Animal Homosexuality

As Bagemihl (1999) points out, zoologists and ethologists have often been reluctant to label animal behaviors as "homosexual." Often these activities are listed as dominance/submissive gestures or "mock" courtships, even though the same behavior with a heterosexual couple would have been called sex. Bagemihl suggests that this reluctance sometimes stems from negative attitudes toward human homosexuality, but in part it may also reflect a recognition that human behavior simply is not the same as animal behavior.

When comparing different species it is important to distinguish "analogous" from "homologous" behaviors. Analogous behaviors may appear similar but are phylo-genetically unrelated, while homologous behaviors are similar because they share an evolutionary past. When a bedbug forcibly deposits his own sperm in the sperm ducts of another bedbug, he helps pass along his own genes whenever his victim copulates with a female. Although scientists might label this behavior "homosexual rape," it really has nothing to do with human sexuality (Sommer, 1990). On the other hand, when a male gorilla mounts another male and ejaculates in his anus (Bagemihl, 1999), this behavior is more likely to be homologous to human homosexuality. Whether we decide to call the gorilla's behavior "homosexuality"

is less important than recognizing that it is similar enough to human same-sex behavior for us to postulate an evolutionary connection.

Many primate behaviors might be homologous to human same-sex sexuality. Examples might include the male-male mounting, with anal penetration but no apparent ejaculation, of stump-tailed macaques and squirrel monkeys, or perhaps the simple mounts without penetration so common in langurs, pig-tailed macaques, baboons, orangutans, chimpanzees, and bonobos—or the mutual masturbation and fellatio reported among stump-tailed macaques—or the genital-genital contacts of female bonobos and male gibbons (Bagemihl, 1999; Werner, 1998). If we classify these behaviors as homologous with human homosexuality, why not include the sniffing and inspecting of another male's anogenital region among stump-tailed macaques, or the displaying of erections among vervet macaques or baboons, or the deposition of urine drops on subordinate males among squirrel monkeys? Could the preference of some rhesus monkeys for homosexual partners indicate primate homologs for "pathics" (Werner, 1998)?

Deciding these questions requires theory-driven comparisons of different primates, but our growing knowledge of homosexual-like behaviors among primates has revealed such complexity that some researchers seem to think that we should eschew all attempts at explanation and simply appreciate all the glorious exuberance of nature (Bagemihl, 1999).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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