There’s a new Scientific American article that presents some interesting biology, but does it tendentiously, for its aim is to show, by citing a few cherry-picked examples of odd biology, that interest in the penis among biologists, and the relative neglect of the vagina, reflects the patriarchy. It’s time, says author Rachel Gross to take the penis off its pedestal.
Now I freely admit that males often have an obsession with penises and their size, but I don’t think that the study of animal penises, as opposed to vaginas, reflects the patriarchy, despite a Vox Magazine article called “How a pseudo-penis packing hyena smashes the patriarchy’s assumptions.” (Read Steve Gould’s explanation of the spotted hyena female’s “pseudopenis”, a modified clitoris, though Gould’s hormone-based explanation is probably wrong.)
Gross’s article is loaded with examples of the naturalistic fallacy (or should I say “phallusy”?)—the idea that we can derive lessons about what is “good” or “moral” in humans from observing the behavior other species that lack our kind of culture (i.e., all other species). We may learn something about the evolutionary roots of our behavior, but not its lessons for sexual equality.
Click on the screenshot to read:
Here’s one example from the article, which begins by discussing two new books, Phallacy: Life Lessons from the Animal Penis, by Emily Willingham, and GUYnecology: The Missing Science of Men’s Reproductive Health, by Rene Almeling:
. . . the flashy focus on the male member serves as a Trojan horse (pun intended) for a very different message: that a culture of phallus-worship has slanted the science in crucial and sometimes unexpected ways. On the one hand, we’ve inflated the role of the penis in genital evolution; on the other, we’ve left the male contribution to infertility, genetic abnormalities and other reproductive consequences unexamined. The result is stunted, lopsided science that shows only one side of the story.
But if this all be motivated by the patriarchy, why are medical problems with male genitalia neglected and “unexamined”? But here’s one example:
Consider that myriad beetle species are classified solely by their penis shape, while the true breadth of vaginal diversity has yet to be explored. This tradition has deep roots: Going back to Charles Darwin, who waxed poetic on the wonders of barnacle dongs, biologists have trained their lens on the penis while remaining largely uninterested in what vaginas were doing. Yet penises don’t evolve in a vacuum. All those traits we ooh and aah over—length, girth, bristles—are shaped by vaginal evolution, and the mutual dance between the two that plays out over generations.
Now this is a straw insect. The reason why many species of insects (not just beetles) are identified by their penis shape is because that is the structure that is most likely to be clearly different between species. It’s not because biologists have an obsession with penises. In many Drosophila, for example, you can tell closely related species apart only by examining the male genitalia (even dissecting the female ones show no difference). As all entomologists know, “if there is only one trait differentiating closely related species, it is almost surely the shape of the male genitalia or genital apparatus.”
Now the reason for this probably reflects the action of sexual selection during the origin of new species, just as in many species of birds it is the male ornamentation and color and not the appearance of the female that is the most obvious species-distinguishing trait.
In insects, for example, the females of an isolated population may come, for reasons I won’t discuss, to prefer a slightly different genital shape in their mates, perhaps because it “feels better”. (We just don’t know the reason for this; I’m speculating here.) Eventually, because of this preference difference, you may get a snowballing difference in the shape of male genitals, and with it a big change in the female preference.
In the end, the two populations, via the action of sexual selection, come to differ from one another in both male genitalia and in female preference for the conspecific male genitalia—up to the point that females from one population will no longer mate with males from the other. We then have two reproductively isolated populations: new biological species.
Note that both sexes of the new species differ profoundly, but it’s dead easy to tell the species apart by the male genitalia, while it’s impossible to tell the species apart by looking at female genitalia. (Note: female genitalia may differ in some species, but to see that you’d have to do very elaborate dissections.)
You can tell the species apart by simply using a microscope to examine the male genitalia, but not the females. In fact, the females may differ in a way impossible to tell apart by looking at them, for their difference in preference may reflect how the different genitalia “feel” during copulation, and “tactile feeling” is a preference impossible to see because it’s coded in the female’s neurons.
I’ve made this point repeatedly, most notably in my book Speciation with Allen Orr, and others have as well, especially William Eberhard in his unjustly neglected book Sexual Selection and Animal Genitalia. This concentration on male rather than female genitals does not reflect sexism at all: it reflects both the way that sexual selection works and the fact that the selection manifests itself as morphological differences between species in male but not in female genitalia.
(A side note: in groups like squid in which sperm is transferred not through a penis but through another organ, it is those organs that tend to differ among species. This again supports the idea that during speciation, male morphology changes but what changes in females is often neuronally-based “feeling preference”.)
The idea that female preference is unduly neglected because of the patriarchy is not a fair charge because nearly every theory of sexual selection involves a concomitant change in both male trait and female preference for that trait. It is a hell of a lot easier to see trait differences than preference differences, which can be tested only by behavioral studies exposing females to males of different morphologies or of different species.
Author Rachel Gross emphasizes that it’s only the new activity of women scientists and LGBTQ scientists (!) that has led to an interest in female vaginal evolution. This simply isn’t true (well, it may be 2% true): many of the discoveries she emphasizes below were made by men, including the fascinating “pseudopenis” of the spotted hyena, repeatedly used as an example of a species whose females are “empowered” (another example of the Naturalistic Phallusy). The author says this:
Today, as more women and LGBTQ scientists enter the field, we’re finding that vaginas, far from passive tubes for ejaculate, are active organs that sort, store and reject sperm. Kangaroos have three vaginas (two for sperm reception, one for joey ejection); swallowtail butterflies see out of theirs; and duck vaginas spiral and curve in a penis-repelling labyrinth. Even for non-vagina-lovers, these facts help us understand how genitals evolve as a whole. Both are part of the same unified story—a much richer tapestry than just one body part can tell. Leaving one out, whichever one, blinds us to the fuller picture of sex and sexuality.
This is, I think, a gross distortion of the history of genital evolution. There’s more, and here her ideological lesson comes into view:
Both examples [JAC: the presence of multiple vaginas in kangaroos and “the neglect of guys in gynecology] reflect a deeper flaw in science’s approach to sex: the assumption that sex can only be either/or, two trains that run along separate, parallel tracks. Again and again, biology has proved this not to be the case—chromosomally, hormonally or genetically. For instance, we usually consider the presence of a penis to indicate a male, yet the hyena famously gives birth through her clitoris, which is so large that she can use it to mount the male. The female seahorse wields a long tube that looks an awful lot like a penis, which she uses to deposit eggs in the male’s pouch. So much for the penis as “the throbbing center of masculinity,” as Willingham puts it.
The lesson seems to be that sex is not binary IN HUMANS because of weird genitalic differences in other species. But sex is indeed binary in humans as defined biologically: males are the group that produce small, motile gametes (sperm) or have the potential to do so, while females are the group that produces large, immotile gametes (eggs) or have the potential to do so. THAT is the way, not penis shape or egg-delivering tubes, that biologists tell males from females, and the reason is because evolution forged sex that way: in animals, largely onto two tracks. The fact that a female seahorse deposits her eggs in the male’s pouch, and that he gestates the eggs and gives birth, says nothing about what obtains in humans, nor does it even say that “sex is not binary in seahorses.” No, sex IS binary in seahorses:a male seahorse makes sperm and a female makes eggs. What differs from most animals is which sex carries the fertilized eggs. But we’ve known that forever.
Finally, Gross gives us this message (my emphasis):
Here’s why: because human biases shape scientific knowledge, and much of what we know about our nether regions has been shaped by lazy, antiquated stereotypes about what men and women are. Looking past the penis and beyond the binary categories of male/female, penis/vagina (or, more accurately, penis/clitoris) opens our eyes to the full spectrum of gender and genitalia in all its glorious permutations. It makes for better science, and a deeper understanding of genital evolution and reproductive health.
Well, I’m not sure that Gross realizes that she’s given the game away by admitting flat out that yes, male/female is indeed a binary in humans. Sex is binary. But yes, its manifestations, its twists and turns—like a duck’s penis—are fascinating to the biologist. Yet this does not mean either that the study of female genitalia have been of interest only to LGBTQ+ or female scientists, nor that we should draw any kind of lessons about how to best treat human males and females based on observing other species.
For another argument of the same stripe—that the diversity of nature tells us how patriarchal and sexist humans have been—see the article below from The Guardian. It, too, relies on a combination of anecdotes and the Naturalistic Phallusy, completely neglecting the great generalizations about the sexes first noted by Darwin. Once again the bonobos (who aren’t as nice as everyone thinks) are trotted out as an example of how females can be dominant in humans:
Ah yes, bonobos: these peaceable primates use sex toys, practise oral sex and establish and maintain female-led social structures through “genito-genital rubbing”. That’s entertaining, but it also matters: as Cooke says, it challenges the clichéd narrative on sex roles in primates, our closest animal relatives.
But why doesn’t the fact that the rest of the primate species show male aggression and “patriarchy” buttress the idea that males are the “dominant sex” in humans? Once again, it’s ludicrous to tell humans to right way to behave towards the sexes by pointing at other species. Nature is what it is, but human society, because of culture, can be made to abrogate what we see in nature—to circumvent evolution. The invention of contraception is one example.
As the biologist said who sent me the link below (a woman, by the way), “I suppose a more balanced account wouldn’t sell many books or warrant a big splash in a Sunday.”
(Lucy Cooke has a new book of “female myth-busting female-centered” stories, Bitch: A Revolutionary Guide to Sex, Evolution & the Female Animal).
41 thoughts on “Scientific American attacks the “cult of the penis””
“It’s Time to Take the Penis off Its Pedestal”
Oh, bravo SciAm. Did they pick the title or did Rachel Gross? I like how it shows clearly the difference between “It’s” and “Its”.
At any rate, I think “It’s time to …” counts as peculiar headline craftwork.
I like how the sentence is grammatically correct with or without “it’s”‘ appostrophe.
I tried to understand what your point, but in doing so, I understand the title even less – what does it mean?
Not being a biologist, I can’t really comment on what body bits biologists ‘as a group’ focus on or why. But as a layperson, it seemed to me that the orchid and the variety of other plant ‘flower mommy bits’ got pointed out by teachers plenty. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s hard to see any ‘cult of the penis’ in the extensive study of flower varieties. Why, IIRC even Darwin waxed on about orchid bits!
“… I can’t really comment on what body bits biologists ‘as a group’ focus on or why. …”
Good question, though maybe less “body bits” than “body functions”. Some evidence that many of them quite justifiably focus on functional gonads as the “necessary and sufficient conditions” to qualify any members – of any sexually reproducing species – as members of the female and male sex categories.
For instance, see a 1972 article in the Journal of Theoretical Biology – “The origin and evolution of gamete dimorphism and the male-female phenomenon” – by Parker, Baker, and Smith:
Currently paywalled, and the site that had a PDF isn’t currently working. However, a copy I had snagged earlier of the file underlines that connection:
“sperm producers, i.e., males”, and “ovum producers, i.e., females”.
However, a later article (2014) by Lehtonen and Parker likewise underlines and promotes the same definition:
“Biologically, males are defined as the sex that produces the smaller gametes (e.g. sperm), implying that the male and female sexes only exist in species with gamete dimorphism (anisogamy).”
In addition, most reputable dictionaries endorse those same definitions: to have a sex is to have functional gonads, those without being sexless. For instance, see an Aeon article by Paul Griffiths – university of Sydney professor, co-author of Genetics and Philosophy – which says virtually the same thing with some useful elaboration:
“Many people assume that if there are only two sexes, that means everyone must fall into one of them. But the biological definition of sex doesn’t imply that at all. As well as simultaneous hermaphrodites, which are both male and female, sequential hermaphrodites are first one sex and then the other. There are also individual organisms that are neither male nor female. ….
Nothing in the biological definition of sex requires that every organism be a member of one sex or the other. That might seem surprising, but it follows naturally from defining each sex by the ability to do one thing: to make eggs or to make sperm. Some organisms can do both, while some can’t do either. ….”
Not to mention the paintings of Ms. Georgia O’Keeffe.
As an old male human widower, I’m much more interested in the shape of the Vulva (which I guess is generally meant by ‘vagina’) than in the shape of penises, The latter I do not really encounter in my sex life. We have to give it to the authors, there is quite a bit of interesting variation in the former there (all with their own charms). But that is just the human species.
As our host points out, male genitalia are often the easy way to differentiate species. The authors of these woke-like articles should do their homework, before publishing such -let us be honest- ridiculous articles.
Must we capitalize “Vulva” now but not “penis”? I guess I missed that memo but it makes sense in a Woke universe. 😉
I thought the Vulva was a river in Russia.
Typo, sorry, vulva vs vagina, not ‘Vulva’ vs ‘Penis’.
No surprise that Scientific American keeps disseminating toxic wokeulinity. However, I must take issue with our host’s unfortunate assertion “other species that lack our kind of culture (i.e., all other species)”.
As a counter example, consider Pulcinella, as recounted by Wiki. “Legend has it that Scarlatti had a pet cat called Pulcinella, who was described by the composer as prone to walking across the keyboard, always curious about its sounds. On one occasion, according to the story, Scarlatti wrote down a phrase from one of these “improvisation sessions”, and used it as a lead motif in a fugue.” Then, of course, we have the case of the elephant Ruby, who specialized in abstract art. Wiki informs us as
follows: “Ruby (1973 – November 6, 1998) was a 4.5 ton Asian elephant that lived at the Phoenix Zoo and was famous for creating paintings. The most expensive of her paintings sold for $25,000.”
It is rampant speciesism to ignore these examples of animal art! Perhaps Rachel E. Gross, described as a “science journalist”, could dig into this topic in an exposé, if not for Scientific American then at least for Ranger Rick magazine.
Ranger Rick! Wow, that takes me back.
For some people ‘Nature is what it is’ is not acceptable, rather ‘Nature ought to be what it ought to be’. And as some philosophers argue you cannot derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’.
This is a little off-topic, but illustrates a case where certain animals are apparently blamed for aspects of human culture and behavior. Tablet reports as follows: “…the International Cat Federation, known as FIFe, or Fédération Internationale Féline, announced that it was banning Russian cats from its competitions. In a statement, FIFe’s board declared that “it cannot just witness these atrocities and do nothing”. No innocent Russians, indeed. Not even the cats. ”
Does it mean breeds of cat from Russia or does it mean cats owned by Russians. Don’t forget that by banning certain classes of cats from competition you are not punishing the cat (who probably couldn’t care less) but its owner.
I suppose the organizers wanted to avoid trouble. Remember the Russian athlete who was allowed to compete – for noble reasons of course – and then decided to display the symbol of invasion while standing next to an Ukrainian.
CAt shows are for the cat-breeders and cata-fanciers, not the cats! Check any u-tube video of a FIFe or other cat show, if you doubt this — most of the cats would really want to be home.. And given the number of cat nuts in Russia, this sanction may hurt more than the gymnastics ban does.
I have to confess that I used to enjoy the services of a Russian Blue cat named Dusty, who lived across the street but liked to hang out on my porch. Dusty was a notably wary and secretive cat, perhaps associated with the NKVD, if not the Okhrana. It occasionally sneaked into my house to
photograph classified documents, and to steal food I left for the other visiting cat.
Wow! The genital wars. We are smothered by wokeism. Lordy forgive us for we know not what we do. My last confession was 60 years ago. How many Hail Marys to repent?
Dang, between this post and the earlier one about Port Circumcision, I think we’ve set a one-day personal best here at WEIT for dick quips.
Given we are talking about supposed phallus worship we could ask “What is mightier than the sword?” Answer: th e pen is
At a loss for what to add to Monsieur Kucek’s sublime word pairing, for no good reason I offer :
A man a plan a canal Panama
… something about “canal” and …. you know, it’s probably best left unsaid….
[ definitely used the Title of the Year to proof my use of “it’s” ]
I can’t be bothered to look it up now, but it’s real: In physics, introductory mechanics studies solid bodies, while fluid dynamics is a field which is still not completely understood. The reason is obvious: fluid dynamics is much more complex. But some woke have seriously suggested that that’s because the solid body is a stand in (pun intended) for the penis whereas we don’t know as much about fluid dynamics because old white cis men don’t want to think about menstruation. That is up there with the speed of light being privileged in relativity and the Principia as a rape manual in terms of woke nonsense.
There is a lot of nonsense: flat-earthers, homeopathy, voodoo, whatever. The danger of wokeness is that it is now influencing politics in otherwise sensible countries.
“… because old white cis men don’t want to think about menstruation. ….”
Dawkins’ review of “Intellectual Imposters”/”Fashionable Nonsense” elaborated on that in some detail:
“The problem of turbulent flow cannot be solved because the conceptions of fluids (and of women) have been formulated so as necessarily to leave unarticulated remainders.”
“…We’re finding that vaginas, far from passive tubes for ejaculate, are active organs that sort, store and reject sperm.”
From here, it is one step to “you cannot conceive by rape”, a phrase usually heard from a very different school of lunatic “thought”.
Anyone just now finding out that vaginas are active organs needs to get out (or in!) more.
“… an obsession with penises and their size…”
Okay, here is my comment. I’ve long contended that the only reason penis size even becomes a topic for men is because … wait for it … wait for it … women have erected a trope about it. Yes, pun intended on ‘erected.’
Every time I see a joke, reference, of for the love of god a direct inquiry from a woman with a wicked gleam in her eye, I counter back: “The human female vagina is five inches long. Thereafter comes the cervix, and no man wants to do harm to that. Therefore, any woman seeking a male partner longer than five inches might be 1) a masochist; 2) an anomaly of the vee. Which are you?”
I have more to say about this situation, but will not lengthen this post unless someone responds.
You’re one smooth operator, Mr. Donohue. Cary Grant wished he could’ve been as suave.
A penis has more than one dimension. So do vaginas.
Not all vaginas are 5 inches deep or less. ‘Nuff said.
If anyone would like to do a deeper dive on the naturalistic fallacy, John Teehan and I wrote a paper on it years ago: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237538223_On_the_Naturalistic_Fallacy_A_Conceptual_Basis_for_Evolutionary_Ethics
Thanks to our host for skewering Sci Am’s nonsense (again)!
Good discussion as usual. My takeaway from Ms Gross writing is that some people know how to write with metaphors, and some don’t.
“It’s Time to Take the Penis off Its Pedestal” is rather unintentionally funny, and this one is a hoot, “Yet penises don’t evolve in a vacuum.” Or take this one: “It can be a corkscrew, a crowbar or a hypodermic needle. […] It is the penis […]” It might work like these things, but how could it be these things?
“In both, the flashy focus on the male member serves as a Trojan horse (pun intended) for a very different message: that a culture of phallus-worship has slanted the science in crucial and sometimes unexpected ways” but what’s the pun exactly, and since when are Trojan horses slanted, and how could a “flashy focus” even be a Trojan horse, slanted or not? Did she have an editor?
Then there the grating “just-so” reasons. For instance, the Hyena “pseudopenis” is likely dubbed that way, because apparent appearance and function is reminiscent of male genitalia, and not because it’s more “powerful”. Also, what a nonsense that is. If you want to stereotypically incapacitate of a guy, you’d hit him in the groin. It’s easy to cherrypick such examples. She does that throughout her article, beginning with mentioning the field of reproductive medicine and gynocology, only to sweep it by the wayside, with usual spurious genre-classics that scientists don’t think holistically. That can always be asserted, though usually not in magazines that purport to be scientific.
“… males are the group that produce small, motile gametes (sperm) or have the potential to do so, while females are the group that produces large, immotile gametes (eggs) or have the potential to do so.”
Bit of a puzzle as to why so many people – most often feminists of one stripe or another – insist on qualifying those definitions with the term “potential”. Particularly as that is not at all consistent with the standard definitions in most reputable dictionaries nor with those used in various biological journals as I’ve indicated in a previous comment. Many if not most of them use “produces” – present tense indefinite, absolutely no reference at all to any “potential” capability.
However, there are many quite serious, if somewhat abstruse, problems created by that largely untenable and idiosyncratic re-definition. For one thing, there’s the question of those suffering from the “complete androgen insensitivity syndrome”, many if not most of whom “have a typical female external phenotype, despite having a 46,XY karyotype” [Wikipedia]. And many of whom have internal but quite non-functional testes – absolutely no “potential” whatsoever to produce either sperm or ova. Male or female? Or neither?
But substantially more problematic is the case of sequential hermaphrodites, the infamous clownfish for example. Many of those species can’t actually produce either gamete on hatching but generally acquire the ability to produce both – sequentially – over their life cycles. Because of that “potential” does that mean that they ARE both males AND females from the time of hatching? That is what the “potential” qualification leads to – “from contradiction anything follows”.
Of some related interest is that an oldish Wikipedia article endorsed the standardard biological definitions while rejecting the “potential” qualification, but the more Woke-ish and Lysenkoist later versions repudiate that perspective:
“Dominance is based on size, the female being the largest and the male being the second largest. The rest of the group is made up of progressively smaller non-breeders, which have no functioning gonads. If the female dies, the male gains weight and becomes the female for that group. The largest non-breeding fish then sexually matures and BECOMES the male of the group.” [my emphasis]
There’s no mythic essence, no “immutableness” to male and female; membership in those categories is contingent on actually having currently functioning gonads – neither potentially nor previously functional ones.
I can’t speak for our host, but presumably the “or have the potential to do so” caveat allows for including children in their respective male or female sex category?
“… caveat allows for including children in their respective male or female sex category? ….”
Presumably that’s part of the motivation behind what is clearly a non-standard and quite idiosyncratic re-definition – as I had indicated in some detail.
However, I expect that the bigger part is that many if not most “women” are rather “nonplussed” at the prospect of getting their “female” “membership card” rescinded at menopause. For instance, see part of the judgement in the Maya Forstater case; she is to be commended for “manning” the barricades on the trans issue, but her insistence that sex is “immutable” is profoundly problematic, and quite unscientific:
“83 I next considered whether the Claimant’s core belief that sex is immutable lacks a level of cogency and cohesion. It is avowedly not religious or metaphysical, but is said to be scientific. Her belief is that a man is a person who, if everything is working, can produce sperm and a woman a person who, if everything is working, can produce eggs. This does not sit easily with her view that even if everything is not, in her words, “working”, and may never have done so, the person can still only be male or female.”
If we’re going to allow the redefinition of the sexes – to something other than the standard biological ones (see above) – then why shouldn’t transwomen be entitled to the same right? Particularly as many of them object to those biological definitions because it excludes them from the category “adult human females” – AKA “women”.
Many people don’t seem to realize that definitions are not created simply to pander to the vanity of many (women) or their envy (transwomen). There’s generally some rhyme and reason behind various definitions, those for the sexes in particular.
A famous biologist, Theodosius Dobzhansky, once argued that, wrote a book titled, “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution”. And a corollary to that might be that nothing in evolution makes sense except in light of reproduction: no reproduction, no evolution. There’s a reason why the biological definitions – and standard dictionaries – make the actual ability to reproduce an essential element:
Yes, children and biological males and females who, for developmental or other reasons, are sterile. (You cannot be a member of a “different” sex if you can’t reproduce at all.)
“You cannot be a member of a ‘different’ sex if you can’t reproduce at all.”
I’m certainly not arguing that those who “can’t reproduce at all”, who are sterile, actually *have* a sex – much less have changed sex by the removal of their gonads. Nor is Paul Griffiths – university of Sydney professor, co-author of Genetics and Philosophy – who quite credibly asserts, in an Aeon essay linked to above, that:
“Nothing in the biological definition of sex requires that every organism be a member of one sex or the other. That might seem surprising, but it follows naturally from defining each sex by the ability to do one thing: to make eggs or to make sperm. Some organisms can do both, while some can’t do either. ….”
By which token those who can’t produce either gamete are thereby sexless: transwomen who cut their nuts off are thereby sexless eunuchs; seems rather a high price to pay to “dish with the girls”. De gustibus I guess …
However, I can see that you’re less than impressed by his argument and likewise by biologists Geoff Parker – “FRS, an emeritus professor of biology at the University of Liverpool” – and Jussi Lehtonen writing in the Journal of Theoretical Biology and in the Journal of Molecular Reproduction who endorse, if not orginate, the same definitions as Griffiths promotes:
Rather disconcerting that you yourself would promote a rather profoundly anti-scientific and anti-intellectual re-definition of the sexes – absolutely nobody defines, for example, a clock as something potentially able to tell time while insisting that some non-functional collection of parts that came from a clock actually qualifies as one. Or that a mechanical “clock” absent its mainspring likewise qualifies – it is only nominally a clock at best. But the actual presence of a function – not just structure – is very often a necessary and sufficient condition to qualify something as a member of a category: cars, clocks, and sexes.
Particularly disconcerting in light of your otherwise credible defense of science and the principles which undergird it.
I would think it’s easier to study stickie-outie things than pushie-innie things, especially in something small like a beetle or a fruit fly.
Virtue signaling and salacious click bait at the same time.
Really, the use of the male organ to discern species is simply because the sticky-out thing is easier to see. In the case of insect junk, you can simply inflate it and mount it on a microscope slide to see all the sclerotized sensilla, hooks, and brushes. Meanwhile the sticky-in bits are concealed and squishy. There is quite a bit less structure there to use.
“a culture of phallus-worship”
Even if there is some bias in the history of biology leading to study of the penis but not the vagina, and I don’t think there is, how do you get from that to a culture of phallus-worship? No one is doing chants and rituals, for goodness sake. In my mind that sort of exaggeration immediately tags the work as a rant, not a thoughtful piece of commentary.