Short story: Sex Thoughts between 1am and 2am 26/08/21
"Despite her flaws, she was good in bed": six women on sex
When Dana had sex for the first time she was underwhelmed. As the man she’d met earlier in the evening jerked around beneath her, she thought: well, it doesn’t hurt but it also doesn’t feel particularly good. Really, this feels like the definition of sexual intercourse, rather than sex.
As a child, Dana had sometimes watched YouTube videos of animals mating. She’d thought it looked ugly and primal, utterly different from the descriptions in YA books. Now, at 18, Dana wondered if human intelligence really distinguished them that much from their animal counterparts. Really, wasn’t all sex the same? The shoving of body parts and fluids into one another?
Even human behaviour was hardly more than the primal desire. Hadn’t she Ubered all the way to a grimy Auckland night club and drank three vodka sodas, all with the goal of losing her virginity? Hadn’t she ignored her exam in two days because she was determined not to be the last of her friends to have sex?
If humans are so easily swayed by social constructs, they’re hardly more psychologically advanced than animals, Dana decided. Humans follow packs, try to fit into societal norms, and strive for the top of multiple hierarchies. She wondered at the percentage of people who really lived their lives uninfluenced by everybody around them. It was probably miniscule.
The man underneath her groaned loudly, squeezing his eyes shut and going limp. She was relieved that it was over. Did this mean she could leave without looking rude? She noticed that his face had gone red and shiny with sweat. There was a pimple on his chin that had popped and was now coated in a thin film of pus. Disgusting.
It was Catie and Tanya’s third time sleeping together. It was already going better than the first and second times. The first time they’d had sex, after their fourth date (minigolf and a drink) they’d been awkward around each other.
"Do you mind if we turn off the lights?" Tanya had asked, but Catie still didn’t have a lamp in her room so it was either full lighting or pitch black. They’d opted for pitch black. This meant that Tanya didn’t feel insecure about her body, but it also meant that there was a lot of bumping and limbs in faces.
The second time, Catie had bought candles. The wavering flames had cast enough light to cast shadows but not enough for them to actually see what they were doing.
Now, the room was half-lit because Catie had bought fairy-lights and blue-tacked them to the wall behind the bed. They flickered and changed colours, casting neon streaks across their bodies.
"How’s that?" Tanya asked. She sounded nervous. Catie suspected that Tanya was relatively inexperienced at sex. This didn’t bother her at all.
"It’s amazing," Catie said, her voice low. Actually, Tanya could use her hands a bit more assertively, but on the whole it was fine. Catie didn’t want Tanya to feel self-conscious. Besides, Tanya would get better with time. And Catie hoped that there would be more nights like this. She liked this thing between her and Tanya, whatever it was. When she thought of Tanya, she felt warm and skittish. Tanya was everything Catie used to find frustrating in romantic partners: affectionate, giggly, cute. Somehow Tanya made it not-annoying. And she was also effortlessly witty, always ready with a sarcastic quip that could turn a debate in her favour. This intimidated Catie, who had never met someone so eloquent before. It was also incredibly attractive.
Liza was having sex in her own bed. It was pretty standard for her. She was in a long-term relationship with Megan and they had sex an average of three times a week. Usually in her apartment because Megan lived with her sister and the two bedrooms had adjoining walls.
When they fucked, Liza usually spent the time thinking. She often thought about the relationship because when she was doing other things with Megan, she didn’t have time to think about it, and when she wasn’t with Megan she didn’t like thinking about her.
Their relationship had started out decently enough. Liza met Megan at a friend’s birthday drinks and they talked about their shared love of French New Wave cinema. That bond was enough to start their relationship which mostly consisted of watching films together and critically analysing them afterwards, drinking whisky at sepia-toned bars and arguing about foreign policy, then later having slightly drunken sex in Liza’s Queen bed.
They used to text each other throughout the day. Usually thoughts about what they’d like to do to the other person at any given moment.
Liza used to look forward to sex with Megan.
Now, sex felt like the only time Liza got to escape Megan’s incessant commentary on everything. You’re not an expert, Liza wanted to say but never did.
During sex, Megan didn’t talk. Liza liked her like that. Despite her flaws, she was good in bed. She was tall and strong and used the right amount of force. And when she was completely silent, Liza would notice that she liked her face shape, the colour of her eyes. When she came, her head would roll forwards slightly and she would close eyes in bliss. When she came, Liza thought she was almost cute. This is why we’re together, Liza thought.
In a three-star hotel a little outside the Auckland CBD, Ava had sex with a man twice her age.
"You’re so beautiful," he said repeatedly.
In response, Ava threw him coy looks, staring him dead in the eyes while she moved forwards and back, one hand pressed against the wall. She moved languidly – it was a performance, after all.
The man, Jason, stared at her with unveiled desire. Ava sometimes felt conflicted about this. On one hand, it was empowering to know that Jason, a wealthy tech CEO, wanted her. He also paid her $400 per hotel-stint, $150 to accompany him to fancy restaurants, and $200 to sit next to him and watch Netflix. That was nice. At the same time, Ava felt slightly weird that a 56-year-old could have sex with a 21-year-old and not feel like a creep. Why couldn’t he just fuck women his own age?
But the money was helpful. Ava used it to pay her expenses so she’d have less student loan. And besides, Jason was a rich, white, CEO. He didn’t need the money. If he was prepared to pay her large amounts for doing something she sometimes did for free with random strangers anyway, she might as well take it.
"He’s a rich, white man," her friend Celia had said. "Milk him for what he’s worth. Consider it wealth redistribution."
As a socialist, Ava could get behind that. She did wonder whether she was just rationalising so she didn’t feel like she was a prostitute. Not that there was anything wrong with being a prostitute. Ava always found herself catching her thoughts.
There’s nothing wrong with this, she reminded herself as Jason’s fingers prodded at her clit.
Jason was actually a nice person. Polite. Funny. And not bad looking. Some would call him a silver fox. He would be a catch if he were 25 years younger and a little taller. At least he, unlike many of the men looking for sugar babies, wasn’t married.
Just "too busy to find love," he’d explained to her, when they’d met at a cocktail bar on a Thursday evening. It was a good arrangement. They’d been regularly fucking for the past three months and Jason loved pleasing her. He was actually better with his hands than any of her three boyfriends.
The days of romantic love-making had long passed for Naomi and Charlie. Once upon a time it had been good, although it was hard to tell as Charlie shuddered into orgasm without any apparent pleasure. Their face was shiny with sweat. It grossed Naomi out. She hadn’t come for months, but also didn’t feel any desire to.
She remembered how it used to be. The excitement of sex, the repeated urges to press her body hard against them, to be subsumed by them. Now, sex was a mere means to an end. Now, Naomi got annoyed at Charlie when they didn’t feel like doing it.
"I thought you said you also wanted a child," she would accuse.
"I do! You know I do. But this . . . it’s exhausting, don’t you think?"
It was true. The couple had been trying for a child almost daily for nearly a year. At the beginning it was purposeful, enthusiastic. It made their sex feel useful rather than like an alluring escape from life, which is what it used to be. But as the months had dragged on, it became worse and worse. Now, neither of them bothered trying to pleasure the other. Now, it was the child-attempting equivalent of a dunk and run.
Their conversations had also got worse. Out of their seven years of being together, this last year had caused the most strain. Between doctor appointments, fertility clinic visits, full-time jobs, and bad sex, they stopped talking.
Before, the two of them talked non-stop. It was a healthy relationship, not just good sex although there was a lot of that too.
"I’ve been thinking," Naomi said. Charlie was still limp inside her.
"Yeah?" Charlie responded, their voice slightly hoarse. They used their hands to press into the bed, gently pulled out and rolled off of her. The bedsprings creaked slightly as they settled on their back.
She imagined replying: I think our relationship is over. She knew they wouldn’t fight for it. That they were as tired as she was.
"Never mind," she said instead. "I think I’m going to take a shower."
In her mind, she was being pressed against a hotel room wall by a faceless stranger.
"I want you so much," she breathed against the stranger’s neck, feeling hands fiddling against her bra strap. She stuck her tongue inside the stranger’s ear and moaned slightly.
Her eyes stayed shut while she envisioned it , her pointer and middle finger sliding her clit around in slippery circles, her breathing growing shallow. The imaginary scenario escalated: the imaginary girl started going down on her. The real Jess arched her back and orgasmed.
Jess loved that moment, the rush of pleasure through her lower body and chest, the sudden spike of sweat. Her heartbeat was fast, hard. Sometimes her feet tingled.
During the day, she sometimes thought about it and felt slightly wet. It was funny: when she first started masturbating to girls she used to feel so guilty about it. Now, she realised that there was nothing wrong with it. She always looked forward to it, would switch off her bedside lamp and lie down.
Next week's short story is "Speaking in Tongues" by Hawkes Bay writer Shelley Burne-Field. The story has been shortlisted for the world’s most global literature prize, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.