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Sex: A Dialogue

Mark Wyatt McGinnis ©️2022

Acrylic on Shuen paper, 9” x 12”

I did a long series of small brush drawings with the content of the nude human figure. When people hear you are doing such work or see examples, they frequently raise an eyebrow, implying, “Yet another dirty old man.” I often explain to them that my interest in creating the work is studying the subjects and forming a new expression of their beauty and uniqueness. I also wanted the challenge of working with the human body, of which I have done little that pleased me in my long career. The respondent usually raises the other eyebrow, with the implication, “Ya, sure.”

That response is understandable. The naked human body triggers a response of erotic arousal in many, if not most human beings. It is vital for the procreation of the species. When working with the models and creating the artwork, I don’t see it as erotic or feel any arousal. I genuinely am focused on the objectives mentioned above. When the work is complete, and I reflect on it, I can begin to see the eroticism others might observe.

Contemplating eroticism has caused me to reflect deeper on my life experience of sex. I have found myself doing more reflection on many things in my post-autumn years. I must confess that my sexual experiences have not been varied or abundant, and some have not been all that successful.

Most of my art projects and series have had a written component, some short, some long. It seemed natural for me to add writing to this series. I often do my projects to educate myself and share what I find with others. The following fictitious and, hopefully, occasionally humorous dialogue is my attempt at that.

While most of the research I have done in the past has used written sources as its basis, this time, I decided an interview might better suit my needs.

I thought I might as well set my sights high when looking for experts, so I telephoned the renowned sexologists William Misters and Virginia Jenson of the Kinsel Institute. When the receptionist heard I was an artist and working on a series of nudes, she put me through immediately as she knew the sexologists had a strong interest in art and artists.

“Professor McGinnis,” said Misters on speakerphone. “How may we help you,” said Jenson. They often completed each other’s sentences.

“Please, just call me Mark.”

“And you must call us Willy and Ginny.”

I explained my series of drawings and my desire to write an accompanying essay. Ginny exclaimed, “That’s interesting! We are always happy to help artists.”

“Great. If possible, I would like to come to the Kinsel Institute for an interview. It is always better face to face.”

“That is not necessarily true,” said Ginny. “I find some of the other positions even more satisfying.”

“Ginny,” whispered Willy, “I don’t think that is what he is talking about.”

“Oh,” said Ginny, “When would you like to come? I mean arrive.”

“Next week would be great.”

“Let’s look at our schedule. Yes, Wednesday at 10:00 am would work.”

“That is fantastic! Thanks so much. See you next Wednesday.”

I flew economy into Boulder, Colorado, from Boise and booked into a Super 8 near the Institute —$105.00 a night! What happened to the original $8.88 room in 1974? If adjusted for 40 years it should be about $60.00.

I was in front of the Kinsel Institute at five minutes to ten. It was a ten-story cylinder with a strange split, bulbous dome on top. The entrance was the shape of the center of an orchid that seemed to swallow you as you walked through. In the form of a fallopian tube, the elevator whisked me up to the penthouse floor. Misters and Jenson’s executive assistant, Glory (and she was), expected me and showed me through to their office.

“Willy and Ginny are tied up in some research; they will be with you soon. Make yourself comfortable,” Glory said with a delicious smile and left the room. The room temperature lowered markedly when she left the room.

The room was incredible. It must have encompassed a quarter of the circle of the building. The walls and floor were soft, iridescent white, and white leather furniture dappled the room. The ceiling was a composite of at least four hundred video screens programmed to display soft, erotic imagery and the surround sound system did the same with creamy jazz. Two large, semi-circular white lacquer desks with state-of-art electronics built into the surfaces were in the exact center of the space. The curved part of the room was floor-to-ceiling windows with white leather hammocks, fainting couches, and loveseats looking out over the Rocky Mountains. But all that was not the most impressive part of the room. It was the art. Along one wall was a set of twelve stunning, X-rated woodblock prints by the 18th-century artist Japanese Utamaro. Next was an exquisite series of miniature Indian Kangra-style paintings depicting Lord Krishna’s amorous adventures with the milkmaids. Then, dominating a wall was a huge oil painting by the 17th-century Italian artist Caravaggio of two beautiful young men in blissful union. A triptych by the 16th century Flemish artist Hieronymus Bosch depicted every possible sexual position and combination, and many more that were impossible, all engulfed by a host of angels and devils.

Throughout the great room were white opalescent sculptures stands graced by works from throughout the ages: a stone-age Venus, a sandstone Hindu Kama Sutra coupling, a life-sized Hellenistic Greek Bacchus masturbating, a gold-plated bronze couple in seated copulation from Tibetan Buddhism. It was a first-class museum of erotic art. I knew sex was a multi-billion dollar industry, but I had no idea sexology paid so well.

A nearly invisible door from the back wall opened, and out came Willy and Ginny. Willy seemed to have some rope imprints on his wrists –tied up indeed. They were wearing disheveled white lab coats, and that was all. Both were sweating profusely, and hanging from Ginny’s right hand was a sizable lime-green dildo, still vibrating on high. When she realized she was still holding it, she tossed it under a chair where it vibrated around and slowly crawled out. She may have blushed, but I couldn’t tell as she was already flushed bright red.

Willy was a tall, athletic man about 6’2.” He had dark hair with graying around the temples. He was in his late forties or early fifties, I would guess. His features were well proportioned, and his eyes a subtle blue-gray—a rather dashing looking man. Ginny was about 5’8″, fit and trim. She had red hair, possibly natural, and her green eyes perfectly complemented the hair. Her features were classic with high cheekbones, a strong but handsome nose, and full but not too full lips. Her face might have been too angular, but she had a warm, kind smile that softened it. Her flip-flops exposed her toes, with each toenail painted a different color of the rainbow. I then noticed that her fingernails were the same.

They collapsed on a sofa across from the chair I had selected. They both had enormous water bottles, and they took a huge drink, gasping at the end.

“Can we get you anything to drink?” said Willy.

“No, thank you,” I smiled.

“We are so sorry we’re late, Mark,” they said in unison.

“That is quite alright; I have been enjoying your incredible art collection. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you manage to amass such stunning work?”

“No,” said Willy. “We don’t mind,” finished Ginny. “We have helped some very, very, very wealthy men to overcome some serious sexual dysfunctions. They found that shooting off penis-shaped rocket ships just didn’t cure them. It was bad advice from one of our competitors.”

“Ah,” I said knowingly.

Sitting on a coffee table between us was a 3,000-year-old Hindu linga (penis) sitting on a yoni (vagina).

“I have been reading some of the exhaustive research you two have done on human sexuality. It is incredible.”

“It is certainly exhausting,” said Willy, wiping the perspiration from his forehead with his lab coat sleeve.

“How may we help you, Mark?” smiled Ginny.

“Well, thank you so much for inviting me here. I do have many questions to ask you. I hope I won’t take too much of your time.”

“Don’t worry, we our next research session isn’t until three this afternoon,” he gave Ginny a quick wink.

“Ginny, we can’t forget we have a 5:00 session with Jeff B…….., sorry we can’t divulge our patients’ names.”

“I’ll start at the beginning. Why do we have sex?”

“Yes, that is the beginning,” laughed Ginny. “Propagation of the species is first and foremost. We are genetically programmed to reproduce and chemically rewarded when we complete the act.”

“But ‘why’ do we do it. What consciously makes us want to.”

“Our genes tell us what to do, but not on our conscious level. And beyond that, evolution decided to give us some additional perks that are very conscious. For many species, sexual intercourse is pleasurable. The sexual organs have nuanced pleasure receptors that can be stimulated before, during, and after copulation. The sexual orgasm is many people’s most intense sensory experience. The females of some species also send messages of when they are most fertile, ovulating, such as pheromones, or even visual messages such as swelling of their genitals. This is sometimes referred to as ‘in heat.’ However, human females don’t do this and have concealed ovulation where no signals are given regarding the women’s readiness to mate.”

“Ginny,” I said, “don’t you think that it would be better if human females did give anatomical signals when they are ‘in heat’ so males wouldn’t be hitting on them 365 days a year?”

She looked at me with horror and shock, “I certainly do not!”

“Many women, even past childbearing, dress, adorn, paint, and expose themselves including dousing themselves with artificial pheromones to be sexually enticing. Aren’t they announcing they are in heat and ready to mate?”

“No!” said Ginny, somewhat taken aback, “they just want to look nice.”

“But by presenting themselves in such a sexual manner, they are bound to get the attention of many males wishing for sexual interaction with them, and then many females are offended by this attention. It seems perplexing to me.”

“Many women indeed like to be attractive, alluring, even hot, as the young people say, but not in heat! Being sexy gives some of them a feeling of being wanted, even sexual power. But they only want to attract those they find attractive.”

“If you cast out a 360-degree net, aren’t you going to catch whatever is in that area.”

“Men just need to control themselves!”

I could see Willy giving me a little sideways shake of his head from the corner of my eye.

A significant aspect of doing an interview is knowing when to say when.

“How about monogamy? How did it start with humans, and do you think it’s working?” I meekly asked.

“That is a big topic,” Willy said quickly, “many believe that before there was monogamy in human groupings, there was polygamy, polygyny, in particular, one male with several female mates. Polyandry is one female with more than one male and is relatively rare. About 90% of mammal species are polygamous. Often the males have evolved larger, stronger, and more violent than females. This strength and aggression is used in fighting off challengers, to control the herd or group, and be dominant over the females. Males are still responsible for the great majority of violence in our culture, and some still want to dominate females.”

Ginny, who had settled down, chimed in, “This size difference is clearly shown in some early humanoids where the males were nearly twice the size of females. This ratio has diminished over the millennia but still exists. The desire of many males to dominate females is alive and well. Until recently, women’s roles were very close to most females tens of thousands of years ago: serve men’s needs, produce and raise children, feed the family (in many cases grow or gather most of that food), and not make waves. Some of that is lessened in our culture, but certainly not in all cultures.”

“When the European genocidal colonial expansion started in the 16th century, over 80% of the indigenous cultures they found were polygamous. Many people think of polygyny as all men having multiple wives in a culture. That is, of course, impossible as male and female births are about equal in humans. The males that had multiple wives were usually powerful and wealthy. The rest had one wife or no wives. Sometimes discontent arose when too many men had no wives.”

“Monogamy,” said Willy, “seems to have begun its rise in the first century A.D. in ‘Western’ culture. St. Paul was an advocate of male-dominated monogamy, and in 380 A.D., St. Augustine tried to abolish polygamy. In 534, the Justinian Code made extramarital sex a criminal offense (there were many loopholes for the powerful and rich). Monogamy was a way that men could control and guarantee their blood (genetic) line. Sexual monogamy, with women having no other sexual partners, was essential for the surety that the family property and wealth were in the right hands. As Ginny mentioned, when Europe put its bloody tentacles around the globe and forced their ways on culture after culture, monogamy was one of those ways.”

“There is a big difference between social and sexual monogamy,” said Ginny. “In social monogamy, people divide into pairs to structure their lives in the society. Sexual monogamy connotes that these same pairs only have sex with each other. This is rare in the animal world; promiscuity is common among the birds, where social monogamy is quite common. Extramarital sex instigated by human males has always been frequent and is it is now becoming commonly instigated by females. Serial monogamy is almost the norm now. The average length of a marriage in the U.S. is 8-12 years. Remarriage, and many times multiple remarriages, creates a series of monogamous relationships. In recent decades the social pairing of couples without marriage has enormously grown. 40% of children are born outside marriage. Many women simply do not need to have a male in their lives. Some women have their own source of income; they have birth control, are confident in their abilities, have education, and do not need or want men to provide for them. Monogamy seems to be breaking down into far more diverse ways to pair or not pair. The relationships between men and women are changing at an almost unimaginable pace compared to historical changes in sexual practices.”

“We have been discussing heterosexual relationships. How do homosexual relationships fit into the big picture of sexuality?” I asked.

“It fits in very well and very naturally,” said Willy. “Same-sex sexual activity has been observed in about 1,500 species, and I’m sure it exists in many more. It is an important aspect of the evolution of sex. ‘Darwin’s Paradox,’ was the theory that same-sex interactions does not lead to procreation and the survival of the species, and therefore does not belong to proper evolution. That outlook turned out to be nonsense, but it helped form the myth that homosexuality was a choice, not a biological imperative for some.”

“Same-sex relationships are very important in some species for social bonding and structure that makes groups of individuals function better together. Many of the individuals in other species that engage in same-sex relationships also engage in opposite-sex relationships, making them what we now call bisexual. Some research has shown that bisexual behavior makes females more likely to reproduce. This may also solve ‘Darwin’s Paradox.'”

I wondered, “If same-sex sexuality is so widespread and functional in other species, why has it been so despised and persecuted in ours?”

“Why indeed,” chimed in Ginny. “The enormity of suffering inflicted on homosexual people is horrifying. It was not always that way. The founders of Western civilization, the ancient Greeks, were often openly and happily homosexual and bisexual. The most common form this took was a mentorship relationship between adolescent boys and adult men whose interaction could include sex. Excellence in character and beauty seemed to be the attraction rather than gender. This behavior fits our definition of pedophilia, but to the Greeks, it was an accepted part of the culture that they saw benefitting the boy and man.”

“What happened?” I said.

“It seems religion happened,” said Willy. “The Jewish tradition, back to the book of Leviticus, prohibited same-sex relationships, but their new off-shoot, Christianity, took this much further, even though Jesus made no mention of homosexuality in the gospels. Some early leaders preached that any sexual relationship apart from man and wife without the express objective of procreation was forbidden and sinful. This included sex between man and wife for enjoyment and masturbation. And as we know, Christianity spread big time. Over the centuries, the penalty for same-sex relations varied, but it was sometimes death and vehement social stigma attached to homosexuals. Islamic countries were, and many still are homophobic.”

Ginny added, “Again, in the 16th century, with the beginning of Europe’s brutal conquest of most of the rest world, homophobia traveled with them. Christian morals were spread across the globe at the point of a gun and a bible’s weight. The result was that many traditional cultures in which same-sex traditions were part of the culture were forced to “convert” to heterosexual exclusivity — on the surface.

“Sodomy, anal or oral sex (homosexual or heterosexual), also called “crimes against nature,” was criminal in all 50 U.S. states until 1960. This started changing; more states began repealing their sodomy laws in the following decades. In 2003 The Supreme Court ruled that all sodomy laws were unconstitutional, but in 2022 fifteen states still have sodomy laws on their books, but they are not enforced.”

“In 2015, the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. Gay people were finally liberated, and most of U.S. population celebrated. A large part of the population found homophobia unquestionably wrong but some did not have courage to voice it until it was ‘legal.’ Openly gay people were elected to public office and given high positions, including in the President’s Cabinet. They finally had the same rights in their lives as heterosexual couples. It is now perfectly normal for many young people to live in a culture where sexual gender preference is not an issue whatsoever. There is now progress being made on cultural acceptance of transexual people.”

“This, of course, does not mean homophobia disappeared, but its cruel grip on the culture has been dislodged.”

“Well,” I said, “I’m glad that horrible phase of human blunder seems to be waning. We have talked about about heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, what about mesexual — which is mostly manifest as masturbation.”

“That is a subject into which I have delved very deeply,” said Ginny. She turned her head and looked at the green dildo; blessedly, it had run out of charge. “Again, it is a sexual activity that is by no means exclusive to our species. Some animals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians also masturbate. Masturbation is pleasurable. The same chemicals, endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and oxycontin, are released in our bodies as they are in intercourse orgasm. But with masturbation, you don’t have to have a partner. This is particularly helpful for those who have no partner, but those who do have partners often are also regular masturbators. Some research has shown that 92% of American men and 76% of American women masturbate, and they do it an average of twelve times a month.

“Along with masturbation,” added Willy. “We could also discuss pornography, which goes hand-in-hand with masturbation. Pornography has been defined as printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings. It has been around since the cave painting. In almost every culture, pornography has existed, as our collection here gives a small sample, but as you can see for yourself, it certainly can have aesthetic and emotional dimensions as well as erotic. The world today has become flooded with pornography due to the internet. Where only a few decades ago, the dominant form of porno was photographs in magazines, the individual now has millions of videos, graphically depicting every imaginable form of sexual interaction at their fingertips, usually of one hand. Unfortunately, a huge amount of pornography on the internet glorifies violence against women, pedophilia, and other sexual practices that can lead to the victimization of innocent people.

“I now come to the final aspect of sex I would like cover, nosexual, people who decide to have no sex at all, to be celibate?”

“That question seems relevant after all our talk of the desire for sex,” said Willy.

“There are a few individuals who are not interested in sex. Maybe those genes did not turn on. It must reduce considerable stress in their lives. But most celibacy is related to religion. Even among some tribal cultures, abstinence from sexual activities was thought necessary to come closer to the spiritual. Christianity is the most prominent proponent of celibacy. In the religions of Abraham, Islam and Judaism had little use for celibacy, but the Christians embraced it for their priests and monastics. St. Paul said he wished all men could be like him — celibate. I guess he was pretty sure about the second coming.

“I feel as if I am Nero persecuting the Christians, but they do seem to have made a tragic mess in trying to control the sexuality of their followers and leaders. There is nowhere in their scriptures that insists on the church leaders being celibate. It was not until the 12th century until Catholic priests were required to be celibate. When the Eastern Orthodox broke from the Catholics in Rome in the 11th century, they gave their priests the option of marriage and continue to due so. When the Protestants broke from the Catholics in the 16th century, they gave their ministers the choice of marriage. Martin Luther’s hammer had barely cooled from nailing his 95 theses to the church door before he got married.

“But to this day, Catholic priests must take the vow of celibacy. The objective of this vow is not difficult to understand. The priest is to focus all his energy on his duties to the church and God. Marriage and family could take away some of that intense commitment. Many, many priests managed to do just that, but I would guess not many without effort and even struggle. There have also been many who have not been able to suppress this innate drive for sexual relations. Sexual abuse by priests goes back centuries. The most publicized and harmful manifestation of this suppressed sexual drive has been pedophilia. The tremendous position of power of the priest, especially in the eyes of children, has allowed them to manipulate children, mainly boys, to fulfill their sexual desires. While it was always known that this was happening by their leaders, that knowledge was often suppressed. Many times when the priest’s crimes were exposed, the bishops moved the priest to a different parish where they abused more children. Catholic priests and nuns inflicted horrifying physical and sexual abuse on Indian children, who were forced to attend Catholic boarding schools. The dam broke around 2000, and the extent of the abuse flooded the world. Many thousands of priests were abusing children, and hundreds of thousands of children have been sexually abused. The Catholic Church has paid out billions in damages. The full extent of the abuse will never be known.

The three of us sat silent for a while, filled with sadness.

“There are people in the Catholic Church who are advocating for the option of marriage. Pope Francis in Rome has instituted reforms to lessen the abuse and has made some progress,” said Willy.

After another long pause, I said, “Ginny and Willy, I would like to thank you for this interview; it will be a great help with my essay.”

“You are most welcome, Mark. It has been a pleasure talking with you,” they said in unison.

Ginny chimed in, “We are going to have some power drinks, energy bars, and oysters to prepare for more research. Would you like to join us?”

The food sounded great, but I feared the invitation might have included the research session, and I knew my physical condition would not endure their level of research.

“I would love to, but I have a plane to catch,” I lied.

Hand-in-hand they scampered back to the hidden door.

When I passed the reception desk, I noticed that Glory was now also dressed in a white lab coat and nothing else. Her nails were painted just like Ginny’s. She was undoubtedly going to assist with the research.

With a smile that would defrost freezer, she said, “We are so glad you could join us, Mark.”

My legs quivered, but I remembered Ginny’s advice, “Men just need to control themselves!” “Yes,” I thought, “we do.”

I dizzily made my way to the elevator, which disgorged me on the first level. I felt exhausted for some reason. I Ubered back to the Super 8 and checked out. My plane did not leave until 8:00, so I went across the street to a bar, where I nursed a double vodka and worked on my notes.

On the flight home, I analyzed my notes and the interview experience. It indeed had broadened my knowledge of sex, sometimes positively and sometimes sadly. I was not sure how it related to my nude drawings, but there was a connection to eroticism. The interview had filled a void in my education; better late than never. Maybe I will write the essay, maybe not.

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