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Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation: The Definitive Guide to the Evolutionary Biology of Sex Hardcover – August 14, 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Finally, a how-to guide, in the guise of a Q&A advice column, for marching, flying, or slithering into the battle of the sexes, whatever your species. In this entertaining and informative book, evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson presents "letters" from sexually frustrated animals, birds, and insects who ask "Dr. Tatiana" to explain some sexual oddity. For example, "Don't Wanna Be Butch in Botswana" writes, "I'm a spotted hyena, a girl. The only trouble is, I've got a large phallus. I can't help feeling that this is unladylike. What's wrong with me?" Each question leads Dr. T. into a fascinating explanation about the sex life of this species, sprinkled with sprightly stories about other species with similar attributes or behavior.

You'll learn why one stick-insect copulation lasts for 10 weeks (to prevent other males from gaining access to the fertile female) and why the black-winged damselfly's penis has bristles (to scrape out his rival's sperm). You'll learn that male and female orangutans masturbate with sex toys fashioned from leaves and twigs, that slugs are hermaphrodites with penises on their heads, and that females in more than 80 species eat their lovers before, during, or after sex. You'll also ponder human sexuality when you learn that "monogamy is one of the most deviant behaviors in biology" (although jackdaws, chinstrap penguins, California mice, and some termites swear by it) and "natural selection, it seems, often smiles on strumpets."

Highly recommended--you'll read this through just for the fun of it and have plenty of odd facts with which to dazzle your dinner companions. --Joan Price

From Publishers Weekly

Those looking for prurient prose may be better off browsing their local adult bookstore, but readers intrigued by the bizarre facts surrounding animal whoopee (and really, who isn't?) should pay a visit to Dr. Tatiana, the alter ego of evolutionary biologist and journalist Judson. While her wryly salacious tone makes animal mating habits and evolutionary biology pretty racy, the book still reads more like a textbook than the Kama Sutra. Judson uses a tongue-in-cheek advice column format through much of the book, forging letters from dung flies, iguanas, sagebrush crickets and rodents ("Like, what's the deal? I'm a sleek young California mouse and am so in heat.") to explore reproductive biology. The device can be grating, and purists appalled by anthropomorphism may find themselves cringing as Judson chastises a male splendid fairy wren for philandering, while pronouncing his paddle crab counterpart a "gentleman." Still, Judson gets high marks for her copiously researched data. Perhaps most compelling is her chapter entitled "Aphrodisiacs, Love Potions, and Other Recipes From Cupid's Kitchen," in which the roots of animal homosexuality are examined. The reader will undoubtedly come away with reams of fascinating factoids, such as the nauseating dining habits of tropical cockroaches during copulation, and the pregnancies of the male seahorse and his cousin, the pipefish.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1st edition (August 14, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805063315
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805063318
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.2 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #234,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Harold McFarland HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Unable to read through the book in one setting, I found myself desperately trying to find ways to get back to it as soon as possible. Who would have thought that you could take the subject of sexual reproduction and evolutionary biology and made it into such a thoroughly entertaining read?
The author chose an advice column format with letters supposedly from crickets, stick bugs, stickleback fish and dozens of other creatures asking advice about their sexual situation. Needless to say most of it is fascinating and highly unnatural - for a human that is, but perfectly normal for them. Some of the situations she describes are so bizarre as to be beyond what one would expect from even the best science-fiction writers.
Olivia Judson is to be applauded for writing an educational book that is so thoroughly entertaining that it does not seem like you are actually being taught in the process. But you will learn and you will walk away with a completely different view of nature and reproduction. I was so thoroughly fascinated with the book that all I can say at this point is "Encore, encore".
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Format: Hardcover
This extraordinary book can be read at many levels: humor, sexology, general science, evolutionary biology, and it is amazingly successful in all its various layers; some of the information it imparts is so fantastic that it will strain one's sense of reality. Can a mammal be born through the clitoris of the mother? UH?? Well, YES, it can. The spotted hyena delivers its pups through her clitoris (leading to the frequent mortality of the pups or the hyena moms). Read all about it.
Or consider the well known fate of the male praying mantis, whose head keeps his sexual urges in check until this organ is devoured by the amorous female: the the male's sexual inhibitory mechanisms (residing in the head) are removed, and he becomes a veritable sexual athlete while in the throes of death. Adds Dr. Judson: "Something analogous even happens in humans: Throttle a man and like as not he'll get an erection, not from erotic pleasure in dying, but because 'Down, boy' signals from the brain stop coming."
The variety of sexual behavior among the critters that populate planet earth is so extraordinary that after reading this book it will be unlikely that the extremely narrow band of sexual "deviance" among humans will have much of an impact on the reader. Sexual bondage? Pschaw! Consider the sagebrush cricket(Cyphoderis strepitans), who carries a gin trap with open jaws on his back. Those teeth clamp on the female's belly when she approaches the male (the female preference is to be on top) and immobilizes her so that the male can have his way, whether she wants to or not. Incest, cannibalism, rape, masturbation, homosexuality, they all flower in incredible variety among the users of this planet.
The book is written with scientific seriousness and literary humor.
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Format: Hardcover
Birds do it. Bees do it. But exactly *how* do they do it? Every which way! And evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson is here, in the person of Dr. Tatiana, agony columnist to the biosphere, to print their epistolary pleas for amatory advice, and to answer all their questions - and ours. Let her count the ways.
Judson's humor is not quite as sparkling as she takes it to be. But that's all right, because she doesn't lay it on too thick, being too eager to get down to what she really likes to talk about: the dazzling variety of behaviors, strategems, perils and contortions to be found in the universal mating game. And let's not kid ourselves, that's what her readers also really want to get down to.
From the Asian stick insect who stretches one copulation out for months at a time, to the fruit fly only five percent as long as one of his own sperm, to the slime mold with its 500 sexes, 13 of which have to get together to make a little baby slime mold, Dr. Tatiana covers the beat and covers the bases. There's a fresh astonishment on every page. They're delivered in bite-sized two or three paged morsels, which explains why Nature magazine's generally favorable review suggests this as the perfect book for your family sittin-and-thinkin room.
The fun, like the devil, is in the details, and there's a cornucopia of details, ranging across a hundred species or more. But the good Doctor manages along the way to touch on plenty of possible generalizations, evolutionary conundrums and controversies and imponderables. For example, she thoroughly debunks the one dogma about animal sexuality that I was brought up on: Bateman's principle that sex is more costly to females, making males more promiscuous. It turns out that, for most species, the reverse is true.
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Format: Hardcover
Whether the reader is a newcomer or season ticket holder with regards the comparative sex behaviour literature, this volume will surely prove itself to be both tremendously entertaining and educational. Judson?s novel ?agony aunt? Q & A style of presentation makes for a clearly accessible text for a wide audience of all ages and levels of understanding. This is a great way to impart much of the bewildering array of comparative morphology and associated knowledge concerning the rich diversity of sexual behaviour across a broad swathe of species. This book will surely attract many from the younger generation to the study of evolutionary and comparative biology/psychology. Many of us will wish that we had written this one! Not only do we read here about the birds and the bees?, mammalian phyla are well represented throughout the 13 chapters. The full tour includes gender differences (as well as similarities) and the how?s and why?s of the sex that might take place between them, whether that be in (serial) monogamy, polygyny, polyandry, or even parthenogenetic circumstances. The implications of each section for our better understanding of human sexual behaviours (both normal and abnormal) are rarely explicit, and for the most part (possibly intentionally so), are presented rather tongue-in-cheek. This is not a failing of the work, however. There is ample material here to occupy the lateral-thinking reader in this regard.
Although this book makes for a terrific vacation or conference-trip read whilst in transit, it also has much of seriousness to offer the student of comparative psychology, sociology, anthropology, zoology or medicine. For those wishing to cut to the chase with the primary literature concerning particular issues, over 20 pages of extensively referenced notes are provided.
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