Emin has used neon as a consistent medium throughout her career, transforming the simple scrawled text to ascribe the simple, almost innocent association to a medium that is traditionally used for commercial or urban utilitarian purposes.
'The question 'is anal sex legal?' captions a drawing stitched onto a quilt, Garden of Horror (private collection), made in the same year as the neon. Here the words 'Welcome to my Garden of Horror and you know I love you' sum up the artist's attitude to love and sex. She has explained 'love isn't always gentle' (S. Morgan, 'The Story of I', Frieze, issue 34, May 1997, p. 56). Although Emin has commented on the positive aspects of anal sex, in view of her personal history, the question Is Legal Sex Anal? (another from the edition in the Tate Collection, London) may have more sinister undertones. If the word 'anal' is read in the way it is commonly used, as a pejorative adjective derived from Freudian analysis meaning uptight, the question may be wondering whether normal sex is boring. This evokes a rebellious adolescent mentality, in which rules are made to be broken, with possibly destructive results.
Text-based neon signs have been current in art since the 1960s. Is Legal Sex Anal? recalls several neon works by the American artist Bruce Nauman (born 1941), particularly when coupled with its inverse,Is Anal Sex Legal? (another from the edition in the Tate Collection, London). Nauman's works, None Sing Neon Sign 1970 (Sylvio Perlstein Collection, Antwerp) and Run from Fear, Fun from Rear 1972 (Froelich Collection, Stuttgart), use simple inversion to highlight connections and absurdities within language. Another work, Raw War 1970 (Sylvio Perlstein Collection, Antwerp), uses inversion to emphasise the nature of war and is intended to be illuminated when war is occurring. In these neons, the text appears in simple, neutral capitals. By contrast, Emin's neon text works are always made in her signature handwriting, emphasizing the personal nature of their commentary' (www.tate.org.uk).