In the thirty-five years I’ve been fucking, I’ve had a wealth of bad sex. There have been men who rubbed my breasts like jinn would appear. Lovers, male and female, who would slip beneath the covers, take the token lap, and pop up like whack-a-moles. Men who mistook stamina for artistry, speed for skill, and my patience for pleasure. Threesomes that were blinding in their shared solipsism. Fucking is a lot like poetry. Sometimes it’s epiphanic; sometimes it’s merely boring. Other times it’s just awful.
I had one lover who said, more than once, “I’m not used to women who need foreplay.” I had another whose feet smelled like the scraped leavings of a cheese cave. Another lover refused to kiss me, and lay there passive as an anesthetized sand shark. One, when I was very young, very new to fucking, complained that my pussy got too wet.
There was a man—and we were together for years—whose lips were so soft, so tender, and so pliant that I wanted to smack his face with rage. One man could come only from prolonged, gagging, intense, nose-flat-to-his-pudendum oral sex; he was a one-trick jackass. One woman lay like a princess on a pillow, inert and pretty, mouth agape and perfect petal pink cunt, like a blinking sex doll. Bad sex can sit in biology as in bad destiny; it is the simple mismatch of bodies. The one cock that’s too large, the one that’s too small, the one that’s too straight, the one that arcs wild as an errant tennis lob. The highlights of the biological blooper reel, the forgotten tampon, the anal mishap that’s best left to fecund imagination, the Rorschach splotch of jism in the eye.
More than poorly matched bodies, bad sex is a lack of connection, the feeling that, as you insert tab A into slot B, no one is home. Bad sex is kinks that line up close, but no Freudian cigar. Bad sex is a sheer want of skills, a wanton ignorance, and a foolish fierce adherence to the tried and untrue. Bad sex can happen with someone you loved, after the love has left and all there is in its place is hollow habit. It can come from scents that repel, in parts that don’t fit, in styles that clash, in syntax that jars. Like shit, bad sex happens.
And like shit, bad sex isn’t something people want to talk about. We might tell the tale of the fuck that went so operatically south that it came over all carnivalesque. But the long months or years of desires unfulfilled, the itches unscratched, the patience worn thin, the tubes of lube emptied—these are the tales that go untold. These are the tales that wear at the fabric of the self.
For bad sex doesn’t just lead us to manual distraction; it also leads us to wonder if it’s us. It takes two to tangle, and sometimes you begin to wonder if the problem is not he, not she, but me. An unrelenting diet of bad sex—and even not flat-out see-you-in-the-funny-pages bad, but just sex that’s lame—is a soul killer. It will leave you in a sexistential crisis.
A few weeks ago, I’d an assignation with this seriously fine man, a long-fingered Italian with a shock of black hair, a big broken Roman nose that called to be popped whole in my mouth like a plum, skin like an almond, and a slow, sleepy smile. I’d found him toothsome for years. Sixteen years my junior, he was all about sweet, sweet meaning-free sex. I went on this date intending to fuck this man senseless.
But when he had me undressed, my whore’s panties off, my breasts sprung free from my bra, my stockings and garter belt and black boots still on; when he lay on his hardwood floor, his cock shiny with want, I looked at him. “Climb on,” he said. I looked down at that Italian pastry and I decided not to fuck him. I made a choice based in my own experience. No more bad sex. Just no. I gathered my clothes and my dignity and left.
No more boring sex. No more lame sex. No more disconnected sex. No more close enough to perv for government work. No more obligatory fucking that brings shards of pleasure. Nevermore.
Because what bad sex ultimately teaches us is what we are worth, and what we are is cosmic. We, you and I and all the glorious erotic bodies swirling in that glowing vortex of perversion are no more than the sun and no less than the stars, and our bodies coming together should clash by night with great big bangs. And fucking, in all its infinite dirty glory, in all its animal keening rutting, in all its kink and all its think and all its magnificent stink, should always tell you at its root, in its clit and cock and asshole, that life is good.
And ultimately the lesson is this: You are not your bad sex, or your brutish lovers. You’re better than your last bad fuck. I know I am. Learn from the bad, let it go, and welcome the great.
- Chelsea Summers