magnificent beasts as ‘queers’ — Oh, God!”
posted by VikingSword at 1:02 PM on March 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah... that was my first thought... a Republican making something up for political gain? Nahhhh.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:02 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


People should not have to pay taxes for science which might disabuse them of prejudicial delusions.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:03 PM on March 31, 2010


navelgazer: That's why I won't financially support creation science. If they prove God exists I'll have to stop eating shellfish...as it is an abomination unto the Lord.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 1:05 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another Oklahoma oops.
posted by The Straightener at 1:09 PM on March 31, 2010


Hey. If they need some more data points, they should come over to my house. One of my roommates, Malachi Johnson, is a very gay black cat that can regularly be found knocking paws (or at least trying) with his pal Nelson. They are madly in love with each other, as far as I can tell.

Shows are at ten, two, and four, scientists.
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 1:11 PM on March 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wait, are you saying that Republicans came out against eating children?
posted by Pollomacho at 1:13 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Many pointed out that animals also rape or eat their young; was America going to tolerate that too, just because it’s “natural”?

When provoked, the short-horned lizard shoots blood out of its eyes to drive off attackers. Do you want your children shooting blood out of their eyes when provoked, just because it's natural? I don't think so!!!
posted by Consonants Without Vowels at 1:14 PM on March 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


“Individuals, populations or species are considered to be entirely heterosexual until proven otherwise.”

Not the worst starting point, considering you know that a species behavior must include some sort of sexual intercourse since the species is still around, but you can't really infer the inverse.

Still, obviously human bias really blocked a lot of good scientific data making it into the public sphere. As these issues get more play, hopefully a better pictures of sex, bonding/mating, and reproduction (and how the three interact) in animals will come to light.
posted by rosswald at 1:15 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lady Gagabatross.

Ha-Ha-Ha-halibut halibut faaace
posted by The Whelk at 1:16 PM on March 31, 2010 [3 favorites]


Many pointed out that animals also rape or eat their young; was America going to tolerate that too, just because it’s “natural”?

This cracks me up (and makes me stabby). "It's against the rules of nature!" is fine when it comes to something icky like homosexuality, but "Hey, we're not animals you know" is....also fine when it comes to homosexuality. Don't their brains hurt when they have cognitive dissonance like that?
posted by rtha at 1:33 PM on March 31, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm stealing the chance to pull the best quotation from the whole piece:

Homosexual sex between ostriches was interpreted by one scientist as “a nuisance” that “goes on and on.” One man, studying Mazarine Blue butterflies in Morocco in 1987, regretted having to report “the lurid details of declining moral standards and of horrific sexual offenses” which are “all too often packed” into national newspapers. And a bighorn-sheep biologist confessed in his memoir, “I still cringe at the memory of seeing old D-ram mount S-ram repeatedly.” To think, he wrote, “of those magnificent beasts as ‘queers’ — Oh, God!”
posted by jefficator at 1:38 PM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yiff in hell.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:48 PM on March 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


One primatologist speculated that the real reason two male orangutans were fellating each other was nutritional.

Indeed
posted by jckll at 3:01 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


One primatologist speculated that the real reason two male orangutans were fellating each other was nutritional.


My guess is it was because they could...
posted by beelzbubba at 3:52 PM on March 31, 2010


Previously related:
The Fabulous Kingdom of Gay Animals.

The Gay Animal Kingdom.

Gay Animals: Alternate Lifestyles in the Wild.

Gay Animals Out of the Closet.

A first-ever museum display, ‘Against Nature?,’ opened in October 2006 at the University of Oslo's Natural History Museum in Norway, presenting 51 species of animals exhibiting homosexuality.
Previous MeFi FPP.
"'The Darwinian Paradox' [PDF] of homosexuality presents the conundrum of how a potential genetic basis for homosexual behavior could provide a survival benefit to offpsring and extend through generations, when sexual reproduction would seem to place strong selection pressure against such a 'gene.'"
posted by ericb at 3:52 PM on March 31, 2010


Also:
Scientific American (June 2009): Do Gay Animals Change Evolution?

The Register (June 2009): Gay Animals Going at It Like Rabbits.

Wired.com (June 2009): Keeping an Open Mind to Animal Homosexuality.

NPR (June 2009): Same-Sex Behavior in the Animal Kingdom.

Fox News (June 2009): Same-Sex Behavior Found in Nearly All Animals.
posted by ericb at 3:54 PM on March 31, 2010


Field Guide to Gay Animals.
posted by ericb at 3:57 PM on March 31, 2010


I'm sorry, I still haven't read the article as I'm more concerned with the fact that the accompanying photographs are by JEFF KOONS, which is marvelous.
posted by wreckingball at 4:02 PM on March 31, 2010


When my two male neutered dogs face off, paw to paw, then one tries to hump the other, we call it "playing Spartacus."

that is all I have to contribute to this discussion
posted by davejay at 4:36 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Albatross? More like GALbatross.
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:40 PM on March 31, 2010


But, but--if we stop being morally outraged about the gays, we might start getting more outraged about politicians who have no regard for honesty instead--and that can only spell doom for The Empire!
posted by saulgoodman at 7:51 PM on March 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is really fascinating stuff. Folks who haven't paged through the 2nd half of Bagemihl's Biological Exuberance are missing out on a treat; he describes in detail an amazing variety of non-procreative animal sexual behaviors - bi, homo, hetero and lots that doesn't quite fit any of those categories. Page after page of examples from the literature becomes very convincing very quickly. The book's first half is a highly readable look at the biases in previous natural history that have kept widespread "queer" animal sex invisible and misunderstood over the last century or so. Can't recommend it highly enough.

That said, the key part of the linked article for me is this:

So far, the only real conclusion this relatively small body of literature seems to point to, collectively, is a kind of deflating, meta-conclusion: a single explanation of homosexual behavior in animals may not be possible, because thinking of “homosexual behavior in animals” as a single scientific subject might not make much sense. “Biologists want to build these unified theories to explain everything they see,” Vasey told me. So do journalists, he added — all people, really. “But none of this lends itself to a linear story. My take on it is that homosexual behavior is not a uniform phenomenon.

Just like in people.

Even if you get folks to acknowledge there might be evolutionary value in having family members around who don't reproduce themselves but can help take care of hetero couples' offspring, that doesn't begin to cover all the possible reasons why non-procreative sex appears over and over again in all kinds of species.
posted by mediareport at 8:26 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


non-procreative sex

Um, yeah. Like when a cat I know tries to hump a teddy bear. Not only is it non-procreative, it's not even in the same species. Gah!
posted by fuse theorem at 9:25 PM on March 31, 2010


Whenever my dog Arrow humps my leg, I just say "No!" But he just stares at me and keeps on humping. It's like he doesn't even get that no means no, or something.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:51 PM on March 31, 2010


Animals have sex like animals. News at 11.

Next on Discovery: The Sex Drive — Is Pleasure the Procreation Guarantee?

Fishes' Corollary: Things that can enjoy sex, will enjoy it as frequently as hormones and local environment allow.

Which I suppose asks the question: do animals enjoy sex? Do they have the transcendent la petit mort, the ultimate orgasm? Do gorilla's orgasm when they rub one another off? Do salmon orgasm when they seed a streambed?

And what is it with the zoo-themed sex threads these days? Springtime comes and a young man's fancy turns to donkeys? [insert obligatory link to Senator Whatisname interview here.]
posted by five fresh fish at 10:05 PM on March 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Recurring Ethanol Exposure Induces Disinhibited Courtship in Drosophila
When male fruit flies booze up on a regular basis (via the FLYPUB 'get the flies drunk' apparatus), they start trying to hook up with other male fruit flies.

I am not making this up.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:58 AM on April 1, 2010


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