Whether you’re quarantining with a new partner, just went through an awful breakup — but are still stuck living together — or are stuck in the isolation blues, it’s likely that whatever your sex life was pre-pandemic, it’s pretty different now. Maybe, like me, your months in quarantine have been replete with fluctuation – beginning with a time of passionate, consuming sex with a beloved, followed by periods of agonizing sexual and emotional separation, and then frosty post-breakup months spent wondering if you’d forgotten how to masturbate. Maybe, if you really are like me, your body is just waking up as if from a long sleep, the pain subsiding enough that you can finally ask: How can I get off without risking giving COVID to my housemates?!
After hours of scrolling through tinder with zero intention of meeting anyone and of scouring the internet for porn I actually enjoy, I found myself turning to a long familiar form of pleasure: language. So whether you’re looking to spice up your quarantine sex life or you’re just trying to keep your twin bed a little warmer as we head into autumn, look no further than these cliterary classics:
from “When the Beloved Asks, ‘What Would You Do If You Woke Up and I Was a Shark?’” by Natalie Diaz
“Be-loved, is loved, what you cannot know is I am overboard for this
metamorphosis, ready to be raptured to that mouth, reduced to a swell
of wet clothes, as you roll back your eyes and drag me into the fathoms.”
Here is a poem for if love comes to you as an act of submission, of offering yourself completely to a dream or to a lover. Here is a poem for if you ache for acts or for imagery that you fear to speak aloud. Here is a poem for letting go, for emptying all reticence and allowing yourself to be drowned in sensation…
from Henry and June by Anaïs Nin
“I love her for what she has dared to be, for her hardness, her cruelty, her egoism, her perverseness, her demoniac destructiveness. She would crush me to ashes without hesitation. She is a personality created to the limit. I worship her courage to hurt, and I am willing to be sacrificed to it. She will add the sum of me to her. She will be June plus all that I contain.”
If you’re longing for a Paris romance or craving a will-they-won’t-they love triangle where each party is overwhelmed by feverish desire for one another, then Henry and June just might be your perfect fantasy. If your journal is spilling over with lust and you’re yearning for a relationship where fucking feels like creating art and creating art feels like fucking, then Anaïs Nin will bring a flush to your cheeks and a tingle to between your thighs, so check out your local library or indie bookstore and read on…
from “Ode to Masturbation” by Ocean Vuong
is the cumshot not
of chewed stars
If you’re looking to revel in your aloneness, to celebrate and embrace your body and all the pleasure you are capable of giving and receiving in it, then here is a poem for you. Just lie back on that mattress, light a candle, and turn on that Steamy Solo Spotify playlist. Trust that your eyes know just what to read and your hand (or toy) knows just where to go…
from The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
“Sabina took the camera from her, and Tereza took off her clothes. There she stood before Sabina naked and disarmed. Literally disarmed. Deprived of the apparatus she had been using to cover her face and aim at Sabina like a weapon. She was completely at the mercy of Tomas’s mistress. This beautiful submission intoxicated Tereza. She wished that the moments she stood naked opposite Sabina would never end.”
If you like a little humiliation mixed in with desire, then you’ll feel like Milan is speaking directly to you. If you find yourself glancing in the mirror during moments of passion, or wishing for a stern voice to tell you what to do, then you’ll be smiling a secret smile to yourself as you turn the pages, staring off into the distance just a little bit wistfully…
from “These Hands, If Not Gods” by Natalie Diaz
“Have they not burned
on the altar of your belly, eaten the bread
of your thighs, broke you to wine, to ichor,
to nectareous feast?
Haven’t they riveted your wrists, haven’t they
had you at your knees?
And when these hands touched your throat,
showed you how to take the apple and the rib,
how to slip a thumb into your mouth and taste it all,
didn’t you sing out their ninety-nine names.”
A poet of queer and universal longing, Natalie will remind you of the power of touch, of a coupling between gentle caress and relentless grasp. If you’re looking for sex that seems to come as an act of creation, that unwrites and then writes again the world, then feast to gluttony on this poem and praise again and again the power of her words…
from “God is an American” by Terrance Hayes
“I still love words. When we make love in the morning,
your skin damp from a shower, the day calms.
Shadenfreude may be the best way to name the covering
of adulthood, the powdered sugar on a black shirt. I am
alone now on the top floor pulled by obsession, the ink
on my fingers. And sometimes it is a difficult name.”
If ever you’ve felt overwhelmed by the shared anatomy of arousal and love, then this poem is guaranteed to speak to you. Whether you are flipping through the pages of memory or feeling the intermingled joy and sorrow of giving yourself fully to another person, then this poem will be as looking in a mirror. And if you believe that love gives both oxygen to the lungs and breath to fire, then “God is an American” has been waiting for you…
e.e. Cummings is a student at Cornell University. Comments can be sent to email@example.com. Sex on Thursday runs every Thursday this semester.
Milan Kundera: https://www.buffalostreetbooks.com/book/9780060932138
Terrance Hayes: https://www.guernicamag.com/three_poems_1/