Animals mate in some unusual ways. Plants, too, reproduce by seducing pollinators to do their sexual bidding.
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Passing on the genes to future generations is the name of the game in biology. Animals—plants, too—“do it” in wild, bizarre ways. With both a vagina and a penis, hermaphroditic snails form orgiastic daisy chains. In the ultimate form of togetherness, walking sticks (insects, not skinny people) stay locked in copulo up to 79 days! Some reef fishes change sex—male to female or vice versa, depending on whether their social structure is headed by a dominant male or a dominant female. Pygmy chimpanzees called bonobos use sex to greet each other: male-male, female-female, male-female, young old—nothing is off limits to these animals with whom we share 96 percent of our DNA. Among bonobos, sex helps to keep the peace. Plants also have sexual lives but for them, three is not a crowd; it’s a necessity. Plants trick and seduce a variety of animals to do their sexual bidding by carrying the plant’s sperm—the pollen—to fertilize the female part of another blossom. Avocados and orchids, no less than mammals and insects, are genetically programmed to reproduce.
If Freud had known more about the birds and bees, he might never have fantasized his theory of penis envy. In fact, a lot of theories about what sex is or ought to be might be vastly different if they were more firmly grounded in biology than in romance. The truth is: What passes for the story of the birds and the bees is a bedtime tale for innocents that leaves out more than it tells. In the reality of the wild, birds, bees, butterflies, snails—even orchids and avocados—“do it” in ways that would make the erotic Hindu sculptures at Konarak blush all the way down to their stone toenails. A tableau of nonhuman sexual strategies includes cannibals, transvestites, hermaphrodites, homosexual rapists, males with two penises, and plants that deceive, seduce, and kill. When it comes to mixing genes—and biologically, that’s what sex is all about—anything and everything goes.