Ampelmännchen photographed in Berlin by Flickr user lsphotos, used under a Creative Commons license.
I’ve got a big backlog of things I’d like to say about about politics, but I’m coming down with yet another cold and the global economy is crumbling. So I’m reduced to my reptilian brain, and all it wants to write about is sex. Via Biscuit and figleaf, I’ve been mulling over a deceptively simple thought experiment at Manic Monday:
Which would you prefer and why? To have every stoplight turn green upon your arrival for the rest of your life or to have one week of the best sex any person ever had?
Now, for me the initial answer is screamingly obvious: I live in a small town. I spend most of my time on my bike, not in the car. Anyway, I tend to interpret traffic lights rather liberally while on my bike. Maybe if I still lived in California I’d go for the green lights and reclaim years of my life.
But I live in Ohio, so I’ll take the sex.
The questions figleaf and Biscuit raise in their responses are actually more interesting than the original. Biscuit worries that every sexual experience would pale after such a peak. That’s a reasonable concern.
When I think back to other sorts of pinnacles, though, I can’t say that’s been at all true for me. Take dancing, for instance. Back in college, I once very briefly dated a guy who’d danced on American Bandstand. I didn’t know that until we were at a party and he picked me up and twirled me around 360 degrees. Without warning. Vertically. It lasted two seconds at most. By many orders of magnitude, it was the most intense experience I’ve ever had dancing.
Did that take the luster off of subsequent dances for me? Nah. It happened once. It was perfect. It inhabits its own space in my imagination and memory. It didn’t impinge on late nights in Berlin clubs, or endless sunny California afternoons at Grateful Dead shows, or the ballroom lessons I took (clumsily but happily) with my husband back when we were planning our wedding.
Or take music. I typically hit a few sour notes (or a lot). Somestimes the phrasing doesn’t come out as I imagined. And yet, I have memories of performances that – while still imperfect – far outshone my actual abilities. Fiddler on the Roof, opening night, me on French horn, and I just nailed all the high notes in the wedding dance. A high school friend who was such a phenomenal marimba player, he made my humble piano accompaniment sound brilliant. A ridiculously simple piano duet with me and my eight-year-old Baerchen ridiculously well attuned to each other. A vocal trio with my mom and sister in church that was virtually one voice singing three parts.
Sex is different than that? Well, yeah. I haven’t often played music naked. (Though maybe I should try it?) I’ve never had sex in church. But if these other memories still make me want to dance or toot my horn, why would a memory of near-perfect sex be any less inspiring?
Which brings us ’round to the set of issues figleaf raised for me: What the heck do we mean by “mind-blowing sex,” anyway? After saying he’d pick the green lights (figleaf???!!!) he wrote:
Regular sex is already pretty nice, and in my experience “mind blowing” sex, while also nice, is sort of overrated. I mean who in his or her right mind says “oh darn it, that last orgasm sucked because it wasn’t the best ever” and/or “my partner’s last orgasm sucked because it wasn’t her/his best ever?”
For one thing, it’s precisely because “regular” sex is lovely that I don’t think I’d lose anything by experiencing “the best sex ever.” I totally agree with him that we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. But that doesn’t mean I’d turn down a one-time experience of “perfection,” or some reasonable fascimile thereof.
For another, my idea of “mind blowing” would be pretty multidimensional. I wouldn’t sneeze at an orgasm that went longer and took me deeper than ever before, but (as figleaf might well say himself, if he weren’t still zipping through those green lights) there’s way more to marvelous sex than just shuddering orgasms. There’s imagination. There’s anticipation. There’s the give-and-take, following and leading, of dancing horizontally with a partner. There’s the duet of shifting tempos and crescendoes, whether in sweet harmony or giddy dissonance. There’s the lure of trying something new, for the first time, and gently pushing each other’s boundaries. There’s playfulness and a readiness to laugh when something doesn’t work quite perfectly after all.
And then there’s the shivery thrill of imagining a week spent having sex. A whole week! Speaking as a fuddy-duddy old mother of two, even the prospect of a week devoted to mediocre sex leaves me giddy. (But really: if I had a whole week, it would not be mediocre.)
On a more philosophical level, if I’m given a choice between efficiency or a new and intense experience, I’ll never view it as a choice at all. My bias is always to assume that experience is how we grow. So that week might just be deeply pleasurable. It might be transformative. Either way, “mind blowing” is a pretty clichéd term – but even if that single week of perfect sex were never repeated (and the original question didn’t say it would be your last great sex, ever) I can’t imagine regretting it. The aftershocks would echo, whether with my partner or alone. Because of that, I’d never be precisely the same.
And I’d have a plethora of ways to occupy my imagination while I sat idling at all those red lights.
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