Plant Sex

by Kitty Drake in September 2019

“To have sex,” the Italian philosoper Emanuele Coccia writes in the third issue of Mal, “plants need more than two individuals. They need a whole world.” Mal is a quarterly journal of erotics, and this edition’s theme, “PLANTSEX”, is an unexpected opportunity to explore progressive sexual politics. Plants are presented as a model for truly open, fluid sexuality. Ancient and at the same time oddly futuristic, plants have hermaphroditic sex organs; and they are polyamorous. “Imagine having sexual organs that are structured like your hair, or your nails… imagine what it would mean for us to build new sex organs every time,” Coccia writes. Plants are inspiring because they “do not just live in the world, they constantly transform it”.

A slim, hot-pink volume, Mal’s vision of sexuality is strikingly modern, but many of its contributions are thousand of years old. A passage from Ovid is introduced as a “thrilling allegory for a dream of generation without men”: (“I quickly plucked the clinging flower with my thumb./ Juno feels its touch and at the touch conceives.”) Quoted later in the magazine, lines from the Song of Solomon are re-contextualised as a celebration of love that is secular, and satisfyingly earthy: “Let me climb into that palm tree / and take hold of its branches./ And, oh, may your breasts be like clusters/ of grapes on a vine”.

Made in collaboration with the Serpentine Galleries, Mal is surprisingly text-heavy, art-light. And some of that text, while always lovely and short, is forbiddingly esoteric. What stays with you though, is this vision of flowers as a symbol of less restrictive visions for sex and relationships: of sex without fixed gender, or partners. If plants need “the whole world” to have sex; the whole world quickens, like Juno, with new life.

maljournal.com





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