Is Monogamy Unnatural?
That’s what Natalie Angier of The New York Times suggests, calling “faithfulness a fantasy” in her analysis of the Spitzer scandal.
You can accuse the disgraced ex-governor Eliot Spitzer of many things in his decision to flout the law by soliciting the services of a pricey prostitute… But one trait decidedly not on display in Mr. Spitzer’s splashy act of whole-life catabolism was originality. Sexual promiscuity is rampant throughout nature, and true faithfulness a fond fantasy.
And according to Angier, the evidence can be seen throughout the animal kingdom:
Assay the kids in a given brood, whether of birds, voles, lesser apes, foxes or any other pair-bonding species, and anywhere from 10 to 70 percent will prove to have been sired by somebody other than the resident male.
So adultery isn’t limited to humans. And neither is prostitution, it seems:
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Even the “oldest profession” that figured so prominently in Mr. Spitzer’s demise is old news. Nonhuman beings have been shown to pay for sex, too.
Reporting in the journal Animal Behaviour, researchers from Adam Mickiewicz University and the University of South Bohemia described transactions among great grey shrikes, elegant raptorlike birds with silver capes, white bellies and black tails that, like 90 percent of bird species, form pair bonds to breed. A male shrike provisions his mate with so-called nuptial gifts: rodents, lizards, small birds or large insects that he impales on sticks. But when the male shrike hankers after extracurricular sex, he will offer a would-be mistress an even bigger kebab than the ones he gives to his wife — for the richer the offering, the researchers found, the greater the chance that the female will agree to a fly-by-night fling.
Copyright 2008 Liberaland