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Evolutions Rainbow

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Jul. 5th, 2004 | 03:01 pm

I managed to pull myself away from my computer and get back to reading Evolution's Rainbow by Joan Roughgarden.

I'm glad I did.

I just finished the chapter 8: Same-Sex sexuality, in which she describes same-sex activities between a number of differing species and what possible roles same-sex sexuality might have.

The quick answer is that a number of species use same sex sexuality as a form of social communication. It ranges from indicating being non-threatening to a tool to build long lasting same sex friendships. Among the species with more complex society same sex sexuality can be used to cement coalitions for resource sharing or mutual protection.

For instance among the bonobos where same sex sexuality is common among females, the social standing of the two sexes is much more equal than the chimpanzees who have much less same sex activity.

Because same-sex matings can be as common as between-sex matings the geometry of the genitals may be shaped to promote same-sex contact as well as between-sex contact. In bonobos, females participate in same-sex sexuality by facing each other and rubbing their genitals side to side. In 1995 the distinguished primatologist Frans de Waal wrote, "The frontal orientation of the bonobo vulva and clitoris strongly suggest that the female genitalia are adapted for this [frontal] position." More explicitly, the noted behavioral ecologist Marlene Zuk wrote in 2000 that the bonobo clitoris is "frontally placed, perhaps because selection favored a position maximizing stimulation during the genital-genital rubbing common among females." ... From the standpoint of female reproduction, little is gained by placing the clitoral neurons near the vagina to further between-sex mating when males are well motivated for intercourse anyway. Instead, the pleasure neurons are shifted to a location that promotes same-sex mating and may yield more effective same-sex bonds, increasing overall Drawinian fitness at no reproductive cost. (pg 157-158)


*blink blink*

So if human and bonobo genitals are similarly placed, does that mean the human clitoris may be where it is as a way of actively encouraging sexual relationships between women--possibly as a way of building long lasting relationships?

Does this mean that human females evolved to be bisexual?

This can even be used to explain why lesbianism is so threatening to the patriarchy. Usually men are larger and stronger than women and thus can put themselves in power, however amongst the bonobos where females can use sex to build strong same-sex relationships they can form strong female coalitions and enforce a more equal society.

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Comments {4}

TroyToy

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from: troyworks
date: Jul. 5th, 2004 03:53 pm (UTC)
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after seeing a bugs video and struck by the differences in the huge female preying mantis, versus the tiny male (who if wrong in the courtship ends up being eaten) i was thinking about how complex our primate sexuality is. As you mentioned and that 9ur male/female speciese aren't purely stereotypical male= big/dominate etc, plus our courtship is so much more involved.

the other thing that was interesting is the lack of any society that bugs had at any stage in their development cycle.

"... From the standpoint of female reproduction, little is gained by placing the clitoral neurons near the vagina to further between-sex mating when males are well motivated for intercourse anyway."

the same case could be made for men as well, regardless i disagree, only having men interested isn't enough in a competitive environment. More sex = more chdren = higher percentage of those genes propogating. I can see such positioning being useful in either case in a noncompetitive role to form social bonds.

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Diane Trout

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from: alienghic
date: Jul. 6th, 2004 02:31 pm (UTC)
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Actually an important detail I picked up from this book is that once they came up with a mathematical model for fitness, it's actually based on total offspring that survive to reproduce.

So you can have the insect strategy of producing thousands of offspring who immediately start off competing with each other.

Alternatively a species can use a strategy where they take more care of offspring to increase their chances of survival.

An interesting example is that in our society a wealthy gay may couple that decides to have a child might actually have a higher fitness than a poorer heterosexual couple with more children, simply because of greater access to resources.

I also found this an interesting deviation from our cultural narrative as it can also emphasize how cooperation is also a valuable strategy. Since our culture is so focused on competition we only talk of the brutal struggle in nature,

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TroyToy

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from: troyworks
date: Jul. 6th, 2004 04:31 pm (UTC)
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insect strategy works because they have such short development and lives, and relatively simple behavior (rather they don't adapt much) and most mammals don't.

An interesting example is that in our society a wealthy gay may couple that decides to have a child might actually have a higher fitness than a poorer heterosexual couple with more children, simply because of greater access to resources.


may is the keyword there. I don't believe medical tech currently allows same sex to have biological children of their own, so from the persepctive of the fitness model they lose, though the species will win, provided that there is still sufficent genes/behaviors to replace the complimentary. At least in the US, having 8 children doesn't mean that there is less food as the family unit may be closer, and all add to the ability of the family to survive (children in many societies - including this one 100 years ago- start working as soon as they are able. Today social services or any adoption might also act in the similar cooperative fashion.

income does not necessarily translate into better or more children. Some wealthy people are so full with their own life that they choose not to have children, or spend little time with the child so they choose not to have children.

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I think the whole thing is reaching...

from: coolian
date: Jul. 5th, 2004 08:32 pm (UTC)
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It's an interesting theory, but it sounds like a bedtime story to me.

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