Disappointing sex life? Then it's time to get creative

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Creativity is sexually alluring, according to a study which shows that artists and poets have more sexual partners than ordinary mortals.

A survey of creative professionals found that on average they had about twice the number of sexual liaisons as non-artists, scientists said. The findings may help to explain why many artists, from Caravaggio to Picasso, and poets such as Lord Byron and Dylan Thomas, were notorious womanisers.

Fame and fortune do not appear to enter the equation as none of the professionals who took part in the study are household names, said David Nettle of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. "We're not talking about celebrities. We used people from all walks of life and we got a range of people from those who didn't produce any art at all to those who did it professionally," Dr Nettle said.

The scientists asked 425 men and women about their sexual partners, including one-night stands. The study found the average number of partners for professional artists and poets to be between four and 10 compared with just three for non-creative people.

"Creative people are often considered to be attractive and get lots of attention as a result. They tend to be charismatic and produce art and poetry that grabs people's interests," Dr Nettle said. "It could also be that very creative types lead a Bohemian lifestyle and tend to act on more sexual impulses and opportunities, often purely for experience's sake, than the average person would. Moreover, it's common to find that this sexual behaviour is tolerated in creative people. Partners, even long-term ones, are less likely to expect loyalty and fidelity from them."

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, supports a theory put forward by evolutionist Geoffrey Miller, in his 2001 book The Mating Mind, that artistic ability may have evolved as a form of human sexual display.

Miller believes artistic men are more likely to be promiscuous than women, yet Dr Nettle's study, conducted with Helen Keenoo of the Open University, found no differences.

Dr Nettle also suggests that the findings may help to explain a connection between schizophrenia, which affects about 1 per cent of people, and serious artists, who share many of the same personality traits as schizophrenics. "These personality traits can manifest themselves in negative ways, in that a person with them is likely to be prone to the shadows of full-blown mental illness such as depression and suicidal thoughts."

It is possible that the same genetic factors responsible for predisposing someone to creativity could also, under slightly different environmental conditions, lead to schizophrenia, Dr Nettle said. "If these genetic factors have been chosen by successive generations as attractive features in a potential mate, this could explain why schizophrenia is so common today," he said.