SEX DRIVE: Coital Conundrums

I stumbled on a negative review of Robert Olen Butler’s latest book of short stories, Intercourse, a collection of monologues by the world’s most famous couples (and some un-famous ones) during, well intercourse, in the New York Times. Mr. Butler got to wonderin’ WTF was going through Ernest Hemingway’s mind while he was inside a prostitute and even takes a wild guess at the world’s most famous prostitute Mary Magdeline’s mid-coital brainwork with a roman soldier.

Before each set of monologues, Butler sets up the scenario for you. This might be my favorite part.

ADAM, 7, first man
EVE, 7, first woman
On a patch of earth cleared of thorns and thistles, a little wast of Eden, the first day after the new moon of the fourth month of the eighth year after creation


BENJAMIN, 23, field slave
HANNA, 17, field slave
In his slave quarters, Adams County, Mississippi 1855


KEVIN SMITH, 32, advertising copywriter
JULIA HANSON SMITH, 30, graphic designer
In their apartment in Brooklyn, the night of September 11, 2001

He even checks into his own mind for some sexy time with a Miss X, a 36-year-old hotel desk clerk.

The NYTimes reviewer Tom De Haven had beef with Butler’s latest book because he thought it lacked passion—saying that the monologues rarely gave attention to “physical pleasure.”

De Haven went on to write:
“The endeavor is long on the asinine, short on the rapturous, entirely lacking in eros and shot through with mockery and mean-spiritedness. No matter what you may have thought of Richard Nixon, it’s a cheap shot to fill his mind during conjugal sex with memories of his mother catching him at masturbation, and while you might expect a right-wing radio host to dream up a clumsy coupling between the law students Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton that posits his bombastic satyriasis and her calculating frigidity — she doesn’t care, we’re told, if they never do it again till they do it on the rug in the Oval Office and she’s president — you expect a little bit more from a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.”

Ouch! Right. So I decided to check out Mr. Butler’s book myself and with my most minimal glimpse of this book I would say De Haven is right when he says “Famous or un- the men are generally self-deluded, the women vain and contemptuous. And despite the premise, sex has rarely been invoked with less attention paid to the body—or for that matter, to physical pleasure.”

But it did offer some insight into the thoughts and insecurities of people in history who we may or may not know to be tormented for one reason or another which I found interesting, even if they were a little “mean-spirited.”

Josephine Baker both revels in and and is disgusted by her most desirable ass, and wishes to be white…

Ernest Hemingway is creating poetry even while he is inside the prostitute which he desires most…

Inga Arvad doesn’t seem to understand how she was interviewing Adolf Hitler and JFK one minute and is getting it on with each of them (on separate occasions) the next…

Cleopatra compares Marcus Antonius’s touch to that of Cesar’s and plots the death of her sister

It’s all kind of surreal, and juxtaposed against the act of sex, these thoughts do seem slightly ludicrous because I’m sure these folks aren’t as consumed with one particular aspect of their lives as Butler would have us believe. But these non-sexual thoughts is also why I kind of like the book. Sex isn’t always about sex, and being honest with myself, very rarely do I stay “in the moment” when I’m doin’ it. Random thoughts like… “did I lock the door… does that thing that he just did or didn’t do mean something about the way that he feels about me… Are the rolls in my stomach totally unattractive… does he think my thighs are gross… that vein that pops out in his forehead is kinda ugly… should I stay after… what’s my escape plan…” The difference with my thoughts and those of the subjects of Butler’s book are that even though I am not concentrating on the physical pleasure of the act I am still thinking about what’s currently going on and how it affects me.

But it makes me wonder, what other people think about during sex. I’ve posed this question to some of my friends, who are always a little weirded out by it (I get it. It’s a very personal thing).

So, I’m going to you ladies (and gents). Do you think about weird stuff when your getting your freak on—world domination, your next pair of designer shoes, what you want to eat afterward, etc. Hit us up and let us know your most un-sexy sex thoughts.

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