The Insatiable Power Of ‘Fucking Like An Animal’

FLickr/ Shai Bl
Welcome to the first edition of “Sex Beasts”! I am positively thrilled you’ve become an Est. member (hell yeah independent journalism!) and stopped by to wade through two of my favorite things—bodies and books.
Come for the heavy petting, stay for the prose.

I have sex to dissolve my conscious self. To momentarily lose myself in the thrum of my own blood, the onion-soup smell of my own body.

To be honest, I thought everyone did. Well, not to huff their onion-soup smell — I pride myself on that being a distinctly Katie Tandy odor (decidedly not for the faint of heart) — but as a means of letting go.

But as I cogitated about this le petite mort (this “tiny death”) — which is not only synonymous with an orgasm, but a “brief loss or weakening of consciousness” — I discovered my sexual self-immolation was more unique than I anticipated.

In asking my dear kinfolk — chosen and real-blood — how they feel during sex and why they gravitate toward shedding their clothes at all (besides the obvious and undeniable animal-ness of the act; more on that in a minute), I made a series of heady — if long overdue — realizations.

The “reasons” — if we can even be that rational about this whole exchange-of-fluids- situation — people want sex represent a kaleidoscopic rainbow of conflicting desires, some joyful, some miserable, some violent, some tender. Some need the sensory overload, some need the sensory deprivation, some need it delightfully bizarre. (I have a dear colleague who says she often narrates her own sex as though she is starring in a National Geographic film. Meanwhile I just learned that my own partner uses sex as an extension of his own joy and feeling of presence, rather than as a means of becoming less present; when anxious or sad, he does not want to drop trous.)

The “reasons” people want sex represent a kaleidoscopic rainbow of conflicting desires, some joyful, some miserable, some violent, some tender.

As I turned the question over and over in my mind — why do I like sex so much? — I suddenly startled myself with the clarity of my own truth; the more aroused I become, the quieter my mind becomes.

What I am about to argue is that I coupled my burgeoning puberty (and depression, the coupling of which is decidedly not unique) with the lancing of my psychological blisters.

It is not a coincidence that my fledgling depression grasped sweaty hands with my puberty — and vowed with a fervor only a teenage body could muster — to never to leave one another’s side.

In short? I started fucking when I started crying and I can’t untwine them.

But is that such a bad thing?

The more aroused I become, the quieter my mind becomes.

I want to talk about men’s hands. Give me long, knuckled digits and slender wrists. They’re gesticulating, they’re punctuating their pretty bad story about the pizza guy who won’t substitute mushrooms for sausage, they’re playing a guitar, they’re clutching half an onion weeping and trying to chop it — and I am imagining riding those fingers to their hilt. I am lifting my hips to meet their searching fingers, feeling their flesh struggle against the strength of my own. The wet shine of my desire starts to run down their wrist.

I want to talk about my long fluffy pubic hair. I love it when he grabs a fistful of it and tugs my body upward toward his mouth. I love feeling how strong it is, seeing its serpentine curls silhouetted against his hands.

I want to talk about feeling anxious. I want to talk about feeling like something very very bad is going to happen, at any moment. I want to talk about hanging upside down on a trapeze bar on my jungle gym when I am four. And instead of looking at the ground, you look up into the sky and feel the incredible sensation that if you were to let go with your legs you would not fall onto the grass, but fall upward into the clouds. It is crushing vertigo. It is inexplicable joy. It is the strange power of controlling your mind with your body.

I want to talk about forcing myself to let go, even as my mind screamed in protest and felt my body collapse onto the still-damp lawn. And then running, fast — because vampires were always chasing me when I was four — back to the house where I would burst in and say to my mother: “Mama, something is bothering me, but I don’t know what it is.”

This sensation. This alternatively cold and hot stone sitting in my stomach is very, very familiar — so familiar, in fact, that its absence is stranger than its presence.

If you know me at all, you know that I love ’90s grunge. Like my panty-dropping bliss and bouts of scream-crying, my adolescence was busy courting rage and a fledgling feminism I couldn’t articulate, but could feel growing like a black-winged butterfly stew in my guts.

Nine Inch Nails’ song “Closer” — better known as “Fuck You Like An Animal” — is a surprising, but crystalline anthem for me and the dialogue I share with my body. When the bass drops, flanked by that wet hissing synth — a heart beating its anticipation — my pussy beats back.

Reznor croons that his lover “lets” him violate, desecrate, penetrate, and complicate their body. The desire to be broken apart, destroyed — knowing full well you’ll be made whole again — is infinitely appealing to me. “Help me,” I scream along.

“The only thing that works for me. Help me get away from myself. I want to fuck you like an animal. I want to feel you from the inside. I want to fuck you like an animal. My whole existence is flawed. You get me closer to god.”

In addition to sex bringing me to the edge of my own self — closer to God, closer to what I call awe — fucking someone “like an animal,” being fucked “like an animal,” is also, to quote another ’90s dreamboat, Beck, where. it’s. at.

But I get it. Why do you want to be reduced to being an animal? Isn’t that humiliating? Doesn’t that spit in the face of our humanity? Our beautifully complicated brains that can commune on a trifecta of levels, coupling together the spiritual, physical, and intellectual?

Maybe. But for me, I think the courting of the animal self is of paramount importance. For me — as with sex — it dissolves the painfully circular self-flagellating thoughts of insecurity, of self-loathing, of wondering if we’re all just an alien’s experiment, a twisted wet dream of a cosmic overlord.

These are not useful thoughts and tapping into my animal self helps banish them.

The courting of the animal self is of paramount importance.

When I was in grad school studying comparative literature — at 23, I was gunning to be an English professor, I still think one day I will be — I became obsessed with the human-animal binary. I soon discovered it not to be a binary at all, but a recognition of a truer self.

Jacques Derrida’s essay, “The Animal That Therefore I Am (More To Follow),” became one of the pillars of my thesis — literally, as I traversed the increasing misogynistic shoals of academia, and metaphysically, as I attempted again and again to define and dissolve my boundaries as a human.

“Crossing borders or the ends of man I come or surrender to the animal — to the animal in itself, to the animal in me and the animal at unease with itself…”

I think for many — and the fact that I was born thin and white does not elude me — the “unease” of their animal self is wrapped up in their own body. The damp crevices, the renegade hairs, the shiny stretch marks, the “too-big” nipples, the “too-wide” ass, the weak or double-chin, the heady bread-like smell of the vagina, the wrinkled sacks dangling beneath a preposterous phallus jutting forth at a 45-degree angle. It goes on and on and on and on, a parade of flesh as pariah.

But the animal! Does the “animal” say to itself, good god my hair today! Ah! My belly bulges when I fuck with my legs up, this lighting makes me sallow, delete that photo you can see my buck teeth, my back is too hairy, my hands sweat too much to hold?!

It goes on and on and on and on, a parade of flesh as pariah.

No. This shame is not present. Derrida talks a lot about non-human animals serving as a means of examining this shame, a shame which is reflected, “a shame ashamed of itself.”

We know — especially as women — that we’re “supposed” to love ourselves, our bodies are temples, all bodies are beautiful, etc. etc. blah blah blah, and the fact that most of us can’t offer our corporeal selves that love becomes an additional source of shame. We’re not good enough and we hate ourselves for telling ourselves we’re not good enough.

“…the property unique to animals and what in the final analysis distinguishes them from man, is their being naked without knowing it…From that point on, naked without knowing it, animals would not, in truth, be naked.”

This negation of knowing one is nude is obviously almost impossible (unless we’re talking about imbibing some LSD on a regular basis) but I think it’s an important exercise. What if our bodies just were. Not to be celebrated, not to be denigrated, but accepted as a vehicle for motion, for physical pleasure, for consuming calories and making bowel movements, but never judged. Simply experienced.

I used to shave my pubic hair off once in a while in high school for kicks. Each pore would bleed a tiny, tiny bit — I was forever using shitty, blue plastic Bic razors, and my mound, from above, looked like a tiny planet dotted with crimson pools or minute volcanoes erupting together in perfect synchronicity. I imagined it as a land the Little Prince might visit, his tiny brown shoes slipping on my blood, my pubis giving beneath his feet just a little, like the strange foam-padded playgrounds of my New York City youth.

I would look at myself in the mirror and feel like a nubile alien, my mound seeming to bulge from my body; in profile it felt positively absurd.

My mound, from above, looked like a tiny planet dotted with crimson pools or minute volcanoes erupting together in perfect synchronicity.

My 15-year-old body: scrawny, breasts barely visible. Knees protruding horizontally from my legs. Feet very long, very thin, toes like alien fingers; dangerously close to disproportionate. The takeaway was almost androgynous. I was 15 — a sophomore — and my braces had just. come. off. I was still mouthing the strange slickness of my own teeth — they felt like porcelain jellyfish. I had just started boarding school, which, contrary to popular belief, was not a punishment, but a kind of glorified summer camp. I shall utter Dead Poet’s Society here because this is often people’s only touchstone of what prep school is like; it was a sweeping grassy campus chock full of corduroy and maple leaves and beautifully stodgy traditions and bedrooms. And fields. So. many. fields. and. bedrooms.

After being tormented in public school — “ugly freak” was the two-year backing track to my life age 12–14 — being weird was finally cool, my cruelly buck teeth had been wrangled, and real life human boys were keen to touch my body. I entered a kind of frenzy. I felt insatiable.

I used to get so wet during class — anticipating my next free period where I would run three flights up the stairs to my boyfriend’s dorm room — that my pants were damp to the touch. I can remember watching the small dark stain steadily grow on the crotch of my jeans; I knew there’d be a tiny sheen on the seat below me when I would finally rise to leave.

After fucking three, four times before I had to go to lacrosse practice where my vagina would just throb as I made my laps one, two, three around the field, I would stare at my flushed face in the mirror and think how happy I looked and that made me feel beautiful.

I was not a “slut” in high school — because my sexual escapades, however well-known, were limited to my boyfriends — but some girls were. They were girls like me, drunk on their bodies, craving fingers in mouths and tangled limbs, licking parts of another person just to see what it tasted like, just to see their face contort between pleasure and surprise, shock and delight. But because they took their clothes off whenever and with whomever they chose — a glorious, glorious way of being I have since subscribed to — they were shamed. More than shamed. Tormented. One girl was cruelly referred to as “casual” and only “casual,” for an entire year.

They were girls like me, drunk on their bodies, craving fingers in mouths and tangled limbs, licking parts of another person just to see what it tasted like.

Because they used their bodies as though they were animals — hungry, unapologetically, unconsciously hungry — they were ostracized. But the most evolved of us often are.

Women — of course — occupy a uniquely horrible position in our societal relationship to sex. To their bodies. Perhaps no one writes about this conundrum better than Audre Lorde in her essay, “Uses of the Erotic, The Erotic as Power,” which I recently discovered.

“As women, we have come to distrust that power which rises from our deepest and nonrational knowledge,” she writes. “We have been warned against it all our lives by the male world, which values this depth of feeling enough to keep women around in order to exercise it in the service of men, but which fears this same depth too much to examine the possibilities of it within themselves …”

Lorde is much more interested in the “erotic” than simply sex; but in my physical exchanges with other bodies, even with my own, I am reminded of the possibility to transcend the trappings of my mind and communicate sans words.

“…the erotic offers a well of replenishing and provocative force to the woman who does not fear its revelation, nor succumb to the belief that sensation is enough ... I speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.”

This “nonrational” knowledge is the knowledge of the animal self. It is Reznor’s God, Derrida’s pride, and Lorde’s resistance.

The erotic is “a longed-for bed which I enter gratefully and from which I rise up empowered,” she writes.

Empowered women are dangerous, she reminds us, and I smile. Because so are animals.

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