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Most alert Nerve readers have probably noticed by now that our new book, The Big Bang: Nerve’s Guide to the New Sexual Universe, has just hit bookstores nationwide. Em & Lo (the authors), Matt Gunther (the photographer), and various members of the Nerve team have been working on this book for a solid year now, and modesty aside, we think it’s the best sex manual ever. That’s why we are flogging it like pious Shiites, employing every crafty strategy we can think of including but not limited to running tantalizing excerpts from the book until you say uncle. Today we are running my introduction to the book, which seems oddly appropriate for the Sixth anniversary issue — it reads a bit like a follow up to our original mission statement published six years ago. I like to think that it says something about why, six years later, we feel that we are just getting started.

Rufus Griscom, co-founder and Publisher, nerve.com


Great sexual eras are like happy periods of life: They are only fully appreciated in retrospect. The trick is to appreciate the moment as it occurs (incidentally, this is the trick to everything). So let’s start now: We are in the midst of a great sexual era. It rocks. It’s scrumptious. We could barely find time to write this book.


    I don’t mean to discount the depravity of our forefathers — the Greeks kept busy; the indigenous Trobriander Polynesians were a frisky lot; the 19th century Parisians got a lot out of mileage out of their absinthe; and those ’20s flapper dresses looked, well, functional. The ’60s and ’70s were pretty randy — it’s hard not to envy the two-for-one deal of free love as political protest. And I don’t mean to suggest that the shadow of AIDS and other sexual diseases has passed — we still have to dress for inclement weather. But all that said, it’s better now. People know more, they smell sweeter, batteries last longer, and there’s less gender-role baloney, which means there are twice as many people putting their hands on other people’s knees. Oral sex isn’t scandalous any more, it’s just good clean fun, or good dirty fun if you like it better that way. More and more people are doing it up the butt, and why not? But there are still enough taboos in effect to keep us blushing now and then. A little guilt — without all that “eternity in hell” overkill — is good; it keeps things exotic (see the chapters on fisting and kink if you want to put a little color in your cheeks).
    Back in the early days of Nerve I used to say that we didn’t want to fix sex, we wanted to appreciate it. Americans have gotten a bit carried away with the fix-it mentality, after all — we spend a lot of time fixing things that don’t need fixing (breasts and butter, to give you two obvious examples). Although this book intends to leave you a better lover than it found you, its fundamental philosophy is less “fix it” than “tinker with it till it feels good.” When you boil down the collective wisdom in the pages that follow (from an ocean-full to a pool-full), the essence of the advice is to communicate, say please and thank you like your mama taught you, relish the whole experience, and for goodness sake, have a sense of humor.
    It’s good to be good at sex, but there is such a thing as being too good, or too attentive to being good. Sex is a social, recreational sport — like, say, Putt Putt Golf or board games. The real point of it, procreation aside, is to bond with your fellow players. If you become obsessed with execution, you can miss the point and make other people uncomfortable. (There is nothing worse than the miniature golf player with the caddy and wind speed gauge). And like chess, sex takes a minute to learn but a lifetime to master. That’s why you bought this book. So we’ll do our best to turn you into a pro while maintaining a little perspective.
    Some of you may have bought this book because you thought it was about the origin of the universe. Well, physics is relevant here — not only do the basic principles hold up in the sack (each body exerts an equal and opposite force; a butt plug and a dildo dropped from the ceiling tend to hit your lover’s stomach at the same time) but also sex, as my father likes to remind me, has a lot to do with the origins of things. Just as there was a big bang that kick-started this whole universe, there was a little bang that made you and me that may just have awoken the neighbors.
    The point is that sex is bigger than us — it’s a powerful force in our lives that reminds us that we are animals, in both senses of the word: We are passionate, and like it or not, we are carnal, butt-smelling mammals running about in the muck. We want sex because we are part of a species that wants to live. Think of the momentum of massive rivers, the weight of the ocean in its bed, glaciers sliding, tectonic plates grinding — this is the kind of primordial force, articulating itself over millions of years, that is throbbing in your pants (and it doesn’t give a damn about embarrassing you in public). It is wildly affirming and at the same time, humbling.
    Far from being a culminant moment of human grace and style, sex is slobbering, repetitive, instinctual business that connects us more to the humping of prairie dogs and rhinos than the cinematic dance of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. In the absence of directors, lighting crews, and make-up artists, we scrunch up our faces, hyperventilate, and show each other our cavities. Sex is an exercise in communal humility, and that’s why it’s such a powerful bonding experience. We look ridiculous, and we do it because we can’t resist carrying out our genetic instructions.
    This is all good. As individuals getting to know one another, and as a species, we need more humility. If you embrace the absurdity of it and really, truly enjoy it, you will be the best possible lover. If you then also employ the tips in this book — forget about it. Your lover will follow you around like a lapdog for the rest of his or her life. Use your power for good.  


To preview a chapter from The Big Bang, click here.

For more Rufus Griscom, read:
Nerve Beginnings
Welcome to The Big Bang

Sexual Healing: An Interview with Monster’s Ball director Marc Foster

Sleeper: An Interview with In the Bedroom director Todd Field
Quickies — Wild Things
One Rack Mind
Objectified: The Fountain Pen
What Light Through Yonder Inbox Breaks? The Romance of Low Bandwidth
Why Print?
Will the Future Be Hard?
The Wow of Poo
Should Kids Read Nerve?
Monica Gives Good Gossip
Nerve Turns One
Whelmed 2
What Are We Thinking? (Mission Statement)
Read other features from the 6th Anniversary special issue!

©2003 Nerve.com

Rufus left his reliable salary and position as an editor and director of new media at Cader Books, a publisher of bestselling humor and entertainment titles, in order to co-found Nerve in 1997 with Genevieve Field.
     Before working at Cader, he was managing editor for two years at August House, a publisher of contemporary storytelling and folklore. Earlier still, he was book review editor at The Free Press in Little Rock, Arkansas. His writing has appeared in Publishers Weekly, The Baltimore Sun and The Wall Street Journal, among other places. He graduated from Brown University in 1991.