I Heart Indies

Friday, March 25, 2011

Talking About Sex

This post may seem lengthy and dry.  I'm working on a story, Bread of Heaven, which, lately, frankly, I haven't done any work onat all , absorbed as I am in promoting Paradise Dogs. In any case, the book has a series of digressions, in fact, it's mostly digressions, such as the I share here.

Even cursory consideration shows a profound relationship between language and sex.  Except for homo sapiens, the animal kingdom reproduces by instinct.  The caterpillar doesn't need dirty jokes to know what is expected of it when it becomes a butterfly, the robin doesn’t try several songs to find one that attracts a mate, the salmon never eavesdrops on older fish to learn about spawning.  But if you are reading this, your first sexual experience even before nocturnal emissions, menstruation, or masturbation was hearing about sex, whether from a forthright parent or a precocious playmate or just overheard conversation.  Before your first sexual encounter, you were armed with a weighty store of information, even if a lot of it was misinformation, and perhaps even more significantly, you'd already fantasized about it.  You approached the moment not only with physical desire, but intellectual curiosity.  What will this be like? 
It is inconceivable that even the most intelligent Border Collie spends any time daydreaming about going into heat or that the young of other species ever wonder where cubs, calves, kittens, or puppies come from.  In The Blue Lagoon by Henry De Vere Stacpoole, two cousins, Emeline and Richard, are stranded on a tropical island as children and reach sexual maturity isolated from other human contact.  Consequently, they must discover for themselves what the rest of us first learn through language: menstruation, masturbation, sex, pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing.  As Stacpoole imagines, their journey of discovery is as slow and uncertain as Marco Pollo’s, even more so because Emeline and Richard don’t suspect there’s anything to discover.  How two untutored innocents might navigate these biological mysteries and whether they even would, we can never know because for all of human history and before, mankind has carried out the reproduction with the heavy aid of language.  If humans suddenly lost the ability to communicate about sex either through words, pictures, or demonstrations, the species might not die out, but fertility rates would surely fall off dramatically.  Maybe this suggests the connection between human evolution and language acquisition: lacking the instincts of cicadas or timber wolves, hominids who failed to talk about sex, died out.  The survivors were the ones who talked.

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