Mechanics of sex
Japanese macaques are lesbians.
Goats engage in oral sex.
But this isn’t a column about sex in the animal kingdom, though that could be a topic for a later column.
No, this one is about the amazing book I’ve just finished reading called How Sex Works by Dr. Sharon Moalem. Released earlier this year, Dr. Moalem’s book uses several examples of animal sexual behaviour to illustrate why humans do the things they do.
According to Dr. Moalem, homosexuality is prevalent in many species, not just humans — although you won’t find too many textbooks or schools teaching you that fact.
Evolution drives humans to have sex and reproduce. Homosexual couples can’t reproduce, so why do humans and animals engage in homosexual activity?
Dr. Moalem highlights different theories and various studies that have been done, to explain homosexuality and why it isn’t an anomaly or just nurture vs. nature.
In the most technical chapter, the good doctor explains DSD, or disorders of sexual development. These are defined by people who are not the gender they appear to be.
Before you rush to label them hermaphrodites, know that that term is completely incorrect. Hermaphrodites are people with both ovarian and testicular tissue, which is extremely rare.
Males and females born with ambiguous or underdeveloped genitalia are more common and encounter all sorts of difficulties regarding diagnosis and treatment for their disorder. It’s enlightening in light of the recent controversy surrounding the South African athlete, Caster Semenya, and her failing her gender test.
The most sobering chapter in this book had to be “Tainted Love.” While the literature is out there explaining every STI and why it is so important to protect yourself, Dr. Moalem explains it well, clearly stating how easy it is for anyone, regardless of sex, age or ethnicity to be infected.
It was also very interesting to read her perspective and the opinions of others on human papillomavirus. While many of us are aware of HPV in light of the recent vaccine and awareness campaign, it was a shock to learn it is the most common STI but the least known.
Have you seen those syphilis ads around campus and across the city? Featuring two hot Calgarians and some fancy fonts. Its message is important because no one in their right mind would want to ignore having syphilis.
Dr. Moalem explains the history of the disease and how important it is to protect oneself and be tested. Herpes is another one you want to watch out for. That herpes virus is one tough bugger.
Don’t hesitate to pick up this book even if you’re thinking this might not be the entertaining read you’re looking for. Even in learning about chromosomes, I’ve had difficulties reading this book for the same reasons as reading studies on orgasms.
I’ve wanted to have sex this whole week. Which is normal but the book didn’t help. It’s like intelligent porn.
The book begins by first explaining female puberty and then male puberty, though the main focus is on penises. In one of the most cringe-worthy passages of the book it explains how you can fracture your penis (don’t masturbate with a vacuum please).
The book covers attraction: what we’re attracted to and why. It explains how smell plays such a huge factor and why, especially for females. It also discusses how homosexual men and women smell differently than heterosexuals.
The book touches on how when women are ovulating they are more likely to dress attractively and look for more than one partner, generally one who fits the tall, dark and handsome stereotype.
According to Dr. Moalem, women will choose a partner who may not fit that bill as a long-term partner but when it comes to reproducing, women want the most masculine candidate out there.
And while our current obsession seems to be stick-thin women, men don’t want to reproduce with them because it’s the curvaceous ones who are more fertile and better able to carry children.
While this book explains all those biological and evolutionary reasons why we do what we do, the most important thing to remember is that we have a choice. But in order to make the best choice it’s important to have an understanding of why our bodies work the way they do. So get in the know and start reading.