February 27, 2010

Life with dolphins.

American pop culture has its helpful friend dolphin, Flipper...



That's the delusion, built on the accidental smile.

"To be fair, they should have also had a bad dolphin: Zipper!"

But really, the dolphin is neither "ever so kind and gentle" (Flipper) or "surly" and "uncaring" (Zipper). It has its own ways.

Killer whales — like the one that killed Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld — are dolphins (the largest dolphins).

***

In starting to write this post, after that last one, my idea was to develop the theme of dolphin rape, but I got grossed out by many YouTube videos showing people at dolphin shows being set up — legs spread — to receive a dolphin, who — not understanding the lines human beings draw with respect to bodily interactions — leaps up and performs according to its own standards.

And, amongst dolphins, the standard is what we would classify as rape — gang rape:
In order to coerce the reluctant females, males form groups of two or three – often remaining together in their search for sexual gratification for well over a decade. When they find a suitable female they literally force her to mate with one or more of the group, and have even been known to herd their unwilling consorts for months at a time, basically using them as their personal sex-slaves.
Although dolphins are not alone in the animal world of gang-rapists, research suggests they’ve the perfected the art to a degree unseen in any other species, and it seems they don’t limit their advances to their female partners, either: there are several reports claiming divers and swimmers have also been accosted.
Studies would suggest the behaviour is likely to be undertaken for reasons of pleasure as much as reproduction, as dolphins are known to enjoy sexual activity in cases when reproduction would be physically impossible
In real life, the dolphin is more Zipper than Flipper. Leave him to the ocean where he can do the things he wants to do — unless you think he's so smart he can be convinced to learn principles of human morality. I would be interested in hearing the dolphin's perspective. Perhaps there is complex dolphin reasoning about the sexual slavery of the female, but I have no interest in considering adopting it for human society.

Presumably, a dolphin who managed to learn our morality would find it repugnant — and he would argue for his position with reasons that would outrage us. Maybe if that learned dolphin were confined to an aquarium — where, like a human prisoner in solitary confinement with nothing to do but read — he might take advantage of his knowledge to create some structure of asceticism around his deprivation. Then it wouldn't be so painful. I'll leave it to you to imagine how that analogy works from the perspective of a human woman who had to live in a society controlled by dolphins.

59 comments:

Sea Urchin said...

Zipper is, indeed, surly.

John Lynch said...

I think it's just fine to see dolphin behavior as messed up.

Just because it works for male dolphins, and propagates the species, I doubt female dolphins like it much. They don't have the force necessary to change things, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't like to. I think that's as valid a view of simply accepting dolphin behavior because it's dolphin behavior. After all, human behavior has changed quite a bit.

The same can be said of rabbits who get eaten by coyotes. I doubt the rabbit cares much about the ecological balance. That's not simply because rabbits aren't very intelligent. Even if they were, from their perspective being killed and eaten sucks.

Humans got away from acting like animals through a long and difficult climb, from which some people fall. We should be really, really grateful that most of us make that climb.

NewHam said...

That flipper is hot!

Makes me want to get vajazzled.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Flipper? I hardly even know her!

Chip Ahoy said...

I'm sensing another pop-up card coming on.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

One has to be careful about assuming what is right for humans is right for other animals. For instance, if female dolphins have conscious control over whether a copulation results in pregnancy, then obviously forced copulation in dolphins isn't as rapacious as it is in humans. Similarly, female dolphin promiscuity would mean something very different from human female promiscuity if the female dolphin can internally choose which sperm load inside her becomes paternal.

Rialby said...

Brian Regan is one of the funniest working comedians today. Love that guy.

Meade said...

"Flipper? I hardly even know her!"

Well then, son... better keep'er zipped.

Lem said...

Spock Speaks Whale..

Fred4Pres said...

Anthropomorphism will mess you up every time.

Lem said...

It seems to me that all that touchy-feely language about the "relationship" of the trainers and the animals is nothing more than a mechanism by which to justify the use of the animals for commerce.

The loving thing to do with a killer whale is to let it roam in her natural habitat.

DaveW said...

Alright now, impugning Flipper is over the line.

...Perhaps there is complex dolphin reasoning about...

Probably not.

These animals are definitely smart for animals but their ability to do tricks doesn't mean they're intelligent. Of course that depends on how we define intelligence.

My dog is pretty 'intelligent' for an animal. He can communicate and in a pack of others coordinate for the common care of young and for hunting. I can point at an object and he'll go get it. He knows what time it is well enough to wake me up within about 15 minutes of my normal wake up time every day.

Unfortunately he doesn't know when it is Saturday.

c3 said...

What Party would flipper join?

Trooper York said...

A little know fact is that Flipper's real name was Steve Philips.

AllenS said...

Isn't Joe Leiberman a flipper?

AllenS said...

Barack Obama is a discreet flipper-offer.

William said...

My sexual tastes, so sadly corrupted by watching Olympic ice dancing, are not yet sufficiently debased to get into dolphin porn. I must say that in this regard I belong to the minority. The other day at the gymn I noticed that all the women in a row of exercise machines had their tv's tuned to a report on this woman's death. The report featured women--and it's always women--cavorting with dolphns. The women were watching the report with rapt attention. There's a Freudian thing going on with women and dolphins that rivals that between women and horses.....There's a conspiracy of silence about this. Women do not like to admit that they are attracted to such an icty phallic symbol. Men are loathe to admit that a large fish has more sexual magnetism than they do. So we go out seperate ways, ignoring the elephant in the room and the whale in the pool.....Althouse goes into lip smacking detail on the horrors of dolphin rape. Tonight on O'Reilly: A special report on the shocking bikinis that our youth, many of them underaged, are wearing to the beach. You won't want to miss this special report....I don't think dolphin rape is one of the big problems that confronts humanity. The fact that women such as Althouse have a thing for dolphins and a distaste for the bared legs of men does not augur well for relations between the sexes.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Would they have let the show on the air if the dolphin were named Rapey?

"Oh my God, Rapey has raped again! But, he has such a cute smile and he's so much fun to play with!"

Jason (the commenter) said...

Althouse: Leave him to the ocean where he can do the things he wants to do...

Why? If it's okay for dolphins to engage in gang-rape because that's natural to dolphins, then humans should be able to imprison dolphins and anthropomorphise the heck out of them because that's natural to humans.

Paul Zrimsek said...

What Party would flipper join?

I don't know. The same one as Tipper, or the same one as Gipper?

Joe said...

(The Handsome One)

Let's ask Captain Creideiki...possibly in Trinary.

jayne_cobb said...

There was an entire episode of "King of the Hill" based around Hank being assaulted by a Dolphin:


"Return to La Grunta"

EDH said...

To be fair, they should have also had a bad dolphin: Zipper!

How about: Flipper the Ripper?

Christy said...

If I understand correctly, the successful inseminattor works cooperatively in small groups to accomplish goals? Did I read somewhere that these pods of males are bands of brothers? Serious family dysfunction, huh?

OMG, does this mean that dolphins traveling happily along side sailing ships in tales of old were really herding the crew with dishonorable intentions?

Scott said...

Checking IMDB ... Flipper (1964) was sort of a career ender for principal actors Brian Kelly, Luke Halpin, and Tommy Norden. And Flipper itself was played by three dolphins -- a female named Mitzi, and two males named Little Bit and Mr. Gipper. (Who presumably raped Mitzi.)

Fred4Pres said...

I was scuba diving once and a trigger fish kept bumping into my chest. Eventually there was a...discharge. Good thing I was wearing a rash guard.

I felt used. No dinner, no thank you, nothing.

jayne_cobb said...

Hank and the dolphin

Scott said...

Fred4: You were raped! Have you experienced any PTSD because of having had your personal space violated?

Comrade X said...

there's a documentary called The Cove about how the Japanese capture dolphins for sale and slaughter featuring Flipper's trainer, who's done a 180 on dolphin training.

edutcher said...

Dolphins have been recorded as rescuing shipwrecked sailors since antiquity, but it's only recently that the Sierra Club crowd wants to believe they're human. My wife did one of the "swim with the dolphins" things on vaca once and she loved it until the dolphin, as part of the routine, lifted her out of the water and she got a real idea of the power of the beast. Needless to say, it gave her a real scare and she hasn't wanted to do it since.

Scott said...

Checking IMDB ... Flipper (1964) was sort of a career ender for principal actors Brian Kelly, Luke Halpin, and Tommy Norden.

Few kid actors make the transition to adult roles - most opt for a real life. Brian Kelly, however, was being groomed for stardom (starring role in one of those Harold Robbins potboilers), but was very badly injured in a career-ending motorcycle accident. If IMDB says the series killed their careers, it's wrong. Keep in mind it is very often incorrect. A little like trusting Wiki.

David said...

Suggested read:

"Mrs. Caliban," a short novel by Rachel Ingalls about a woman who has a love affair with an amphibian.

Sounds ridiculous, I know, but it's a fabulous novel.

traditionalguy said...

I still think of dolphins as playful friends when under the influence of a trainer; almost like good kids under the eye of aa adult teacher at school. Yet their raw power and speed is also just under the surface. They become like rapists when they become like the tough guys cruising the strip in the valley town on Saturday night showing off their powerful hot rods and expecting to get laid by females cruising in family cars in hopes of being impregnated and leaving town forever for the real world out there. (see, American Graffiti). A dolphin swims at his target at 30 mph or better and never tires until he nails her. They are hot blooded mammals, not ancient fish. The evolution guys say they were mammal land predators that evolved back into the seas.

Titus said...

Lesbians are famous for loving whale watching. They actually love all sea mammals, porpoises, dolphins, manatey's etc.

That's what lesbians like. Gay men not so much. I actually went on a whale watch and got sick. It departed from fabulous Gloucester, Mass.

I do like fish sticks though.

Titus said...

Dolphin Porn reminds me of the Friends episode where Monica thinks Chandler is jerking off to a fish video.

bagoh20 said...

I suggest the issue be taken up with Darwin. The dolphins who were more gentlemanly got wiped out in the survival game. So unless self-imposed extinction is expected, this behavior is ideal for them including the females.

I would suggest that the current human reproductive rules of behavior are not exactly what most men would prefer.

It seems that sex and reproduction is usually less than enjoyable for most species. They just can't help it.

Where is the concern for the male Black Widow or Praying Mantis. This concern for female dolphins is the just the sexism of women and beta males.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Titus: Lesbians are famous for loving whale watching. They actually love all sea mammals, porpoises, dolphins, manatey's etc.

It's not just lesbians. Think about all the dolphin shaped vibrators that straight women buy.

Titus said...

I am no Peta person, though I do have a PETA T shirt, but I don't care for animals in shows.

Circuses, sea shows, etc I just don't care for.

I want animals to be...

Born Free
As Free As The Grass Grows
As Free as something else.

My pussy smells sweaty right now. I need to spruce that thing up for tonight.

Fred4Pres said...

I thought about buying a Subaru Forester and my wife said, "Why do you want to drive a lesbian car?" I thought the PT Cruiser was the lesbian car of choice, but the wife was right.

I am not sure if there is a connection to autmobile preferences and lesbians being into whale watching, but I will throw that one out there.

As for my unfortunate experience with the randy trigger fish, I have not suffered PTSD yet (going on about 10 years) but you never know. That can lurk latently and pop up when you least expect it.

Like herpies.

Jason (the commenter) said...

When I first saw the question "Ann Althouse, what exactly are you for?" I never imagined the answer would be dolphin rape.

Fred4Pres said...

I was fishing for marlin and had a sperm whale come spy hop next to the boat. Litterally next to the rail, without warning. This was a small wood powerboat about 25 feet long. It was a flat sea and we were stopped and this whale came right up and looked at us. He (or perhaps she I could not tell) was just curious. His head was about 10 feet out of the water. It was not a full sized whale and the pod was near by. I patted him (that is how close he was) and then he left (of course just as we grabbed the camera). Swam along side for a while--but as anyone who has gone whale watching knows, whales in the water are generally not very exciting to photograph unless you catch them the moment they are doing something cool like breaching or spy hopping.

Ralph L said...

As Free as something else.
As free as the Indian blows.

Why all the fuss? It isn't rape-rape.

Big Mike said...

...the sexual slavery of the female, but I have no interest in considering adopting it for human society.

Okay, Meade, you've been warned.

knox said...

Think about all the dolphin shaped vibrators that straight women buy.

That's a weird way to put it! Think about it...

jpr9954 said...

Reminds me of when I used to keep ducks. One drake after another would use the hen and then strut around with their funky looking corkscrew penises hangin out afterwards.

Glad I got rid of them.

Jason (the commenter) said...

knox, like you weren't going to anyway!

ErnieG said...

Fred4Pres

...and he never calls...he never writes...

Grames said...

Dolphins don't give consent, they cannot give consent, to anything. It makes no sense to use the concept of rape to describe anything they do to each other.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Grames: It makes no sense to use the concept of rape to describe anything they do to each other.

Probably true. But Althouse got to talk about dolphin rape. Besides being "shocking", it is also a good cure for human fantasies about, and anthropomorphizing of, dolphins. Not that Althouse doesn't have her own fantasies about animals being wild and humans having to behave in special ways, but Althouse wouldn't be Althouse without a heavy dose of irony.

ErnieG said...

I blame Disney for all this anthropomorphizing of wild animals. They are not all cuddly and cute, and people who have believed this have died.

Syl said...

Their social hierarchy is female-dominant so it seems to me the females are okay with this behavior.

Ya just never know what stuff means out of context I guess.

Hucbald said...

Dolphins cannot rape. They are not moral agents, because they do not have any conception of right or wrong, guilt or innocence, or justice and injustice. Dolphins, like all other animals, simply do what they do, and are invincibly innocent in the doing of it, whatever "it" is.

When a human experiences a bad outcome while interacting with an animal, the fault may or may not lie with the human, but the blame can never lie with the animal. All animals are pluperfect in their blamelessness.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Hucbald: When a human experiences a bad outcome while interacting with an animal, the fault may or may not lie with the human, but the blame can never lie with the animal. All animals are pluperfect in their blamelessness.

I wonder if you have a dog and if your behavior toward your dog is consistent with this statement, because I know most people's wouldn't be.

Michael Smith said...

Sounds to me like the dolphins are Muslim.

Omaha1 said...

Many gullible folks have bought into the "magic" of dolphins to such an extent that they submit their developmentally disabled children to "dolphin therapy." This so-called therapy should be a target rich environment to someone like Crack Emcee. I am the parent of a disabled young adult but I never understood the desperate quest of some other parents to make their child become "normal". In my opinion it is much better to help your disabled child to adapt to the world as they experience it, and learn to compensate for their disabilities within the context of their own strengtht, without a bunch of bizarre interventions. A sensitive physician willing to try different combinations of medications is also extremely helpful, at least in my experience.

kurt9 said...

I read a newspaper story in the mid 90's about a dolphin appropriately named Fonzie, who was in a "swim with the dolphins" park in South Florida. It seemed that Fonzie liked human females and would rub up against a women whenever one entered the pool with him. The last case was where Fonzie was rubbing his private parts against a women who was "swimming with the dolphins" and two of the park employees watched and laughed about it. The woman complained to the park management, the two employees were fired, and Fonzie was no longer allowed to swim with humans. It was quite a hilarious story.

Johnny1A said...

'Did I read somewhere that these pods of males are bands of brothers? Serious family dysfunction, huh?'

Makes absolutely perfect sense in terms of genetic self-interest. From an evolutionary POV, the 'next best thing' to passing on your own genes is for your close kin to pass on theirs.

Several commentators have made on-target comments about the degree to which dolphins (and other 'cute' animals for that matter) are the subject of much wishful thinking, sometimes to the point of lethality.

For myself, I enjoy watching bears fishing. _From a distance._

lornkanaga said...

If the female dolphin could legally carry a firearm, she wouldn't need to worry about those bad-boy dolphins gang-raping her.

Andrew said...

Dolphins also murder the much smaller porpoises. I use the term murder because there doesn't seem to be any reason or poipose (hah) for it, they kill for fun.

sosolobi said...

typical to label/compare the dolphin behaviour to human ethics.
Why can't we accept/think that this probably dolphin mating behaviour?
No... because we love these cute animals, and... they are mammels, so we think they are our sea brothers/sisters and they should have the same moral/etics as human beings. How extraordinary.