Book review: Sex On Earth by Jules Howard
Sex on Earth is a fun romp that is hard to put down. Accurate but not academic, Howard surveys the animal kingdom for what is weird, wild, and, ultimately, normal. You’ll come away with a renewed sense that, whatever your sex life looks like, it’s pretty darned boring.
He includes most of the standbys. Things like shovel-shaped appendages used by male dragonflies to scape away sperm deposited in females from previous matings. Or rape-like duck coitus where females reshape their vaginas to accept particular sperm only from males with the brightest beaks. Along with these standards, there’s a lot here for even an old biologist to learn: I didn’t know that some reptiles perform a kind of pre-coital masturbation to speed things up. Seems that they don’t like taking their time on the sidewalk doing it while hungry hawks scan the ground from overhead.
I like that he explores the entire animal kingdom – hence the name – from sex-crazed protozoa to whale penis bones. I like, too, that aside from simple voyeurism, Howard delves into reproduction and posits evolutionary explanations for all manner of acts and behaviors.
He writes well, and the book is an easy read. There is plenty of stuff here to keep biologists interested, but the popular press is his real audience. I would have given plenty for this book when I was fourteen. And then drove my bio teacher bonkers with my hilarious comments in class.
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