Introduction to Sex Week

This is the official introduction to Sex Week at DSN.  We here at DSN never shy away from writing about sex. Through reproduction, fitness is realized as progeny populate the landscape.   Thus reproduction can be considered the backbone of evolution as traits are selected for and against, or perhaps not at all.  Reproductive methods, the ways organisms combine genetic material and send offspring into the world, reaches unfathomable levels of sophistication, complexity, and diversity.  This week, we are very excited to introduce several experts in reproduction and reproductive ecology discussing their favorite topics: sponge clouds, barnacle penises, triggers of sex at vents, mussel love, sex when you have more than 4 arms, and much more.  It will be a very entertaining week, and more importantly you will learn something.  We will be tongue-and-check (what would you expect from DSN??), but take note we take sex very seriously.  The nature of reproduction, both sexual and asexual, dictates evolutionary processes and at its core controls the biodiversity of life on earth by isolating populations.  If you want to understand life around you, you need to understand sex.

One may ask how we decided upon a Sex Theme Week.  We were bolstered by negative comments from readers, in particular grade school teachers, suggesting that the discussion of sex was inappropriate, we shouldn’t write about it or joke about it.

While reviewing [removed for anonymity] project material for K-12 educational suitability and scientific merit for classroom applicability, we came upon this site…It therefore came as quite a surprise to find this site and its owners putting forth such material as sophomoric animal “penis fight” blog posts. Ones not promulgated for scientific nor educational value, but rather it seems the publishers/researchers tied to this site have simply attempted to use the guise of scientific news in order to simply gratuitously post junior high mentality level amateurish ‘news’ of minuscule scientific merit as a lead in to post low-level sexually oriented material. Noting that the post does not focus on the bioscientific aspects, but instead the particular author Dr. M (of questionable merit) has instead chosen to drum up juvenile ‘facts’ such as counting the number of times Penis is said. And seeding the site with tags such as ‘penis’, ’sex’, ‘love’, ‘mate’, and ’sperm’. And the sum total scientific analysis from this group of individuals, such as this “Dr M” as well as one K. Zelnio, purporting to report on “News” regarding the deep sea, consists of a single comment regarding the word penis coming out “Dr. M’s” computer speakers.  This brings into question the merit of the ‘researchers’ at this location. And quality level of any scientific soundness of material being put out by project members of “Deep Sea news”….Must say, it was quite surprising to find this level of sophomoric gratuitousness and sub-standard research being put out here, by those listed as being amongst the team of “Deep Sea News”. DSN needs to be apprised. Very disappointing site, and disreputable pseudo quality work.

Well indeed!  The post contained a video of penis fencing in flatworms.  That is the actual scientific term for the act and it is an interesting behavior.  The video, from the amazing Shape of Life series that ran on PBS, was well done and I simply cautioned readers that the video may not be safe for work due the repetitive use of the word penis.  Of course, I, Dr. M, in all of my questionable merit, will be again doing a post on penis fencing this week, another on sequential hermaphrodites, and the odd sexual practices of very tiny organisms. Kevin will be sharing the anatomy of some of his limpet friends, exposing gonad form anemones and God knows what else!
Here at DSN we joke about everything, and reproduction is no exception. Of course, we are also not very likely to adhere to a prudish concept of an act that a majority of the population participates in because a few have misinterepreted a religious text.  Come on, has anybody ever read the Song of Solomon? In the Old Testament (where all the good stuff happens) is poem about a man and woman that moves from courtship to consummation, interpreted by some as an allegory of the relationship between God and Israel as husband and wife.  From Chapter 7…

How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter! the joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman. Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like a heap of wheat set about with lilies. Thy two breasts are like two young roses that are twins…How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights! This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes. I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples; And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.

Good stuff indeed. And keep in mind a world without sex is a very lonely place.

Note added by “one K. Zelnio”: Are we protecting our kids by not discussing the wonderful of sex in our fascinating biological world? As craig pontificates above, reproduction is the key to understanding the diversity of the world around us. I was distraught by a comment left by Jan Whitehead on our Turtle Week posts a month back:

Sure glad I make a habit of checking out a website before using it with my students! Several of my elementary school classes have been cheering on turtles in the Great Turtle Race. I followed the link to this site to read about Cali’s success in the Ironman (Ironturtle?)competition and in bold print at the top of the page I find “SEX WEEK MAY 17TH – 23RD”. While I’m fully aware that deep sea sex does not fall within the bounds of pornography, I sure don’t want to have to explain that to the second graders !!

While, as a parent, I can deeply understand the need to protect our children from pornography. There are certainly many helpful online tools and software that can monitor the browsings of the youth of america. But does the word “sex” connotate a sense of filth in our society’s undertone? Is our collective prudishness protecting of preventing children from understanding a basic concept in the organismal world? I hope not. Children will laugh and giggle if a teacher says penis. They will also chuckle and make silly jokes if they see a barnacle penis and learn how sea stars “do it”, but they learn something too. Heaven forbid we have fun and make fun of what we learn! I challenge educators and parents this week to read our posts and use them as an opportunity to discuss how important reproduction is to the animal kingdom. Bring up the bigger questions. Every animal does it in their own way, whether sexual or asexual, with the ultimate goal to secure their lineage.

With this is mind, uncork the Champagne and welcome to Sex Week as Deep Sea News!

Sincerely Dr. Craig R. McClain, aka Dr. M., and Kevin Zelnio

Dr. M (1628 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.





24 comments on “Introduction to Sex Week
  1. Wow, it seems like getting anti-sex hate mail isn’t too hard. Sex Week is right up my alley. I can’t wait to see more!

    Now end each of the above sentences with “That’s what SHE said!”

  2. These “teachers” should be ashamed of themselves. They want to deny one of the driving forces of nature because they’re squeamish about sex? I think they not their students are the ones who need to grow up.

    I’m fully looking forward to Sex Week.

  3. Sweet!! Sex is right up my alley! Uh, I mean Sex week!! I hope there’s lots of great larval ecology too. As for the sex, when we all lived on farms or raised our own animals as food etc. even the 2nd graders knew how each animal “did it” in a general way, and the reason for sex. Sequential hermaphrodites rock by the way. Especially if you like your shellfish!

  4. This really put a smile on my face. I like the unique approach to sex education. It’s certainly not for everybody (hence the negative response) but I, for one, will be checking back to see what the rest of the week brings. Bring it on!

  5. I always thought the DSN was aimed toward adults, mostly other researchers…not second graders.

  6. Okay, just having fun with the sex topic…this is the last line from episode #217 of House.

    House: “You know, relative to it’s size, the barnacle has the largest penis of any animal.”

    Had me in a fit of laughter. Inquiring minds want to know, is this true?

  7. heh, i found about this site just recentiy. When i read the ‘coito ergo sum’ in the site’s header, i was about to contact the admins of the site to see if it was a typo or something. Then i read ‘sex week’ and the jellyfish saying ‘i love you’ while matting. I lol’ed. :D

    On topic: Overprotection is bad. Sex is part of nature, the whole ‘circle of life’ that your kids learnt in Lion King. Its not like there will be a Silvia Saint movie in here… will it ?

  8. SMA, we don’t specifically target anyone. We just write on what interests us! Some teachers actually use us a resource in the classroom. It was complete news to us that we were listed as educational resources by well-known organization. We never asked nor were approached. I think we should start charging!

    Bob, Stay tuned this week!

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  15. Lol, the Song of Solomon is like Old Testament porn, we studied it in Classics: I still remember “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for our love is like wine” or something like that. HOTT!

    And did you ever read the part in the bible with the old man who spends years hiding in a cave with his two daughters, and they decide to get him drunk and have a threesome with him so they can continue the family tree? SO wrong!

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