Sex is instinctive

Sex with animals: fun, agony, or whatever?

The 150-year-old, weighing 200 kilos, slowly climbs with his front feet onto the back of his 50-year-old lady of the heart. And off we go: he begins to groan, the tanks creak as he moves. She, on the other hand, seems to have little interest in the situation and just keeps still. 15 seconds later it's all over.

Anyone who watches Seychelles giant tortoises mating has to ask themselves: What does the female actually feel? This also applies to many other animal species. The whole action always seems to be the responsibility of the male, the female mostly appears apathetic.

The English biologist Justin Gerlach runs a breeding station for giant tortoises in the Seychelles. He observed the behavior of the animals for a long time. "The males harass the females almost continuously," he reports. "But especially in small enclosures, the females cannot run away from them. Female giant tortoises are therefore usually much more nervous than the male ones. They are difficult to approach."

Giant tortoises mating

Sex as a means to an end

It looks very different with chimpanzees. There the females even seem to seek frequent intercourse with as many partners as possible. If a female is fertile, the alpha male, the boss of the group, actually has privileges. Nevertheless, all the males in the group try to mate the female when the boss is not around. And the female has nothing against it - on the contrary, she even seeks contact.

The females do not behave like this because they appreciate the act itself. Some time ago, researchers working with Tobias Deschner from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig investigated the real meaning behind this. By mating with as many males from the group as possible, the females cause confusion, the researchers suspect: the males could then never be sure who the father of a baby is. Therefore, they are less willing to kill the offspring - and thus a possible future rival.

Bonobos, another great ape native to Central Africa, in turn, relieve tension and conflict through sexual activity. With most animal species, however, the sexual act is "more of a business", says the biologist Sebastian Baldauf. At the University of Bonn he researched sexual selection, i.e. how animals choose their sexual partners. Now he is doing research at the university in Groningen in the Netherlands. "The key is finding a partner," he says. "The act itself is usually very quick and not a complex process." He believes that female animals don't feel much about it.

Do female animals have an orgasm?

Female bonobos are also said to be capable of orgasm

For a long time, female orgasms were considered typically human among researchers. However, there are also reports that some female great apes, such as bonobos, are also capable of doing this. After all, the animals uttered very special calls, scientists report. The female's vagina then also contracts.

In fact, especially with great apes, it seems obvious that, like human women, they can experience pleasure during sex. But in fact, one does not know, says Sebastian Baldauf: The area is an enormous scientific gray area. "We cannot measure what the brain processes and what the animals feel."

He points out that increased vaginal contractions or special calls during the act may not express a feeling of pleasure, but rather pursue a purpose: "It is possible that the females stimulate the males with it so that they release more sperm." This would increase the likelihood of actually having offspring from a chosen sexual partner.

Apparent rape

Often what happens in the animal kingdom even looks like rape. There have been reports of many male organ-utans forcing the females to have sex. The ducks are also brutal: several drakes chase a duck and push it under water during the act. Unfortunately, some ducks drown in the process. And even the peaceful dolphins are said to be very rough with each other during sex. But here, too, nobody can know whether the female will feel fear and pain in the process.

Do June bugs feel pleasure during sexual intercourse? The question remains unanswered.

Sometimes humans completely misinterpret what happens before animal intercourse. Sebastian Baldauf mentions the native river flea shrimp as an example. The much larger males grab a female during mating season and hold it tight, often for two to three weeks, until it is ready for fertilization, says Baldauf. All the while, the female fights the male and tries to throw it off. "In fact, the female only estimates whether the male is strong enough to hold them," explains the biologist. "By fighting back, the females choose males who guarantee offspring that can become so strong." In that case, at least, that has nothing to do with rape.

Many females are not easy to come by

The Seychelles giant tortoise females may also select the best male by constantly avoiding sex. "The females want him to make an effort," says Justin Gerlach. "He should make an effort - that's why they're not so easy to get." In fact, giant tortoises often only have offspring when the male has competition from other males in the enclosure. "They may only be persistent enough if they are motivated enough."