Jack’s Naughty Bits: Nicholson Baker, Vox

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Jack's Naughty Bits


I don’t know about you, but the idea of being on a first date with one of your coworkers and sitting side by side on a couch watching a porn video and masturbating in unison without

touching one another strikes me as somewhat improbable. Though very sexy. But this is the

scenario recounted by one of the protagonists in Nicholson Baker’s Vox, a novel

consisting entirely of a conversation between a man and woman having phonesex. There are other parts of the novel that are sexy, but this particular narration

was so goofy and curious and ultimately erotic that I had to take it for a Naughty Bit.


What’s great about the passage is that Baker articulates the rudiments of an erotics of

restraint. Sure it’s fun to hurtle headlong into the sack, to run the Kama Sutra gamut first time

around, to alpha and omega sex like you’re never going to get another chance, but there’s

also a delicacy, a precise, stinging frisson that accompanies not acting on desire. Luring it,

growing it, nurturing it — but not plucking. Perhaps sex benefits most from a combination of

hot and cold: the yin of doing balanced by the yang of deferral. Ah . . .

* * *

From Vox by Nicholson Baker

[On the screen there were] two men with ties on are standing on either side of [a woman] . . .

and she’s sucking one and then the other. Emily whispered, “That’s it.” . . . We were both stroking

ourselves, and I could feel against the back of my hand the blanket pulling with her little

movements as I made mine. I sort of clamped the blanket against the top of my cock with my thumb so

that I’d stay decent and yet have my left hand free, and I looked over at Emily’s face, and watched

her eyes traveling over those double-cock images, and I looked down at her breasts. I wanted to

touch them, but I knew this would complicate things, it would have been a mistake. I could have come

anytime. But suddenly the scene ended — one man suddenly comes on the woman’s face and breasts, the

other pulls out and comes on her bush, with strikingly white sperm. Emily wasn’t fazed. She said,

“Do you mind if I rewind a little?” . . . When it started playing, she said, kind

of softly, “I think I want to come to this scene.” I said, “Okay.” But again the scene ended too

quickly for her, and she had to rewind it a third time . . . She was flushed, her

cheeks were shiny, she looked so transformed and sexual and elegant . . . and I

said, “Can I touch your arm?” and she nodded, and I put my fingertips very lightly on the inside of

her forearm, just above the wrist, and I felt her tendon going and going as she stroked herself, and

this indirect feeling of being able to take the pulse of her masturbating was too much, I said, “I

think I’m going to come,” and I started to come into the blanket, and when the first guy in the

movie came on the heroine, Emily closed her legs and started to come herself, and when the second

guy came on the heroine, Emily was still coming, but not with any thrashing around, very focused,

but I could hear the shaking of her legs slightly in her breathing.

© Nicholson Baker