The Weird, Prehensile-Penised World of Dolphin Sex

10/11/2012 10:30 AM |

Dont look down.

  • Don’t look down.

Dolphins are very sexual animals. They’ll have sex with each other for non-reproductive purposes. The lore is that they’ll try and hump humans at those “dolphins encounters” things. Oh, and they have prehensile penises. Which, think about it: dolphins mate front-to-front. How is a dolphin supposed to grab another dolphin long enough to get in there?

People say some very dark things about dolphin sex: that male dolphins will kill dolphin babies to make dolphin moms want to mate, that they’ll isolate a female and keep her from food until she mates with them. Some dolphin sexual encounters are violent. If dolphins were people, they would not be cool people. But dolphins aren’t people, so it seems odd to impose human values on them.

They seem to use sex as an important part of their group life. Dolphins have sex to bond emotionally, and if the dolphin lovers are into each other, there is often nuzzling and foreplay and all of that. Maybe it’s just what having a little water snake coming out your front will do to you.

I will leave you with this snippet of an essay by Erik Vance at Last Word on Nothing that is DEFINITELY worth reading all of, about a job observing dolphins at Marine World:

So we set to work. The tank I was watching was populated by four adolescent males: Avalon, Norman, Brisbee, and Liberty. It started the first day, just after feeding. The boys were tumbling around, wrestling and nipping at each other when suddenly, what can only be described as a cross between a pink cigar and the baby creature from Alien emerged from Avalon’s pelvis.

It turns out that dolphins, while highly intelligent, are somewhat deficient in the “passionately embracing their lover” department. To overcome this, they have evolved to have a prehensile penis (like a monkey’s tail) that rests below a flap of skin until needed. If a male is lucky enough to persuade a female to give him the time of day, he uses it to not only inseminate, but also hold on.

For those who have never spent time with dolphins, it’s important to know that they have sex a lot. Really a lot. Like many adolescents, the four boys were very excited about their groping little Laffy Taffys. It didn’t matter that there were no females in the tank, the boys would just play with each other (or inanimate objects, or really anything they can find). This is common in the wild as well and some behaviorists have suggested that sexual play for dolphins is a way to create bonds with a partner who will then help you cruise for females.

If that is true, Norman must have been a helluva wing man because he was almost always the target of the other three’s attention. Oftentimes we scientists would work in pairs, one watching, one writing. At the appearance of the little bubble gum cigar, the conversation would go like this.

“Okay, it looks like we have some sexual contact.”

“Time check?”

“Forty-five minutes, twenty seconds.”

“Who’s receiving?”

“Who do you think?”