The XX Factor

Sex Among the Spineless

Samantha Henig just reported on the Museum of Sex exhibit on the Sex Lives of Animals. I like gay giraffes and well-endowed lady hyenas as much as the next person (OK, probably more), but the list struck me as shockingly mammal-biased. Vertebrates-and that includes non-fuzzy critters like fish-comprise a mere 5 percent of the world’s species. The spineless have kinky sex, too! Here’s a list of a few of my personal favorites:

- As I wrote on the original Oyster’s Garter blog, barnacles have the most impressive penises in the sea . A barnacle’s penis can be 8 times longer than the barnacle’s entire body. Barnacles are well-endowed because they’re cemented in place-in order to advance the species, they need to, um, “visit” their neighbors. (That’s also why barnacles are simultaneous hermaphrodites that both give and receive the glorious gift of crustacean life. Separate sexes wouldn’t work, since the only neighbor in reach could be the same sex.)

- Marine flatworms, also simultaneous hermaphrodites, fence with razor-sharp penises . Since they lack a female orifice, sex occurs when the loser gets stabbed right through their body wall. The technical term? Hypodermic impregnation. Some spiders do it too . Ow.

- From horrifying spiked beetle penises to earwig penises that occasionally snap right off in the midst of sex, insects have all kinds of bizarre sexual practices. But you don’t have to take my word for it-check out Season 1 of Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno series , where she dramatizes doin’ it as all kinds of bug.