OMG, Republicans. STOP. Stop ruining everything that is hilarious. You know how once in a while conservatives get together and make a list of all the government-funded stuff they don't think is worth spending money on, in order to make liberals look like wicked cutpurses swindling bewildered old grannies?* (In this metaphor, America is the granny.) And also to draw attention away from things that are maybe actually expensive, such as defense spending and imprisoning millions and millions of low-level drug offenders? WELL. They're at it again, and this time one of the frivolities in their sights is a Yale ornithologist who received $400,000 to study duck penises. It's a relatively small amount of money, in the grand scheme of government spending, but it happens to combine conservatives' two least favorite things: scientific progress and sexy intercourse. Therefore, ABOLISH IT.
As Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast points out, NO. NO NO NO. Not only are duck penises worthy of study, they are also hella interesting and weird. And if you, like me, have been having nightmares and daymares about that terrifying slow-motion video of the unfurling duck penis (see above, bladow!!!) for yeeeeeeeears now, you understand why it's important to get to the bottom of these things. Before they get to the bottom of you. Uncomfortable linemouth. '_'
Long story short, male ducks are rapists with exploding harpoon-penises.
Here, in Prum's words, is what he studied and learned:
"Most birds don't have a penis. Ducks do. They still have it from the reptilian ancestor that they shared with mammals," he said.
The duck's penis is stored inside the body, and when it becomes erect, the process of insemination is "explosive," Prum said. The duck's penis becomes erect within a third of a second, at the same time it enters the female duck's body. Ejaculation is immediate, and then the penis starts to regress. The length of the duck penis, as mentioned in the tweets, grows to 8 or 9 inches during the summer mating season. In winter, it shrinks to less than an inch.
In duck ponds, Prum said, a lot of forced copulation occurs. Forced copulation is what it sounds like — rape in nature. Even gang rape happens among ducks. And Prum found that while 40 to 50 percent of duck sex happens by forced copulation, only 2 to 4 percent of inseminations result from it (meaning times the female duck ends up with a fertilized egg).
But! But!!! The female duck literally has ways of shutting that whole thing down.
"The question is why does that happen? How does a female prevent fertilization by forced copulation?" he said. "The answer has to do with taking advantage of what males have evolved — this corkscrew shaped penis."
Prum said the duck penis is a corkscrew whose direction runs counterclockwise. Female ducks, he said, have evolved a complex vagina also shaped like a corkscrew — but a clockwise one.
"This is literally an anti-screw anatomy," he said.
When females choose their own partners — in other words, solicit copulation — the muscles in the vagina are dilated and expanded. So the anti-screw effect is negated.
"The females are enormously, amazingly successful at preventing fertilization by forced copulation," he said.
All of this is amazing and gross and hilarious and delightful and awful and fascinating. And, sorry, conservatives, you don't just get to stymie legit scientific research simply because it has the word "penis" in it. Dummies.
*Related: Remember the time Hari Kondabolu was referenced in the Benghazi hearings? Lololololol x forever.
Yes, We Should Study Duck Penises [DailyBeast]