In Circles

A piece about sex, unrealistic expectations and why writing a sex scene is so hard.

You ever feel like you’re eating your own tail?

I caress my waist and think, am I doing this of my own volition? Or am I doing this because of the many shimmering images I've seen of a waist being caressed? If I groan a little, who am I groaning for? Why can’t I slouch in front of a mirror? I can't even see myself beyond the copies of copies of copies.

Gun to my head, I’d say sex is the sensation of an object thrust into the creases of my vaginal folds, and the responsive gripping of that muscle, holding it like a firm handshake. Or the circular motion of tongue round and round a protruding iceberg of nerves. After more contemplation, I’d say it was the underwear I bought at a store that promised me I’d fuck with the ferocity of a full-grown tiger.

(Source: Fanpop)

How many times have I watched the same sex scene, the bump and grind, slowed down to half speed, so predictable, the orange soft lighting cascading lines of the arches of a curved back, muscles taut and shifting, the slender legs curled around, shuffling shuffling in pace, beautiful sweatless brows bobbing like yes yes yes.

It could be anyone. It could be any muscled back, and slender legs. I watched eight seasons full of sexual assault, forced male-gazey girl on girl, and stale ‘will they-won’t they’ energy, just for Daenerys and Jon to hump each other in missionary position by the glow of a microwave oven. They say every sex scene you’ve seen is a projection of the director’s fantasy. Tarantino will have you believing sex is a pair of dirty feet squished against a window screen.

(Source: The Sun)

If I imagine myself having sex, it looks like Daenerys and Jon. When in reality, I’m probably a little limp looking. Fish on land. I’ve never been a slender pair of legs or a muscled back. Or ten toes you could suck peanut butter off. I’m a bow-legged, muffin-topped mouth that says through peals of laughter, “You can put it my ass but, you know, easy does it.” I’m also a pair of closed eyes because staring into a face is creepy. And maybe the music video for Lady Gaga’s ‘Love Game’ will be screening in the damp red behind my eyelids: hip thrusts, ice blonde lace-front, studded leather, a super spiky-light-up representation of a penis. Sex can be a train full of Juilliard-trained dancers. Sometimes the music gets out of sync with the action, and that’s where I’ll gently push someone else’s fingers out of the way and do a Samantha.

One time, I asked someone to try choking me but they winced the whole time and apologised about it afterwards. They preferred to narrate mid-intercourse how their foreskin was pulling back as they thrust in and brushed the ridges inside of me. Incredible detail. I didn’t even know I had ridges. They were so worked up that they were sweating, and it dripped on me in plonking drops. I caught a drop of sweat in my mouth, and they pretended to puke on me. We didn’t finish because it turned into a game of who can gross out who first. We honed the art of fake punching, taking turns being the heel, punch, faint, collapse. Sex can be a winded “huhhhhhhh”.

(Source: The Atlantic)

Why don’t writers let their characters be themselves in sex scenes? Your personality follows you through the bedroom door. I had a partner who was so aggressive about making me cum that it felt like work – like fun work but, Christ, lady, come up for air once in a while. She worked on me like a surgeon while I lay back on my pillow. I embarrassed myself by asking about ‘scissoring’, she just laughed and laughed, “Someone’s been watching Blue is the Warmest Colour.

Sex can be cutting condoms down the middle.

She’s the only person who figured out how to crack that mysterious ‘double orgasm’ thing, and washed the toys in the bathroom sink 3.2 seconds after we decided we were done. I told her to just leave it but she said, “I’m not you, I can’t leave things to soak.”

I’ve watched a million ‘POV’ TikToks with the same algorithm: hot guy comes into frame with shirt off, mimes some jealous sentiment while captions flash on screen, “I saw you with Chad, you know I get crazy when I see you with other guys.”

Sometimes I’ll be rewarded with a ‘welcome to the gay side of TikTok’ greeting. There are so many in-jokes: who is the bottom, the top, the switch, the Lord of the Strap, the empty antidepressant package, the Stacey or the Becky. Sex can be a waahine with three helix piercings, playing a sick bass-line.

(Source: TikTok)

An author got a Bad Sex Award for a scene where a man sucks breast milk from a wet nurse’s nipple through a bit of brie. And he was like, “Of the people who get upset about brilliant sex, I slightly think; have you ever had sex?” How do you slightly think something? He also described the main character’s vagina as “salt [sic] as anchovy and as delicious.”

I think the most descriptive writing on vagina is from female rappers, but even they get a little creative. You look at Doja Cat’s ‘Go To Town’, which states:

Yuh, bitch I'm telling you, this incredible, this shit edible,
It's like caramel, kiss my genital
Mine taste medical, Her's like chemicals.

Or to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘WAP:

I let him taste it, now he diabetic …
Macaroni in the pot, that’s some wet ass pussy.

Or CupcakKe’s ‘Deep Throat:

My pussy pink just like salami
Don't need no drink to get naughty
'Cause bitch I'm not Bill Cosby
My pussy mean, and it's clean
I'm not a squirter, I cream
Keep it smelling like baby wipes
I never smell like sardines (eew).

(Source: POPSUGAR)

Salty, caramel, medical, chemical, baby wipes, macaroni, NOT sardines. What are we even talking about anymore? I’m not mad at a little tongue-in-cheek play with pussy (wink), but its hard to ignore the fact that what we want sex to be and what it is, are in a constant battle with each other. I’ll pen a 2000-word short story about how hot someone is before I actually tell the person in question. I’ve had sex as much as the next person, but still look at my own WIP sex scene, comparing vagina to citrus fruit and penis to baking soda, the connection of bodies as a cosmic experience, the breath between people as a tunnel of communication, and want to yeet myself off a cliff. No one is safe from writing something really weird, cliché or outright pornographic. It’s enough to make you slightly think, “h ve u ev r h d s x?”

The first time I orgasmed I didn’t think I had, because I thought your soul had to leave your body for it to be real. Every Meg Cabot novel I read described it as some kind of spiritual experience, so I just kept orgasming, eyes locked on the Zac Efron poster I’d taped to the ceiling. We can do it this time, Troy, I believe in us.

The first time I had sex with a man, it hurt, and it continued to hurt for months. I asked the boyfriend at the time if we could try something other than missionary, to spice things up. He raised an eyebrow and said, “Like anal?” My introduction to the Two Sex Positions, folks. Missionary and anal. Vātsyāyana is quaking.

The first time I had sex with a woman, I felt like an ouroboros. Like where do I stop? I asked my girlfriend how she knew if she had actually orgasmed, truly orgasmed, and she was like, “Michelle, you are so repressed.”

I’m starting to think sex has nothing to do with sensation. More a political force, something to bring up later to bridge or divide two nations, something to move the plot of life along. I say, “I wanted you to fight for me” and I have no idea if that is me or Sophia Bush. Fuck, that’s an old reference. I mean, Lana Condor?

(Source: Pinterest)

Pete Davidson encouraged women to tell men to adjust more during sex. He said, “Imagine having a girl nail you in the balls and then just be like, ‘man I hope she gets it right soon’.” How many times have I been nailed in the balls because I wanted to keep a relationship that provided security, a home, a place in society that made sense to other people?

How many times have I watched the same fight scene in a movie: the back and forth, the rain pouring from the sky, the coats clinging to their bodies like vacuum-packed seals, the vague accusation, the woman has baggage from her checks notes childhood, the man can’t commit because he’s a horn dog? He’s got to get on a plane right now, but if he walks away, that’s it, it’s over.

I can’t say I’ve been the horn dog – for one, I have a monthly call and data package so I can just call my leading lady anytime I want – but I’ve definitely been the baggage lady. I only use the Sophia Bush-isms on people I really love.Fighting with people you don’t even like is different. Someone broke up with me because, and I quote, "you always have toilet paper stuck down there" and I said, "ew where the fuck is this coming from?" And I wanted to kill them for even touching me and then bury myself in the ground to decompose naturally. But not before throwing in an “I’m so much smarter than you and you know it” then retreating to my bedroom to watch Legally Blonde on a loop.

Fighting with people you do like is full of manipulation. I wanted you to fight for me. I wanted to be the victim. I cried just so they would touch me. I took off my clothes and wet their lips with tears and I bought myself another five months before I had to do it again.

I saw a tweet that said, “did you ever have an intense homoerotic years-long friendship in your early to mid-teens that culminated in dramatic friend breakup or are you straight” and smashed the button that looks like two arrows 69ing each other to retweet. Sex can linger in the air between people for months, years, and the only progress you can make is one drunken night spent cradling them and kissing their forehead. And all your friends will just sit on the sidelines going Will they? Won’t they?

Sex is the only time you can go in circles and actually get somewhere.

Feature image: Alyssandria Rogers-Rahurahu

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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