Author: Tsara Shelton
Author Contact: @TsaraShelton on Twitter
Published: 14th Jun 2023
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Tsara's Column Publications
Summary: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex: A delightful opportunity to watch things get weird and wild in the name of science and sex.
Evolutionary biology is a branch of biology where scientists examine the evolutionary processes (natural selection, common descent, and speciation) that led to the current biodiversity of organisms on our planet
I was roller skating around the pool in our backyard and as the fluff of local trees floated in the breeze all around me, I kept thinking it looked so much like a soft summer snow. I also kept thinking it was a lovely way for our local trees to publicly and shamelessly put their sex all over us.
I just finished reading Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to all Creation: A Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex by Olivia Judson and am now seeing sex, or more accurately sex related behaviors, all around me.
Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to all Creation is not your usual science book. The style is that of a sex advice column where creatures of all sorts write in with questions about their bizarre sex habits, worries, wants, and fears, and the brilliant Dr. Tatiana advises with not only wisdom, but also an impressive knowledge of evolutionary biology.
When the author, Olivia Judson, invented Dr. Tatiana, she invented someone who is brilliant, blunt, and a little bit cheeky. The fact that this book is hilarious has something to do with the nature of natural selection and the act of sex itself, but Dr. Tatiana's delivery plays the most pivotal role.
In the book's introduction Dr. Tatiana takes a moment to remind readers of the practical side of sex: that its basic function is the mixing of genes. The fact that all creation evolves in some wild and weird ways due to this ultimate act becomes surprisingly understandable as it is explained but remains wickedly hilarious! I'm telling you, I laughed and looked around for someone to share the stories with constantly. It was so fun I almost forgot I was laughing at creatures for the way they have sex. (Sorry not sorry.)
Throughout the book we are introduced to some of the kinkiest sounding practices. The next time you say "that's not natural" to someone's kink, think again. Whether it's a sex change, necrophilia, love potions for fidelity, cross dressing, exploding genitals, or simply eating your mate for a good time, everything is potentially natural for someone, somewhere, at some time.
But that does not mean everything is okay for everyone, anytime.
One of my favourite moments in the book came during a conclusion to an answer for a sagebrush cricket with the following question:
Dear Dr. Tatiana,
I'm a sagebrush cricket, and I've just molted into manhood. While checking out my new manly body, I noticed some teeth on my back. This strikes me as a funny place to have teeth. What are they for?
Don't Know Much about Anatomy in the Rockies (pg 115 - 121)
Dr. Tatiana answers the question first, explaining that the teeth are a sort of gin trap. A way for the cricket to hold onto and rape girls. She gives him comfort by telling him he is not alone, that there are others with devices on their body meant to help them rape unwilling mates. She is sure to let this sagebrush cricket know that in his species it is better to find a willing lover, because they can copulate for longer and transfer more sperm.
But, she admits, there are creatures for whom rape is commonplace and not only as a last resort. Natural selection means the gene exists because it has been selected to exist. So, at the risk of simplifying to the point of being misleading, this means rape is sometimes benefitting a species. This does not mean girls get used to it and don't mind, most females adopt a ‘death before dishonor' response to sexual assault. Which is interesting, because you'd think if it is common (in the lesser snow goose, a female left alone for an instant will likely be assaulted by the guy next door, and she's probably alone because her mate is off trying to rape someone else) then females would evolve to submit, in order to survive. But when we remember that survival is more complex, it is not only about right now, it is about reproduction and the entire species, it can be presumed that submitting would have a cost that outweighs the risk of injury or death. (Dr. Tatiana points out that in some birds a male who suspects his mate of infidelity will make less of an effort to feed the offspring, and sometimes chicks starve as a result. In this situation, fighting off a rapist despite risk of death is perhaps how she keeps her genes moving forward in the species.)
(Article continues below image.)
After helping the sagebrush cricket understand why he has evolved to have a device on his body meant to seize unwilling girls, and why so many other species have also gained from forcing females to have sex, she takes a moment to talk about humans. She admits that rape could be natural: an intrinsic, evolved part of man's behavior. She knows that might offend us, that we don't want to hear it. But it is possible.
However, that does not somehow make rape acceptable. To quote the great doctor herself: "Nothing is currently known about the genetics of rape in any animal, let alone humans. But suppose some men do turn out to carry genes that predispose them to rape. Would that somehow make rape acceptable? Of course not. Understanding human evolution and genetics may one day tell us why we are the way we are. But it can tell us nothing about what we would like to become." (pg. 120)
Anyone who has listened to me blah, blah, blah, or read much of my writing knows I am consistently arguing for us to be more honest and less judgmental about our sexual predilections and interests without thinking that means we must allow everything. If we can be honest about the possibility of rape being natural, of the possibility that some people could carry genes that predispose them to rape, we can more likely find ways to shift that behavior. If we deny a truth because we hate it, it's hard to move forward in any significant, healthy, sustainable manner.
Natural selection includes selection. We are always influencing our evolution and we can do so with purpose.
I learned a lot, also, about how different behaviors evolve within a species. Some seasons will be particularly good for one type of behavior (say, the sneaky ones who dress in drag and sleep with all the girls while the brutes stand guard over their "harem" thinking the sneak was a girl) and then a different behavior will do a better job of passing on their genes in another season. I love remembering that it is natural to be different even among those that are, in many ways, the same.
For example, homosexuality is seen in many species even though their lovemaking will not produce offspring. There are many reasons for this, different reasons for different species, but always it is because there is potentially something beneficial, even if that benefit is simply feeling good, feeling loved, feeling connected.
Oh, and that's another thing I loved about this book. Recognizing how much of a creature's behavior revolves around reproduction! Revolves around sex! Not only during mating seasons but leading up to and out of them.
Eating habits, nesting habits, fighting habits, play habits, so much of how living beings behave, from the time they are born to the time they die, revolves around a need to reproduce. An innate interest in passing on our genes.
I loved that this book continually reminded us of the ways in which natural selection works, the importance of continually evolving in order for a species to adapt and survive. I love that evolution is continuous, that there is no end point we are trying to get to, that we are always shifting and changing along with our environment. That the shifting and changing is the constant.
Despite being hilarious and surprising, this book never strays far from the point: Sex is here for the purpose of mixing genes, and certain genes are naturally selected to stick around because they are helping a species survive and reproduce. Sex is wonderfully weird and adaptive. It is not always nice, not often easy, but it's powerful. Sex spawns astounding diversity in behavior and form and is one of the most powerful forces of nature.
I adored how the style of this book was fun and funny, while also being overflowing with evolutionary biology, with science made fun to grapple with, with sex stories that are not scandalous but sure seem to be.
Regardless of what creature you are, sex is interesting.
Now, excuse me while I roller skate around the pool and let tree sex fall into my hair.
Tsara Shelton, author of Spinning in Circles and Learning From Myself, is a contributing editor to SexualDiversity.org Tsara's personal blog can be found at tsarashelton.com Keep up to date with Tsara's latest writings by following @TsaraShelton on Twitter.
|Latest Tsara's Column Publications|
The above information is from our reference library of resources relating to Tsara's Column that includes:
|Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to all Creation by Olivia Judson– a book review|
The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex: A delightful opportunity to watch things get weird and wild in the name of science and sex.
Publish Date: 14th Jun 2023
|Delta of Venus: Erotica by Anais Nin - Book Review|
Book review of Delta of Venus, a collection of fifteen erotic short stories.
Publish Date: 28th Apr 2023 - Updated: 29th Apr 2023
|Sexual Assault Awareness Month - One Healthy Meal|
April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month #SAAPM.
Publish Date: 21st Apr 2023
|Disability on Valentine's Day: Romance, Sex, and Sensory Sensitivity|
Autism and Sexuality questions answered by Dr. Lynette Louise, The Brain Broad.
Publish Date: 3rd Feb 2023
1How Many Genders Are There?
Alphabetical list of gender identities.
2Transgender Reporting Guide
How to write about transgender people.
3Glossary of Sexuality Terms
Definitions of sexual terms & acronyms.
4Glossary of Gender Terms
Definitions of gender related terms.
5Am I Gay? Questions to Ask
Think you may be gay or bisexual?
• Submissions: Send us your coming events and LGBTQ related news stories.
• Report Errors: Please report outdated or inaccurate information to us.
• (APA): Tsara Shelton. (2023, June 14). Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to all Creation by Olivia Judson– a book review. SexualDiversity.org. Retrieved September 23, 2023 from www.sexualdiversity.org/tsara/1174.php
• Permalink: <a href="https://www.sexualdiversity.org/tsara/1174.php">Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to all Creation by Olivia Judson– a book review</a>