Monday, November 24, 2014

The Porcupine Dilemma

This is Sigmund Freud's porcupine, a bronze figurine the size of a hand, currently on loan to the Wellcome Collection as part of their Sexology exhibition. I visited over the weekend as part of one of my quarterly London trips, which always coincide with a need to get out of Manchester for a long weekend, gallery-binge and catching up with friends; more and more of whom are now living in the Big Smoke. Probably one of my favourite parts of the exhibition, this little porcupine usually sits on the desk in the Freud Museum, alongside the other statues and antiquities, and represents the 'Porcupine dilemma':

"This bronze porcupine was kept on Sigmund Freud’s desk. He thought it represented the prickliness of human relationships. Porcupines crowd together when cold; however their sharp quills cause them to move away from each other when they get too close. This forces them to shift closer and then further apart until a balance of proximity is found. Freud used this to illustrate how people can both benefit from and be harmed by those they are most intimate with." 

Some of the other wonderful materials on show include Marie Stopes' 'Tabulations of Symptoms of Sexual Excitement in Solitude', a very neat hand-drawn graph chronicling her own sexual pleasure over the course of a month. At one point she notes a 'desire to be held closely around the waist til corsets become tempting, tho normally they are abhorrent', and then there's the fortnight when she's 'fearfully tired and overworked' and her libido noticeably flatlines. Throw in beautifully graphic illustrations of ladyparts on the inside of clam shells (perfect) which were given to newlywed brides, a very funny scene from Woody Allen's Sleeper which sees Diane Keaton trying to seduce him while he cleans his clarinet and a fascinating interview with a bunch of students from Mount Holyoke College (where I actually studied for a bit) about sexual identity and Women's Colleges and it was just about the nicest way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon in London. Standing in a big crowd of people, shoulder to shoulder, all chin-stroking whilst peering at penis-shaped water jugs; there's something about that which is nice and cheeky and good for the soul.

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