Act of Love: A Strange, Wonderful Visual Dictionary of Animal Courtship

As var­i­ous nature doc­u­men­taries over the years have made explic­it, the ani­mal king­dom pos­sess­es courtship rit­u­als of such yearn­ing and grace, they can make the erot­ic fum­blings of our species seem a very clum­sy dance indeed.

The above spot for Japan’s first con­dom man­u­fac­tur­er, Saga­mi Indus­tries, offers a vision of how humans might bring a lit­tle ani­mal feel­ing to their ten­der moments.

(It’s worth not­ing that while this delight is spon­sored by a con­dom com­pa­ny, humans are the only ani­mal to take pro­phy­lac­tic mea­sures to ward off sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted dis­eases and unwant­ed preg­nan­cies.)

Like actress Isabel­la Rosselli­ni, cre­ator of the mar­velous Green Porno series, direc­tor Greg Brunk­alla has an eye for both the fas­ci­nat­ing and the absurd.

But with­out Rossellini’s plain­spo­ken nar­ra­tion, this Act of Love remains mys­te­ri­ous, until the end, when the iden­ti­ty of the crea­tures the human dancers are embody­ing is revealed. Those of us who aren’t zool­o­gists will like­ly find that their cloth­ing pro­vides the clear­est clues up until that point.

Bisex­u­al behav­ior is ram­pant in the ani­mal world, but out­side of a not par­tic­u­lar­ly kinky-seem­ing pink-clad group, the five cou­ples in the ad are all het­ero­sex­u­al.

Sagami’s Eng­lish web­site takes a broad­er view, with in-depth reports on the sex­u­al prac­tices of 73 dif­fer­ent beasts, birds and insects. Tax­on­o­my, habi­tat, and size range are not­ed — a sci­en­tif­ic approach to what could very well serve as non-human online dat­ing pro­files.

Australia’s Superb Fairy Wrens are into open rela­tion­ships.

Lioness­es’ unabashed pref­er­ence for vir­ile young males gets them dubbed “true cougars.”

And E.B. White fans may find them­selves shocked by the vig­or of cou­pling orb weavers, seem­ing­ly the one fact of spi­der life Char­lotte refrained from explain­ing to her piglet friend, Wilbur :

After mat­ing, the male sud­den­ly sev­ers the mat­ing thread so that both he and the female end up dan­gling at sep­a­rate ends. This may look like a very abrupt part­ing of ways, but not so fast! The male imme­di­ate­ly re-strings his mat­ing thread and resumes his strum­ming. And despite hav­ing been cast off so sud­den­ly, the female again falls under the spell of his courtship vibra­tions, trans­fer­ring to the new mat­ing thread to mate a sec­ond time. As soon as they do so, the male sev­ers the thread once more so that the two spi­ders can go through the whole rou­tine again…and again and again and again. 

Explore Sagami’s entire col­lec­tion of not-so-pri­vate ani­mal lives here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Isabel­la Rosselli­ni Embody the Ani­mal Kingdom’s Most Shock­ing Mater­nal Instincts in Mam­mas

Watch Fam­i­ly Plan­ning, Walt Disney’s 1967 Sex Ed Pro­duc­tion, Star­ring Don­ald Duck

The Turin Erot­ic Papyrus: The Old­est Known Depic­tion of Human Sex­u­al­i­ty (Cir­ca 1150 B.C.E.)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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