Homosexuality in Animals.....
Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan's blog. A new exhibit in Norway looks at homosexuality in animals.
The taboo was finally broken in 1999 when Bruce Bagemihl, a gay biologist at the University of Wisconsin, published a book entitled Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity.
Bagemihl had scoured every scientific journal and paper he could lay his hands on for references to homosexuality in animals. Tucked away at the end of long and erudite texts, or consigned to footnotes and appendices, he found that homosexuality had been observed in no fewer than 1,500 species, and well documented in 500 of them. The earliest mention of animal homosexuality probably came 2,300 years ago when Aristotle described two female hyenas cavorting with each other.
Bagemihl’s book provided the inspiration for this exhibition, and any notion that homosexuality is a uniquely human trait is quickly disposed of. You are greeted by a pair of swans — the very symbols of romantic love — who turn out to be a female couple. “Up to a fifth of all pairs are all male or all female,” reads the accompanying text.
Then you come to the photograph of the whales “penis fencing” above which hang — for no apparent reason — two actual whale penises, both several feet long and looking like stretched and desiccated turnips. Some of the male whales meet year after year, says Bockman, while their relations with females are fleeting at best.
A model — the one that invariably draws most giggles from the exhibition’s younger visitors — shows a male Amazonian river dolphin penetrating another’s blowhole. “This is the only example of nasal sex we have in nature,” Brockman observes.
Up to a fifth of all king penguin couples kept in captivity are gay, we learn from a display of stuffed penguins wearing pink scarves. Hooded seagulls, sea otters, fish, kangaroos, fruit bats, blue jays, storks, pine martens and owls make guest appearances. So does the lowly hedgehog (ouch).
Male and female bighorn sheep apparently unite during the rutting season, but the rest of the year the males stick together and homosexuality flourishes. “The females are boring. Only the males do it,” says Brockman. Insects, spiders, molluscs, crustaceans — they’re all at it. There is an 1896 sketch of two male scarab beetles enjoying each other. There are even gay gutworms; we know that, Brockman says, because “ they have sex organs and since they are translucent, it’s easy to find out what sex they are”.