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Dolphin-assisted birth is stupid, and yes, dolphins rape.

Dolphin-assisted birth is stupid, and yes, dolphins rape.

Despite the title, the stupidity of dolphin-assisted birth isn’t actually what this post is about. The reason for the title will become clear in a moment, but before I get there, let’s recap. As was reported in the Charlotte Observer some days ago, Heather Berringer and her husband Adam plan on travelling to Pohoa, Hawaii, in an attempt to let Heather have her child in the company of a dolphin pod there. To be honest, I’m a little fuzzy on the supposed mechanics of this birth method, other than the fact that it occurs in the presence of dolphins in the water. How the pregnant mother is supposed to be assisted in the event of an emergency is beyond me, but I’m sure the “Sirius Institute” has it covered1.

I noticed the story but hadn’t planned on saying anything about it, because it has been amply and ably dismantled in the blogosphere already. Christie Wilcox, for example, did a fine takedown of this nonsense on her blog, as did Justin Gregg and a few others. The story even showed up on Jezebel, for crying out loud. But it was brought to my attention again when I saw a pingback for my own blog this morning from a blog called “Ecorazzi” entitled “Dolphin-Assisted Birth: A Primer”. The post in question is a bit disjointed, but its author Michael Destries seems to be fairly approving of the whole enterprise. I was curious about why I was getting involved in this until I came across this part of this post:


Notice the bottom right corner.

Notice the bottom left corner.

Ah, now it becomes clear. And since this has caused no end of confusion, I’m going to set the record straight here.

Do dolphins rape?

Yes. Male dolphins rape female dolphins. Male dolphins even forcibly mount other male dolphins. Here’s Christie, explaining that fairly clearly:

Because of their friendly disposition and common occurance in aquariums, we tend to think of dolphins as trustworthy, loving creatures. But let’s get real for a minute here. Dolphins don’t eat sunshine and fart roses. They’re wild animals, and they are known to do some pretty terrible things.

Look at how their treat their women. Male dolphins are aggressive, horny devils. Males will kidnap and gang-rape females with their prehensile penises, using alliances of several males to keep females isolated from the rest of the group. As Miriam Goldstein once explained to Slate, “To keep her in line, they make aggressive noises, threatening movements, and even smack her around with their tails. And if she tries to swim away, they chase her down.” Male dolphins don’t just rape their females — they’ve also been known to assert authority by forcibly mounting other males.

But didn’t you say …

No, I didn’t. The post that Destries is linking to (and he’s not the first to do this) is about the media interpreting a paper incorrectly. They thought that a paper written about dolphin social networks was about bisexual dolphin rape because it used the phrase ‘bixseual philopatry’, which just means that the dolphins studied in the paper preferred to remain in or return to their birth place2 . It does not, as the Daily Mail went on to trumpet, make Flipper a bisexual rapist.

But that doesn’t mean that Flipper isn’t a bisexual rapist. As Christie points out, male dolphins are pretty horrible, and will often gang-rape females or even each other3. My post was about journalists failing to read the research that they were reporting on and so completely screwing up their coverage of that research. And then, in a monumental display of meta-irony, the blog post I wrote taking journalists to task on this very problem has itself been mis-read and thus misinterpreted.

To Destries and everyone else: look, I know that you’re busy. And my blogposts are often pretty verbose (I’m no Orac, but I’m just sayin’…). However, if they’re too long then find another source, or at least get the basic gist of what you’re quoting right. Because you’re driving me nuts over here.

  1. The astute reader will notice that this comment is dripping with sarcasm.
  2. I’m still not entirely clear on how they made the leap from philopatry to rape, but the fact is that they did. In spades.
  3. I’m not as clear on their interactions with humans, though Justin suggests that there is some evidence that they can be aggressive with us.