Ah the Smithsonian, that age-old institution of science and reason. With an untouchable reputation for knowledge on all things natural, it’s only to be expected that within the pages of its publications you can discover anything you need to know about the natural world. As it happens, what we want to know today, is this: what are the weirdest sex facts the Smithsonian has ever published?
I took it upon myself to find out. Here are five weird sex facts from the Smithsonian.
Hot To Trot
Guess how a male giraffe detects if a female is in heat. Go on, guess. That’s right, he gives her a mixtape and a romantic massage. That’s not true. He tastes her pee.
Giraffes undergo cycles of fertility just like humans do, and to test a female’s receptiveness to reproduction, the male will sip her pee to check its hormones. It is, according to the Smithsonian, the fastest way to ensure the male doesn’t waste time trying to seduce a female who’s not likely to conceive if they have sex. It’s entirely consensual too: it’s encouraged by the female, who will select a suitor and allow him to taste direct from the source – giraffe pregnancies are 15 months long after all, so it’s quite the commitment.
You might not think it to look at the frankly adorable antechinus, but it’s quite the lover. For around three weeks in early spring, the Australian outback is awash with the raw, unharnessed power of the male antechinus’ sexuality. The indefatigable male can have sex for up to fourteen straight hours, and each male will screw everything around it as many times as possible until its fur falls off and it fucking dies.
I swear I’m not making this up. According to the Smithsonian, “suicidal reproduction might sound absurd, but vigorous, organ-shredding sex is the antechinus males’ way of outcompeting each other in the reproductive race to father the most young. The more sperm a male churns out, the more successful he’ll be. A sexual sprint to the death is the antechinus’ one shot at passing on his genes, and he puts every second of it to good use.”
Good In Bedbug
From suicidal reproduction, to traumatic insemination. That’s the name given to the decidedly stabby mating process of bedbugs. Look, I never thought I’d find myself at a place in my career when I would have to offer content warnings in an article about bedbugs mating, but consider yourself warned: when a male bedbug is ready to reproduce, he mounts a recently fed female and stabs her in the abdomen with his needly dick and ejaculates into the wound. Yeesh.
It bypasses the perfectly serviceable female reproductive tract, which is only used for birthing eggs. The encounter is, according to the Smithsonian, “violent”, and the female can sometimes protect herself by curling up and making herself impenetrable, and by recovering at superhuman speeds. Everything I just wrote is crazy.
Who’d have thought a cave-dwelling species of flea-sized lice would be so politically progressive? Neotralga barklice are most noticeable for their gender-convention-shattering sexual roles, in which the female carries penis-like organs called gynosomes which are used to penetrate the vagina-like genitals of the male. In your FACE, conservative sexual politics.
During sex, which can last up to 70 hours, the female’s gynosome will siphon sperm from the male’s body. The sperm is highly nutritious, and will provide all the nutrients the female needs to survive the days-long intercourse. This paragraph feels is the filthiest thing I’ve ever written.
Angling For A Compliment
The image you have of an anglerfish, with it’s long, glowing bauble hanging over terrifying jaws of doom, is the female. The male anglerfish is somewhat less spectacular. In fact, by comparison, the male is boring. Barely more than a tiny sack full of sperm.
Male anglerfish don’t even bother with eyes. They sniff and sense their way around the water to fulfil one single, pathetic life goal: to find a mate, deliver its sperm, and die. They’re so poorly developed that most don’t even have a working digestive tract. 99% of them won’t even get to fulfill that single ambition: the vast, vast majority drift and die alone and sexless in the void, and those handful that get lucky? Well, I’m not sure ‘lucky’ is the right word.
To quote the Smithsonian, “Once a male locates a female, he’ll press his mouth to her flank and begin to disintegrate, fusing the pair’s flesh together. The male’s organs melt away until all that remains is little more than a pair of testes with gills. Some females can carry upwards of six males on their bodies at once, dipping into their sperm at will.”
Can we just address the sentence, “he’ll press his mouth to her flank and BEGIN TO DISENTEGRATE!?” Jeez nature, the hell is your problem?