A short story by Moshe Sipper
“Seventy-nine?!” cried Linda Ryan, Head of the Planetary Survey. “You're sitting here with a straight face, telling me the Takeinians have seventy-nine different sexes?”
“Yes,” replied Mark Yang tersely and undauntedly. Head of the Contact Team, he was always terse and undaunted. But damn competent, thought Ryan. She knew he had much to do with the success of their mission. They'd already got to a point where they could carry on halting conversations with the Takeinians, which was remarkable considering they’d only arrived to this new world eight months ago.
“Don't tell me you need a member of each and every one of those seventy-nine sexes to reproduce?” mused Ryan.
“No,” replied Yang. “Apparently, it takes between three to seven different-sex members to produce offspring.”
“The number of combinations of possible sexual matings is huge,” mumbled Ryan.
“Well, there seem to be some non-viable configurations, but basically you're right. There are billions of possible mating combinations,” Yang said evenly.
Nature sure had a field day on this planet, thought Ryan. The Takeinians were actually quite friendly once you got to know them, yet Ryan was still befuddled to learn of the existence of so many sexes. When they had first got here, she had been sure Takeinians came in but one flavor.
“How can they tell the difference?” asked Ryan.
“Their equivalent of an olfactory sense is much more developed than ours. Apparently, they have no problem telling one gender from another.”
We can hardly handle two, thought Ryan, and these guys ... get to not understand seventy-eight other sexes ... “Don’t they ever get tired of this big mess?” she asked Yang pointedly.
“Actually, they do,” replied the young scientist. A gleam of amusement appeared in his eyes, a rare occurrence indeed. “But they’ve developed a way to counteract the anxiety of sexual multiplicity.” He paused for a moment and stared at Ryan.
“For relaxation they entertain relationships with members of the same sex.”
“You mean —” started Ryan.
“Yes,” interjected Yang. “Homosexuality is their idea of uncomplicated bliss. And it comes in seventy-nine different flavors.”
Copyright © 2012 by Moshe Sipper