The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex


What the Critics Say About Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation

Philippine Daily Inquirer - Massie K. Santos

Book Review - Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation

"DEAR Dr. Tatiana, There's been a frightful accident. I was happily sitting in my usual spot...when I felt an itch on my nose. Being a green spoon worm, I don't have any arms and I couldn't scratch. So I sniffed. And I inhaled my husband. I've tried sneezing, but he hasn't reappeared. Is there anything I can do to get him back?"

How can anyone resist reading such a letter to an advice columnist, much less reading his/her reply? As Raelians and their theories of how aliens populated the Earth through cloning techniques 25,000 years ago fill the news, it seems appropriate to take a look at the wonderful world of sex and other ways of doing "it." No, this is not going to be a sex advice column (I could never hope to rival Margie Holmes), nor is this going to be a column about Kama Sutra-ish positions because Redbook does that so well. It's more of a look at how other organisms on this planet have sex, and for this information I have Olivia Judson, aka Dr. Tatiana, to thank for endless hours of educational amusement since I finally got to read her book last month.

Definitive guide Olivia Judson is an evolutionary biologist who got her undergraduate degree from Stanford and her Ph.D. at Oxford. Her book, "Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creatures: The Definitive Guide to The Evolutionary Biology of Sex," was published last August and borders on invading another's privacy, coaxing (human, unless other creatures have learned to read) readers into looking at the sex lives of various organisms, all candidly revealed in these pages. Some of these stories would be considered deviant, violent and just plain wrong sexual behavior.

Topics such as rape, incest, homosexuality, hermaphrodites (or intersexed, as they prefer to be called), asexuality and even cloning are tackled by looking at creatures ranging from birds and hyenas to various bugs and insects and even bacteria. Incestuous mites Incest is a topic discussed early on in the book, when a mite writes to say that that morning his mother's stomach burst while he'd been having sex with one of his sisters "as usual" in her (the mom, not the sister, although technically...never mind). Now he's alone in his mother's corpse, his sisters having all wandered away, and he wants to know if he's going to hell for his actions. Yes, it's appalling; yes, it's funny; and no, says the good doctor, he's not going to hell. Actually, she goes on to say, there are a lot of other creatures who have incest with close relatives. The main reason it's taboo for humans is because of the possibility that both copies of a recessive gene (such as those that cause a number of cancers) will appear in their offspring and cause serious physical and/or mental defects. Every gene, such as eye color, comes in two forms: dominant (i.e., brown) and recessive (i.e., blue). If someone with brown eyes marries someone with blue eyes, their children's eyes will be brown three chances out of four when at least one dominant copy of the gene is passed on, unless the child gets both recessive copies.

In explaining her book's theme, Dr. Judson has been quoted as saying, "I decided to dedicate myself to sex when I realized that nothing in life is more important, more interesting, or more troublesome... If not for sex, much of what is flamboyant and beautiful in nature would not exist." In other words, she argues as a minor theme, groups claiming that homosexuals, transgenders, etc. are unnatural have no basis in making that claim because other organisms in this planet do behave that way, as she points out in her various (nonexistent) columns.

But to return to the plight of the poor spoon worm and her missing husband. The news is both good and bad, says Dr. Tatiana. The good news is, he wanted to be inhaled, it means he will never leave her, and now he will father all of her children. The bad news is, he's never coming back out of her body. The male spoon worm, it turns out, is actually 200,000 times smaller than his wife, and fertilizes her eggs from within her, in a chamber called the androecium that can actually hold quite a number of husbands, should she be interested in acquiring a harem of sorts and having several fathers for her children.

The final chapter of the book deals with the importance of males in ensuring the continued existence of a species. Then again, maybe the Raelians have it right and in the future everyone will be transferring their minds and personalities into new, cloned bodies to live forever instead of procreating and continuing the family line that way. Either way, this book is definitely a must-read, and I can't say anymore because I've run out of space. So go find this book. NOW.