When I was in high school, I was part of an academic competition called Science Olympiad. Yes, I was a nerd, big surprise – but Science Olympiad was a level of awesome that far surpassed your typical quiz team. A team of fifteen would send two or three individuals to compete in events, with formats like typical exams, building airplanes, creating Rube Goldberg devices, making your own robots, using forensics to solve a crime scene. No area of science was left on covered – we had everything from ecology to quantum physics. But there was one event that was mine, one event that every time I competed in it at Regionals or State, I would win the gold:

Birds and Bees.

Yes, there was an event on reproduction, with a focus on humans. This event was offered to not only the high school teams, but the middle school ones too – shockingly progressive for many states, especially Indiana. The first year I was assigned the event I was a freshmen, though because of the grade cut offs, freshmen competed on the middle school teams. I got stuck with Birds and Bees since I was one of the oldest students and had actually gone through sex ed, unlike many of the other kids.

At the time, I was embarrassed; though looking back, it’s what sparked my scientific interest in sex. It was an easy joke for everyone (“Going to go study, Jennifer? Did you find a tutor?”) and on top of that, I had a giant crush on our coach, making it all the more awkward asking him questions about sex. I worked extra hard to find answers on my own, but eventually I found a term on our official Science Olympiad study sheet that I just didn’t understand:

Maleness glue.”

Eventually I gave up and approached my coach, probably blushing, and stammered out, “Mr. K, er, there’s this word I don’t know…can you tell me what it means?” I handed over the sheet of paper and pointed at the offending word. His smirk (he was most likely preparing to crack a joke) soon faded to a look of confusion.

“I have no idea.”

We ventured off to the computer lab to do some Googling. Apparently Indiana’s website blocking software wasn’t so hot eight years ago, because Mr. K yelled “GAH!” and quickly closed a window (Of course he wouldn’t tell me what it was, so being the curious scientist I was I looked it up when I went home, and it was gay porn). But regardless if safe search was on or off, we couldn’t find any useful information on maleness glue. It never appeared on one of the exams, but it became a running gag because of its mysterious nature. What the hell was maleness glue?

At the time, we had created various theories about the cryptic phrase. One male friend joked that it was just a euphemism for semen, but the event instructions were very scientific – no other euphemisms or slang were included. Another friend joked that it was the substance that made men gay (bound them together like glue). As much as I enjoy that theory, it’s also not exactly scientific – but if I ever discover the gay gene, it’s getting named mglu. The only real clue we had was that it was a process “involved in gonadal determination.”

Now I’m 22 years old and about to graduate with a biology degree, and I still don’t know what it means. I’ve asked two different college professors who taught human sexuality courses, and they’ve had no clue. At this point I’m fairly convinced there is no such thing as maleness glue, but there’s still the mystery of how it got on the event instructions to begin with. If you look at the same instructions for the event provided now, they have never been edited – they still contain the mysterious maleness glue. Was it a typo of an actually relevant sexual term? Was it just some disgruntled scientist, hoping to set a young student on a life long wild goose chase?

The world may never know.