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Art as Therapy: Sex


Problem: Thinking sex is just good clean fun.
On closer inspection this is quite a disturbing, even creepy, image. An average, slightly upmarket couple is kissing. To their friends they are respectable, quite successful. He has a good position as an officer in the military. She’s a bit of a society figure. They are a bit greedy, on the lookout for a bit of fun. Maybe they tell a few lies here and there to smooth things over. They are pretty imperfect, but they are not at all unusual.

But then, behind them and around them are the bizarre and confronting symbols and semi-divinities of the ancient world. As many works of art do, this one is telling us something about the minds of the central characters. These people carry within them a whole lot of strange baggage. They think of themselves as up to date. They have opinions and attitudes that, in their own circle, pass for enlightened. But the artist is telling us that deep down these people have, like everyone, destructive urges, obscure lusts, wild fantasies (which could sound deranged if described). They are haunted by the fear of death. The Egyptians gave names and faces to their dark parts of the mind. More often than not, we keep them hidden from view. But they are there all the same.


Problem: No one has ever asked me what I really, really want.
Is she terrifying, exciting or perhaps both? She’s looking at us, her viewers, with a particular kind of stare. She knows about sex, she wants it as much as we do, and nothing we might want is alien to her.

This is at once a great relief and deeply unusual. We spend most of our lives suppressing our libido in one way or another, and feeling shame and embarrassment about some of our fantasies. We don’t encounter too many Marchesas. Despite all the so-called “liberation,” sex typically remains underground and hidden. The Marchesa is on hand to give us the confidence and skill to overcome any doubts and embarrassments. We don’t yet know how to honour her achievements. She is a Professor of Desire.

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