An Open Letter to Susan H. Shane, Ph.D.

Suse Portrait

UPDATE: I received a reply from Dr. Shane on July 12, apologizing for her statement and saying she wouldn’t make the same negative claim today. She also said she had no intention of denying my experience with Dolly, and described female dolphins as being “good candidates” for experiencing orgasm. (I think they’ve had it for 30 million years, but hey, I don’t have a Ph.D., which means I can leap to conclusions with virtually no consequences.)

I’d publish her response here, but she hasn’t given me her permission to do so.

I accept her apology and applaud her open-mindedness in being willing to change her mind. As far as I’m concerned, this matter, which has bothered me for 44 years, is closed. Thanks, Suse.

July 7-8, 2018

Suse, I’m writing you this morning to “get off my chest” something that happened between us in 1974, while you were attending New College and staying at my mother’s house on Siesta Key, where I was also living at the time. You deeply wounded me and ruthlessly invalidated me with six thoughtless words, and it has rankled me ever since.

Your professed ambition as an undergrad, as I remember it anyway, was to become “the Jane Goodall of dolphins.” Sorry you never made it, but maybe it’s for the best anyway. Let me explain why, from my own perspective.

You’ve probably forgotten all about this, but I never have, because you became symbolic to me of mindless veneration of dogma, any dogma but in this case SCIENTIFIC dogma (if you don’t tell me it doesn’t exist, I won’t have to call you a liar).

I don’t remember what led up to this, but we were sitting in my car, I was in the driver’s seat, you were in the passenger seat, we were stopped somewhere and I was trying to describe my 1971 experience with Dolly the dolphin to you, which was only the most profound, moving, deeply personal and transformative experience in my life.

No, you have no idea. You really, really don’t. And I’m not even sure you CAN.

And I was trying to describe to you, while Dolly and I were making love in her pen at Floridaland, how she took me underwater just before we experienced a simultaneous orgasm, and how she groaned, just like a woman, underwater.

You looked at me as if I’d just offered to sell you a slightly used bridge in Brooklyn, cheap.

That’s when you said the six words that utterly invalidated me, my experience with Dolly, my observational abilities, my truthfulness and my intelligence.

You said, and I quote, “But female animals don’t have orgasms!”

And I just sat there, gobsmacked, not believing what I’d just heard.

This has nothing to do with any feelings I may or may not have had toward you. You were very attractive (you still are), and I was hopeful enough to imagine we might get it on, even though I was pretty sure you weren’t attracted to me. I wasn’t very accepting of my own zoophilia then, and was looking to normalize myself through experiences with women. But that’s neither here or there.

When you said, “But female animals don’t have orgasms,” a number of rebuttals came to mind. More have come up int the intervening years. Here are some of them in a nicely-ordered, bulleted list:

• Without putting too fine a point on it, you’re a female animal (I presume you’re not vegetable or mineral) and YOU have orgasms, don’t you? What makes you so special? Or what makes female non-humans so unfortunate? Is female orgasm an evolutionary privilege of H. sapiens, and if so, what have you human women done to make the universe favor you over all other females on this planet?
• Since when is an unprovable negative hypothesis “scientific”? A single case of a female animal having an orgasm is sufficient to invalidate your assertion. Try this link  at 0:40. I don’t know what you’d call that, if not a bitch orgasm.
• Please cite a peer-reviewed scientific paper – ANY paper – which authoritatively states that female animals don’t have orgasms. The only two people I’ve seen allege this in print are Larry Niven (misogynistic SF writer) and Dr. David Bronowski (mathematician). I don’t see as that makes either one an expert on the subject, or anything remotely close. Nor can I find any references to actual studies of this question.
• The clitoris (not mansplaining) is the focus of female sexual arousal and orgasm. The only female mammal I’ve been able to find that doesn’t have one is the platypus. The platypus male has such a spiny penis that he has to knock her out with poison spurs before they can mate. Since other female mammals have clitorises, what do you suppose they have them for? Do you think they get stimulated during mating? And let’s not forget, because of humans’ upright stature, the female human’s clitoris is typically farther from the opening of the vagina than in other female mammals. This means other species’ females should find it easier, rather than more difficult, to experience orgasm during mating without much need for foreplay. Female equines even have a moveable clitoris which they can push against a stallion’s penis when he’s thrusting. Canines form the copulatory tie, which not only involves long-duration sexual stimulation but positions the male dog’s bulbus glandis so it’s depressing the bitch’s clitoris, which I’m sure leads to orgasm. Pigs copulate for up to 20 minutes; it’s difficult to imagine how a sow could NOT experience an orgasm with that duration of penetration.
• In many species I’ve observed (dolphins, dogs, birds, bovines, equines, etc.) a female in estrus will solicit sex from a male rather than waiting for him to get around to it. (Below: cow in estrus soliciting sex from a bull.)


Why do they do this? For Queen and Country? I think not; most non-humans don’t have the comprehension to connect sex with reproduction (dolphins and a few self-aware others being exceptions). They do it because they’re anticipating an orgasm! And why shouldn’t they? The anticipation of an orgasm leads female animals to solicit sex, just the same way it does males. It’s a powerful driver for bisexual reproduction, which is the most important act an animal can perform. If it didn’t exist, evolution would have invented it millions of year ago for just this reason. Also, in many females, orgasm triggers ovulation and various involuntary responses that help transport sperm to the ovum.
• How did this idea you parroted back to me get started? Well, it’s true, most female animals don’t display a lot of activity or vocalize during mating. The one exception, the feline, is supposed to scream during sex because it’s painful, the males having small spines on their penises. (I conducted an informal experiment many years ago to test this hypothesis and found that female cats scream even when penetrated by a smooth phallus, it just takes 3-5x longer than with a spiny one. So it isn’t the spines that are causing her to scream.) Does this lack of activity or vocalization mean they aren’t having orgasms? Of course not, and it would take a leap of faith to assume so. Many women do not display the “stereotypical” (i.e. faked) orgasm behaviors, moaning, thrashing around, biting, pulling their partner’s hair, etc., that are often associated (in men’s minds, at least) with the female orgasm. To make Brooke Shields fake an on-camera orgasm in the 1981 romantic film “Endless Love,” director Franco Zeffirelli stood off-camera, pinching her toe incredibly painfully. While my own experience is, admittedly, unscientific and limited, the two non-human partners I’ve successfully had sex with (Dolly and Pixel, my previous, 34-kg bitch) had orgasms. If you need to remind yourself what I told you about Dolly’s orgasmic behavior in 1974, you can buy & read my novel Wet Goddess  because I’m damn sure not wasting my breath explaining it to you again. When I had orgasms while having sex with Pixel, I could feel her vagina squeeze me. According to Masters and Johnson, involuntary contractions of the female sexual organs are the most reliable indicators of female orgasm, so I am inclined to think that’s how most female mammals experience it: totally on the inside, not the outside. After all, if the female mammal started thrashing around, the male would fall off her back and sex would be over without insemination. So thrashing around would be self-extinguishing, evolutionarily speaking. And looking for human-type behavior in non-humans is called “anthropomorphism,” isn’t it? (Rhetorical question, but you already knew that, didn’t you?) If scientists claim female animals don’t experience orgasms because they don’t react the same way human females do, they’re being anthropomorphic scientists. If they want an honest answer from somebody who is uniquely qualified to provide one, they should talk to zoophiles, like me. We’ve been there. We know. Not “think” or “believe” or “imagine” or “hypothesize” or “guess” or “that’s what the data indicate:” WE KNOW. Because we’ve been there, that’s how.
• How did this silly, crackpot, unsupported notion get started? I think I figured it out, and although this is my speculation, it’s based on well-known and often-observed aspects of male human behavior. Prior to the 1950s, there weren’t a lot of woman biologists, certainly not like there are today. So biology conferences were mostly-male gatherings. What do a group of men (yes, even scientists) like to do when they get together by themselves? Drink beer and watch porn movies in back rooms after the  conference. So some guy with a 16mm B&W fuck film would commandeer a projector and slap a hand-lettered notice on his hotel room door announcing that there would be an impromptu showing of “Mating habits of the female Homo sapiens” at such and such a time. And I assume the men would make coarse jokes about the ACTING of the players, all of whom are faking their reactions because they have to endure multiple camera set-ups, retakes, etc. Just like regular feature film-making, making porno films is a boring, time-consuming exercise in patience. But all the biologists see on the screen is the edited version: the woman screaming, flailing, thrashing around, biting her lip or her man’s shoulder, etc. Of course, when you go out in the field, you are subconsciously comparing that arousing performance with, say, a mare or a wildebeest who may let the male mount her with very little courtship. And under those circumstances, the biologists who have been Hollywood brainwashed by powerful images at primal levels about what to expect from sex (with a human ACTRESS, let us not forget,) look at a mare or sow or jenny mating, and they don’t see the dramatic performance seen in porno films, and that some women actually do achieve in their sex lives. (One of the worst nights of sex I’ve ever had was with a woman who assumed, without asking, that I liked her screaming and pulling my hair.) In short, the dubious conclusion that “female animals don’t have orgasms” is certainly a case of inadequate investigation, superficial observation, bias confirmation, constricted imagination, latent Victorianism and probably, not wanting to rock the status quo, an all-too-facile acceptance of “revealed wisdom”.

So I sat there, in my car, staring at you and trying to deal with a lot of disbelief, anger, even outrage. First, there doesn’t appear to be a source to your assertion, whereas I had actually performed the act and felt the sensations with my body, which is a very sensitive, but often unreproducible way of monitoring somebody else’s emotions. And I took a number of physical risks to do that. I had no inkling of the emotional risks i was taking, which turned out to be far worse and long-lasting.

I was trying to interest you, or anyone really, in the fact that I had a high-strangeness experience with an intelligent alien species. Information theory determines that the frequency of an event is inversely proportional to the value of the information can be gleaned from it. We learn more from rare events than common ones. So someone should be able to learn a whole fucking lot about dolphins from my experience, but so far no takers. I don’t know, maybe cetacean researchers are prudes?

“Female animals don’t have orgasms.” My first cogent thought, after I got over my shock, was How the fuck do you know, Suse? And I still wonder who told you that, or how you learned it, or what book you read it in, and why you decided to accept it was true without either an authoritative source or some research. And what made you think you “knew” it, when it could not have been anything other than a pure belief on your part, almost a superstition. I mean, you didn’t get a grant to check it out, did you? I didn’t think you bowed to authority, but I guess I was wrong.

My second thought was rage. Just pure rage, which I struggled very hard to control. I almost told you to get out of my car. It wasn’t so much what you said, Suse, as the abusive way you said it: as a pronouncement. A fact. No question of argument with YOU, Professor Shane! You didn’t express any curiosity about my description of human-dolphin love making, or question it, you invalidated it and negated it without really considering what I’d just told you. You seriously dissed me. Why did you feel the overwhelming need to blow me off? What did I ever do to you? I never fucking laid a hand on you, never insulted you or called you a rude name. I tried to behave like a gentleman toward you, as I was taught. In return, you insulted me, my observation abilities and my ability to reach conclusions based on evidence. You not only told me that I was wrong, but that I was stupid or naive for having reached the conclusion I did. Suse, I had experience. I had evidence, gathered at great personal cost. I’d been there, you never even considered the idea. Your comment on my experience was made from an armchair. Am I saying you should have been a zoophile? Of course not. I’m not proselytizing for my sexual orientation, I’m proselytizing for dolphins. And yet, in spite of my admission, which I was keeping very close at that time, you displayed no curiosity or interest. You just wanted to tell me I was wrong, and you didn’t explain what your motivations were, or why.

Third, I was astonished. I thought maybe you hadn’t understood me, that I hadn’t made my argument, when I told you that, as we reached climax, Dolly groaned three times in a rising tone synchronized with my thrusts. That detail seemed to go right by you. Selective hearing? You made some dismissive remark about that observation, I forget what, but then I tried to tell you that, as we swam along making love, Dolly synchronized the strokes of her tail with my pelvic thrusts. “That was just for deeper penetration for better fertilization,” you retorted, completely ignoring the subjective or emotional component there. I suppose you meant it was somehow “instinctual.” How could making love with another species be “instinctual”? We both know that dolphin matings are very quick, a matter of a few seconds, but Dolly not only managed to last about two minutes with me (sorry, I didn’t check my waterproof watch, I’m sure you understand) but apparently timed her orgasm to be simultaneous with mine. Besides, when you made your “better penetration” remark, you weren’t in possession of the full facts, because you never asked me. While it’s difficult for me to know for certain, I’m pretty sure I never penetrated Dolly’s vagina. At the time I thought I’d run into one of her pseudocervixes, but a marine mammal vet intimately familiar with the situation (if you believe him, anyway) told me I’d run into the external adductor muscle, which I guess closes the opening of the vagina, preventing salt water from getting in. Her genitalia are certainly a lot more complicated than yours! So I guess her thrusting in sync with me was because she enjoyed the sensation, not some vague instinctual urge.

Finally, Suse, there was a disillusionment, sadness, and rejection. I tried to share something very precious and rare with you, an intimate experience that, at the time, I had told almost nobody about. I felt like you’d be interested, but your only interest seemed to be in correcting me, and rather rudely at that. You weren’t trying to enlighten or inform me about something in which I was in error; you were bluntly telling me that my experience didn’t happen the way it happened, or that my sensations of it or conclusions about it were erroneous, and you did this without the slightest shred of evidence that they were.

In short, YOU GASLIGHTED ME, SUSE, at the same time as you ripped me a new one. For what reason? I think I have a right to know, even after all these years. Was my statement somehow a threat to you or the knowledge you represented? Were you appalled at my apparent ignorance? Did you think I’d taken too much LSD and hallucinated the whole thing, that I was bullshitting you, that I made it all up, or that I was sexually boasting? Nothing could be further from the truth. I was (and remain) deeply puzzled about my love affair with Dolly, and continue to try to understand her motivations and interpretations of it to this day. Because it was so strange, so tender, and so beautiful, it has become the central defining point in my life. (The birth of my daughter ranks second.)

You showed no concern for my feelings; in fact, like a lot of women I’ve encountered, you acted like I didn’t even HAVE feelings, which is offensive and sexist of you. You seemed eager to humiliate me, or show off your own “correct” knowledge. It was disparaging and emotionally deeply wounding, and at that point, while I was still in mourning for Dolly, I was easily wounded. Your callous remark twisted that knife.

I mean, what the fuck, Suse? What the goddamn fuck? I can’t find any reason why you behaved that way. I understood Dolly a lot better than I understood you, which has always been my problem with people in general and women in particular. I have no inherent facility for understanding, and interacting with, my own species. My tool kit to do so seems to have been assembled one painful socket wrench at a time.

As UFO researcher Jacques Vallee said of UFO skeptic Philip J. Klass’s derision of the whole subject, “Since when is ridicule part of the scientific method?” Because you showed no curiosity or interest in my experience, I don’t think you acted in a scientific manner. Admittedly, my experience was anecdotal, but you didn’t try to gather testimony. You reminded me of the savants of Medieval France who scoffed at the peasants who claimed that stones fell from the sky. Everybody knew such a thing was impossible!

Your attempted nullification, or re-interpretation of my experience to fit scientific orthodoxy, was very much in keeping with the other scientists I encountered at that period, people I’m sure you know or knew: the Caldwells, Blair Irvine, the Tavolgas, and so on. (Interestingly enough, Randy Wells, whom I knew in high school, has never tried to “correct” me, listens patiently to my ideas and manages to make insightful remarks. He’s a great guy and an open mind.)

I was confronting very unsettling and problematic questions about the “telepathic” communications with Dolly that I seemed to be having at the time. I considered the possibility that I was becoming schizophrenic, and rejected it. I existed in a state of “suspended disbelief” for quite a while, and even the overwhelming experience of totally interpenetrating each others’ bodies, hearts and minds when we made love couldn’t completely convince me that the phenomenon of inter-species telepathy was real. Since then, however, I’ve made contact with a number of other trainers and researchers who claim something similar (but non-sexual), has happened to them: Ric O’Barry (on tape: “Eventually I realized it was all telepathy, because shooting a weekly television show we just didn’t have time to use standard conditioning techniques.”); Frank Robson, NZ fisherman, dolphin trainer and author of Thinking Dolphins, Talking Whales and Pictures in the Dolphin Mind; Michael Greenwood, civilian scientist with the U.S. Navy, author of Peter Fisher’s Odyssey: Marine Mammal Warfare (“If the U.S. Navy would release what it knows about dolphins, it would revolutionize psychology,”); paranormal researcher Lyall Watson, who found a strange man in NZ who could mentally “bully” dolphins into obeying him; the inimitable and widely despised John C. Lilly, and most recently “David Capello,” pen name for a British trainer from the 1970s who wrote a very good trilogy, The Perfect Pair, about the brutal, frustrating and heart-breaking work of being a commercial dolphin trainer. I’m trying to get information about SRIs remote viewing experiences with dolphins. I also interviewed the late Florida sculptor Don Seiler, who claimed a dolphin thwarted an attempted shark attack on him in the 1940s. I got a letter from a witness who confirmed his story — Truly Nolan!

When a scientist proposes a hypothesis, he or she goes out looking for data to either confirm or disprove it. Based on the data, it is possible to make predictions about how the hypothesis will be received. Since Dolly and I made love in 1971, human beings have learned a hell of a lot more about dolphins that we knew back then. EVERYTHING WE’VE LEARNED HAS REINFORCED MY CONCLUSIONS ABOUT DOLPHINS, and nothing has contradicted them. Dolphins are self-aware, linguistic, tool-users with highly complex social systems, remarkable memories, undiscovered abilities and a so-far-unexplained camaraderie with human beings, their biggest predator. I could have told you that back in 1971, based solely on my experiences with Dolly, but I hadn’t paid my dues, so who would have listened? Certainly not you. You acted like a fucking know-it-all. It’s not an attractive attitude, even for scientists.

Since that time, I see you’ve come a long way. How far, or in what direction, I have no idea. You seem to have strong humanist values, for which I applaud you. Are they a recent acquisition? Where were they, in dealing with me? I just didn’t deserve the way you dismissed me, Suse, I just didn’t deserve it.

I had a terrible night last night, and woke up filled with an inexplicable, unfocused rage. I don’t think back on our encounter often, certainly don’t dwell on it, and I bear you no ill-will, Suse. I also want to say I was a very inconsiderate, selfish and careless person myself, in those times, and I regret having been that way. But I would like an apology from you, both for being factually wrong, then for deeply, callously hurting my feelings by invalidating the most personal, transcendental and loving experience in my life. It wouldn’t have cost you anything to keep your mouth shut, but you had to go and be a nerd showoff. Well, you hurt me, Suse, with your callous attitude, and you added to my increasing dissatisfaction with scientists as human beings.

You probably think I’m fucking nuts for writing this after all this time. Maybe I am, I don’t care anymore. I’m no spring chicken, and there is, as I said at the opening of this letter, an irrepressible urge to have this out with you. Although I have largely outgrown or learned to cope with the long-shouldered rage and resentment I experienced in my deeply troubled youth, I haven’t been able to let this one drop. Admittedly, I have a problem hanging on to resentment; worse, in the winter of 2012-2013, the stress of watching my lover’s people being slaughtered and captured by the Japanese fishermen in Taiji gave me an emotional breakdown. When they captured that little white dolphin, Angel, for display, something inside me snapped, and I decided I would try to make dolphin meat a little more expensive in Japan. I conceived a plan to invade the Japanese consulate in Miami and either kidnap or kill the consul. I worked on this for several days, laying out a budget, material requirements and strategies, before realizing I was fucking out of my mind and getting some psychiatric help. After that episode, my brother, a psych nurse, suggested I re-start taking gabapentin, which has helped with my episodes of Intermittent Explosive Disorder in the past. That rage hasn’t been a problem since… until today. But more recently, I’ve had terrible problems with vertigo, which has eluded all the usual diagnoses, and my ENT told me to stop taking the gabapentin, which I did about 3 weeks ago. So if this letter upsets or offends you, blame it on my meds. Or the lack of them.

That’s all I really have to say, Suse. My New College education was a sham, I’m not friends with anybody I went to school with there. My most precious possession from that time, the 8mm film 351 that I made with the late David Pini and my former friend John “Rabbit” Wasko, was destroyed by a careless projectionist. My only reason for “friending” you on FB was to share this complaint with you, a complaint about rather callous rejection and denial that also questioned my integrity as a human being, and to get an apology, if one is forthcoming. For a long time I just sloughed it off, because I didn’t want to go to all this trouble, thought I was silly for playing emotional paleontologist and was afraid of the reaction I might get from you – afraid of another rejection, oddly enough, and I just realized that now as I’m closing.

I wrote Wet Goddess and appeared in the award-winning short documentary Dolphin Lover because I had acquired some unique insights on dolphin thought, emotions and behavior. I had to explain to people that dolphins can offer us love as deep and profound (maybe more so) as we experience with other humans, to make people aware how emotionally vulnerable dolphins are in spite of their enormous physical strength, to show why it’s wrong to keep them keep them in captivity or eat them, to encourage the restoration of their degraded habitats and to encourage further investigations into their cognition, language, abilities and their facility for working with us, the killer apes of Planet Earth. And for most of the 37 years it took me to write, re-write, re-re-write, layout and publish that book, I was horribly afraid that I would die without being able to share my experience with a world that desperately needs to hear it. In a joking sort of way, I thought if that happened I’d have to go through reincarnation, except that this time I’d be the dolphin, and Dolly would be the human…

Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out a way to disentangle my dolphin experience from my zoophilia, and it’s on my zoophilia rather than the dolphins that most interviewers and writers have focused. (The comments on Dolphin Lover range from WTFs and calls for eye bleach to the people who want to dismember or murder me for having made love with a dolphin.)  This is disappointing, but not unexpected, the shock media being what they are these days. In spite of this, I persisted because I JUST HAD TO TELL THIS STORY, no matter what the personal outcome to me. The same has been true for my other two books, one a memoir of sexual/physical/emotional abuse as a child in the late Dr. Wilhelm Reich’s infamous orgone energy-sex cult, the other being my second wife’s unbelievable tale of becoming a “seductee” after an extraterrestrial spaceship, piloted by a very humanoid alien, crashed in her back yard. I could never disprove her story, because, like my early suspicions about the dolphins, all the event-forks kept breaking her way. But, sadly, I couldn’t prove it, either.

I hope you read this, Suse; maybe it will make you learn something about yourself you weren’t aware of before, or teach you something you didn’t know. But maybe not. I know you thought I was a jerk back at N.C., and I did very little to change that opinion. But life has a way of abrading a person’s rough edges, and I am a better person now than I was back then, if not more materially successful. Now officially retired from journalism, I’ve had a very checkered career, never really achieving my goals. You seem to have done well for yourself and achieved at least some of your goals. What I’m feeling toward you, or at least your career path, isn’t jealousy but envy. My problems were seldom doing the job, almost always with getting along with other people on my jobs. On the other hand, your current posts display an admirable humanitarianism. I just wonder where it was when you told me, with the certainly of a pontiff quoting scripture, “Female animals don’t have orgasms.”

Whether you respond or not, Suse, I’ve fulfilled a personal need that has been simmering in me for decades. Unless you want to engage in dialog, I will not broach the matter again. Since I have no great affection for you, I’m going to drop you as a FB friend. I’ve said what I have to say, and while your response, if you choose to make one, may be illuminating, it’s utterly unnecessary from my POV. You can still PM me if you want. I hope you never treated, or will treat, anyone sincerely looking for knowledge like you treated me, Suse Shane, because it was beneath you, and it was lousy science, too. Have a nice life.


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