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Birds Do It! Bees Do It!
Even Educated Fleas Do It!

Sexually Indiscriminate
Mounting Among Animals

By Jesse Monteagudo

bonobo1.jpg - 24.68 K Among the variety of tropical fish that Michael and I keep in our fresh water tank are a pair of African water frogs, tiny frogs who live their entire lives under water. Most of the time the frogs are shy and retiring, hiding under a rock or behind a plant.

However, two weeks ago we were surprised to discover one tiny frog on top of the other, humping away like there was no tomorrow. Though Michael and I dismissed the incident as a once-in-a-lifetime event, a week later we caught the two frogs at it again, in front of God, the fishes, and the two of us. Will we be hearing the pitter-patter of little tadpoles anytime soon?

Actually, we don't know the frogs' gender--it's hard to tell with underwater animals who are no more than an inch long - so we can pretend that the two are a gay--or lesbian --couple.

In any case, this type of voyeurism on our part is not strange, because animal sexual behavior has always fascinated humans. In fact, it is a staple of documentary "nature" shows, shown on television stations that wouldn't dream of showing human sexual activity. Though most sexual activity among "lower" species is heterosexual, same-sex behavior is not unknown.

Few things are more controversial than the concept of homosexual behavior among animals. Antigay moralists use the "lack" of same-sex behavior in nonhuman species as proof that homosexuality is "against nature".

Related Stories from the GayToday Archive:
Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape

Chimpanzee Conspiracy

Bonobo Chimps Enjoy Same-Sex Love, Equality & Peace

Related Sites:
Love Duet of African Clawed Frogs
GayToday does not endorse related sites.

Even when faced with evidence to the contrary, they try to explain it away as means of establishing aggression, dominance or some other "nonsexual" purpose, as Arno Karlen did in his classic study Sexuality and Homosexuality (1971). In any case, when it comes to animals, bigots try to have it both ways.

As Ward Houser, writing in The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, put it, "In statements by contemporary antihomosexual propagandists, it is revealing that they will sometimes first insist that homosexuality must be unnatural, since 'even the lowest animals don't do it,' and then when confronted with ethological evidence to the contrary exclaim with outrage that same-sex relations drag man down to the subhuman level, 'behaving like a filthy swine.'"

Cases of male homosexual or lesbian behavior in nonhuman species can fill a book. During the 1970s, news stories about "lesbian sea gulls", who shared nests with other hens, caused a sensation and inspired a song by the gay singer-songwriter Tom Wilson Weinberg. In "Zoology", an article in Steve Hogan and Lee Hudson's Completely Queer: The Gay and Lesbian Encyclopedia, we read that "same-sex mating behavior and affectional bonding have been observed in a wide variety of vertebrates":

gulls1.jpg - 41.72 K Two gulls in love? "Female western gulls sometimes pair off for several years and mount each other while incubating eggs. Similar behaviors have been documented among female sage grouse, male mallard ducks, and female and male greylag geese and turkeys.

"Sexually indiscriminate mounting is so common among domestic animals like cows, pigs, and sheep that it has inspired techniques for obtaining sperm for artificial insemination.

One study of pigs found boar "couples" who continued to mate with each other even when placed among sexually responsive sows. Among dogs, young male basenjis not uncommonly mount strange males to the point of ejaculation."

According to Houser, again writing in The Encyclopedia of Homosexuality,

"Controlled reports of 'lesbian' behavior among birds, in which two females share the responsibilities of a single nest, have existed since 1885. Mounting behavior has been observed among male lizards, monkeys, and mountain goats.

"In some cases one male bests the other in combat, and then mounts his fellow, engaging in penile thrusts - through rarely with intromission. In other instances, a submissive male will 'present' to a dominant one, by exhibiting his buttocks in a receptive manner. Mutual masturbation and fellatio have been observed among male stump-tailed macaques. During oestrus female rhesus monkeys engage in mutual full-body rubbing."

According to Out in All Directions: The Almanac of Gay and Lesbian America, same-sex behavior has been documented in all kinds of animal species. In addition to birds, bees and "educated" fleas, they include antelope, bugs, butterflies, cats, cattle, cockroaches, crickets, dogs, dolphins, donkeys, elephants, flies, geckos, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses, hyenas, lions, martens, mice, moths, octopi, orcas, porcupines, rabbits, raccoons, rats and wasps.

bonobo3.jpg - 22.64 K According to Completely Queer, "researchers ... have reported high rates of same-sex activity among female bonobos (a subspecies of chimpanzee). Some female bonobos, according to primatologist Linda M. Wolfe, remain 'exclusively homosexual' their entire lives. Same-sex eroticism is also well documented for langurs and Japanese macques."

Some animals have long been associated with homosexuality. According to the late John Boswell, in his award-winning Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality, the First Century Epistle of Barnabas warned the faithful to "not eat the hare . . . [s]o that . . . you may not become a boy-molester or be made like these. For the hare grows a new anal opening each year, so that however many years he has lived, he has that many anuses."

However such a notion originated, it was clearly not based on scientific fact. On the other hand, the phrase "gay as a goose" seems to be based on sounder evidence. According to Ward Houser, "In the 1970s the well-publicized reports of the German ethologist Konrad Lorenz drew attention to male-male pair bonds in greylag geese." And if Konrad Lorenz says so, it's good enough for me.

As the story of the hare makes clear, it is dangerous to impose "human" behavior on other species. Houser himself warns us "not to elide differences" between human and animal sexual behavior in discussing the latter. However, if something looks, walks and talks like a gay duck, then we have a gay duck. Which brings us to a fascinating case of homosexual - and rapist! - ducks, as chronicled by Charles Panati in Sexy Origins and Intimate Things (a fascinating book, one highly recommended):

"Male ducks can be veritable sex maniacs in the spring. Though some males and females 'marry' and remain monogamous, other males remain bachelors and rape other males' 'wives.' Married females will go to great lengths to hide from marauding bachelors, concealing themselves for an entire day in high grass. Bands of three or four bachelors will seek out a hiding female and take turns raping her.

ducks1.jpg - 3.38 K A cruising duck If they can't find a female, the more aggressive males will mount the least aggressive male of the group. It is not uncommon for two bachelors to hold down a third while he's mounted by another male. Homosexuality is not at all uncommon among ducks - or geese, for that matter."

Happily most same-sex behavior is not so aggressive. Take, for example, this case of domestic bliss on the part of that most "gay" of birds, the flamingo, courtesy of Out in All Directions: The Almanac of Gay and Lesbian America:

"In 1994, two male flamingos in the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands got the nesting urge and set up a same-sex co-habitation. After the two repeatedly sought to steal eggs from female flamingos to hatch them as their own, the zookeepers decided to provide them with a fertilized egg. The proud parents successfully hatched their own little chick, and remained faithfully by the side of the baby flamingo for a while. However, six months later, one of the two gay birds turned straight and found a female mate."

A piece by award-winning gay journalist Rex Wockner, reprinted in Out in All Directions, tells us that "Eight percent of the male sheep at the United States Department of Agriculture's Sheep Experimental Station in Dubois, Idaho, are gay:

"'These animals are homosexual. They are responding physically to how they are,' explained Anne Perkins, a doctoral student at the station who is completing her dissertation on 'Reproductive Behavior in Rams.' ...

The gay sheep, like some gay men, practice anal intercourse, according to Perkins, although some achieve orgasm simply by rubbing their penis around another male sheep's tail.

There is, however, a serious social problem currently in gay sheep culture in that most gay sheep, Perkins said, only want to be on top. [Editorial comment: This is obviously opposite the dilemma that often faces gay men.]

'The difficulty for homosexual sheep is that it's difficult to find another male who will stand still,' Perkins explained. 'If there is a ram that is hurt or caught in a fence, then they can mount him, but otherwise there are so few receivers that it becomes difficult for homosexuals to express themselves.'

Lesbian sheep, meanwhile, are apparently wrestling with a major 'invisibility' problem in the gay sheep world, a difficulty that has plagued human lesbians too.

'It's very difficult to look at the possibility of lesbian sheep,' Perkins explained, 'because if you are a female sheep, what you do to solicit sex is stand still. You don't mount. So it's very rare that a female sheep would mount another female sheep.'

'Maybe there is a female sheep out there really wanting another female,' Perkins speculated, 'but there's just no way for us to know it.'"

As all these examples show, male homosexual and lesbian behavior predate the human species and is common throughout the animal world. Perhaps some day a lucky anthropologist will find evidence of same-sex behavior among our pre-human ancestors: a Neanderthal dragging another male by his long hair or two Cro-Magnon females bonding with one another. Science awaits such discoveries, and so do I.

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