Weird Animal Sex

I love all creatures, and I'm entranced by the diversity of how animals and insects look, act and reproduce. Two interesting stories popped up for me today, so I thought I'd share.

14971280454_8943eb3ccd_mFirst is an aquatic flatworm that can fertilize itself -- by injecting sperm into its own head. According to James Gerken of the Huffington Post,

Macrostomum hystrix, a transparent, aquatic, hermaphroditic flatworm, has a "needle-like" reproductive organ it uses to inject sperm into the body of its mate. But it can also stab its own head and self-fertilize. These creatures are simple enough that the sperm can be injected anywhere in the body and reach the eggs.

Steven A. Ramm, lead author of the paper on this, told The Guardian, "To us, it sounds very gruesome."

Must be something wrong with me, because I just thought, "Cool!"

Photo of Macrostomum hystrix from  Lukas Schärer 


Next up is the bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps), a popular pet among reptile enthusiasts -- and I am one. Whether a bearded dragon egg turns into a male or female may be determined after the egg is laid -- not by genetics but by the ambient temperatures in which the egg is incubated.

"There are lots of girls running around out there that are genetically male," one scientist told Kerry Grens of The Scientist.

Nature is weird, so no wonder we humans are, too.

Men May Be Chemically Wired to Avoid Adultery with Friends' Wives

4937497680_da787d80b4_mA University of Missouri study found that the testosterone levels of men dropped when they interacted with the wife of a close friend.

What does this mean? Testosterone is the chemical of sexual desire and aggression in both men and women. Men's T-levels tend to rise when they're around a potential sex partner -- as well as when they're around the mate of their enemy. Interesting, no?

Extrapolating, the researchers think that this mechanism may have evolved to help social cooperation in villages. According to the press release, Lead researcher Mark Flinn says, "… our findings suggest that men's minds have evolved to foster a situation where the stable pair bonds of friends are respected. … Ultimately, our findings about testosterone levels illuminate how people have evolved to form alliances. Using that biological understanding of human nature, we can look for ways to solve global problems."

The study "Hormonal Mechanisms for Regulation of Aggression in Human Coalitions" was published in the journal Human Nature. Co-authors were Davide Ponzi of MU's Division of Biological Sciences in the College of Arts and Science and Michael Muehlenbein of Indiana University.

PHOTO: Steve Roades

Testosterone for Female Orgasm: Phase II Trials

Trimel says it's had favorable results from trial of TBS-2 to treat female anorgasmia. The testosterone product is a low-dose gel you place inside the nose to increase libido.

Trimel will also discuss CompleoTRT, a similar product for men, designed to treat  low testosterone,  at a conference on February 14 in Toronto.

Using Trimel's testosterone delivery system, you place a small amount of gel inside the nose, where it's absorbed and goes into the blood stream. 

According to the company, when used on women to treat lack of orgasm, "The Phase I/II study further demonstrated positive physiological effects related to orgasm with a physical response seen within 30 minutes of dosing."

Here's a video showing how the gel delivery system works:



Compleo TRT from Trimel Pharmaceuticals on Vimeo.

Charm: Art or Oxytocin?

In this Pickup Podcast, I talked with Jordan Harbinger @AJandJordan from The Art of Charm about the chemistry of attraction. I am not only fascinated by pickup, I also think it's really good information about how human beings relate socially.

Here's the link:

What do you think? Is pickup manipulative and evil?

Picking Up Girls Using Embarrassing Items

Men: Women are not as mysterious, delicate or cautious as you think. Jesse, Jason and Kong from Simple Pickup  prove that women are as interested in sex as men are.

They took to the streets of San Francisco with a box of awkward items: packages of tampons, a used tampon, anal beads, a vibrating dildo and a transexual porn magazine -- and a used condom.

"Why are you holding a porno mag? What is that?" one asks.

"To beat off to," the man responds. "Why else would I be holding it?"

Do the women they approach shriek in disgust? Do they run away? Do they pour contempt on these men? Not at all. Watch sweet young college girls laugh, stay curious and engaged, and even direct a man to the nearest restroom so he can masturbate. (Video is embedded at bottom of this post.)

They also give their phone numbers -- although @SimplePickup doesn't let us know how many of those numbers are real.

There's a lot men can learn from this:

Jesse, Jason and Kong take what I would call a wholesome approach, even as they dangle anal beads and wave porn in women's faces. They're unapologetic and make it clear they're having fun. They're not ashamed of their interest, and therefore, they give the women permission to be curious and have fun with sexual content, as well.

Given this kind of permission and invitation, women will respond with their own sense of play. That sex drive is there in women, too. So, invite it out.


Clean Smut for Kids

Author Nicholson Baker's pornographic House of Holes is great reading for kids, says Elaine Blair in the New York Review of Books.

In the House of Holes alternate universe, men and women are full of desire and matter-of-fact about expressing even the most outlandish sex wishes. While the characters enthusiastically couple in the frictionless, athletic and exotic ways common in porn, what's different here, according to Blair is that, not only are all relations completely consensual; they are without shame or degradation.

Blair writes,

The book’s sex is never colored by real-world social relations. There are no chambermaids, whores, virgins, handymen, babysitters, bosses, nurses, teachers, teenagers, uncles, or incestuous couples at the House of Holes—none of the picturesque stock characters, in other words, whose corrupt authority or bashful submission or gleeful abjection lends such haunting piquancy to whatever pornographic stories they star in.

... having banished these troubling reprobates from his paradise, Baker can draw a magic circle of wholesomeness around sexual situations that we normally interpret as scenes of defilement.

Even though we may not buy into the concept of the female slut any more, Blair says, the concept still seems to creep into our relationships.

However, while today's adults, having grown up, most of us, under the shadow of the Scarlet S, can't approach Baker's material with the candor and joy his characters do, our kids could -- and should.

Blair says,

In the traditional sex talk, parents don’t say much about pleasure—presumably neither party wants to get into details. But wouldn’t it be nice for parents to have a way to convey our highest ideals on the subject? House of Holes will introduce impressionable readers to many interesting sexual possibilities without a whisper of stereotype or slur. You can be sure that no matter what scene your children are masturbating to, they are not objectifying women.

Love That Limbic Resonance

5875063116_5ec017c330_m The New York Times published a fascinating article about research monitoring the heart rates of villagers in San Pedro Manrique, Spain, as they watch the annual ritual of firewalking.


Each year, on June 25, they celebrate the summer solstice by walking barefoot across a 25-foot-long bed of burning embers, each carrying a relative or friend on the back. The researchers wanted to compare the heart rates of the firewalkers to those of spectators, hoping to uncover the physiological basis of community feeling. According to the article,


The heart rates of relatives and friends of the fire-walkers followed an almost identical pattern to the fire-walkers' rates, spiking and dropping almost in synchrony. The heart rates of visiting spectators did not. The relatives' rates synchronized throughout the event, which lasted 30 minutes, with 28 fire-walkers each making five-second walks. So relatives or friends' heart rates matched a fire-walker's rate before, during and after his walk. Even people related to other fire-walkers showed similar patterns.


... Said Michael Richardson, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Cincinnati, "It shows that being connected to someone is not just in the mind. There are these fundamental physiological behavioral moments that are occurring continuously with other people that we're not aware of."


Although we may not normally be aware of this connection, it's well-known as the state of limbic resonance. In limbic resonance, the bodies of two or more people harmonize: the breathing rate becomes similar, heart rates synch, physical postures and gestures may match. Because breath and heart rate are controlled by chemicals in the bloodstream and brain, it's also likely that people in resonance also synch up biochemically.


Limbic resonance is best known between mother and baby. In fact, a newborn's nervous system is not capable of regulating itself. A baby needs to be near a grown-up body in order to settle and soothe. This is why infants deprived of physical contact fail to thrive. The mother or primary caregiver actually guides the baby's nervous system as it tunes in to the mother's. This drive to synch with another person's nervous system remains with us throughout our lives.


Orgasmic meditation derives much of its power and pleasure from the state of limbic resonance. OM is an opportunity to experience another person's body and to sink into that state of physical unity in a direct and conscious way. In a larger OM circle, everyone in the room can come into resonance, even if they are not OMing.  


And, of course, orgasm is a reliable way to get oxytocin flowing through the bloodstream, where it triggers the relaxation response, improves healing, reduces pain and anxiety and generally tunes the body up. Sex seems to be "designed" to not only bring us closer but to make us healthier.


PHOTO: idontlikeribera

What Women Want

What do women want? Men may be surprised to know that it's difficult for us to figure that out ourselves, let alone express it to you.

It's easy for women to work on making themselves someone a man will want, but our own desires can get buried under all the accoutrements.

I took part in a discussion of this led by Nicole Daedone, founder of OneTaste. Here's a short video that distills the essence.


Are You a Man or a Monkey?

My (monogamous) mate brought home a copy of Sex at Dawn, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. The book has generated a lot of excitement, probably (I haven't read it yet) because it argues that humans, like other monkeys, are not monogamous. 

This is an ongoing argument, with many people pointing out that bonobos, the monkeys that are genetically closest to us, are enthusiastically polysexual. 

So I'll take this time to point out, once again, two things:

First: monkeys, schmonkeys. Throughout the animal kingdom, there are species that are similar in many ways but different in their reproductive strategies, cf. the (monogamous) prairie vole and it cousin, the (nonmonogamous) montane vole. This crucial difference seems to lie in the distribution of oxytocin and dopamine receptors in the part of the brain that handles social relationships. When both these receptors are present, it seems to reinforce the preference for sex with a particular individual.

Second: Even monogamous species are not completely sexually monogamous. Even the adorable little prairie vole is not averse to a bit of copulation outside the pair-bond. So, probably humans are designed to have one primary mate, whether or not that includes lifelong sexual exclusivity.

Why I bring this up (again) today: A study by Charles Snowdon of the University of Wisconsin found that mated cotton-topped tamarins with mutual high levels of oxytocin were more romantic.

Okay, that's gratuitous anthromorphosizing. What he found, according to the university's press office, was that males in a high-oxytocin pair got more sex, while the females got more cuddling, making them both happier:

In the current study, the partners seem to know what the other partner needed. "Males in a high-oxytocin relationship were more likely to initiate cuddling, and females were more likely to initiate sex," Snowdon says. "These males were initiating the behavior that the female needed for high oxytocin, and the females with high oxytocin were initiating the behavior that male partner needed for high oxytocin."

Snowdon says. "Here we have a nonhuman primate model that has to solve the same problems that we do: to stay together and maintain a monogamous relationship, to rear children, and oxytocin may be a mechanism they use to maintain the relationship. Therapeutically, I'd suggest this would have relevance to human couples."

Theoretically, at least ...