May 10, 2010

Handjobs for Science

News, Research 1 Comment

You’ve had a pretty hum-drum at the office, so we here at Sex and the 405 thought we would spice things up a bit with a double shot of WTF science.

dolphin handjobThe following excerpt is from Graham Burnett’s A Mind In The Water, an article about the study of dolphins over time, which will run in the May/June 2010 issue of Orion magazine. The piece touches on the controversial work of neurophysiologist John Cunningham Lilly, who infamously tried to understand the bottlenose through LSD — and even sex.

Oh! That got your attention. Good. You need to wake up.

Over the course of his decade of intensive dolphin research, Lilly can be understood to have more or less sequenced through the whole battery of Cold War techniques for dealing with a tight-lipped foreign asset held in captivity.

Initially committed, in the late 1950s, to that spookish tool kit of techno-maniacal assaults on the cranium (picture a Frankenstein-like cap with electrodes penetrating the skull), Lilly gradually moved, at CRI, to less invasive approaches with his animals. But he nevertheless continued to draw on the playbook of those psy-ops intelligence services that shaped his early training in neurophysiology.

For instance, by the early 1960s he was testing code-breaking techniques, having been granted access to one of the very earliest programmable electronic computers, which he used to try to sieve recordings of dolphin vocalizations for patterns, deploying the same statistical methods as Cold War cryptographers. A little later he began experimenting with “chronic contact” scenarios, which involved “isolating” a dolphin in constricted quarters with a human agent, on the assumption that a conversion of loyalties would result.

To this end, Lilly even redesigned the St. Thomas laboratory with floodable living quarters, and initiated a set of long-term cohabitation experiments in which a male dolphin and a human female in a leotard and lipstick (to help the dolphin see her mouth move, of course) spent weeks interacting in a confined space. Lilly had her read Planet of the Apes to prepare for the work.

This sort of deracinating, intensive environment — colored with erotic potential — belonged, of course, to the world of counterespionage debriefings. Lilly did not explicitly advertise these dimensions of his project, preferring to talk of the need to treat the dolphin like a child, positioned to learn human language from the continuous attentions and baby talk of a new “mother.”

But he was by no means unhappy when an Oedipal scene unfolded underwater: with all the inevitability of a classical drama, this newest effort at interspecies communication eventually climaxed in what is probably the very oldest form of human-animal intimacy — sexual contact.

Pressed by an increasingly desperate Lilly to recognize that she needed to open herself to the dolphin’s solicitations (and warned by him against succumbing to the blinders of her own cultural preoccupations and psychological blockages), the young experimenter eventually decided that the randy and terrifying buckings of her imprisoned subject animal were themselves nothing less than his effort to communicate. In the protocols of her experimental notebooks she recorded coming to feel that her sharp-toothed roommate was doing the best he could to solicit her in a more and more gentle manner; it fell to her to meet him halfway, stroking him to a shuddering calm.

Lilly chalked it up as a victory for interspecies contact. But Swiss Family Robinson it was not. Neither was Lilly’s final effort to hear what the dolphins were saying, which involved the use of lysergic acid diethylamide, otherwise known as LSD.

Image and information from Orion magazine.

AV Flox

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Sex and the 405 is what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.

Here you’ll find news about the latest research being conducted to figure out what drives desire, passion, and other sex habits; reviews of sex toys, porn and other sexy things; coverage of the latest sex-related news that have our mainstream media's panties up in a bunch; human interest pieces about sex and desire; interviews with people who love sex, or hate sex, or work in sex, or work to enable you to have better sex; opinion pieces that relate to sex and society; and the sex-related side of celebrity gossip. More...