Copulation Calls - Poem by gershon hepner
Copulation calls in females
who’re primates like baboons or chimps
make having sex like many e-mails
human females write to pimps
and lovers, even husbands, when
they’re feeling horny. They don’t cry
aloud as when the lover men
can hear them faking when they’re dry,
but can dissemble cyberhyping
feelings with a cybercall
on a keyboard where they’re typing
to a man who wants to ball.
The ball is on a cybercourt
with the call that they can hyper,
virtually, long or short,
copulating while they’re cyber.
Chimps can’t do this, and baboons
have no alternatives to screams,
but human females can write tunes
on keyboards to express their dreams.
This will not blur paternity
as copulation calls in primates do,
but may last for eternity
on hard disks with these billets-doux.
Though merely digital, they may
provide men who by them are goaded
alternatives to real-time play
as soon as they have been downloaded.
Nicholas Wade compares copulation calls of chimpanzees, baboons and human females (“Chimp’s Sex Calls May Reflext Calculation, ” NYT, June 18,2008) :
Intricate as the mating dance may be among people, for other primates like chimpanzees and baboons it is even more complicated. This is evident from the work of researchers who report that the distinctive calls made by female chimpanzees during sex are part of a sophisticated social calculation. Biologists have long been puzzled by these copulation calls, which can betray the caller’s whereabouts to predators. To compensate for this hazard, the calls must confer a significant evolutionary advantage, but what? The leading explanation involves the way female primates protect their offspring. Male chimps and baboons are prone to kill any infant they believe could not be theirs, so females try to blur paternity by mating with as many individuals as possible before each conception. A side benefit is that by arranging to have sperm from many potential fathers compete for her egg, the female creates conditions for the healthiest male to father her child. The calls that female chimps make during sex seemed to be just part of this strategy. By advertising a liaison in progress, biologists assumed, females stood to recruit many more partners. But the study, by Simon Townsend, Tobias Deschner and Klaus Zuberbühler, shows that in making calls or not, the females take the social situation into account. The researchers monitored the lively love lives of seven female chimps in the Budongo Forest of Uganda, making audio recordings of nearly 300 copulations. In two-thirds of these encounters, they found, the female made no sound at all. This finding undermines the thesis that the principal purpose of copulation calls is to instigate rivalry among males, the researchers reported online Tuesday in the scientific journal PLoS One. Unlike female baboons, who give a staccato whoop at each copulation, the chimps seem much more aware of the social context. Chimps are particularly likely to be silent and conceal their liaisons when higher-ranking females are nearby. They were most acoustically exuberant when cavorting with a high-ranking male. The reason may be that other higher-ranking males are likely to be around, too, and by advertising her availability to them a female chimp may gain many influential protectors for her future infant. The calculus changes when higher-ranking females are around because they are likely to attack the caller and break up the fun. To avoid incest, young females leave their home group and try to integrate with neighbors by offering themselves to socially important males. But the resident females tend to be obstructive, perhaps because they see them as competitors for male protectors and desirable feeding areas. A similar use of copulation calls could once have existed in the human lineage but if so, it may have lost its evolutionary advantages when human societies developed their distinctive system of pair bonding and made intercourse a largely private activity.
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