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Greyscale portrait of Andy Warhol.

Brief Lessons On Sex, Courtesy of Mr. Andy Warhol


In his autobiography Warhol, a character shrouded by mystery, included some thoughts on the role that sexuality plays in modern education.

Plenty has been said about Andy Warhol’s sexual preferences; however, he never confirmed nor denied anything. His somewhat perverse innocence and hyper complex personality always meant he existed at the margin —a type of enigma, who believed it “is more elegant to be a mystery”. But even if he never seemed to allow the media to catch a glimpse of this part of his life, he did, however, write some poignant thoughts on sex. “The most exciting thing is not-doing-it”, he once said. “If you fall in love with someone and never do it, it’s much more exciting.”

When it comes to sexual education, Warhol also had some important ideas that should be taken into consideration, and which he shared in his peculiar autobiography The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) (1977).

Instead of telling kids very early about the mechanics and nothingness of sex, maybe it would be better to suddenly and very excitingly reveal the details to them when they’re forty. You could be walking down the street with a friend who’s just turned forty, spill the birds-and-the-bees beans, wait for the initial shock of learning what-goes-where to die down, and then patiently explain the rest. Then suddenly at forty their life would have new meaning. We should really stay babies for much longer than we do, now that we’re living so much longer.

It’s the long life-spans that are throwing all the old values and their applications out of whack. When people used to learn about sex at fifteen and die at thirty-five, they obviously were going to have fewer problems than people today who learn about sex at eight or so, I guess, and live to be eighty. That’s a long time to play around with the same concept. The same boring concept.

He considered that another form of sexual fantasy, which is much “more exciting on the screen and between the pages than between the sheets anyway”, is its direct relation to nostalgia: a romanticized fantasy of the past, which Warhol perceives as an essential part of desire:

We can say that sex entails some form of nostalgia for something. Sex is nostalgia for when you used to want it, sometimes.

Sex is nostalgia for sex.

Anyone can relate to the above. It is true that often the memory of sex can be better than sex itself, or that thinking about a past encounter can be more exciting than thinking of a future one ––one has all the elements given, and memories are wrapped up in the veil of romance that only distance can provide.

But Warhol also lived in a sort of existential lightness where, as Henry Ford used to say, “Everything was sexual to him, without sex actually happening”. Perhaps the following fragment can clarify this assertion; for him, sex represented a loss of energy and therefore he preferred to avoid these types of encounters. At the same time, his understanding of things makes us question whether sex actually gives or takes something from us; or, better yet, with which partners we lose or gain energy.

Just being alive is so much work… After being alive, the next hardest work is having sex. Of course, for some people it isn’t work because they need the exercise and they’ve got the energy for the sex and the sex gives them even more energy. Some people get energy from sex and some people lose energy from sex. I have found that it’s too much work. But if you have the time for it, and if you need exercise — then you should do it. But you could really save yourself a lot of trouble either way by first figuring out whether you’re an energy-getter or an energy-loser. As I said, I’m an energy-loser. But I can understand it when I see people running around trying to get some.

It’s just as much work for an attractive person not to have sex as for an unattractive person to have sex, so it’s helpful if the attractive people happen to get energy from sex and if the unattractive people happen to lose energy from sex, because then their wants will fit in with the direction that people are pushing them in.

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