Love In The Wild: Gwenn Semeel's Crimes Against Nature

Artist Gwenn Semeel has created a children's book and a series of paintings based on her research into the incredible variety of gender roles, family structure, and partnering in the animal kingdom...

Hyperallergic featured her work, writing "The diversity of sex and gender in the animal kingdom is totally overlooked when people use the argument 'it’s not natural' to say that someone’s lifestyle goes against their personal moral constructs." Semeel said her project was inspired by her inability to have children, and her frustration with "being told again and again that the urge to reproduce is primordial". She started delving into the mating, family habits, and social structure of animals, and realized "that this wasn’t just about baby-making. It was about all the things that we think women and men have to be in order to be natural".

Here are a few of my favorite pieces, along with the text from her children's book..

Happily ever after (Black Swan): "Among black swans, males sometimes pair-bond with other males.  These couples tend to be successful as parents since the combined strength of two males allows the swans to maintain a larger nesting territory.  They acquire eggs to raise either by briefly forming a trio with a female or by taking over the nest of a heterosexual couple."

Not necessarily a lone wolf (Grey wolf): "Some boys and girls don’t make babies at all. Gray wolves tend to live in packs with only the dominant male and the dominant female reproducing.  Other members of the pack nurture the young along with the parents."

Love-in (Red-sided garter snake): "And some boys have sex with boys and girls. When red-sided garter snakes emerge from winter hibernation to mate, they are cold.  The first male snakes to arrive at the surface use the sun’s heat to raise their body temperature.  The next wave of snakes—also males—attract the warm males with a perfume that all snakes exude when exiting the den.  Warm and cold males writhe around in mating balls, waiting for the appearance of the females who will also use the perfume to announce their presence."

Girls just wanna have fun (Bottlenose dolphin): "Sometimes girls have sex with girls. Both male and female bottlenose dolphins participate in homosexual exchanges and, usually, they do so more than participating in heterosexual encounters.  Females seek out clitoral stimulation and other nonprocreative sexual interactions from partners of both sexes."

What really happened when Nemo's mother died (Clownfish): "Boys can become girls. When a clownfish female is removed from her anemone home, the male turns into a female and one of the couple’s young becomes a mature male.  The new pair continues to breed in the same anemone."

(All images by Gwenn Semeel, via Hyperallergic)