Sunday, March 14, 2010

Belated Happy Birthday, Hensel Twins

Last week saw a birthday for two of the most interesting women on the planet: March 7th was the twentieth birthday of the Hensel twins, two relatively normal-looking Minnesota college students — aside from the fact that they are so conjoined as to effectively share one (fairly normal) body from the neck down, with two heads and two distinctive personalities.

I cannot be the only male thinking that group sex is technically an inevitable part of their future (if it has not already occurred). Are related film offers already pouring in? I would imagine they could command a fair amount in that department. (Female readers are now thinking “What? Who would want to see that?” while males are thinking things like “Yeah, a friend of a friend of mine is a guy who decided he’s mainly attracted to amputees.”)

On a more mature and philosophical note: the Wikipedia entry about them notes what things they do in common, coordination-wise (given that one basically controls the right half of their body and the other the left), and what things they do separately, which is fascinating — particularly (at least to me as a writer/editor) the fact that they not only type together (each controlling one hand and requiring little verbal communication to coordinate efforts) but alternate between using “I” (not “we”) when they agree and their individual names when they disagree, which is not exactly what I for one would have intuitively predicted. (I’m impressed they can even type at a normal speed, but apparently they do — and my naive predictions on that front clearly reflect pre-Hensel limb notions.)

All this warrants discussion in philosophy class, I’d say — I’d give them A’s just for being willing to discuss it in a class on identity theory. Talk about a hivemind. Even the Borg say “we,” which seemed collectivist at the time but is less odd than all of them saying “I” simultaneously.

I’m very pleased that the Hensels seem to be leading relatively ordinary lives and are able to keep out of the media spotlight most of the time, but as one of my favorite bartenders (a Tim Burton fan, a punk, a former Columbia biology student, and a self-professed Nietzschean nihilist who is friends with various sideshow performers) notes, fewer biologically-odd people participating in sideshows explains the big upsurge I’d noted in the past couple decades in sideshow performers who are simply punks, anarchists, or extremists of some kind willing to do bizarre stunts — not that I’m knocking that.

Indeed, if you’re willing to spend $100 per head — or per person, if you will — I see that Gersh Kuntzman is co-hosting a benefit Thursday next week for the Coney Island sideshow. He promises booze and sideshow performers, not to mention the terrifying Kuntzman.


Sean Dougherty said...

I met Gersh in ‘92 when I was doing PR for the Brennan for Mayor campaign. I stopped by the Resident’s office to drop off our press kit as we couldn’t afford to mail them. He asked, “Don’t you feel like you’re tilting at windmills?” I replied that he didn’t understand the story. Don Quiote wasn’t considered crazy because he attacked things too big for him to defeat, he was crazy because he thought windmills were giants. Democrats and Republicans really are giants and need to be fought by somebody.

Xine said...

Since watching a documentary on the Hensel twins, I’ve been fascinated by the potential legal and ethical dilemmas presented by their sexuality, marriages, and pregnancies. The matter of their driver’s licenses (featured in the doc) implied that they have generally been treated legally as two persons, but their shared single reproductive system is quite the sticky wicket. The documentary was maddening by mentioning quickly that single system, but then skipping on to the happy-clappy “there’s no reason why they can’t develop normal adult relationships.”

Now, I didn’t quite frame it in your terms of “group sex,” but it seems rather clear that one twin might consent to sex when the other doesn’t. Does the sex partner of one need consent from both? If they marry two men, is one twin committing adultery? If they marry one, is he a bigamist? (It also raises interesting theological questions for these conservative Missouri-synod Lutherans.) If they have children fathered by one of the husbands, are both twins legally (and genetically) mothers? Really interesting (and clearly I need to get out more).

Todd Seavey said...

As a practical matter, it sounds like they’re so accustomed to cooperating that these questions may never arise — but it would be interesting just to hear that (perhaps when younger) they occasionally got into a tug-of-war over some disagreement, with each arm/leg pulling in a different direction until Mom yelled at them to knock it off. The one threat Mom _can’t_ make, of course: If you two can’t get along, I’m separating you.

Peter Chocostone said...

Get a life people,

then if you got time,

you can think about hensel’s twins life too.

Geez !!

pocopoco said...

Xine, it seems clear to me (though I could be wrong) that the two girls will have a relationship with a single guy at a time. With a single body, I don’t see how it could work any other way.

They would both have to like the guy, and both would have to give consent. It’s not like they could date separately, with the other twin “turning off” to allow privacy or something.

Also, as far as the idea of two separate marriages… almost no man would want to be in a physical relationship with someone who is also involved with a second man.

Legally? Who knows. My guess is that they’ll avoid complications by simply registering for things under a single name.

As for them saying “I”, I must agree that seems pretty weird at first. My guess is that using “we” reminds people “I am talking to conjoined twins”, while using “I” makes it sound like a much more normal conversation.