Can you assign sexuality to an animal? If so, would frogs be counted as pansexual?
Well, technically no. In the way most people use the term pansexual, which discusses gendered attraction (or lack thereof), frogs do not have the mental and societal complexity to be what we would normally call “pansexual”. However, if we use the term more loosely, to refer to the rather fluid position frogs occupy in terms of their biological sex, alongside some tendency to same-sex attraction among frogs, it could be remarked that their sexual tendencies resemble something like pansexuality.
It would probably be more accurate to describe the mating preferences and habits to be analogous to the concept of being pansexual, rather than simply calling it “pansexual”. This makes sense in terms of the indifference of frogs to the fluid sexual makeup of their sexual partners – but would not conflate sex and gender in a problematic way.
In this article, the question “are frogs pansexual?” will be broken down into a few different ideas:
- What is pansexuality?
- Do frogs have a gender?
- How do frogs express attraction?
- Can you call frogs pansexual?
What is pansexuality?
The question of the sexuality spectrum, and the multitude of places a person can occupy upon it, is a very complex topic – and that’s before we bring frogs into it.
Being pansexual (or “pan”) is generally considered to mean being attracted to people regardless of their sex or gender identity. There is often confusion between being “pan” or being “bi” – Stonewall differentiates between the two by describing bisexuality as more of an umbrella term, within which lots of different identities can be described.
So before we answer the question “are frogs pansexual”, we need to define pansexuality. In short, it can be called the attraction to people without caring about their sex or gender.
Do frogs have a gender?
Gender is a term very often conflated with biological sex. The two are of course, incredibly different, one referring to many different constructed social factors and the other generally referring to a particular set of biological aspects – both can be used to categorize people in different ways! Some people think sex is a more concrete binary than gender, but that is not necessarily true.
Gender is normally considered to be socially constructed by people, and the different genders people can have ranged across a huge spectrum of different identities, most commonly visualized with a long color gradient or color wheel. However, frogs are not as psychologically developed as humans.
So – do they have a gender? Technically no, but they have a remarkably interesting type of sexual dimorphism – or the way in which different sexes are told apart. The sexual characteristics are defined by various categories – coloration is an important one for frogs. One of these aspects being color is interesting for this article’s question because frogs can change their color over time, blurring the male/female lines of sex within the species. This could maybe imply that frogs can have a type of pansexuality – as the sexual category that any given frog fits in can change over time.
It is not just color that changes, however – other elements of a frog’s sex can change due to various factors. This article from the National Geographic discusses how frogs are able to change their “sexual destiny” at any given point, not even necessarily influenced by temperature or the surrounding environment.
This type of sexual fluidity is possibly analogous to genderfluidity within humans. If we take those two as comparable in some way, it would not be too far from to truth to compare attraction within frogs, creatures which routinely change their own sex, to the pansexuality seen in queer spaces in human society.
A study by the University of Berkeley found that when frogs are exposed to certain pesticides, they may be more likely to change their sex. However, the study also shows that even frogs that had a male presentation (in terms of appearance) could also have ovary systems. Moreover, Berkeley researchers found that these frogs still mated, regardless of the changed or feminized sexual partners.
This would certainly imply that frogs are largely ambivalent towards the sexual presentation or alignment of their partners – again making the pansexuality analogy even more convincing.
How do frogs express attraction?
Many of the aforementioned studies also showed us that male and female frogs mated irrespective of any changes to sexual dimorphism that could classify the amphibians as either male, female, or hermaphrodite (showing elements of different sexes). So to help us answer our question if we can call frogs pansexual, or even make it as an analogy, it is worth briefly examining how frogs attract mates.
Some sources claim that the sexual dichromatism – or difference in color between sexes – of frogs is the most important factor of sexual selection (choosing a mate). Often the different sexes are differentiated by either bright/dull colors, or simply a different color scheme. More commonly, the distinctive vocal calling between frogs is seen as the prevailing factor as to why a frog chooses a mate.
However, in the studies above, the researchers found that the changes in sex from either pesticide or natural life with these frogs did not stop them from being mated with by other frogs. The Berkeley study indicated a change in both coloration and voice box, but that other frogs mated with them regardless. This would tell us that frogs do not seem to overly care about the presented sex of a mate.
Conclusion: Can you call frogs pansexual?
As this article has stated several times, there is no 1:1 mapping of the human spectrum of sexuality onto frogs, as that would involve an uncomfortable conflation of sex and gender.
On the other hand, if we take the fact that frogs seem to not care about the sexual fluidity of their mates, then it is possible to draw a loose analogy around the terms.
To conclude – no, frogs are not technically pansexual as they do not have their own concepts of gender, but we could say the way they express attraction and mate is similar to how pansexual attraction can function in human society.