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Persnickety Women

Here is something fun I want to add to Gaia's Gown. I hope Gaia will find it fun too.

My boss encourages me to do reading in everything from genetics, to selective breeding, to biology, even into the mechanisms of natural selection. The other day I was looking up information on something called the lek effect. Lek is a Swedish word which means play. In natural selection it has come to denote the kind of play display many male animals conduct in a congregated group in order to attract a mate. The play is competitive and, of course, damn serious. Grouse are famous for it. As are peacocks. But the lek effect produces a paradox scientists are still puzzling over. In brief, if the same dominant males who produce the best play display repeatedly get the gals is there not going to eventually get produced a diminishment in genetic materials leading to in-breeding? Good question don't you think?

So I am following the leads, trying to wrap my brain around it all, and I mention the stuff to a friend. He says, "Well, that's pretty interesting." Then he does that thing he impishly does sometimes. He leads me off on another chase. He says, "So, what do you know about cryptic female choice in sexual selection?" Once again I am off and running. Let's see if I can explain this well enough.

It turns out females of a given species are not so passive after all when it comes to sexual transactions. They are, however, kind of sneaky about their selections. The phenomenon has been observed in insects, fish, birds, and mammals. Females of some species have developed mechanisms of rejecting, diminishing, even amplifying the amount of ejaculate, depending upon the male's desirable attributes, a male gives her through intercourse. The mechanisms are varied. But, in all cases, they are put into effect in that one place the female has complete control over. Her body. Thus the name cryptic female choice in sexual selection. Is this not a beautiful thing in animal behavior, biology, even in the finer points of Darwinian natural selection? What a sweet nuance. The other day I found myself far more interested in this kind of persnickety female behavior than in the lek play of males. It also brought a memory to mind.

In 1990 I finished a novel, my second and last, that took about three years to write. It is called "In the Cedar Weave." It takes place on the southern shores of Puget Sound in WA state. Its main character is a woman in her thirties who has inherited a cottage on the Sound from her grandmother and who is living alone without a man taped to her side for the first time in her adult life. Her name is Ena. One day she is in her closet. And she notices a box she hadn't actually payed attention to before. She pulls it out and discovers it is a box her grandmother had left for her. The boxes contents is a bunch of witchy stuff. Tarot deck, incense, a vial of salt, ceremenonial dagger, etc. Ena also discovers a letter. It is from her grandmother, addressed to her, and it is about all the Gaia like things that are sacred to her. It includes certain chants for pulling down the moon. And it gets kind of personal too, amounting to the kind of advice an old Crone might give to a woman in her full, mature years. So Ena gets admonished, gently, for how she has always passively accepted a man's attentions, what has taken her down a lot of dead end roads. Her grandmother simply says, "And, Ena, my dear, a woman always makes the choice."

All these years later and it turns out my intuition has basis in how Gaia goes about the business of natural selections.

One side note. I never got around to submitting the novel to publishers. After something like 25 pretty stupid rejection letters on my first novel, I said !@#$ it. I am not submitting Ena to all that stupidity. Truth is, I think I fell in love with her in Pygmalion fashion. I've never told this story.

Oh those persnickety woman and cryptic females.


Last edited by Terreson, Dec/20/2008, 5:33 pm
Dec/20/2008, 5:17 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson

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