Like many of the behaviors described by Eliot Schrefer Queer Ducks (and other animals): the natural world of animal sexuality, his book is difficult to classify. Is it a science book? A memoir for homosexual kids? A university thesis illustrated with Far Side comics?
It is definitely not a traditional science textbook. “Traditions,” writes Schrefer, “are just peer pressure from dead people. We can create new ones on our own. “
Related: 5 Things You Should Absolutely Bring to Pride
So what is it?
First of all, don’t judge the book by its cover, which teases you in the colors of the Skittles rainbow by saying the topic is LGBTQ. It is, but inside it’s as monochromatic as a 1979 newspaper.
Jules Zuckerberg’s comics are reminiscent of Gary Larson’s chattering animals and interrupt chapters on different species. Interviews with young working scientists describe how and why science is collected and by whom. And in all, Schrefer adds a personal context to his diverse subjects.
“I was about eleven when I started focusing on Fruit of the Loom commercials in my brother’s Rolling Stone and realized I was attracted to other guys.”
This doesn’t sound like a traditional scientist’s musings, and Schrefer isn’t. With a BA in literature from Harvard, he’s first a writer, primarily of fiction for young adults, which helps explain his fluency in a book aimed at teenagers. But he is also queer and is part of the Masters in Animal Studies at New York University, where he learned this academic truth: “Science is made by scientists and the way they think about the natural world is reflected in their explanations.”
In other words, those involved in science, and in matters of animal sexuality, science, until recently, has failed. Weird ducksIt turns out, it’s as much a story of human sexuality, homophobia, and confirmatory bias as it is a study of those queer ducks.
Schrefer writes: “The ‘scientific truth’ about animal sexuality depends on whether the writer continues to regard animals as sacredly heterosexual, in what we might call Noah’s version of life, or whether they allow themselves to be informed by the evidence undeniable sexual behavior between people of the same sex “.
And there is a lot of evidence.
“In 1999, researcher Bruce Bagemihl published his comprehensive, meticulously researched Biological exuberance: animal homosexuality and natural diversity, and in subsequent years, species after species, in the worlds of vertebrates and even invertebrates, research has shown homosexual matings in hundreds of animal species. And not just occasional connections, sometimes lifelong collaborations between animals of the same sex “.
Schrefer focuses on different species to illustrate particular behaviors in chapters such as “Ducks and geese: what is the position of animals on polyamory?” “Bonobo: Do we learn homosexuality or heterosexuality, or do we just unlearn bisexuality?” “Albatros: Does Sexuality Require Sex?” “Deer: Are there any trans animals?” And “Tori: What could be more manly than sex between a couple of males?” (Apparently, nothing turns a bull more on while being masturbated than being watched by another bull.)
There is a theory behind most of these behaviors. “Polyamory, the bonding of three or more animals, instead of two conventional ones, can expand the effective parent pool, increasing the survival of the offspring. There is also a theory known as “bisexual advantage”, coming from data showing that fluid sexuality increases the chances of reproduction in a population, making bisexuality “a very good evolutionary”.
For some sexual behaviors in some animals, such as humans, there is no scientific explanation. At the end of the 19th century, the French entomologist Henri Gadeau de Kerville “distinguished between scribbles that are prompted to have same-sex sex by the lack of females, and those that simply. . . like (‘pédérastie par gotta’). “
How some humans like it. Or not.
“There was a particular flowering in the families of women and women in New England in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so much so that the term ‘Boston marriage’ has come to describe women who live together and spend the life together, regardless of whether the marriage was sexual or not, ”Schrefer said LGBTQ nation.
Like your “old maid” aunts, nearly a third of albatross matings are female-female. Are they just “doing the best of a bad job”?
“There is a strong push to explain female mating particularly in the scientific literature,” said Schrefer, “by reducing it to ‘getting along’ rather than considering it a chosen marriage.”
Schefer points out that many societies have made same-sex matings a fact.
“A significant historical study of all known human societies throughout history found that 64 percent approved or embraced same-sex sexual behavior. A particularly large number of homosexual relationships are found in seventeenth-century feudal Japan, the Maya civilization, fifteenth-century Florence and indigenous peoples of North and South America. “
And in Greece: “As they got older, men generally went from passive eromenus to active delete. As Diogenes Laërtius wrote of the desirable Alcibiades, an Athenian general, ‘in his adolescence he snatched husbands from their wives, and as a young man the wives from their husbands’ ”.
Like the dolphins, Greek society was based on social bonds cemented through the male-male sex.
“Sex”, writes Schrefer, “is a social glue”.
So who is writing the science now? Schrefer interviews several young, mostly LGBTQ wildlife scientists, including Sidney Woodruff, a PhD researcher.
“I think sometimes as queer researchers,” Woodruff says, “in our lives, we hope to disprove heteronormative hypotheses, but we can also perpetuate those same hypotheses within our research. As if I had to keep in mind that if I am researching species. about sex and wildlife, I wish it was a certain way because of my gender and sexual identity. We have a lot of power, but in our quest to find inaccuracies in previous research, we need to make sure we are also humble enough to know that we don’t we will always get the answer we want.
It seems the science is in good hands.