Why Science Needs More Sex

TIME

In March 2013, Yale University biologist Patricia Brennan, who studies the evolution of birds’ reproductive organs, found herself in the path of a two-week media cyclone. Brennan had secured a $390,000 National Science Foundation grant for her work on duck genitalia. Conservative news site CNSNews.com found out about this and ran a story on it, which sparked nation-wide outrage (quickly dubbed “Duckpenisgate”) at the spending of tax dollars on research as frivolous as studying the nether regions of waterfowl.

We genital researchers are used to getting giggly or derisive responses when we try to explain our work. It has been like that ever since this particular branch of evolutionary biology was kick-started, back in 1979. In that year, in the journal Science, Brown University’s Jonathan Waage reported that male damselflies use their penis not just to squirt sperm into the female’s vagina, but also to scrape out any remaining…

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