I’m about to undertake a big move shortly, which means I’m currently going through most of what I own, trying to work out what needs to go in storage what can be palmed off to other people, and what I need to sell.
For most of my books, they’ll end up with either my sister or a younger family member. Which comes to my re-read of Dr Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation: can I successfully pass this off to a twelve-year-old without upsetting her Dad?
With this book, Olivia Judson has come up with a clever way to explain the evolutionary biology of sex to lay-people – frame it as a sex advice column for all the species under the sun, while posing as the fictitious sex therapist, Dr Tatiana.
And it is fabulous. I’ve transcribed some of the letters Dr Tatiana deals with to give you a taste of what the book is like. The letters and their explanations take up only a few pages at most, which means its quite easy to read in little snippets rather than binge reading the whole book in one go:
Dear Dr. Tatiana,
I’m a queen bee, and I’m worried. All my lovers leave their genitals inside me and then drop dead. Is this normal?
Perplexed in Cloverhill
This then dives into a discussion of mating strategies and the conflicts between the sexes.
Dear Dr Tatiana,
I’m an Australian redback spider, and I’m a failure. I said to my darling, “Take, eat, this is my body,” and I vaulted into her jaws. But she spat me out and told me to get lost. Why did she spurn the ultimate sacrifice?
Wretched in the Wilderness
This letter leads to the good doctor discussing platonic cannibalism.
And my favourite:
Dear Dr Tatiana,
I’ve heard it’s going to take me three weeks to make just one sperm because it’s going to need a tail 20 times longer than my whole body. This seems awfully unfair: I’m just a little fruit-fly, Drosophila bifucura. Can’t I get a prothesis?
Waiting for Sperm in Ohio
Which results in a few paragraphs explaining while we don’t know exactly why your balls take so long to make colossal sperm little fly, it is possible that female promiscuity might have something to do with it. More work required!
(Although, this makes D. Bifucura a little easier than its mate Drosophila melanogster to work with in some respects, as D. mel’s more speedy sperm production means I have to wake up early in the mornings to catch them before mating)
And if you want to follow up on any of the issues discussed, nearly a fifth of the book is dedicated to the notes and bibliography. So if you see a line or two referencing the Red Queen Hypothesis, and you want to know more the book points you in the right direction.
So while I don’t know if her dad will approve exactly, I think this book might be accessible enough for a precocious kid and I’ll try and slip it along.
If he DOES gets upset, I’ll be safe overseas anyhow and he won’t be able to do anything about it.