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Occasionally in literature the difficulty of having sexual intercourse with a mermaid is discussed. Although mermaids are commonly depicted as beautiful, variably nude, and enticing, a man attempting to have sex with one would be thwarted by the typical portrayal of the creature: a fish from the waist down, with no vagina.
If the mermaid were biologically a fish below the waist, theoretically they would reproduce as most fish do, by external fertilization, requiring a human male to deposit his seed underwater onto her eggs. (The confusion is further compounded by the fact that mermaids are usually depicted with a navel and breasts, which would suggest placental vivipary rather than ovipary.) In the past it was not uncommon for a mermaid (actually a medieval siren or limousine) to be portrayed as having a split tail, with a vagina located (or merely implied to be) between the two parts. H. P. Lovecraft's short story "Dagon" is an example of this.
Challenges with depicting Mermaid morphology have also been an issue in relation to moviemaking efforts.
- Heinz Insu Fenkl: 'The Mermaid', Endicott Studio Journal of Mythic Arts, Summer 2003.
- Essig, Laurie (2005). "The Mermaid and the Heterosexual Imagination". In Ingraham, Chrys. Thinking straight: the power, the promise, and the paradox of heterosexuality. Routledge. p. 152. ISBN 0415932734.
- University of Michigan (1823). The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany. Volume 15, Series 1. Wm. H. Allen & Co. p. 54. Retrieved 2008-02-24.
Every other Mermaid that has been described, was human-shaped to the waist, usually with a navel, though in one instance without.
- Lovecraft, Howard P. (1986). "Dagon". In S. T. Joshi (ed.). Dagon and Other Macabre Tales (9th corrected printing ed.). Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-039-4.
- Thomas, Bob (December 30, 1947). "Problem: How to Create a Mermaid". The Owosso Argus-Press. Associated Press. Retrieved March 2, 2010.