by Larry Feign
Why is there sex? Besides, that is, to have something to lie about in locker rooms. The answer is: no one knows, but hey, who's complaining? After all, what would this world be like without sex? We'd have nothing to daydream about at school or in the office. Hollywood would have to rely exclusively on violence. The entire country of France would be superfluous.
In the scale of things, sex is a relatively recent invention. The world got along without it just fine, thank you, for thousands of millions of years.
The first single-celled animals reproduced by cloning: that is, splitting in half. Mother and daughter (or father and son) were also identical twins. But after two billion years of cloning, apparently everyone was getting kind of bored. So, a few hundred million years ago, a new craze hit the oceans: genetic swapping. Some single-celled organisms -- probably teenaged ones -- discovered that it was more fun to inject their chromosomes into one another before splitting.
Eventually a few got hooked, and couldn't reproduce without genetic interaction. Like true addicts, they developed a craving for it, which has been passed down through trillions of generations to you and me. All creatures great and small are now born with the overpowering drive to reproduce.
Just why sex evolved is still a mystery. A leading theory explains that gene-swapping was faster than waiting around to mutate. Though after two billion years of surviving just fine with a new mutation every few centuries, one wonders where the sudden hurry came from.
The reasons against sex ever gaining popularity are formidable. For one thing, if the goal is to produce heirs, then sexual reproduction is probably the least efficient way to go about it. The original method -- cloning -- works so well that a single microscopic bacterium could theoretically be responsible for enough offspring to create a mass greater than the planet Jupiter in about four days, something not even the Osmond Family could hope to match.
Secondly, it's a burden on everybody. A clone can go off and pursue its own career the instant it's born. But babies produced by sexual means are tiny and vulnerable, and make attractive snacks for hungry neighbors. They need either to be reared and defended by their parents, or produced in such prodigious numbers that at least a few will remain after most of their siblings are consumed like so many party snacks.
What's more, sex is an enormous waste of time, energy and natural resources. The manufacture of millions of fresh sperm every day or incubating a fetus for weeks or months, are an extravagant waste compared to the old system of cloning and having the rest of the day off.
Consider how many raw materials are invested in the construction and maintenance of bodily accessories devoted solely to mating. A deer's antlers, a peacock's tail feathers, a woman's stiletto heels, are enormous burdens which slow down their owners and make them vulnerable to predators, such as wolves, warthogs, and construction workers.
Mating competitions among suitors, courtship rituals, and the need to copulate again and again to ensure that an egg is fertilized, all take up a lot of time and energy. Not to mention all the money that's wasted on dinner dates, satin sheets, edible panties, and other necessities of the breeding process.
With so much going against it, it's a wonder that sex evolved at all.
Our early sea-dwelling forebears had it easy: male and female simply spewed their eggs and sperm into the water, and as long as they drifted reasonably close to one another, fertilization occurred.
But once animals started moving onto dry land, they encountered a number of tricky problems. Folks could no longer reproduce by ejaculating or ovulating anywhere they pleased. Even if they aimed straight at each other -- besides being messy and somewhat rude -- the embryos quickly dried up in the sun.
Eggs were the answer. A secure package inside which an embryo could remain wet and grow. They also made perfect breakfast fare. So they had to be protected, as well as kept warm.
Thus, with sex came sexism. Females assumed responsibility for incubating and protecting the eggs, plus defending and training the new babies. Meanwhile, male consciousness never developed beyond spewing their semen and then splitting the scene, behavior that can still be found today in summer beach romances and sailors on shore leave.
Eventually, a few mother reptiles started keeping their eggs inside until after fertilization. But this meant the sperm had to get in somehow. Luckily, males had the foresight to have developed penises a few million years before. Finally they got to learn how much fun it was to use them.
Sexual intercourse was later refined to a high art by mammals, but the basic principle remains the same. For millions of years there have been no new major developments in sex; that is, until the advent of Internet chat rooms and cybersex.
Today, the lives of all living creatures revolve around breeding. A bizarre variety of courtship and mating behaviors has evolved, each for specific reasons of survival and convenience. Many of the animals we all know and love do the weirdest things. Your parents probably never realized this when they nervously mumbled about "the birds and the bees." If only they knew the real story!
One final note of warning: DO NOT TRY THESE ACTIONS AT HOME. Remember, the animals performing them are professionals.

From the book HOW THE ANIMALS DO IT (New York: Barricade Books, 1992)
©1992 Larry Feign