Why the GOP Should Love Duck Penises

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/12836528@N00/6181596156/">kevin dooley</a>/Flickr


My colleague Asawin Suebsaeng missed the most important point about Duckpenisgate: right-wingers should like duck sex research, because it almost, kind of, makes Todd Akin look not-so-bonkers.

Unlike humans, female ducks actually do have a way to “shut that whole thing down” when raped by a male duck. As Richard Prum, an evolutionary ornithologist at Yale University, explained to Politifact:

In duck ponds, Prum said, a lot of forced copulation occurs. Forced copulation is what it sounds like—rape in nature. Even gang rape happens among ducks. And Prum found that while 40 to 50 percent of duck sex happens by forced copulation, only 2 to 4 percent of inseminations result from it (meaning times the female duck ends up with a fertilized egg).

“The question is why does that happen? How does a female prevent fertilization by forced copulation?” he said. “The answer has to do with taking advantage of what males have evolved—this corkscrew shaped penis.”

Prum said the duck penis is a corkscrew whose direction runs counterclockwise. Female ducks, he said, have evolved a complex vagina also shaped like a corkscrew — but a clockwise one.

“This is literally an anti-screw anatomy,” he said.

It’s not just ducks. Other fowl—like the feral chickens studied here—are able to eject sperm from their body after sex. They can eject up to 80 percent of the ejaculate! (Hat tip: University of Rhode Island professor Holly Dunsworth.)

Duck penii and sperm-ejecting chickens aren’t some novelty. They actually raise fascinating questions about evolution and procreation. Even if humans can’t “shut that whole thing down” (sorry, Todd), it’s worth figuring out why our fowl friends can.

$500,000 MATCHING GIFT

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones: A special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of the huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.