Rowan Pelling: So poets and artists have more sex. Tell me something I didn't know...

As long as women are excited by the idea of being someone's muse, creative men will reap the benefits
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The Independent Online

Hold the presses: a new scientific study reveals to a shocked world that artists and poets have more sex than your average Joe. Or to be more precise, academics at Newcastle University said last week that creative types tend to have twice as many sexual liaisons as non-creative people.

Hmm, I'm thinking of getting into this research lark myself. I might apply for a grant to see whether there's a remote possibility that pop stars, actors and footballers get laid more often than bank clerks. Then I might do a little light inquiring into whether thin, blonde women with enormous breasts get chatted up more often than short, squat, mousy women who can barely fill an A-cup. Finally I might see if the Pontiff has any known links with the sinister cult called Catholicism.

Call me old-fashioned, but I would have thought that the very reason any young woman took up poetry or painting was so she could exchange nice-girl values for bohemian licence, no fingers pointed. If you shag hundreds of men in any other profession, even in this supposedly enlightened age, you tend to be viewed as a bonkers nymphomaniac. But if you bed a lot of men when you're a bona fide artiste it's a sound career move. Any practitioner worth her reputation can make a small fortune by writing about her conquests or merely taking the precaution of embroidering a tent with a list of their names.

I would also have been inclined to think that any scrawny young man who took up sonnets or the easel couldn't kick a ball straight or play guitar, and that this was his next best chance of having mindless sex with crazed groupies. (He may briefly have considered becoming a novelist or classical musician before considering that these particular arts practitioners have a disappointing tendency to roger one another rather than coach-loads of supine devotees.)

I am not alone in my school-of-the-bleeding-obvious theorising. The evolutionist Geoffrey Miller proposed in his book The Mating Mind that artistic ability may have evolved as a form of human sexual display. May? Why the excessive caution, Geoff? No one displays with more flamboyant excess than your average poet or artist; my own definitive research states that such persons are a hundred times more likely to wear a hat, cravat or coat of animal hide than members of any other profession.

As you might expect, the fine line between creative eccentricity and rampaging lunacy can become a little blurred. One day you're sporting a flowered bonnet à la Grayson Perry, the next you're painting fairies in an asylum like poor, murderous Richard Dadd. Which helps explain why the research from Newcastle also linked the creative mind to the schizophrenic mind; a predisposition to empiricism, risk-taking, promiscuity, mood-swings and depression are common to both. And all the shagging indulged in by both groups explains why it's well-nigh impossible to breed the mad gene out.

Naturally, all this unaccustomed excitement somewhat impairs the discernment of the groupie. They can't see the crappy watercolour for the trilby and monocle, nor hear the duff metre for the bursts of Tourette's. This helps explain why any poet or artist can usually find some deluded fan to share their bed. It also has something to do with the terrifying drinking culture (as we must now call the time-honoured art of getting rat-arsed) that both surrounds and obscures the badness of bad art, and a lot to do with all that ghastly hokum about "the muse". I blame Robert Graves with all that mystical outpouring about the White Goddess, putting ideas into schoolgirls' fluffy little heads.

How females fall for that old muse shtick. They want their lovely loins to inspire masterpieces and so they lay down their virtue for art. A week later they're walking around in a T-shirt that bears the slogan, "I slept with Andrew Motion and all he gave me was this lousy bit of free verse".

Look at the other great shagger of our time: Lucian Freud. Like our noble Poet Laureate (or "Leer-eate" if you're the Daily Mail), Freud's a living testament to the artist's pulling power and a sexual credit to his profession. OK, so he was devilishly handsome as a young man. But would he still be getting laid at the age of 82 by chicks of 32 if he wasn't a painter? Would Picasso have seduced 21-year-old Françoise Gilot in his sixties had he pursued a career in retail management? Would Byron have been pursued round Europe by a cross-dressing Caroline Lamb had he been an actuary? Would Philip Larkin have had sex at all if he hadn't been a poet? Fat, balding librarians tied to their mum's apron strings don't usually run three lovers.

It's the victims I feel sorry for: we, the easily impressed. Because I must confess, dear reader, I yielded my virginity to the oldest trick in the book. A sculptor persuaded me to disrobe and pose for him - for Art, darling - and one thing led to another, as it invariably does. I thought I would be immortalised. He made a giant stick man for the centre of Guildford. At least I sleep easy in the knowledge that I have never been so naive or stooped so low as to sleep with a poet. Yet attend any reading at the Poetry Society and you'll spot a dozen intense young women in lumpen cardigans trying to seduce a man with dandruff and a beard.

I only wonder that more unprepossessing young men don't get into this verse and art lark. I blame teachers for trying to make pupils appreciate perspective and shading, or cadence and iambic pentameters, when they should be explaining the side benefits. As any fule no, schoolboys will do anything for sex, even write a sonnet. Head teachers should invite poets and painters to classes to explain their metamorphosis from spotty dweebs who couldn't snatch a kiss from a malodorous llama into sexual athletes stalked from pub to pub by hordes of weeping women desperate to steal their sperm. Before you could say "Whip off your knickers and get your tits in front of my easel!" there would be a second Renaissance.

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