A Whiff and a Smile

Larry Niven, in his Ringworld novels, created the term rishathra as a name for having sex with other species. Now wikipedia reminds me that in the Ringworld the practice was limited to sex between intelligent hominids, but I was recently reminded of the term when I had the common enough encounter of a dog sticking its nose as deep into my crotch as I would let it.

Dogs, I’m sure you’ve noticed, are very fond of sniffing sexual organs. They greet each other not with a handshake, but with a quick, and sometimes not-so-quick, sniff of each other’s butts. I’ve already noted that they tend to greet humans much the same way. So do they consider this sex? Is it foreplay? We all know that there are many dogs that will happily practice frottage on a human’s leg and clearly they consider that sex. But what about the sniffing? Do they just like to use their sense of smell and our genitals just happen to be at a convenient height? Is it interesting because being one of the most sheltered parts or our bodies, and one with an expulsive function, it tends to exhibit a wider variety of scents than the rest of our bodies?

Okay, they’re stupid questions but I was wondering. So I asked God. He pointed out that flowers are the sexual organs of plants and humans go around shoving our noses into flowers and sniffing as deeply as we can. Do we consider that sex? I agreed that we didn’t. But it does make me wonder a little about giving flowers to someone on a date.

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