Talking about human sexuality last year, I was asked whether the different sexual orientations could be found in animals other than humans. Well, the answer was “yes”. But sexual orientation is just a bit of the big whole called sexual behavior. That is why in this occasion I am going to talk about animal sexual behavior. To put you in context, the study of animal sexuality is a rapidly developing field. It used to be believed that only humans and a handful of other species performed sexual acts other than for procreation, and that animals' sexuality was instinctive. Current understanding is that a wide range of species appear both to masturbate and to use objects as tools to help them do so; in many species animals try to give and get sexual stimulation with others where procreation is not the aim; and homosexual behavior has now been observed among 1,500 species.
SEX FOR PLEASURE
Do animals get pleasure from sex?
Science cannot say for sure what animals do or do not find "pleasurable". However, current understanding suggests that anything an animal does that furthers its own survival is pleasurable; in order to make sure the animal keeps doing it. That includes sexual intercourse. They say it is nature's way of ensuring the continuation of the species. Remember that the only purpose of the clitoris is to give pleasure, and nearly all female mammals have a clitoris. Nevertheless, very few animals have sex purely for pleasure, rather than for procreation. That is to say that, though most of animals do get pleasure from sex, not all of them will have sex just for the sake of it.
TYPES OF ACTIVITIES
1. AUTOESTIMULATION OR MASTURBATION
Petter Bockman of the Natural History Museum at the University of Oslo commented that: “Masturbation is common in the animal kingdom... There are plenty of animals who will masturbate when they have nothing better to do. Masturbation has been observed among primates, deer, killer whales and penguins, and we're talking about both males and females. They rub themselves against stones and roots. Orangutans are especially inventive. They make dildos of wood and bark.”
2. ORAL SEX
Auto-fellating or licking, sucking and/or nuzzling by a male of his own penis in animals is documented in goats, primates, hyenas, bats and sheep, among others.
3. CROSS SPECIES SEX
Many animals are sexual opportunists, partaking in sexual relations with individuals of visibly distinct species. This is more visible in domesticated species and animals in captivity, because in the wild, the two species would normally not share enough common territory to provide adequate opportunity for much cross-species sexual activity. Hybrid offspring can result from two organisms of distinct but closely related parent species, although the resulting offspring is not always fertile. This is the case of the mule (jack/mare cross), the hinny (horse/jenny cross), the tiglon (tiger/lioness cross) and the liger (lion/tigress cross).
In some penguin species, the females, even when in a committed relationship, will exchange sexual favors with strange males for the pebbles they need to build their nests. Prostitution was also observed among chimpanzees, which trade food for sex.
5. SEXUAL IMAGINARY VIEWING
Problems with encouraging pandas to mate in captivity have been very common. However, showing young male pandas "panda pornography" is widely credited with a recent population boom among pandas in zoos. It shows that pandas, as well as most of primates, really value the images and are able to put sexual meaning on them.
Necrophilia in animals is where a living animal engages in a sexual act with a dead animal. It has been reported in cane toads and ducks.
7. HOMOSEXUAL BEHAVIOR
No species has been found in which homosexual behavior has not been shown to exist, with the exception of species that never have sex at all. Homosexual behavior in animals...