Though most of the two thousand or so species of microscopic pond dwelling rotifers are entirely female, reproducing themselves by parthnogenesis, some hundred species appear to include sexual differentiation and reproduction in their repertoire; the females giving birth, on certain occasions, to short-lived ‘males’: rudimentary creatures with no digestive tracts, little more than mobile gene-sacs packaged and conveniently available for gene-hungry females. Quelle horreur! this reduction of males to mere messages, consumable gifts sent by one female to another – preposterous reversal of the exchange and circulation of women by men in all known societies. In human conception the female egg, we’re told, sits there immobile, passively waiting while a swarm of sperms, active thrusty kinda likeable little devils, race to be the first to penetrate her. How magical, what a serendipitous homology exists between the ways and means of society at large and biological nature in the small; how fortunate that this spermocentric arrangement – miniature copy of the hunting male forever competing with his fellows for that prized virgin (and what a great story that’s made) – should be nature’s choice, and not some horror scenario of female guile and engulfment. Fortunate for the men of bio-science who have enough on their plate, mastering the universe and getting their experiments, their plumage and all that theory right, without having to worry about picking out bits of female gossip from the center of their omelettes.

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