rekindling pleasure: sexuality and its descriptions


“the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”

– j.b.s. haldane

inconsistencies and incoherence are not only possible but necessary. we know this due to the immense variety across macro and micro. simultaneously only so much can be described from merely observing, not to mention the unnoticed alterations of observation. it is tempting to watch animals interact find patterns draw conclusions forgetting that the only conclusion is that we were watching. it is tempting to assume that actions are innate but we only know such much and that is based on so little.  

rather than trying to find patterns in others in order to describe ourselves we can try to revel in the variety of play that others demonstrate  as possible in order to discover our own potential. look at variety not as discrepancies in the norm but inspirational ambiguity.

revisit the act of fucking as necessary for propagation and instead find reproduction an “incidental consequence” of sexuality. recognize sexuality among spectrums among spheres as seeking pleasure not procreation. let’s not disregard the knowledge that we have gained but understand that we must constantly revisit our framings.

collage by Marina Manoukian

collage by Marina Manoukian

even the act of fucking isn’t consistent and doesn’t always require plurality. an assortment may find more within themselves without the need for difference. lifetimes of lizards like mother like daughter. they act out mating patterns similar to others and we call it male-like pseudosexual behavior just going through the motions a result of hormones necessary to ovulation. not because they’re horny. not because they want to come. can’t possibly be because the motions feel good. as bruce bagemihl puts it, “true, many animals, when courting and mating homosexually, employ behavior patterns that the opposite sex also employ. in most cases, however, this simply involves making use of the available behavioral repertoire of the species rather than being an attempt to mimic the opposite sex”. but no it must be mimicry.

many fornicate while infertile and we call it ‘extended female sexuality’ instead of just sexuality. when non-human females engage in ‘polyandrous mating during non-fertile stages’ we sit back bewildered, claiming that “the most convincing non-procreative explanation is that female polyandrous mating is a female counter-strategy to infanticide risks posed by males”. there is sexuality with reproduction and reproduction without sexuality so why tie the two together into an impregnable pair.

the notion of concealed fertility, where ovulation isn’t accompanied by physical representation, is explained as female ‘manipulation [of the] male paternity assessment’ in an attempt to once more decrease infanticide. maybe, just maybe, there are many different ways for animals to display fertility and in some cases it’s not so obvious and that’s it. why ascribe it to female manipulation when the notion of a display of fertility should incorporate the lack of obvious display in its spectrum. 

collage by Marina Manoukian

collage by Marina Manoukian

we started from the presumption that copulation was towards procreation and now we’re forced to define ‘non-reproductive sexual behavior’. drawn a line between sexual and reproductive determined an arbitrary hierarchy based on how we understand the world to work then proceeded to demand proof of function for any behavior that doesn’t seem to correspond.

i’m not saying rewrite the book but let’s acknowledge how little is known and how much is imposed. it’s too convenient to ascribe a lack of intention just because it’s not comprehended. because maybe once we acknowledge how complex it is for others we’ll realize how complex it is for ourselves. there may be patterns but don’t let frequency be confused with normativity. acknowledge how we limited ourselves before in our comprehensions and stop pretending as though the limitation of pleasure and self-discovery should still be acceptable today.

it’s so easy to crave justifications for our own learned habits and seek them out in particular forms. liken ourselves to lobsters while we give crabs electric shocks and slowly begin to yield that other animals might understand suffering. but even so we draw a distinction between physical pain and emotional pain name ourselves the victor. there’s so much variety in physicality there’s so much variety in activity how can there not be variety in our thoughts our feelings our sensations of pain of pleasure. we still can't coherently describe pain to one another so how can we describe pleasure much less dictate it.

even the evolutionary nature of orgasms is attributed to stimulating ejactulation while we conveniently ignore the fact that the clitoris usually lacks a reproductive function. the fact that animals female and male with and without a clitoris are known to maturbate.

i know it seems like a grand point is being made but this is to deter grandness. this is in favor of ambiguity and self-examination and redescription because that is the least we owe ourselves. and is ultimately much more interesting. this is in favor of taking note when grandness is inherent in a statement and being able to divorce what is interesting from that which is imposed. to be able to laugh at the ridiculous manifestations in life because pleasure is ridiculous and delightful.

it’s difficult to talk about occurrences in nature especially about female animals without those words being taken and misconstrued to make points about human bodies. but what we think occurs in nature should never be used to justify our own actions. we cannot make claims about the agency of other animals but we know of our own. those who argue against knowledge of one’s own agency are often the ones advocating for a singular truth a return to tradition a return to nature to simplicity. as though we are done knowing and are making an informed decision. ‘perhaps the only true difference in behavior between the species is that people, but not animals, are prone to make simplistic generalizations’.

why not try everything with the tools we have at our disposal. the only thing that devalues fucking and sexuality is the insistence that it be universally coherent. everything will not work for everyone but everyone should have the opportunity to discover their own pleasure.

slowly we discover that most of life and survival is intermingled with pleasure and yet so much energy is spent on denying others the right to seek their own denying the plurality that pleasure is capable of manifesting through. most animals have to practice fucking because fucking is hard. practicing pleasure is sometimes harder. 

Further Play

  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

  • Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown

  • Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity by Bruce Bagemihl

  • all about love: new visions by bell hooks


marina manoukian is a reader and writer and collage artist. she currently resides in berlin while she studies and works. she likes honey and she loves bees. you can find more of her words and images at or twitter/instagram at @crimeiscommon.