Pandas are terrible at sex. Today I learned that female pandas are only fertile for two days a year. For Edinburgh zoo resident Tian Tian, that brief knocking-up window started today. If pandas had any sense of responsibility to their genes, this would be the prompt for some mad panda action. They would be at it, and at it good. But no, because as well as being practically infertile by design (two days, pandas! What, did you confuse “menarche” and “menopause” when you were working out your evolutionary strategy?), pandas are also lazy, lazy lovers.
When Tian Tian’s zookeepers took urine tests showing their charge was about to be impregnation-ready, they started a dedicated campaign of matchmaking. They moved Tian Tian and Yang Guang (her prospective mate) into each other’s cages. They observed the pandas frisking in each other’s patch. They listened to the pandas’ mating calls. They deemed the pandas ready to be introduced to each other without too much danger of ripping each other to territorial bits (Pandacam was switched off though, just in case the first date went murderous). There was an effort at mounting, but no panda copulation, because a tail obstructed penetration.
One of the mating pair’s own tails got in the way. That is like a human couple going to a fertility specialist, going through all the tests and tactful questioning, and then finally explaining, “Oh yes, we had sex, but he had his hand over the end of his nob all the way through. That’s the right way, isn’t it?” No, pandas. No. That is not how you have sex, and it’s not how any species with two days to get one in the hole should be acting if it wants to survive.
The only possible conclusion is that pandas are in the grip of a catastrophic perversion. They have an extinction fetish – sure, they could achieve fleshy union, but how could that ever match the perfect bliss of their erotic reveries in which total species death is achieved? Pandas have overthrown the tyranny of reproduction: the aim of the panda libido is self-elimination.
All the same, they like to have a little fun along the way to their ultimate petit mort (which, tragically, the pandas will never be able to appreciate, because it can only be accomplished in their own non-existence. It’s the ultimate sadwank). And this where we come in. Because pandas love knowing that we’re watching all the time. The worst choice the Edinburgh zookeepers could have made is to switch off the Pandacam – the only thing that gets a panda excited is the subtle click and whir of covert filming equipment.
When a panda sees a human sniffing its panda pee for signs of fertility, somewhere under that placid-looking exterior of black-and-white fluff it enters a state of exhibitionist ecstasy. They even require a man on hand throughout the performance with a bamboo pole, ready to intervene should that tail descend awkwardly again. Like any species is really that physiologically stupid: the tail thing is just a pretext to make sure there’s someone looking over them.
No wonder pandas aren’t that fussed about penetration. After all that fuss and ceremony, the squelchy mechanics of panda penis in panda vagina must seem like a terrible disappointment. Well, I for one am tired of being an unwilling bit-player in the weird and sleazy sex games of ailuropoda melanoleuca. Turn off the Pandacam, step away from the panda wee, send the man with the panda pole home. It’s time to let pandas sadwank themselves into blissful oblivion.