by Sally Schloss
In nature, no matter how bizarre courtship behaviors or sex acts are (including the death of an individual) they serve only one purpose: the production of offspring. Does the method work? If the answer is yes, then exploding bee penises, the spearing of a female bed bug’s stomach to get sperm into her bloodstream, and the eating of a male praying mantis’s head, are keeper stratagems. (See my column, “Deadly animal sex”).
I can only imagine the trials and errors, the failed attempts that occurred along the way of getting it right. “No, no, no, the bee penis explodes inside the Queen’s body—not outside. Get me another bee, this one’s dead.”
Here’s where the canker gnaws . . .
As fancy animals, humans complicate nature’s simple plans to make more of us. We developed a unique and pesky attribute—consciousness. Instead of sex being natural and delightful and something everyone can look forward to enjoying, whether you’re the poorest serf or the richest ruler, human consciousness has gotten in the way and wreaked havoc. Cultures throughout the ages have warred against our bodies in an effort to cosset our impulses and desires—the irony being that these cultures are our own creation. Of course our irrepressible needs do tend to messily defy the powers that be. We often resist the advice in our heads, from our parents, or rulers, and instead follow our hearts or loins going completely out of control, compelled by the twin peaks of our desires—lust and love.
our own time, the “just say no campaign” promoted to American youth, has as to
be expected, failed. Baby mammas are on the rise and in the last gasp of our
delusional sense of economic well-being, more babies were born in one year (2007)
than in any previous year in the U.S.
The confusion, repression, the mores, the morals, the acting-out around sex, can make your head spin—and the rules are different everywhere. Americans blame their repressive attitudes about sex on the puritanical legacy of the pilgrims. We have this myth that sex is much less contaminated with guilt, shoulds and oughts, in non-European cultures. The truth is that it’s a mess everywhere and that great sex has always been the thrilling secret of two individuals having found something fabulous that works for them—a truth quite independent from whether this produces offspring or not, or religious and cultural constraints.
Humans are lucky. We get to feel and think about our deep pleasures, to recall and explore them. Unlike the hapless juvenile dog learning to mount a female for the first time and failing at it miserably, humans may begin in virginal ignorance, but can, through practice, perfect their techniques, taking sex to the next level; the art of making love. In the larger animal kingdom, improving sexual skills so that both partners have orgasms is not a consideration—another miracle of consciousness—the same brain that invented the wheel, invented Tantric sex.
Okay, so perhaps I’m stating the obvious. Let’s talk about where we get strange with all this.
Cultural mores and madness
knew that “In sixteenth century Europe
Victorians prohibited men from taking the seat of a woman after she’d vacated it—for fear of being aroused by the lingering warmth of her body. Then again the Victorians also covered piano legs with cloth because they were considered to be too suggestive. I swear. (Isn’t this fun?!)
Deadly human sex
Since my current column is about “Deadly animal sex,” let’s talk about deadly human sex. “5 People Who Died During Sex,” by Karl Shaw, is a book of lists about strange, but true events, documenting the “tasteless” underbelly of human behavior.
the 6th president of the FrenchRepublic
Nothing can be more traumatic than being in bed with a partner and having them die on you. In the case of Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller (1908-79), the grandson of the oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, he pinned his unfortunate twenty-seven-year old female research assistant under his considerable poundage, giving new meaning to the term dead weight.
Still to come
In my next blog, I will talk about the worldwide marital customs that will make your hair curl—customs that are the legacies of ancient times, of religious beliefs and our sexually-conscious brains.