walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

why you should read books to keep up with the "news"


I'm not done reading it yet -- it is really good -- but this is an article in the NYT Magazine about animal co-parenting and/or sex that is not male-female. Apparently, some of those papers that would previously have seen the light of day only in a book like Bagemihl's _Biological Exuberance_ are finally getting published in peer reviewed journals, mostly because some nerdy women took the time and trouble to sex an entire colony of Laysan albatrosses and discovered that a third of them were f/f. They did this because they were trying to explain why some of these pairs were producing nests with two eggs year after year, when this kind of bird apparently only ever lays one egg a year. Period.

Of course, none of this would be particularly surprising to anyone who read Bagemihl's book when it was published. In 1999 (paperback in 2000). Well, maybe the part where it is only _now_ in 2010, okay to publish a paper where you describe what you are observing animals doing without going through ridiculous gyrations to pretend it's something else entirely.

In the course of trying to explain why people had so much trouble with this idea (what, homophobia is inadequate?), the author is describing evolutionary theory (oh, and believe me, Darwin's theories about reproduction are so far beyond whack it is difficult to convey). This gem popped up:

[quote begins here]The Yale ornithologist Richard Prum told me: “Our field is a lot like economics: we have a core of theory, like free-market theory, where we have the invisible hand of the market creating order — all commodities attain exactly the price they’re worth. Homosexuality is a tough case, because it appears to violate that central tenet, that all of sexual behavior is about reproduction. The question is, why would anyone invest in sexual behavior that isn’t reproductive?”[quote ends here]

Why would anyone invest in sexual behavior that isn't reproductive? You have to ask? I mean, it's not like our entire culture is saturated in sexual behavior that is profoundly _not_ reproductive. [ <-- Sarcasm.]

ETA: Okay, maybe it's not a good article. On the next page:

[quote begins here]Given this big umbrella of theory, the very existence of homosexual behavior in animals can feel a little like impenetrable nonsense, something a researcher could spend years banging his or her head against the wall deliberating. The difficulty of that challenge, more than any implicit or explicit homophobia, may be why past biologists skirted the subject.[quote ends here]

I give it to you straight (har de har har): Darwin's theory of reproduction is homophobic and heterosexist. Period. Anyone operating under the assumption that Darwin's theory of reproduction is somehow neutral is displaying bias and enacting homophobia and heterosexism, also, exploiting heterosexist privilege and, generally, behaving badly.

The rest of the article looks like a lot of effort to shoehorn what people are seeing into Darwin's creepily limited idea of how reproduction works. Depressing.

ETAYA: After concluding, not unreasonably, that a single unifying explanation for homosexual behavior in animals (and honestly? That's not even the interesting issue here, but all the trans stuff is way past what these people can cope with ADDED LATER: Vasey works with third gender people in Samoa, so my comment was really unfair) is not happening, Vasey goes on to say: "The point of heterosexual sex, Vasey said, no matter what kind of animal is doing it, is primarily reproduction." *head desk* Metaphorically, of course. I'm sitting in the Dutailier with my computer in my lap. There is no handy desk. Worse, Vasey is not here to practice finger locks on, which would be infinitely better. We are animals. Some of us have heterosexual sex. A lot of that heterosexual sex is primarily about _NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT_ reproducing.

Fucking idiot.

ETA one more time: *sigh* And Vasey is gay. How can he _say_ crap like that?
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