The inquiring mind pays a price. For instance, let's say you were reading the newspaper this week (as if!) and, in the course of thinking about the Harper government's proposal for a more gender-sensitive national anthem, came across a case now before the Ontario Court of Appeal. There's a publication ban on the identities of the parties in question, but we know this much: One night in the fall of 2006, after drinking three-quarters of a bottle of wine at a party hosted at the home of her occasional lover, a woman slipped into a bedroom and into bed, and fell asleep.
Some time later, a man she believed was her part-time partner began to make love to her. But he felt different, so she turned on the light - to discover the man was not her usual lover, but his identical twin.
The accused claimed the woman was responsible for the initial physical contact and that he said, "Are you sure?" before he initiated intercourse, to employ courtroom phraseology. Her counterclaim is that she called him by his brother's name several times before they did the deed.
The Crown maintained that anyone, "but especially ... the identical twin of the man the woman in bed is having a sexual relationship with, would be cognizant of the obvious risk of being confused for her intimate partner in this situation. To forge ahead anyway is reckless." (No word on whether the twin brothers are still talking.)
It will all be resolved in the Court of Appeal, and it is not our concern here. But someone with an inquiring mind might find himself reading that story over breakfast, while he contemplated changes to the national anthem to make it more gender-inclusive, and he might say to his wife, "That's a wild story. Is that a turn-on for women too, the idea of identical-twin lovers?"
Whereupon the inquiring mind's wife might say, "God, no!" and give the inquiring mind a look to suggest it was in need of remodelling. "Why would any woman need an identical pain in the ass?"
"But," the inquiring mind might then say, pushing the issue, "what about a brother fantasy? Lots of women seem to have those."
"That's not a twin. That's like your husband, but slightly improved. The same genes, but in a different package."
This turns out to be a common female answer, which in turn comes as a surprise to many men - because most lads turn out to entertain the fantasy (with the exception of your correspondent, who has twin sisters and is allergic to the idea of twin sex).
"It's a bit like asking, 'What kind of air do you like to breath?' " one fellow said when I asked if he had a thing for monozygotes. "It's not my No. 1 thing, but it's not 1,006th either."
I called an acquaintance in the investment business. "Twins is at the apogee," he said, waxing uncharacteristically literate. "Is it the biblical undertone of some illicit pairing? Is it the thought of some unimaginable betrayal of one by the other?" (In Genesis, hardly a book about gender equality, Perez and Zerah, twins, are fathered by Judah via his daughter-in-law, Tamar.)
I called a banker. "Men are about quantity; women want quality," he said. If that's true, the fantasy makes sense: It's more of the same, with as little variation as possible. There's an entire realm of pornography devoted to that; its current queens are the Milton girls.
This isn't to say twins aren't fascinating on their own. It isn't for nothing that a print of Diane Arbus's famous twin girls fetches $478,000 at auction, or that Hank and Daniel Sedin, the Swedish-born, identical-twin forwards for the Vancouver Canucks, are considered to have an instinctual connection on the ice.
Twins embody the possibility that there might be two of one person, a natural companion to the isolated human state. They are the same, but different; split, but bound.
No wonder twincest gets the ball rolling in Wagner's Ring Cycle (Siegfried is the son of coupling twins), or that Bertolucci made a film about twin lovers, or that even in The Empire Strikes Back, Princess Leia has the hots for Luke Skywalker, only to discover (in another film, if I have my plots straight) that he is in fact her twin brother.
In traditional Mohave culture, brother-sister twins were thought to have been married in heaven. Even Damien Hirst, a genius of artistic self-promotion, commissioned a set of identical twins to perform identical tasks in front of some early paintings, because he knew they would attract attention. The National Gallery of Canada is remounting that exhibition this summer, and is currently looking for sets of identical Canadian twins to perform the role.
But at Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, which has a worldwide reputation for its work on fetishes, guys with a thing for twins aren't even on the radar. "I don't think there are many clinicians who would refer to a man's desire for twins or multiple partners as a paraphilia," James Cantor, a psychologist at CAMH, explained over the telephone. Paraphilia is the scientific word for a fetish - prob-
lematic sexual arousal caused by objects, situations or individuals outside normative stimulation.
In general, women don't have paraphilias, period. "The literature is virtually unanimous that women don't seem to have fetishes," Dr. Cantor said. "Except for one: masochism." Even so, only one out of 20 cases concerns a female. "It's almost as if the kinks have been worked out of the female system."
That makes sense. Females whose ability to become aroused and reproduce is obstructed by a fetish for, say, the Eiffel Tower quickly go extinct. (Masochism - possibly in the form of the nuclear family? - is one of the few fetishes the female reproductive system can work around.) There are women (and men) called objectum sexuals, who indeed fall in love with the Eiffel Tower and other inanimate objects, but most researchers consider that a personality disorder or even a form of autism, not a fetish.
As for the national anthem, the notion is that the line "in all thy sons command" is perhaps inappropriate. Do you need to ask why?