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Whelmed - a column by Rufus Griscom

We all hear quite a bit about the speaker-blowing high points of sex — the triumphs, the backflips, the screams for mercy — and not as much about the disappointments, the anti-climaxes, the misfires. The times when the sensation of sex numbs but we continue the motion anyway — when (as a male) the penis starts to feel more like a thumb, accurately registering the texture and pressure and dimensions of the vulva instead of amplifying the sensation beyond recognition. We go on pumping in part because we think it is expected of us — because our partners are groaning their approval — and in part because we are entranced by the odd clarity of the experience. It is as if we are waking up from some drug high, and all of a sudden there is a heartwarming matter-of-factness to the proceedings, though the pleasure yield is almost gone.


Now we start to take note of the mechanics of the act: arms fulcruming the torso like dual masts of a suspension bridge, hips swiveling forward and insistently upward, paunch bunching slightly in the reverse curve of the lower spine. This hip motion brings too readily to mind the instinctive mammalian “hump” that we have witnessed at the zoo, or on the nature channel, or seen in our neighbors’ dogs as they mount our legs — the torso is isolated, motionless, the hips thrusting rhythmically of their own accord. We look down and see all this and sometimes resent how obediently we are following our genetic instructions.


And then, on these occasions, we begin to feel a little of the pneumatic give in our drooping johnson — a little compression on entry, which means that if we withdraw too far, it might bend on re-entry. Better to fine tune the position of our hips to assure direct aim — a challenge reminiscent of stuffing the spring back into a jack-in-the-box.


Or maybe our erection doesn’t fail us, but instead we begin to feel a little of the pull and catch of diminishing lubrication, indicating that our partner’s thoughts have strayed as well. Then, with a plaintive half-smile, we are lying side by side. If the relationship is new, there is some explanation now — maybe it’s work stress — and then renewed assurances of mutual attraction. If the relationship is more seasoned, there is quiet camaraderie in the decision to give it a rest.


Would it be impolitic (or at least ironic, as one launches a sex magazine) to say that the fact of sex, the reality of it, cannot possibly meet our expectations? Confessions like these have their own attraction: the pleasure of a breeze stinging unanaesthetized emotional organs, extracted in earnest. And of course these disembodied sexual moments are not the norm; they are tactless friends that embarrass you in highschool but you learn to cherish.

Read the next installment of Whelmed

©1997 Rufus Griscom and Nerve.com, Inc.