Sex sells, they say. Sex is… well, sexy. Thank you for the tautology, you’re probably thinking right now. Perhaps this was a bit on the obvious side, but when talking about sex we often get lost in the commentary about what is natural and what isn’t; what is decent and indecent; what is liberating and oppressive – and we forget to think about our most basic attraction to the act. In part, I think that sex draws us in because we are so fascinated by reproduction. By that, I don’t just mean “making babies”, since so many of our sex acts would never result in the fertilization of an ovum by a spermatozoa. Reproduction isn’t just about making new humans: it’s also about replicating relationships, emotions, states and memories that well up inside us and seek out a release, like churning waters surging against a dam.
There’s another aspect of our lives that relies heavily on reproduction too, and that’s language. Language reproduces in so many different ways. Its entire functionality rests upon our ability to replicate items and structures that we have heard before and that form a corpus of a shared and widely accepted items used by a community to express their thoughts and emotions. Occasionally, we use it to reproduce an event as well, as we try to manipulate the words and phrases at our disposal to create an impression amongst our listeners. Language is also a tool of top-down reproduction, as governments and state bureaucracies employ it to encourage the continuity and replication of the structures and relationships that bind together our societies and our polities. I’ve written about this in a much more academic way in the Early Stage Researchers’ Journal. And of course, language comes into that ever-so-sought-after font of reproduction, sex.
Sex and language are intertwined in many different ways. In sex, language taps into a powerful and energetic source of creativity and change. Words and phrases take on new connotations, both pejorative and approbatory. A friend of mine once said “Basically, in Italian, everything means cock.” To a certain point, that’s true for any language, with the caveat that the same word can’t mean cock and pussy at the same time. We are so focused on and enthralled by our connections to sex that, with a little elbow grease, we can repurpose any word or phrase into a titillating and slightly embarrassing reference to our baser needs and desires. Sometimes these are euphemisms, and sometimes they’re exactly the opposite: raunchy, dirty phrases that make us blush, wet our panties or get rock hard.
So if language is reproduction, and sex is reproduction, why not combine them into the ultimate mimetic experience: art? I’m quite a fan of calligraphy and other creative endeavours that involve language in both its semantic and visual forms. I’ve incorporated language into all sort of different media on my website: Fimo animal figures of Japanese kanji; cute Arabic and Persian letters in clay; acrylic explorations of planets’ names and funny phrases; and a marker take on traditional calligraphy from Japan and Korean all the way over to Cherokee and Inuktitut syllabics. In this case, why wouldn’t I take the logical step and combine this with another type of reproduction: sex. No, I’m not going to take up some sort of linguistic pornographic art (in the sense of pornography as defined by Susan Sontag, as something that appeals to the visceral rather than the emotional and intellectual). Rather, I think it apt to juxtapose the visual and the textual in order to highlight the manner in which language and sex are bound up together in our obsession with reproduction. A pen, a brush, a chisel or a knife – they’re all phallic, penetrating and massaging and altering the receptive paper or clay. They help us to impart our emotions, needs and desires into the fertile medium, mother and nurturer of expression and creativity.
Please enjoy these images that combine the throbbing, all-consuming urges of my psyche and libido. Whether they get you thinking or get you stroking, I’m rather ambivalent. I just hope that they make you reflect a little on our complicated and complex relationship with sex, love, language and life.
And hey, after all, who doesn’t like to be titillated from time to time?