Sex Before Life (Life Superlives: On the Origins of Sex, Part 4)

9 Apr

This is the final entry in a series of short essays about the origins of sex, inspired by my mentor, the biologist and geoscientist Lynn Margulis,  one of my favorite philosophers, Michel Serres.

Part3 was about the the ultimate sexual merger: Symbiosis.

“Life superlives.”

– Michel Serres

RNALife Superlives: On the Origins of Sex, Part 4

Sex Before Life

We end this series with a story from before the beginning.

Once upon a time,

biology tells us,

Before bacteria…

Before the superliving hypersex of symbiosis…

Before life…

the Earth was teeming with bonds of sugars, phosphates, and nitrogenous substances.

These bonds, or ribonucleic acid (RNA), huddled into themselves, and stretched their ways throughout the surface of the planet.

For these molecules, language was form. When they encounter each other, they strained to understand each other through strange acts of translation. They wrapped themselves up into each other, and this act of language, this braiding of being, created new forms.

A mysterious correspondence: an exchange of material, packed with meaning. This was the exuberant world full of RNA, and this was the birth of sex.

This story provides us with a new and sideways answer to the old question of chicken and egg. Did two chickens having sex make the fertilized egg from which another chicken sprung?

Or did the first chicken spring from a pre-existing egg?

When we look into the origins of sex, we discover an unexpected truth.

Q. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

A. Sex.

chknegg

Sources

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. Origins of Sex: Three Billion Years of Genetic Recombination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. What Is Sex? New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.

Serres, Michel. Variations on the Body. Minneapolis: Univocal, 2012.

Carnal Incarnations (Life Superlives: On the Origins of Sex, Part 3)

28 Mar

This is the third in a short series of essays about the origins of sex, inspired by my mentor, the biologist and geoscientist Lynn Margulis,  one of my favorite philosophers, Michel Serres.

Part 2 was about the orgy of early life and how it reveals a counterpulse to identity. Part 3 is about the ultimate sexual merger: Symbiosis.

“Life superlives.”

– Michel Serres

daliLife Superlives: On the Origins of Sex, Part 3

Carnal Incarnations

Life was born, and it superlived.

Early organisms brushed up against each other, and when they did, they consumed each other. But not always. Encounter after encounter between them gave rise to a new form of union: symbiosis.

Here’s an example. Imagine a tiny, ancient oxygen-respiring bacterium. Small, but hungry, it was  was a fierce predator. Now imagine a larger, blobbier organism – a thermoplasm, contracting and expanding itself through its shapeless life. The two come together again and again, usually leading to the thermoplasm being invaded and eaten from the inside out by its smaller relative. But not every invasion killed the thermoplasm, and soon – how? We don’t know – the invader organism was taken up by the invaded, incorporated into its being. Permanently.

The thermoplasm could now resist the death-bringing properties of oxygen, and the bacterium found rest from the hunt.

Symbiosis is the ultimate procreative sex act. Two beings merge and form a third. Not a separate being, but a reincarnation of both selves.

Symbiosis is the origin of all multicellular organisms, and likely one of the main motivators of the rise of new species.

Symbiosis is sex, super-sexing.

This creative act is the foundation of human life. Let me explain.

Many protoctists (usually mislabeled “protozoans” – there is no “zoo” in them, since they aren’t animals) like the thermoplasm, reproduce through cell division, also called mitosis, in which an organism copies its own DNA and then pulls itself in two. A startling feature of mitosis is that, even though it’s called cell “division,” it doesn’t actually divide the number or chromosomes, structures in the cell that bear many of the cell’s genes.

In the procreative variety of sex that humans have, sperm and egg cells merge to create a new being. Sperm cells and egg cells have only half the chromosomes compared to the other cells in human beings. When sperm and egg meet, each carries a complimentary half of those chromosomes. This is how sperm and egg meet and form a new being. Rather than dividing (mitosis) humans are created by compliment (meiosis).

Our cells have forms that are meant to meet. They await each other. In other words, human beings are formed through a sort of predestined symbiosis.

Look at your hands, now. They are composed of cells upon cells, grouped together in the whorls and arches of your skin, the bones beneath, the connecting tendons. Your hands are a gathering of cells. And those cells are the ancient agreements of bacteria.

Sex is us. It’s what makes our cells, it’s what made us capable of making new forms of sex and new beings.

And it’s more than just us.

From its inception, sex has been a meeting of forces far beyond bodies and desires.

2In1

Next up: Sex Before Life.

Sources

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. Origins of Sex: Three Billion Years of Genetic Recombination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. What Is Sex? New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.

Serres, Michel. Variations on the Body. Minneapolis: Univocal, 2012.

The Orgy Against Identity (Life Superlives: On the Origins of Sex, Part 2)

18 Mar

This is the second in a short series of essays about the origins of sex, inspired by my mentor, the biologist and geoscientist Lynn Margulis,  one of my favorite philosophers, Michel Serres.

Part 1 was about the first stirrings of sex, with the Sun as a sexual partner. Part 2 is about the constant orgy of life.

“Life superlives.”

– Michel Serres

HB

Life Superlives: On the Origins of Sex, Part 2

The Orgy Against Identity

Life threads through the world, not just living, but superliving, creating more life and more possibilities for what life can be. Every individual has within itself the potential to change, utterly, all potentials.

First, bacteria and the Sun embraced over vast distances, and created sex. After sex was created, different forms of sex were possible.

Bacterial sex can take the form of gene-swapping on a “lateral” level. In other words, genes flow freely from bacterium to bacterium, breaking from an initial host and finding their way into another.

If this happened in humans, “…a man with red hair and freckles might wake up, after a swim with a brunette and her dog, with brown hair and floppy ears.”

Because of their freely exchanged genes, bacteria are engaged in the largest and most continuous orgy of all time.

Or maybe it’s microscopic self-love. It depends on how you define bacterial species:

“(Since) all strains of bacteria can potentially share all bacterial genes, then  strictly speaking, there are no true species in the bacterial world. All bacteria are one  organism,one entity capable of genetic engineering on a planetary or global scale.”

Look closely at the world, and you will see that life defies scale: Are the tiniest organisms really just the largest organism alive, spreading across the planet and into its pores, a giant body with infinite organs? Life superlives.

In another form of bacterial sex, conjugation, a “donor” bacterium transfers genetic material into a “recipient.” The ordinary terms are biological sex — “male” and “female” — are useless in the underlying current of life: hen the donor transfers its genetic material to the recipient, it loses its donor characteristics, and the recipient receives them. Bacteria fuck their identities into each other.

Look closely, again, at the world. You will see the slippage of identity.

pool

Next up: Sex and hypersex.

Sources

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. Origins of Sex: Three Billion Years of Genetic Recombination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. What Is Sex? New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.

Serres, Michel. Variations on the Body. Minneapolis: Univocal, 2012.

 

Life Superlives: On the Origins of Sex, Part 1 (or, Sex in the Gaze of the Sun)

8 Mar

This is the first in a short series of essays about the origins (origins, because there are more than one) of sex. The essays are inspired by my mentor, the biologist and geoscientist Lynn Margulis, and by a little quote by one of my favorite philosophers, Michel Serres

“Life superlives.” 

For Part 1, I’m going way back, to some early starfucking.

Life Superlives: On the Origins of Sex, Part 1

SunSex in the Gaze of the Sun

For all the problems that accompany sex in our lives — shame and fear, jealous lovers, unplanned pregnancies, STIs — one might be surprised that, according to the scientific narrative, sex began as a healing act which diverted crisis.

Once upon a time, billions of years ago, the Sun’s violent and ultraviolet rays cascaded over an ozone-less Earth, greeting the only lifeforms with harsh light. These were the bacteria; prokaryotes, so named for their lack of nuclei (pro = before, karyon = nut or core).

These beings arose only to dissolve in the radiated presence of light.  They already had a way to repair themselves, or life would have never survived its bright beginning. Their DNA — the double-stranded molecule that many of us know about but that scientists still have trouble understanding — had begun to replicate itself through a series of gestures from various enzymes. If one part of a DNA strand was damaged, it was amputated by an enzyme that could cut the DNA bonds apart (a nuclease), and then another enzyme arrived to create wholeness and heal the void.

In the gaze of the Sun, the tiny prokaryotic innards were often too damaged to recombinate on their own. So these beings reached, in the mordial soup, for the ejected DNA of their dead kin, the floating pieces of bodies amongst them. They used their own enzymes in conjunction with the dead to repair themselves.

This was the beginning of sex for living organisms.

It was a co-mingling of partners. The Sun was there first. It aroused the prokaryotes, initiated sex, and then the presence of the dead infused the living with a new possibility for life.

Experiments today that replicate ultraviolet early-Earth intensities prompt similar responses in bacteria.

Life’s first sexual partner was a star.

That also means that by evolutionary implication, our first sexual partner was a star. The ancestors of all our ancestors undulated across the Earth, under a pulsing sexual sphere.

As children, we stare at the Sun, and it blots out our perception. As adults, we know better. When we look at the Sun, we turn away, flushed. It remains a flirtatious, sexual glance cast upon an unbearably beautiful face.

Next: The orgy that exposes identity.

Sources

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of  Microbial Evolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. Origins of Sex: Three Billion Years of Genetic Recombination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990.

Margulis, Lynn and Dorion Sagan. What Is Sex? New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.

Serres, Michel. Variations on the Body. Minneapolis: Univocal, 2012.

EVENT: Come See the Best Person Ever Play Music. Or: Jeb Havens Sings! (and Maybe I Will Sing Too)

12 Feb

 

JGH1

JH

 

I don’t usually promote other people’s events, but seeing that this is the best person ever, I thought I would.

My best friend, singer and songwriter Jeb Havens is playing his album release party at Rockwell in Los Angeles on February 17th.

And you’re coming! I’ll be MC-ing the show and also maybe (I really mean maybe) singing NNNa little.

Jeb has been my best friend since, I dunno, a long time.  We used to be boyfriends (here we are talking about how to be friends after breaking up on my Logo TV web show), then we realized we were totally forever in love, just not in THAT way, if you know what I mean.

He’s opened up for Little Boots, Matt Alpert, Ladyhawke, and more.  Last year, he was all over the place with his heartbreaking cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” I know, I know, you’re thinking, how did he pull that off? Well he did. It was amazing.

His album, Home Base, was almost ten years in the making. It’s out on the 17th. It’s somewhere between Fiona Apple, Matt Nathanson, and Kacey Musgraves. I know that doesn’t make sense, but it’s all true. Here’s a teaser clip from his Fiona Apple-esque song, “Burn Slow.”

 

Come hang out with me and Jeb and all the other LA gaylebrities (sorry for that word, it’s just that there will be some recognizable gay-famous faces there) while he makes us cry by singing beautiful songs that will stick in your head forever.

I would never, ever, have been who I am or where I am today without Jeb.

Come celebrate his music with me.

Tickets here.

EVENT: Hang Out with Me & I’ll Answer Anything You Want To Ask Me about Sex.

26 Jan
Goofyface

So, you want to talk about sex. Hi.

Want to hear me talk about sex? Want to ask me your biggest, most urgent, most arousing question about sex?

Well, all right. Let’s do it.

Here’s how!

(Scroll down to Ask Conner Anything below if you already know the deal.)

THE EXPLORE MORE SUMMIT

I’m part of the Explore More summit – an online summit featuring thirty (!!) sexual thinkers, including Me, Dan Savage, Feminista Jones, Tristan Taromino, and more! (For a full list of speakers, click here.) The summit airs from January 28 – February 6. But you can sign up at any time during the summit!

In my interview, I talk about butts, consent, fear of sex in our culture, the problem of sex on campus, sexual shame, and more. Oh, and I talk about dicks (duh).

Each day, three 60 minute-long video interviews (an hour for each speaker) will be available for you to watch.

DS

Me and Dan Savage, coming at you.

Anyway, it’s totally free! 

You don’t have to pay anything for the interviews, you just have to watch them within 24 hours (Mine airs February 5).

Ask Conner Anything

BUT! Here’s the best part – If you sign up through me for the Platinum Package, there’s a big bonus:

I’ll personally answer any question you have about sex.

Yes! It’s true! Whatever sexy or anxious or baffling or funny or arousing or personal or cultural question you have about sex? I will personally answer it. And I don’t just mean with a “yes” or “no” or “boners!” – I mean, I’ll sit down and really go at answering it. And I’ll send you my answer by the end of the summit (February 6).

It’s easy to sign up.

  1. Just go to the summit site via this link
  2. When you get there, click on BONUS PACKAGES in the top right.
  3. Sign up for the PLATINUM PACKAGE.
  4. After  you sign up, just send me an email with your question – connerhabibsocial[at]gmail.com  – and include “Explore5” in the subject line.  This offer is ONLY available for people that sign up for the summit THROUGH ME.

I’m using the honor system here, so please be a nice person. One sign up = one question.

On top of that, you’ll have access to all the interviews for 90 days, as well as all the bonus materials other speakers are offering.

All right?

All right!
Love,

CH

Twitter Explore More Image

2015: The Best Stuff

3 Jan

Happy new everything, everyone!

Here’s a list of my best stuff from 2015.

I do this every year, and it’s just my best stuff. It doesn’t have to be anyone else’s, but I’d love to hear your stuff too. So feel free to comment with your favorite stuff at the end here.

Music:

DA.jpg

Blur’s Damon Albarn, praying to sound.

The album I enjoyed the most that actually came out in 2015 was Magic Whip by Blur; and I got to see them play this year too – something I though would never happen again since seeing them in the late 90s. No band creates such diversity of sound from album to album, while still maintaining the “oh-that’s-them” recognizability as Blur. Watching Damon Albarn laze across the stage, then pounce up with energy, only to stumble toward the crowd smiling and handsome in the atonal guitar grind…It’s still powerful, still amazing.

If you’d like to know what song was most blasted out my car windows this year, while like a moron I was singing at the top of my lungs, it was “This Is Not A Party” by The Wombats.

Other noteworthy albums – The Beauty Pill’s amazing and layered Describes Things as They Are, a John Zorn-worthy pop rock record. +Exit Verse’s self-titled debut left me wondering why I never felt so connected to guitar riffs before. I found myself singing, not just the choruses and verses, but the parts without words, too.  + Faith No More created a metal album, Sol Invictus, that rivaled the brilliance Angel Dust. + I listened to a whole lot of Death Grips this year.

SW

from Slow West

Movies:

Carol

Tangerine

Where to Invade Next

Slow West

In a sea (“sea” is a generous word) of mediocre LGBT-themed movies, obsessed with struggle or snark and not humanity, Carol and Tangerine are brilliant, powerful and lead the way forward, albeit on two very different paths. Real works of art. + Michael Moore’s excellent new documentary Where to Invade Next is an even rarer thing, perhaps: a work of optimism. + Slow West was not a perfect film, but it was a beautJBDiful one. I was excited by it and even more excited to see what writer/director John Maclean (this was his debut) does next.

Also, extra shout outs to: A forgotten slasher film from 1981 – Just Before Dawn screened at Los Angeles’s amazing vintage film house New Beverly Cinema. It’s a weird, unsettling, and gender-conscious horror movie. + The crazy, nonstop real-actual-blood fest of Roar, also from 1981 (what a year!) – a reality-meets-fiction movie about lots and lots of big cats. It’s fun and horrible.

Books:

Taussig

Michael Taussig

As usual, I didn’t mostly read books that came out this year, so these are the favorites of what I read, not of new releases. This year, I also lived out a lifelong dream of reading a book a day, every day. I lasted about six weeks. It was amazing; my mind felt like it was on speed, even as I’d slowed everything down to sit in silence and scan the symbols on the paper.

The Miracle Cures of Dr. Aira and The Hare by César Aira

Heroes: Mass Murder and Suicide by Franco “Bifo” Berardi

Our Lady of the Ruins: Poems by Traci Brimhall

Campus Sex, Campus Security by Jennifer Doyle

Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy

The Joy of Revolution by Ken Knabb

The Corn Wolf by Michaeil Taussig

TB

Traci Brimhall

From top to bottom here: Discovering César Aira’s novels was a huge highlight for me – their insistence on the magic of thought is intoxicating and playful.+Berardi’s great book on why so many mass shootings are taking place as our society is translated into a spectacle. + Brimhall’s book of rich and terrifying poems, a cold light that will turn in you a truth you might not have wanted to feel. + Doyle has written the bravest book on sexual culture in the US I’ve read in a long time, with particular emphasis on how our views of sexual assault are intertwined with dependence on the state. + Eltahawy’s book uncovered the hidden corners of my own misogyny and challenged them with a body of work so powerful, I could not help but surrender. +Ken Knabb enlivened my sense of what is possible and why I would enjoy engaging. + Finally, Michael Taussig bonds together myth, magic, theory, and Walter Benjamin in a stunning exercise of style.

Two books I need to give special mention to – Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been SOTLPublicly Shamed and Dr. Chris Donaghue’s Sex Outside the Lines: Authentic Sexuality in a Sexually Dysfunctional Culture. I make small appearances in both. The former is a book on the reemergence (and pitfalls) of shame as a social strategy. It is funny, light, and still profound. + Chris Donaghue is one of my closest colleagues and best friend. His book is a stirring look at sex in our personal lives. He utilizes his years of clinical experience with a radical outlook. It’s the perfect book to change your life.

***

All right, folks, that’s it for now. Let’s hold hands into this new year. Much love,

CH

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,039 other followers