02 July 2012

Confidential to Dan Savage

Are you sure you want to be getting all uncritically book-endorse-y with Jesse Bering? I mean, yes, Bering's a snappy writer with a nose for edgy topics, and the bit you excerpted—concerning the good ol' "plunger penis" hypothesis [$]—is intriguing.


This is Jesse Bering we're talking about. Jesse "gay-bashing is adaptive" Bering. Jesse "natural selection is the only misogynist here" Bering. Jesse "Deep-Thinking Hebephile" Bering.

I mean, I don't want to be making an ad-hominem argument here, but I tend to think that the point of popular science writing is for the audience to benefit from a writer's perspective and expert judgement. And Jesse Bering's judgement is in pretty serious question. (Don't just take my word for it!) He might very well be a great psychologist—that field is beyond my expertise to assess—but it's pretty clear that Bering's knowledge of evolution begins and ends with an exceptionally superficial understanding of natural selection, and, more often than not, he rallies that superficial understanding (but not much actual scientific evidence) for the defense of some pretty damn' regressive ideas.

Plus which, "plunger penis" isn't exactly news: the paper Bering seems to be citing is from 2003, and Jared Diamond discussed the ways in which the human penis stands out (heh) in comparison to those of other apes in The Third Chimpanzee, which was first published in 1992. Wasn't this covered in Sex at Dawn?

All I'm saying is, read that new book with a saltshaker handy.◼


Gallup, G. G., R. L. Burch, M. L. Zappieri, R. A. Parvez, M. L. Stockwell, & J. A. Davis (2003). The human penis as a semen displacement device. Evolution and Human Behavior, 24, 277-89 DOI: 10.1016/S1090-5138(03)00016-3

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