If viewers of Masters of Sex are puzzled by the whiplash shift in Virginia Johnson’s attitude towards Bill Masters this week, they should look no further than Johnson’s mother. That woman deserves a doctorate in manipulation.
Imagine that you could only smell food when you were hungry. Walk into a bakery after a full meal, and the tempting smells of chocolate, caramelized sugar, and baking dough would be absent. Your nose would only turn those smells back on after your stomach emptied. It’d be great for your diet. Now imagine that for sex.
These enormous antennae are for more than just show. The male glowworm beetle needs them if he’s going to track down a female. It’s not that lady glowworms are shy, they can’t go looking for males. They have no wings.
That dopey face your cat makes—its mouth half-open, its lips curled awkwardly away from its teeth—has a name. It’s called the flehmen response, and yes, it looks ridiculous. But for many mammals, it’s a critical part of their sex life.
Pheromones are supposed to be the stuff that make animals do it like they do on the discovery channel. They are supposed make mothers love their babies and babies imprint on their mothers. But there are also kairomones — which just get animals killed.
Scientists have found that in worms and flies, the scent of pheromones from the opposite sex speeds up the aging process and shortens life — sometimes by as much as 40%! As Ed Yong points out in his latest column, there may be a trade-off between sex and longevity.