After reading the title of this post you might object, “But Richard this is duck penis month! Why let the duck vagina share the spotlight, too?” Well, it was a tough editorial decision, but after steeping myself in Prof. Brennan’s work on duck genitalia for the last few weeks I have come to undeniable conclusion that I cannot make the duck penis explicable without at least some discussion the duck vagina as well.
In this undertaking, I ask you to please bear with me, dear reader, because despite being an expert in penis science, Franz Liszt studies, and food/wine pairings, “vagina science” is entirely virgin territory for me. But if my mentor Tad Everhard taught me one thing it is to never be afraid of the unknown.
Existence precedes tumescence, one might say of penises. Thus, dear reader, before getting into the nitty-gritty of the duck penis and duck erections, I would like to first address the unusual existential quandary they pose.
The quandary is this: Only about 3% of bird species have a penis (Briskie and Montgomerie 1997). In the other 97% the external genitals of both males and females is a nubby little orifice called the cloaca, and mating is a simple matter of bumping nubs together for few seconds in a so-called “cloacal kiss.”
However, nearly all duck and waterfowl species do have a penis. You may ask: why should this be the case? Why the Being of the duck penis and not the Nothingness of the cloaca? What is the meaning of the existence of the duck penis?
Dear reader, the phones and fax lines here at PRIC labs are ringing off the hook! Everyone is asking the same thing: “Dr. Cox, what is your take on the duck penis controversy?” At first I was flummoxed. What controversy? The celebrated study put out by Prof. Patricia Brennan in 2007 was pretty conclusive on the matter: The Argentinian lake duck’s elaborate and explosive corkscrew penis is best explained by the theory of “sexual conflict”, that is, the duck penis likely the result of an evolutionary “arms race” between male and female duck genitals, driven by the different evolutionary interests of male and female ducks. Case closed. Another bizarre animal penis made explicable thanks to the ingenuity of a first-rate penis scientist.
But no, that was not the controversy my followers had in mind. After a quick Ask Jeeves search, I surfed my Netscape Navigator over some links and found what all the fuss about. It seems some conservative media outlets are “crying fowl” that Breenan received grant money from the NSF and are singling our her research as example of wasteful government spending, fueling a firestorm of outrage on Tweeter.
Of course, none of this comes as a surprise to me. Penis scientists are always on the defensive; our research is routinely the derided and mocked by other scientists, by the pop-sci publications, by our ex-wives, etc., but rarely is our discipline subject to such invidious public scorn as this.
However, Brennan has not shrunk in response to the cold reception from the public. Recently she authored a stirring defense of her research entitled, “Why I Study Duck Genitalia,” published at Slate.com. Here she points out the obstacle all too familiar to the penis scientist:
The commentary and headlines in some of the recent articles reflect outrage that the study was about duck genitals, as if there is something inherently wrong or perverse with this line of research. Imagine if medical research drew the line at the belt! Genitalia, dear readers, are where the rubber meets the road, evolutionarily.
I sense a kindred spirit in Prof. Brennan (is she a dear reader of Curious Cox, I wonder?) and in a show of solidarity I am proud to announce we are declaring April 2013 is Duck Penis Month on Curious Cox! Join us as we celebrate with a series of posts examining the magnificent duck penis with a special focus on Prof. Brennan’s groundbreaking work.
Dr. Richard Cox, PhD.
Dear reader, as a penis scientist of some renown I feel it is my duty to hold up the high standards of academic integrity demanded by our discipline, if only to defend ourselves from the unfair maligning our fledgling field is continually subject to. That is why I want to bring to your attention–and the attention of our administrators at PRIC HQ–that large portions my “colleague’s” last post were lifted nearly verbatim from the Preface of Fredrich Nieztsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, and nowhere in the post is there anything close to a citation. Not one footnote, parenthetical, or let alone a clumsy attempt to adhere to CSE citation standards. And thus it should be considered wholesale plagarism.
So congratulations, Brody. Your academic suicide is complete. You’ve finally slipped the noose of intellectual dishonesty around your neck, stepped off the stool of scholarly respectability, and struggled through your last breaths of scientific credibility.
Have you learned nothing from our days at U of M? Your little dissertation debacle, and subsequent expulsion? And to pull a stunt like this on my blog of all places. You had to know I would catch you again, Brody. Was it a cry for help? An admission that penis science is “too hard” and your return to the field was a mistake? Or is it just a reflection of the simple truth that everything you do is a weak facsimile cribbed from something or someone else–your “scientific” research, your building routine, the women you choose to love–how deep does it go? How deep do you go? Can one plagiarize a soul?
Clear out your spray-tan booth from the the office, Brody. The real penis scientists need to get to work.
Dr. Richard Cox, PhD.
7/7/2012 — 3:02 AM
I dreamt about Beatrice again. I was back at the conference, mingling in the reception hall. Bartleby was boring me with another of his tirades against “those jag-off editors” at the Annals, when suddenly the door to the atrium flew open and in floated Beatrice. She wore a virginal white dress, contrasting nicely against her mahogany skin. The dress billowed as she hovered silently towards me. When she passed the others they transformed into tiny bees, swarming upwards out of sight, until it was just me and the queen Beatrice.
Still hovering before me, she put a single finger to my lips and I instantly became erect. For a moment we both examined my tumescence and as I returned my gaze to her I found she was completely naked except for a coy, enticing smile. And she was half bee from the waist down. As was I.
Brushing the hors d’oeuvres off the snack table, I lept onto its surface and she floated herself over me. We paused, looking deep into each other’s eyes, and I could feel the heat coming off her copulatory bursa. I took her there, stinging her with my bee-penis. I felt a white flash of pain–a hurts-so-good–as my bee-genitals exploded and detached from my body, as happens when honey bees mate (Bishop 1920). Beatrice twisted away from me, taking my lower abdomen with her. My intestines spilled out of me like a magician’s handkerchief. Tied to the end of my gut-links was my quivering, still-beating heart. I watched it expel the last spurts of my blood, and then I died.
My corpse slumped to the floor and Beatrice grabbed my heart off the pile of entrails, delicately smeared a dollop of ranch dip on the heart, and ate it with a smile. It cracked and crunched in her mouth like a carrot. My hollow torso gave her a smile back, just happy to see her happy.
Once she finished eating, I floated upwards away from her and the scene below me retreated into darkness. But I was not alone in the void. I could feel the presence of a man, an unfathomably large man, looming behind me. I darted my head around, but the figure was always just out of sight. The void around me began to brighten with white static, and I knew I was coming out the dream. I began to panic, darting my head around, trying to catch the figure with a quick glance. But the static took over, and I screamed imploringly into it: “Tad! Where are you!?”
I woke up. My cats looked at me, startled.
Bishop, G. H. 1920. Fertilization in the Honey Bee: The male sexual organs. I. Their histological structure and physiological functioning. J. Exp. Zoo.: 31(2), 224-265. DOI: 10.1002/jez.1400310203.
Snodgrass, R. E. 1910. The Anatomy of the Honey Bee. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology Technical Series. No. 18.
Wow. OK. So it seems my latest article on the gorilla’s penis has upset my esteemed colleague Brody J. Dickworth. Hopefully this means he has said his piece about his piece, but I very much doubt it.
Incidentally, Brody made a bizarre passing reference to elephants which reminds me of some interesting penis science worth relating here, if only to distance this majestic animal from its recent association with my colleague’s genitals.
At this point you might expect me to launch into my typical erudite exposition on the facts of the elephant penis: that it’s typically about 4 ft long, it bends in a S-shape when erect, and that it is able to writhe about independent from the elephant’s body because of special musculature (Short 1967). Well, dear reader, excuse me while I stifle a yawn.
Descriptive accounts of penises are all well and good–necessary even, as they are often the first step towards true penis science–but to focus solely on anatomy and physiology overlooks the larger aims of penis science, namely: 1) to give an evolutionary account of penises, i.e. the why and not just the how of a specific penis, 2) to understand the penis’s role in reproductive and social behavior, and 3) explore ways to improve our own penises.
Thus far this blog has mostly been concerned with the first aim, such as in the echidna penis article, and we’ve touched on the third aim in the barbed penis article. But today I would like to explore second aim, by way of the African elephant and the strange phenomenon known as green penis syndrome.
Dear reader, there is something you should know about me: I am a huge Dick fan, and I have been ever since my early twenties. Maybe my love of Dick has spilled over into my research, because I often find myself wondering, “What if…?” like in Dick’s classic alternate history novel “The Man in the High Castle”. But instead of asking, “What if the Nazi’s had won,” I ask, “What if our penises had evolved differently?”
Fortunately one doesn’t need to be a Dick to imagine the outcome such scenarios. We only have to examine the penises of our closest living evolutionary relatives, the primates, because in a sense each primate penis is an alternate history of the human penis, a window into What Could Have Been.
I’ve already touched on this idea a little in my post on the barbed penis, where I examined a study claiming proto-humans used to have magnificent barbed penises like many other primates. You might say the barbed penis is like a utopian alternative history, one where the Axis powers lose, but the States and the USSR nuke each other into oblivion, and Canada rises to supremacy, their scientists ruling the land like philosopher kings.
Then you might ask: Which penis corresponds to a dystopian alternate history, the one where the Axis powers win, the West falls to communism, and vampires take over Parliament? This would certainly have to be the gorilla penis.