Dolphins are often seen as gentle creatures of the oceans. But these beloved, playful creatures also have a dark side - specifically a dark sexual side. While it's known that dolphins are one type of animal that has sex for pleasure like humans - and even masturbate like humans - a dark trait they share with people is the fact they commit sex crimes.
Can dolphins sexually assault each other? More importantly, can dolphins sexually assault people? Well, there's good news and bad news. The answer is complicated and it's somewhere between yes and no. First of all, we have to ask the question: are animals really capable of committing sexual assault? Dolphins are considered remarkably intelligent animals, but it's unlikely they have the same concept of consent that humans do.
When it comes to dolphins raping humans, it's true footage exists of dolphins being sexually aggressive towards scuba divers and swimmers. Actual rape stories, however, are difficult to corroborate and the credibility of the humans who tell them is suspect at best. After reading this, you'll know the facts as they stand on dolphin sexual assault, and you'll have to make up your own mind on whether or not dolphins are rapists.
Groups Of Male Dolphins "Aggressively Herd" Individual Females
"Aggressive herding" is a scientific name for what essentially appears to the unscientific eye to be dolphin gang rape. When mating with females, male dolphins form alliances of two or three. They then choose a female and relentlessly mate with her for up to weeks at a time. If she tries to escape, she is chased. The males will frequently beat her with their flippers to maintain dominance.
While this seems to us like dolphin-on-dolphin rape, it is often spoken of in scientific literature as a normal mating ritual. It is, however, an unquestionably violent mating habit.
Male Dolphins Aggressively Mount Other Males To Assert Dominance
According to researchers, dolphins live in an "open society," meaning they regularly engage in homosexual and bisexual relationships with each other, serving various functions from sexual pleasure to the formations of alliances and social hierarchies.
Like the male-on-female sexual relationships, the male-on-male relationships can get extremely violent, and do seem to reflect some level of sexual assault. Occasionally, males will mount other males "as a short-term show of strength in order to dominate males from other groups." In these cases, the sexual engagement couldn't be seen, by human standards, as a consensual homosexual relationship - but again, this is seeing dolphin sex in terms of the human understanding of sex.
Wild Dolphins Have Shown Signs Of Sexual Aggression Towards Humans
This video, posted to YouTube by Michael Maes, shows a dolphin named Stinky being sexually aggressive towards Maes and his friend while scuba diving in the Cayman Islands. In the video, Stinky can be seen rubbing himself - penis erect - on both Maes and his friend in a supposed attempt to mate with the two divers.
If Stinky were human, there's little doubt this would be considered assault. He's a well-known porpoise to locals, so he's not exactly a stranger to the presence of humans - he has experience with our species. It's impossible to know Stinky's motives in the video, though. He could be excited by the mere presence of humans, or he could be looking for something more.
Dolphins In More Domesticated Settings Show Signs Of Sexual Aggression Towards Humans As Well
While the above video is presented in a humorous context and the object of the dolphin's aggression is a good sport about the whole affair, there is little doubt the video - which has the very cut-and-dry title of "dolphin rape" and can hardly be construed as funny - shows sexual aggression from a dolphin. It does, however, provide some evidence that dolphins show signs of sexual aggression towards humans in both wild and more domesticated settings.
A well-known example of dolphin-on-human sexual activity in captivity occurred in the 1960s when Margaret Howe Lovatt, an employee working on a NASA-funded project, allowed a dolphin named Peter to rub himself sexually on her. The relationship was not sexual on her part, she claims. It appears as though the relationship did not necessarily involve sexual assault; rather, Lovatt allowed Peter to follow his natural instinct.