Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Beyond Bonobos

I went to New York to visit a friend who recently moved to Red Hook, Brooklyn from Manhattan. (The same friend who invited me to the beard party in Nashville.)I'm glad he lives in Red Hook because the area is positioned in between a freeway and the water so he will be relatively safe when the zombies come.

Also, it afforded my boyfriend and I the opportunity to take the IKEA ferry from Brooklyn into South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan. Doesn't that just sound magical? It's free.

Brooklyn is becoming a place unrecognizable to me that also looks like pretty much everywhere else I've ever lived. Except that, of the places I've lived, only Atlanta has IKEA.

We went to Manhattan to visit the Museum of Sex. It's a trip I recommend. For one thing, it's a museum you can see all of comfortably. Plus, there's a killer gift shop.

We knew we were spending the day wisely when we got there and saw the window display of the three-deer orgy. It was a teaser for the main exhibit on the sex lives of animals. The exhibit itself was not only informative and bold, but also blended traditional display tools, such as wall text and video, with life size paper mache sculptures of animals doing it - pandas doing it, deer doing it, Amazonian river dolphins totally doing it. The sculptures, which would have warranted a show on their own, genuinely served to illustrate key points of the exhibit, reminding me that, once, there was no clear distinction between science and art.

The exhibit enumerated every single filthy thing that animals do with their genitals and every species that does it. While I had known that some species of animals practiced group sex, had sex for fun, engaged in homosexual activities and even changed sex, I was dazzled by the sheer number of species that do things many humans classify as unnatural. It goes way beyond the bonobos. Amazonian river dolphins fuck each other's blow holes. Then there was the one strange case of "homosexual necrophilia in the mallard."

There is nothing the wild things don't do. Therefore there is no such thing as an unnatural sex act. But some animals also eat their own young so "natural" doesn't automatically mean "totally-cool-thing-for-a-person-to-do." But that's kind of the point here. Nature, the exhibit made perfectly clear, is not on speaking terms with human morality. It isn't going to back any of us up in a debate about right and wrong. We're on our own in the universe again. Thanks, science!

Also at the fascinating intersection of human sexuality and the natural world: The next day we were crossing a bridge over the Gowanus Canal when our host informed us that the water has Gonorrhea. The city hasn't changed that much I guess.

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