tatjna (tatjna) wrote,

Lesbian sheep in bikini videos - it's what's for breakfast

So AirNZ has a new safety video. This time they are 'celebrating 50 years of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition' by, you guessed it, having bikini models deliver the safety message from a beach in the Cook Islands. As usual, some of the sight gags were clever, but I was too busy being agog at the cleavage and belly buttons. I wasn't quite offended, but I was really gobsmacked that in this day and age, I'm being confronted with a blatant Sex Sells message in that way. I had thought (I guess mistakenly) that this kind of thing wasn't OK any more and that AirNZ knew that. I've become attuned to more subtle sexism than that, so to have it waved in my face like that was more shocking than what I was actually seeing.

Naturally there's controversy, and I've no doubt that the people who made it are lapping up the extra publicity. In fact the dude who made it's been quoted dismissing concerns of feminists out of hand because "It's not as though men and women in swimsuits don't exist." Uh.. Another quote, this time from a (male) marketing professor at Auckland University: "They have always been edgy, part of their positioning has been to push the limits."

My question to that dude is, since when has having women in bikinis selling stuff been edgy or pushing the limits? It's so old hat and cliched that the only 'edgy' thing about it is that they somehow think it's fresh and interesting to do it in 2014. The only limit they are pushing is how many Stuff comments they can get from men who don't see a problem with it because they like looking at bikini babes. And that, folks, is nothing new at all.

Oh look, cranky Tats is cranky.

I was introduced to this concept a few days ago. Prior to that, I'd never heard of the so-called 'lesbian sheep problem'. It was introduced in the context of the British Secret Service, which apparently has a rule that you can't declare your security status unless it's to someone with a higher security status than you. Of course, if neither person knows the other's security status, then nobody can tell anyone theirs, so nobody can ever tell, and nothing ever happens.

So what does that have to do with sheep? Well, apparently female sheep, when they want to have some nooky, indicate this by not moving and waiting around for someone to come mount them. And thus, while it's been shown that roughly 8% of rams are born gay, there's been no demonstration of lesbianism among sheep. The researchers are assuming that this is because they are all standing around waiting for the other sheep to make the first move and mount them. And thus, the lesbian sheep problem was born.

I have a couple of issues with this. For a start, it assumes that mounting is the only valid display of sexual behaviour. Isn't that kind of like when Queen Victoria said lesbianism doesn't exist because women can't have PIV sex with each other? It takes a pretty narrow view of what counts as sexual behaviour, especially given the broad and complex social behaviours sheep engage in generally, and I don't know about you, but if my sexual repertoire were limited to PIV sex, then I'd not be a very happy camper.

My second objection is that actually, ewes don't just stand around waiting to be mounted by some random passing ram. And I quote" "A ewe in heat (estrus) will generally seek out the ram. She will sniff and chase after him." In fact, in one experiment the rams in a flock were tethered and unable to seek out the ewes, and yet 2/3 of them got in lamb anyway. Ewes initiate half of sexual contact when both animals are free, and have been known to fight over an available ram.

Now, I understand that the way ewes behave sexually around rams doesn't prove that lesbian sheep exist, but it does place a big question mark on the basic premise of the lesbian sheep problem - that ewes supposedly stand around waiting to be mounted and have no active role in sexual behaviour. What I conclude from this is that a) if we want to prove the existence of lesbian sheep, we need to stop being so heteronormative about what counts as sexual behaviour, and b) using sheep as the example is incorrect because female sheep are not just passive receptacles for ram penises.

And the British Secret Service can get over itself.

I know nobody else cares about this, but for me it's just another incorrect assumption made about sheep, and I admit to a not entirely unfounded concern regarding the extrapolation of assumptions about animal behaviour to that of humans, and how often that leads to the support of a societal status quo that is disadvantageous to my agency as a woman.

Driving through Christchurch is weird. It's all Leafy Suburb, Leafy Suburb, Leafy Suburb, then suddenly, WHAM! CBD. Hagley Park, and across the road, factories! Everything's all mashed up together, and I find it quite disorienting. Was it always like that, or is this a product of the earthquake?
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