Moths avoid bats. It’s nothing personal, just an understandable desire not to get devoured. In the perpetual evolutionary arms race between the nocturnal creatures, moths seem to have developed ears for the sole purpose of hearing bats’ echolocation cries—because if you want to avoid becoming someone’s midnight snack, getting wind of their approach is key.
Do you remember that part in Dead Poets Society where Robin Williams asks his students why language was invented? “To communicate,” suggests one. “No!” he replies, “To woo women.” Well, humans aren’t the only mammals that have a way of making everything about sex. Until recently, scientists believed that moths could hear sounds, but not produce them. Turns out, though, that most male moths make sounds when they want to engage in a little nookie. And not just any sounds, either—their calls are distinctly bat-like.
A sensory physiology researcher from the University of Southern Denmark, along with colleagues from the University of Tokyo, has been studying two different species of moths to find out exactly how sound is used for courtship. It’s not quite the same for everyone.
On the importance of language
In the Asian corn borer, a moth much prettier than it sounds, males make a call that’s indistinguishable from a bat’s hunting cry. Females instinctively freeze at the sound, making it harder for the bats to find them. But in Asian corn borer society, immobility apparently equals consent, because when a female holds still, that’s when the magic of reproduction can happen.
On the other hand, male Japanese lichen moths also make sounds like bats gone a’hunting. But the females of that species aren’t fooled—they can tell the difference between a bat and a suitor. The sound the males make, then, has evolved into a specific mating call.
photo by Ryo Nakano
The Japanese lichen moth
“The acoustic communication between bats and moths is a textbook example of the interaction between predator and prey,” says Annemarie Surlykke, the researcher from Denmark. “However, our studies show how such a system can evolve, so also moths use their ability to hear and produce sounds to communicate sexually and that they have developed many different ways of doing it. It is a beautiful example of evolutionary diversity.”
If you were wondering how moths can make sounds like bats without attracting their mortal enemies, the key seems to be volume. Moths essentially whisper their calls while only inches apart, whereas bats are pretty much just screaming through the night sky. Spooky! Since we humans aren’t equipped to hear any of it, you’ll just have to imagine what sweet nothings moths murmur to one another.
Before Tuesday, I've never had so many people interested in my thoughts. The idea for an issue based on sex and sexuality first came up in Sept. 2012. The CNM Chronicle managing editor at the time and I had been kicking around all sorts of ideas for a special edition; when I suggested sex and sexuality, we immediately agreed.
The very first article we had decided on was the center spread. “A Rainbow of Sexuality” was something that was very important to me and I knew that no matter what else went into that edition, a round table interview would be the centerpiece.
Every week after, I would tell the writers to come up with ideas and keep a running list of things they thought might be interesting. Just before spring break, we selected the articles that would go into the issue. Everyone on the staff contributed something to the creation of this issue. It mattered to them as much as it mattered to me.
So why do it?
Because we do not talk about sex openly. Sex, sexuality, gender identity and masturbation: these are not dirty words. It is not wrong to talk about these concepts and practices. People have sex. Our parents did it, we do it and, one day, our kids will do it, too. Not talking about these things puts people at risk, not just for pregnancy and STD/STIs, but for abusive relationships, misguided decisions and self-loathing.
From the beginning, my goal was to educate. I wanted to honestly discuss topics that were relevant to the times. Suicide rates among LGBT teens have skyrocketed. The Boy Scouts of America are being boycotted for kicking out gay members. The Girl Scouts of the USA are being boycotted for allowing transgendered children to join. E.L. James’ “50 Shades” trilogy has sold millions of copies and will soon be a adapted into a movie, all while giving a drastically incomplete and sensationalized view of the BDSM community. Realistically, we are an office of 13 people who write for an audience of 30,000. We cannot change the world, but we had the opportunity and an obligation to inform our readers and if even a single person walked away better informed about sex and sexuality, then we made a difference.
We expected disagreement. I learned when I first began working for the Chronicle that pleasing everyone all at once is the sort of goal that will drive a person crazy. I wanted feedback, especially from those who disagreed. I wanted to have open discussions about what others thought was right, wrong or just plain left out. Those comments are what will allow me to do my job better next time.
I thought others would be open to that, too. I believed that I and my staff would be respected as journalists and adults and that those who were offended or upset by the issue would talk to us, as has always been the case in the past. But then, I have always been a bit of an idealist. The up-side to this whole affair is that our issue reached more readers than we expected.
People throughout the nation, and even on other continents, have read all about sex and sexuality. Some of those people may have been offended or disturbed, and that's okay; it is not mandatory to agree with newspapers, but we can be sure now that we reached and educated at least one person.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the graphgasmographical data stream comes to a drippy end. Some things I learned about Burqueños: The vast majority have made out with strangers, yet haven’t caught a sexually-transmitted disease. Hmm. They also wouldn’t be caught dead smoking after sex. No surprise there, seeing how high “bad breath” scored on the turn-offs list. There’s a statistical dead heat on the importance of penis size and on having fooled around with a co-worker—so you may as well just flip a coin. The pro-anal-sex camp outnumbers the “once” or “never” camp by a healthy margin. But, more romantically, most people are not interested in an open relationship and would stick with their current partner for that one-last-shtup before the world ends—and furthermore, most have kept friendly with their ex-partners-in-crime. How warm and fuzzy.
So what does that say about Albuquerque? Promiscuous yet hygienic? Faithful yet forgiving? Free-thinking yet conservative? Who the hell knows? I’m just glad you’re all out there keeping things sexy for the rest of us. Let’s do it again sometime.
Have you ever made out with a stranger?
Have you had sex with a boss or co-worker?
Have you ever caught a Sexually Transmitted Disease?
Have you tried anal sex?
If the world were ending, would you have sex with your partner or someone else?
Would you consider an open sexual relationship?
The eternal question: Does penis size matter?
Are you generally on friendly terms with your exes?
This installment tells us many things: Those who are satisfied are the largest voting bloc, but those who aren’t outnumber them. Sharing sex fantasies is more popular than not sharing them. A lot of people have experimented with an alternate gender sex partner, but most haven’t. Cybersex is way too out there for most Burqueños—we prefer phone sex even though it’s not 1995 anymore. And talking dirty is near-universally accepted as the lingua franca of the bedroom. In fact, it may be what binds us together as a race.
On a related note, when the term “Burqueños” is used, we really mean “the 1,405 people who took all or part of our survey, 486 of whom are 22-30 years old and most of whom (969) are under 40.” In case that wasn’t obvious, I mean.
Are you satisfied with your current sexual situation?
Do you share your sexual fantasies with your partner?
Have you had a sexual encounter outside the gender you're used to?
Welcome back to the unscientific sharing of self-reported sexual proclivities of Albuquerque residents. This stuff is straight out of the SurveyMonkey data banks (you can also blame them for the cheesy infographic look), so I don’t want to hear any more complaints about histograms, telegrams or candygrams. This is as scientific as it’s gonna get.
The main take-aways here? Alibi readers do it frequently, probably more often than they floss their teeth. They do it together and they do it alone. They have no fear of employing power tools or other prosthetic devices, and they “sometimes” like to mix it up with booze and illicit substances. In other words, this town is one big sex party. Here’s the proof:
How frequently do you have sex with a partner?
Let’s hear it for “multiple times a week!”
How frequently do you masturbate?
Have you used sex toys?
The great tragedy is that we didn’t ask WHICH sex toys.
Do you mix alcohol and/or drugs with sex?
Dear survey-taker, just because you did it ONE TIME without booze or pot, that does not qualify you to answer “sometimes.”
Well, I coulda called it. In fact, I did call it: The hate mail has already started to pour in from pissed-off statisticians who found the (ahem) science of the Alibi’s First Ever Sex Survey to be somewhat slipshod. One guy even took issue with the “missing interval” in our when-did-you-lose-your-virginity graph and called our histogram “poorly constructed.” Them’s fightin’ words, partner! And if we knew what a histogram was, we’d be goddamn well pissed off about it. But let’s just get this out there right in the open right now: those finding the science to be lacking simply failed to notice that there was no science AT ALL. Dammit, Jim, I’m a newspaper man, not a statistician.
Here’s the truth: We used the WRONG NUMBERS for the virginity/age graph. They were actually the numbers from the “how old are you” demographic question, hence the failure of the graph to “correlate with the discussion.” So in the end, it’s not a question of missing intervals and histowhatsits, it is instead a question of being a fuckup.
In the interest of both science and setting the record straight, here now is the RIGHT GRAPH—both a legible one with low-scoring answers omitted (a practice applied to pretty much all the graphs we ran) and an ALMOST ILLEGIBLE one with ALL THE DATA (including such spurious answers as “0” and “1”). Happy? I hope so. More sexy graphs to come. Stay tuned.
Are bicycles sexy? I don't think so, and we were fairly careful not to ask about bicycles when we developed our First Ever Sex Survey. That notwithstanding, bicycles came up … along with graveyards, pancakes, rimming and other seemingly endless whatnots in the mountainous avalanche of data our survey produced. And cars. It seems like lots of people in Albuquerque are having sex in cars, so pay attention, and lock up next time you're in the parking garage.
Nearly 1,500 people responded to our survey. Who were these people? Let's consult the pie charts.
What did we learn? I'll leave that to our panel of experts.
If Albuquerque were a man, he would be an ass man. Based on the results from the sex survey, it was the highest reported sexiest body part. But don’t worry if you’re wishing you had more junk in the trunk, the second-highest rated sexiest body part were the windows to your soul.
The results are in, and it comes as no surprise that the Duke is one kinky city. The purpose of sex has evolved for many into a recreational activity, rather than a species-perpetuating endeavor. Note that, of the 800+ answers, not a single response included “procreation.” Instead, we see a varied, colorful list of hedonistic sensory indulgences, elaborate fantasies, yearnings for specific body parts, items of clothing, bodily fluids, and appetites for complicated sex acts that would challenge even the most adept multi-tasker.
While reviewing the results from the Alibi's first sex survey, I was delighted to see that many of our neighbors play very well with others. Within the confines of relationships and randomness of delightful happenstance, friends are hooking up with friends, couples with couples and sometimes just inviting others to watch. In addition to these delightful tromps into the land of non-monogamy, my heart was warmed by the dozens of contributions that gush about partners, husbands, wives and every combination therein.
Call it “The List,” call it a “hall pass,” slap whatever name on it you like: Even the most committed couples can make concessions for their partners sleeping with other people. So long as those other people are celebrities. The thinking is twofold. Firstly, long-term relationship or not, you’d be a fool to pass up an opportunity to manhandle People Magazine's “Sexiest Man Alive.” Secondly, your odds of meeting, seducing and actually closing the deal with a famous person are slim-to-none—so what’s the harm in a little fantasy fling?