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.
It is clear that my readers have sorely missed me in my absence, and for that I apologize–my duties in the world of professional body building kept me away. I don’t build for a living anymore, but I remain a much sought after judge on the pro circuit. I love judging but there’s nothing like the forty-five minutes you spend stripping down and greasing up before getting up on that stage, ready to throw down a crushing sequence of poses that intimidates the whole room, leaving the judges in awe and the competition despondent.
I always varied my routine to keep the competition off guard, I was notoriously unpredictable. For example, in my 1997 performance which won me the Canadian national championship I started with an understated Front Abdominal-Thigh Isolation, which I deliberately held just slightly too long before transitioning slowly, almost imperceptibly into a coy Side Triceps Display, and then oozed myself into a classic Back Lat Spread and let them soak it in, nice and easy. I held that Back Lat Spread for a full thirty seconds until I could hear the spectators start to murmur nervously behind me; everyone except me was on pins and needles and so, sensing weakness, I spun decisively into the most brutal Front Double Biceps of my career. The audience gasped and I roared and started grinning like Zeus in the midst of a thunder bolt orgy. The room was mine now and I was fearless like a child in his own backyard. I decided it was time they had another Front Abdominal-Thigh Isolation, this time with gusto, so I thrust my pelvis at them forcefully again and again like a free man, and it was as though the energy of a thousand suns was rushing out of my body and washing over the entire room…
The rest is a blur. The audience had submitted to my will entirely, absorbing pose after pose after pose until, towards the end, everyone in the room was panting with exhaustion and close to tears, most of all myself. Finally I summoned the last of my strength for one last Back Lat Spread and walked firmly off the stage without even giving the crowd one final look goodbye. I collapsed as soon as I got back stage. Never have I felt a happiness so deep and complete before in my life as I did when I was lying on that floor listening to the standing ovation I was receiving outside…
I still feel a slight twinge of loss at the beginning of every competetion I judge, but it is nice seeing the next generation of great athletes go to work. This year’s victory came to the highly gifted Frank Jackinbeans. Athletes like him are truly a pleasure to watch. Indeed I hear they are starting to call him “The Bodman” now, though not when I’m around, of course.
Alas, those days are largely behind me, and it’s time to embrace this new phase of my life at PRIC. I see that Cox has kept himself busy filling the blog with personal attacks against my character and scientific ability, as well as making libelous posts questioning the authority and good judgment of PRIC. Doubtless there will be consequences for this kind of behavior, but I don’t plan on wasting another second thinking about it. No, I think it’s time to start doing science again, and I already have a very important project in mind.
Brody, it’s a shame you’ve been AWOL for the last two weeks. I was hoping I could get you to sign off on this letter, make sure I didn’t forget anything. Well, no bother; I’ve already faxed it on its way. The well-lubricated wheels of PRIC HQ are in motion, and there is nothing you can do to stop them.
I received a troubling fax this morning from PRIC headquarters. Well, maybe it’s best if you just read it for yourself:
Needless to say, dear reader, Dr. Richard Cox, PhD., is not one to back down from a fight! As the most senior research fellow at PRIC (excepting of course the poor comatose Prof. Wiener), I should not have to put up with this pushy bureaucratic nonsense.
And Brody, I don’t know how you earned such special favor with the higher-ups at PRIC, but I promise you it won’t last long. I’m currently writing a response to Mr. Fallace that will bright to light the true character of Brody J. Dickworth.
However, in the meantime I’m willing to put aside our differences to get back to the roots of Curious Cox: exposing the world to awe-inspiring animal penises.
I will keep you abreast of any further developments in my good fight. As always,
Dr. Richard Cox, PhD.
Hi everyone, Richard here. It seems my superiors at PRIC think I need some help with this little public outreach project of mine, since it’s apparently not “accessible” enough to the layperson. So they have graciously assigned me a guest contributor for the blog, my colleague Brody J. Dickworth, evolutionary psychologist.
Brody and I have a long history. We both did our graduate work at U Manitoba back in the 70’s, though we cast off in divergent directions after graduation–he into the world of professional body building, and I into a series of doomed field expeditions to find the perfect animal penis–and now, through happenstance, find ourselves together again, sharing an office at PRIC. I never thought I’d have the good fortune to work with Brody again, but here we are. How blessed I must be.
Anyway, Brody has his own account so he’ll be making updates as he sees fit. But don’t worry, I will still be making my usual erudite posts on a regular basis. The way I see it, the more discussion on animal penises, the better. Right?
Dr. Richard Cox, PhD.