Photo by Javier Pardina via Stocksy
Throughout the animal kingdom, bird and beast alike are probably getting more sexual attention than you.
In honor of Valentine's Day, we're spending the week debunking myths and lies about romance. Read the rest of our "Love is a Hoax" coverage here.
"Homo sapiens have outgrown their use," sings David Bowie in 1971 classic "Oh! You Pretty Things." "You got to make way for the homo superior." Anyone who's ever received a "hey u up" text from a useless fuckboy at 4AM will probably agree.
All around us, in the animal kingdom, tiny birds and lumbering beasts put more effort into courtship and getting laid than your useless boyfriend. Birds soar across enormous oceans with fragile, breakable wings; beasts traverse unfathomably huge land masses, not eating for weeks or even months—all this, for a few minutes of copulation.
Unlike animals, humans mostly fuck for recreational reasons. Ours isn't the frantic sex of migratory birds, desperate to achieve immortality through the transfer of DNA. For the most part, humans don't think about death when fucking. Think about your own mortality mid-coitus, and you may end up having to thumb in a semi. As a result, humans don't make much effort to fuck, which is a shame. If we all thought about death more, we'd arguably have better sex. Anyway, I digress.
But are all men really half-assed homo inferiors who are too lazy even to fuck? In the interests of journalistic impartiality, I reached out to a few. "I don't really need to make much effort," responded my friend Luke. "It just happens."
Not all men are totally useless. Some are even capable of travelling great distances (or 84 miles to be precise) for sex. "I got a bus from Oxford to Cambridge once to have sex with my ex-girlfriend," Kevin tells me proudly. "I flew a girl from Australia to Asia and back," says Alex, who didn't fancy the long haul flight himself (I suspect he had air miles).
I begin my investigation into human versus animal fucking with an email to Bart Kempenaers, a professor and doctor at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. Kempenaers, an expert in the migration habits of sandpiper birds, knows as much about animal courtship as I do about fuckboys, so he seems like a good place to start.
If you've ever struggled to get someone into a cab from Manhattan to Brooklyn despite the certain expectation of sex, you might not want to read on: Male pectoral sandpipers have been known to fly 8,000 miles—approximately 100 times the distance of Kevin's Oxford-Cambridge bus—to fuck as many female sandpipers as possible.
"It comes down to extreme sexual selection," Kempenaers explains. "The scenario is something like this: Males arrive at a local area and find out that there are few fertile females, or the competition is so tough that they have little chance to sire offspring. So they move on and try their luck elsewhere."
So-called extreme sexual selection also happens in the human world. Tech bros in Silicon Valley, for example, have long complained of a shortage of women. But unlike the male sandpiper, who heroically and uncomplainingly spreads his wings in the pursuit of romantic ardor, Silicon Valley males have a different approach. Rather than competing for the attention of the few remaining females, they write whiny Medium essays: Here is one titled "How San Francisco's gender disparity affects the attractiveness pairings of couples," complete with several truncated distribution charts. (I am almost certain the author of this piece did not get laid as a result of writing it.)
Back to the sandpipers: "The extreme male-male competition, round the clock with hardly any sleep, is all about trying to successfully reproduce," Kempenaers says. Astonishingly, his team has recorded slutty male sandpipers visiting 24 breeding sites during a single six-week long season. "[They] have to reduce their sleep and defend and court females virtually non-stop throughout the endless Arctic summer days to successfully reproduce," the accompanying press release notes.
Sandpipers aren't the only animals who are packing wood and willing to travel. "The longest migration is by a bird, the arctic tern, and it flies from the North Pole to the South Pole and back again, every year," says Melissa Bowlin, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. "They'll have summer all year, circumnavigating the globe."
Larger creatures have also been known to haul ass for a fuck. "Humpback whales, blue whales, grey whales, blue whales—they all move long distances. Caribou up in the north—they're circumpolar, so they move south in the winter and then back up." Even endangered species, Bowlin says, make the effort: "Sea turtles also migrate."
Some among you may say: "OK, so many animals make more of an effort to fuck than human adult males. But what about commitment?" Well, as the divorce rate is around 50 percent, I'd say we're not too hot on that. But if you're feeling really shit about the amount of effort you're getting from your paramour, consider the humble albatross, which is no deadbeat dad.
"They nest on islands out in the ocean and they'll basically go up and go all the way around the world finding food, then go back to their chicks," Bowlin says. Truly, the female albatross has it all.
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