New York Magazine ‘Sex Diary’: Betty, An Alaskan Salmon

Photo by Marsh Williams on

Betty is an Alaskan Salmon who splits her time between the open seas of the North Pacific and the stream of her birth. Single. Heterosexual.


Well, it finally happened. I am one step closer to achieving my life’s ultimate purpose, which is fertilizing my eggs and promptly dying. Today I shed my striped markings and assumed the silvery scales of a smolt. I’ve been swimming around my native stream as a fry for 3 whole years, dodging predators and waiting for this day to come. It’s been pretty stressful fearing for my life every day, so, haha, screw you eagles and bears!

My smolt peers are forming a school, so I’m feeling a little anxious about that. I’m not much of a joiner. I’ve had a huge crush on my friend Gary, so I’m trying to get into his circle for our journey to the Pacific. 

A few months later

I’ve been swimming around the estuary for a while now with my school of smolt friends. We’re all just adjusting from fresh water to salt water. Think of it like the hot tub on a reality show. 

I must have excellent scales or something because Gary is definitely into me—so are Brad, Rob and Theodore. It’s not helping me with the other lady fish, but hey, I’m not here to make friends.

Spring — one year later

I did it! I’ve survived my first year of my Pacific migration and I’ve become a fully-fledged adult salmon. Still keeping my eye on potential fertilizers for my eventual egg sac, but I’m just not there yet, you know?

Also, nobody told me there’d be predators out here, too. You think eagles are stressful? Wait until you’re swimming the Bering Strait and spot a fishing boat full of Russians coming your way. 

One month later

Gary was eaten by a blue whale. They say not to put your metaphorical eggs in one basket, well, for some of us that is not a metaphor.


Honestly I’m getting a little tired of swimming around the Pacific Ocean. Russians. Whales. Bigger fish. To what end? The continuation of my species I guess?

Some of the other salmon have decided to migrate back to our home stream earlier—frankly they’re sick of this. It’s quite cold. The only thing keeping me going is my innate drive to reproduce, but damn, it’s a hell of a life.


We’re doing it. I don’t know how. I don’t even think scientists know exactly how. The entire school just knows how to get back to our native stream. Something to do with scents and the sun or maybe even the earth’s magnetic field. Wild!

Brad, Rob and Theodore are hanging on for dear life–I hope at least one of them has the fat stores to survive this arduous journey home and fertilize my egg sac. 

A few weeks later

We’ve made it back home. I’m pretty tired from dislodging bits of river gravel with my body weight in order to build a secure nest for my eggs. Hiding from the male fish because I probably don’t look so hot either.

The next week

Welp, Rob and Theodore are dead. Brad killed them in order to win my favor, which totally worked. As we speak, he’s fertilizing my egg sac with milt, which is–fun fact–fish semen. I don’t think I’ll be able to say much after this because my biology basically schedules me to die at this stage. (Before I go, how about a lesson in fish gender equality for the humans? Brad dies now, too.) 

Our decaying bodies will fertilize the river and nourish all of the egg sacs laid by our school. Incredible, right? I’m thrilled to have achieved my life’s only mission, and I hope you enjoyed my sex diary!

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