In 2017, National Geographic posted a truly majestic video of what appears to be three gray whales engaging in a “threeway” mating ritual. In the minute-long clip, filmed just off the coast of Newport Beach, California, two bros pursue a female whale until she finally slows down enough for one of them to hop on her back. As one lucky guy “caresses” her with his pectoral flipper, he squirts enthusiastically from his blowhole while the other male whale rubs up against them to ensure that their big, wet, blubbery bodies stay jammed together the whole time (the ritual can last up to an hour).
It’s the ultimate display of aquatic teamwork: One dude and his wingman (or should it be wingwhale?) working together to bump uglies with a female mate.
Reactions to the video were mixed. “Whales out here getting into threeways and I can’t even get a text back,” writes one user. “I ain’t mad at you girl,” writes another. “Get what you can take!” Others had a “what the fuck” reaction to the claim that whale dicks — known as “dorks” — are colloquially called “pink floyds.” (This is true, although it’s not a commonly used term). One startled woman even wrote into The Straight Dope in 2000 to fact-check her husband’s claim that Pink Floyd named their band after whale cock. “According to hubby, after mating, the male whale surfaces — with a still erect and, apparently, quite pink penis — pointing skyward, a phenomenon that scientists have named a “pink floyd,” she wrote. Sadly, the short article goes on to confirm this wasn’t the case.
That NatGeo video wasn’t the last we heard of wild whale threesomes, either. In 2019, a now-deleted viral Facebook post coined the term “third-whaling” to describe this ritual. “So apparently when two large whales do the nasty, there’s sometimes this one bro who just sort of holds them up so they don’t float off,” the unnamed user writes, alongside a rough illustration of a cetacean threesome. “Nature is beautiful,” he concludes.
It’s a neat — and clearly popular — idea that whales are having threeway sex on the regular, but how true is it? Not very, it seems. In a detailed fact-check piece on the aforementioned Facebook post, journalist Ciara O’Rourke quotes a handful of scientists who say the idea of one male “helping” his pal to fuck are pretty ludicrous, but there is something more interesting going on here.
Every basic fact you need to know about whale mating is in a chapter of a 2001 book, Marine Mammals, entitled “Behavioral Ecology of Cetaceans.” Amongst different species of whale, “sperm competition” is a pretty common mating strategy, where different dudes take turns pumping a female full of sperm. “Males will compete with each other to get a mate, but have a low investment in each mating,” the co-authors write. “They are best served by mating as many times as possible.”
Across both sexes of whales, there’s one common goal: increase the chance of conception. Female whales are eager, willing cum-dumps in the name of “maximizing their reproductive success,” whereas male whales have historically evolved to have giant, bulbous balls. “A male attempts to maximize the amount of sperm he delivers in each mating through developing relatively large testes for his body size,” the co-authors continue. “Then, if the female has mated with a different male before or after, the larger volume of sperm will dilute that of his competitors and will increase his probability of successfully fertilizing an egg.”
The cetacean world is also full of size queens. In the underwater realm, monster cock males are better-equipped to “deliver the sperm farther up the vaginal tract, thus making it less likely to spill out as well as potentially delivering it closer to the cervix.” Interestingly though, whales have their dicks hidden inside their bodies, tucked away in a so-called “genital slit” that opens when these boned-up bros are ready for penetration.
Armed with this new information, the original “threeway” video starts to look extremely different. The wingman whale isn’t willingly helping out his pal, he’s essentially being cucked by a rival cetacean looking to shoot a load inside his potential playmate. These rivalries are pretty peaceful amongst gray whales, but they don’t always play out in the form of unconventional threesomes. Sometimes, they’re straight-up orgies. In the aforementioned journal chapter, the co-authors write that 18 males were once seen chasing a singular female, resulting in an epic marine gang bang. Humpback whales have similar mating rituals, but these masc bros are willing to fight in their quest to fuck, so the rituals can sometimes turn ugly.
Seemingly, not many whale researchers are keen to chat about dorks and cetacean gang bangs, as a handful of press requests go unanswered. That’s perhaps because scientists are still in the dark when it comes to many marine animal mating rituals, but it’s clear there’s some truly debased shit going on in the darkest depths of the ocean. This video, which shows an evidently chirpy dolphin beating his meat with the body of a decapitated fish, is exemplary. Take a look if you dare. There’s also some weird and wonderful research happening on dolphin clits, but because video footage of sea creatures mating is all too rare, the specifics are still unclear.
It’s not technically accurate to say whales have MMF threesomes — it’s more of an underwater cuckolding scenario — but there’s a shred of truth in every rumor. All of which is to say, with their gigantic balls, huge cocks and gloriously perverted, voyeuristic mating rituals, gray whales have more than earned their slutty reputation.