What jewel beetles can teach us about porn, men, and marriage

In 1983, biologists Darryl Gwynne and David Rentz discovered that the number of Australian jewel beetles was declining. They found that this was because male beetles were copulating with empty beer bottles left by humans. The ridges of the bottles were highly attractive to male beetles because the bottom of the containers had tiny ridges that looked like the bumps on a female jewel beetle. The biologists decided to put some empty bottles on the ground and watched as male beetles crawled out of the woodwork to mount them.

The bottles were easier to mount than female beetles, and more attractive as they were a type of “supernormal stimulus.” In their paper, the researchers concluded, “improperly disposed of beer bottles not only present a physical and ‘visual’ hazard in the environment, but also could potentially cause great interference with the mating system of a beetle species.”

Indeed, biologists have termed this type of behavior an “evolutionary trap,” meaning an adaptive trait that is hijacked by artificial cues in the environment, which leads to the possibility of species extinction.

This example came to mind recently, when I was a guest on the Freedom Pact podcast and the host asked me if I thought porn was harmful.