Conjoined Twins & Sex

Monday Oct 29, 2012 - BY Stacey

Abby and Brittanny, the stars of their own TLC show.

An interesting article in The Atlantic tracing the history of conjoined twins and sex in the popular and medical imagination.


The most famous pair of conjoined or “Siamese” twins (so-called because they came from Thailand, which was then called “Siam”) were Chang and Eng Bunker. These two married a pair of sisters and each fathered several children. From this we can at the very least assume that they had sex more than a handful of times.


What was the view of their sexual activity at the time? Alice Dreger writes:


A little known fact is that the Bunker wives’ father originally objected to his daughters marrying the twins not because they were conjoined, but because they were Asian. (This was, after all, the antebellum American South.)


I would’ve thought that the mere thought of his daughters having sex with a pair of conjoined twins would’ve freaked him out. But no, their race was far more alarming.


You would’ve thought that things would’ve gotten easier and better for conjoined twins, but when later jointed-at-the-hip siblings tried to get married, they were rebuffed on moral grounds. Basically, they thought that sex in this situation would be “icky.” (I might’ve paraphrased a bit here, but when you get down to the subtext, that’s what they meant.)


According to the article, a big motivation in separation surgery is to ensure that each child has a shot at a healthy sex lives:


In 2002, as soon as he had made the cut separating two little girls joined at the head, the neurosurgeon involved paused to announce to the assembled medical team, “We now have two weddings to go to.” Indeed, when I talked to contemporary surgeons about how they decide whether to undertake the substantial risks some separations involve, I found that surgeons had two fears, sort of conjoined: one, that twins would grow up conjoined and thus never have sex; two, that twins would grow up conjoined and actually have sex.


So what does this say about us and our views of human sexuality? We have idealized privacy and see it is a key ingredient to sexual intimacy, so much so that we prefer to see conjoined twins take major risks to separate rather than allow them to remain attached and live full lives to the best of their abilities.


What do you think? Is there something legitimate in our squeamishness at contemplating conjoined twin sex with others? Or are we unfairly foisting our issues and sexual preferences on the shoulders of others, forcing them to conform to wider sexual standards even if it entails great risk to them physically?



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