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Are Nature Docs Glossing Over Homosexuality?

By Michelle Garcia

A scholar in the U.K. is taking aim at the BBC for its nature documentaries which he says tend to exclude or gloss over animals that engage in same-sex intimacy and mating.

Dr. Brett Mills of University of East Anglia wrote in a journal article, that shots of male chimpanzees cuddling are being described as bonding, but the chimps could also be cuddling, driven by sexual desires, according to the Telegraph. Another scene showed a male buff-breasted sandpiper approaching another male in a way that may be seen as intimidation, but Mills said it could also be to initiate mounting.

Mills's article published in the European Journal of Cultural Studies evaluates how educational media explains away homosexual behavior in animals. He evaluated BBC documentaries including Life in the Freezer (1993), The Life of Birds (1998) and The Life of Mammals (2003). Mills also wrote that the documentaries too often portray the animals in human-like contexts of family, even though the family construct does not apply to all types of animals.

"The central role in documentary stories of pairing, mating, and raising offspring commonly rests on assumptions of heterosexuality within the animal kingdom," Mills wrote.

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