You may have heard the common myth that dolphins have sex for pleasure, but is it true? Well, it’s difficult to tell what an animal finds “pleasurable,” as nobody can know for sure how they experience the world.
What reason would animals have for engaging in intercourse if not for reproduction? Sex is quite an energetic act, so there’s generally no point in animals wasting precious time and energy on it when their genes are not likely to be passed on. Females tend to give off cues when they’re fertile and reject males if they’re not.
Only a few intelligent social mammals, including dolphins, ignore these cues and have sex at all stages of the female menstrual cycle, not just around ovulation. This suggests that sex in these species has evolved beyond reproduction to serve additional functions, such as reinforcing social bonds and reducing breeding competition. In fact, bottlenose dolphins have been caught in the solo act and also exhibiting some interesting “finning” action, but that’s not all.
One type of sex certain to not result in offspring is that between members of the same gender. As we are just beginning to realise, homosexuality is widespread in the animal kingdom; bottlenose dolphins are definitely no exception.
Homosexual behaviour in males includes penis to genital slit or anal penetration and even blowhole sex (nature’s only example of nasal sex), whilst females have been observed engaging in “beak-genital propulsion” – basically, cunnilingus while swimming gently forward. Bottlenose dolphins have also been known to form intimate and affectionate homosexual relationships.
Add to this the fact that some animal species masturbate and engage in promiscuity, and animals are far wilder in the bedroom, and perhaps more like us, than we once thought!