The Rectum? Really?
In Coop I included a section on bovine artificial insemination. Although I strive to write only the most delicate prose, at one point I do set a scene in which the insemination technician (we just called him “the breeder man”) has his arm well up a cow’s rectum.
This has elicited questions from the reading public. They are not alone. Their very same query was raised previously during the editing process. So perhaps the best way to provide the definitive answer is to share a portion of the original exchange.
It began with an email from my editor’s assistant, Jason:
The proofreader raised two questions for you, which I copied below. Please do let us know where you stand on these finer points of husbandry.
The note from the proofreader read:
Cows: In the description of inseminating the cows on p. 65, the author writes, “all things considered, their reaction to having a stranger’s arm elbow-deep up the rectum was positively restrained.” The proofreader wondered whether, since the cows are being inseminated, “rectum” was correct–should it read “vagina” instead?
I replied with an email of my own:
I can respectfully state from a position of firm authority that “rectum” is correct. The arm is inserted in that specific orifice in order to perform “rectal palpation,” a discomfiting but functional procedure allowing the inseminator to grasp and manipulate the bovine cervix through the pliable rectal wall in a manner calculated to guide insertion of the insemination pipette through the rings of the cervix and into the uterus. To sum up, and for future reference: Arm in rectum, pipette in vagina.
I was quite proud of myself. Country mouse educating the folks in New York city, that whole bit. But my smug didn’t last long, because with one well-placed deadpan pun, Jason hit the gamewinner:
Great–thanks for the big picture. I’ll rectify the proofreader.
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