What the Ruff, the Spotted Hyena, and the Cuttlefish Taught Me about Gender and Sexuality

What the Ruff, the Spotted Hyena, and the Cuttlefish Taught Me about Gender and Sexuality February 25, 2015

Evangelicals support a strict gender binary and see the patriarchal family structure—with a breadwinning father and a homemaking mother—as both natural and in some sense biologically universal. The Bible frequently talks about male and female animals, and, growing up in an evangelical home, I remember being taught that there is no homosexuality in the animal kingdom. That certain animals mate for life was also emphasized in an effort to enforce patriarchal norms.

Now sure, I also learned that lion prides have one adult male and numerous adult females, that fungi reproduce asexually, and that male sea horses do the raising of their young, but somehow I filed those things away without questioning my dualistic binary way of viewing not only humans but also nature. I went on to grow up and make some changes, becoming both a feminist and a supporter of LGBTQ rights. But it wasn’t until I read an infograph titled If Humans Used Animal Mating Rituals how factually wrong my previous dualistic binary view of the animal kingdom had been.

Let me offer you a few excerpts:




Go read the whole thing, because it’s amazing. Some of the entries are so bizarre I thought surely someone must have slipped in their research, but when I looked them up I found every single detail confirmed.

It turns out that gender and sexuality are far more diverse and complicated than I had any idea of growing up. Of course, the same is true among humans. There are cultures that have traditionally practiced polyandry, with one wife and multiple husbands, and cultures that have no concept of marriage.

But even apart from humans, the huge diversity of sexuality and gender in the animal kingdom is enough to singlehandedly bust the idea that a strict dualistic binary is either natural or universal.

Browse Our Archives