Thursday, October 01st, 2009 | Author:

In “Children of Adam” Whitman celebrates sexuality and the human body in an androgynous way. This is Whitman at his most revolutionary and daring. The writing is sexually explicit, even by today’s standards. Unlike Penthouse Letters, sex in this poem is generalized, it’s not episodic or designed to stimulate the reader. I admire his courage. He and his publisher took an incredible risk.

Today we are so quick to neatly categorize sexuality, whereas Whitman celebrates a kind of androgynous omnisexuality that knows no barriers.

Whitman seems obsessed with the physical aspects of sex and not with love and stable, monogamous relationships.  He doesn’t really mention love in connection to sex. It’s all very impersonal. He is also obsessed with the male orgasm (not with the female–some things never change).

You can hear the same sentiment Serge Gainsbourg’s controversial hit from 1969 “J’taime moi non plus” (I love you, me neither).  I can’t think of any other popular song that celebrates sexuality in the spirit of “Children of Adam.” This song features the singing (and moaning) of Jane Birkin. It was banned by the Vatican and several European governments for obvious reasons. No French necessary.


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  1. This really has me thinking, Adam. The song is sexy, no kidding, but I’m not sure I’d call it Whitmanlike–at least not in the words. As a product of the ’60s sexual revolution that followed the introduction of The Pill, it celebrates sex with no emotional strings attached (hence that cynical “me neither” in the title). Whitman might be promiscuous and omnivorous, but it seems to me he’s all about not being able to tell where sex stops and love begins–just like he denies the difference between body and soul. He’s always so swept away that I’d have a hard time calling him impersonal. Have to think about that one.

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