I Can’t Stop Thinking About Sex And Death

flickr / Beth Scupham
The skin snaps, the tissue and muscle and sometimes even the bone gives way. There is gristle and hair and your moans are almost inaudible because you’ve taken so much into your mouth.

Like a twisted merry-go-round, I’m spinning around and around and around — very nauseous and preposterously delighted — as flesh (rotting and nubile alike) rushes past my eyes and my grasping fingers. I’m breathless and dizzy and terrified.

I periodically get off to stumble around the front yard and marvel at the tiny black stars bursting behind my eyelids before gripping the rusted metal handle again and pushing off for another go around.

I can’t stop thinking about sex as oblivion. La petite morte! The orgasm! Ah, my tiny death.

Sometimes it’s like devouring. My jaw aches with the possibility. Have you ever bit something as hard as you can? So hard you could feel those tiny quivering muscles—some slender as wires, some balled like tiny fists—bulge and thrum at the edges of your cheeks? You can hear them sing in your ears, protesting the strain against the unfortunate flesh poised between your teeth? The skin snaps, the tissue and muscle and sometimes even the bone gives way. There is gristle and hair and your moans are almost inaudible because you’ve taken so much into your mouth. Into your hands and body.

You know what’s weird to think about?

Heterosexual, penetrative sex. Straight gals like me who are impossibly enamored with the penis know — sometimes in a gauzy way and sometimes in a way that’s galling — that we pine for the prick because we’re supposed to make more of us. More tiny humans.

Why our libido hasn’t devolved alongside the terrifying rate at which we’re producing children while destroying the very place these children are supposed to live is another super hilarious cosmic joke, I guess? The kind of joke where you snort ginger ale out of your nose and it goes down “the wrong pipe” and you start choking so much you wonder if you’ll die?

This is all to say that for most straight gals having v to p sex, the possibility of life is dashed before it has begun. We’ve relegated the chance of that throbbing phallus and all its milky white minions utterly moot. Go ahead! Send in the phalanx. My vagina has already gobbled up its white flag of surrender; it’s a gleaming snail-trail of pleasure on the sheets now.

I dated someone for a while who was obsessed with the idea of getting me pregnant. Not actually — he was highly adverse to any notion of obligation — but in a, my virile seed is going to swell your little body, kind of way.

In truth, I hated it. I let him mutter this kind of nonsense into my ear for a little while one night before snapping. “It’s not funny,” I remember saying. Which, I admit, was a weird thing to say. He wasn’t trying to be funny, he was trying to be sexy; he was trying to imagine the emotional stakes of creating life as he entered me — again and again and again — and felt his dick ready to erupt.

But what I’ve realized is what I meant is, “This isn’t fun. I don’t like imagining that this act — this glorious, doggy-style pounding — will result in a child.” I could see myself waddling at nine months, nipples dripping, and I was growing terrified at the vision.

I realized that we were both getting off on the idea of conceiving something together through the act of fucking — but me? I was simply creating more of myself. Not an auxiliary being.

I love that my body tells me to take off my clothes and make a fluid stew; it’s bizarre and perfect and disgusting and lovely.

But I also love controlling that body. When I’m fucking I am not denying life, I’m celebrating it. My tiny, giant, spectacularly ordinary and wonderful life. My being. My body.

I AM ENOUGH! As Walt Whitman scrawled:

“…I bequeathe myself to the dirt, to grow from the grass I love
If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles.”

I do not bequeathe myself to motherhood; this pleasure can be pleasure alone. Perhaps joy is like matter — neither created nor destroyed — but transferred from one body to the next.

Sometimes it’s like dissolving. The air is the same temperature as our skin and our breath and the sheets and there’s nothing left of me. There is a wind, a smell, a rustling curtain, a sigh, the taste of saliva, a sheen, maybe a sliding shadow — but mostly there is disintegration. I’m disappearing into myself; oh, I’m an inverted star now. A tiny white-hole of once-flesh that I’ve forsaken for the waters of Lethe. Drink it. Forget your mortal life.

Also, can we talk about Mayflies for a minute? Maybe you already know this, but they belong to the order Ephemeroptera — derived from the Greek words for “short-lived” and “wings.”

Their primary function is to reproduce; the adults do not eat and only have vestigal — useless! — mouthparts, and their digestive systems are filled with air. Some species only live for 5 goddamn minutes.

When I was in the sixth grade we read a bunch of Paul Fleischman’s “Joyful Noise: Poems For Two Voices,” and “Mayflies” was one of them…

“Born this day in may
And dying day …
All that we’re allowed

No redwood centuries
To squander as we please
We’re mayflies We’re mayflies

Courting on the wing
Then mating in midair
We’re mayflies we’re mayflies
Laying eggs laying eggs

We’re mayflies we’re mayflies
Lying dying lying dying
Floating by the millions
On the very stream
From which we sprung
So very long ago
This morning
Back when we were back when we were
Young young

Obviously two 12-year-olds reading about fucking in midair as insects is pretty wild. That image — and its pathos — has stuck with me for 21 years.

How intense! How heartbreaking! Just one flight to make more mayflies who in turn only have one flight to make more mayflies — forever and ever?! Honestly, I think it was my first foray into an existential horror that has never left me.

Of course, Mayflies are joined by the harrowing flanks of praying mantises who eat their lovers, the Australian antechinus (looks like a big mouse to me) who mates for 14 hours then drops dead, and mother Stegodyphus lineatus spiders who feed themselves to their spiderlings.

In short? Life is a preposterous, bloody melee and sex and death are inextricably tangled together.

Sometimes it’s like alchemy. I’m a small girl with short, dark brown hair. Breasts like small, warm samosas — soft, triangular, giving way to the touch. A girl with too-bony feet and a soft paunchy stomach. A girl, pleased, growling her small feline growl. I’m a girl with swollen cuticles and chipped teeth and a very big smile and a chronic pit in her stomach; it’s butterflies. It’s dread. A hungry, angry, touch-me-everywhere-please-don’t-stop girl.

But now! Now that I’m lain bare, I’m a nymph. A sylvan sprite. Your touch has conjured another creature entirely. Feel the gossamer of my wings; the intricate pink layers of me. Taste the strangeness of a not-girl.

I’m no longer there. Ah, the warm waters of oblivion.

So, I don’t know if this is a good book yet, but I stumbled across it in my internet wanderings for this piece and snatched up a copy.

Death & Sex is a spooky, two-in-one volume by Dorion Sagan (son of Carl) and biologist Tyler Volk; on one side is Death, on the other is Sex.

Sagan writes:

“…with reproductive sex came programmed cell and differentiated body death, because evolutionarily our bodies are husks, biodegradable reserves of valuable bioelements that belong to the ecosystem and must be returned, like overdue books, after performing their natural duty of keeping going the larger energetic process.”

The passage goes on to say that humans can’t help but identify as individual bodies; we feel very strongly about “I” despite the fact that it’d do us a boatload of good to conceive of ourselves in a much larger context, one that isn’t confined by the harrowingly short — and selfish — timeline of the average corporeal self.

“Creeping behind the bright prospect of Mesozoic ginkgo-sniffing reptiles, primeval ejaculators, and the first fragrant flowers was that dark figure, the inevitability of their demise. A melancholy note was struck in the cosmic love machine.”

But surely death’s shadow provides a cool respite from the fevered notions of forever. Surely our love-songs—the sounds of joy-sticky flesh, sighs, slaps, hisses, and hahahas of good god you feel so good to me—are all the sweeter because the breath that carries their notes cannot sustain them for very long.

Pleasure, like every one of our lives, is hurtling towards a tiny death.

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