sex

As I mentioned recently, I've been reading Sabbath's Theater — a wonderful novel ... which is also wildly sexually explicit in some places, often in a way that made me pretty grossed out. It's about a serial adulterer and complete failure — a former puppeteer named Mickey Sabbath — who begins to have a nervous breakdown after his beloved mistress dies of cancer. Some of the suspense in the book hinges on the question of whether or not Sabbath will kill himself. For some people, I bet the fact that they are personally rooting for the arguably abhorrent narrator's downfall also creates tension.

Anyway.

At a certain point in the book, the favored mistress — a somewhat plump 52-year-old Croatian immigrant named Drenka who has plenty of paramours herself, in addition to Mickey and her husband — is describing to Sabbath, in vivid detail, the sexual relationship she is having with a young electrician who is new to town. She describes how, when they are having sex, he is like Mickey, in that he will say (as Drenka puts it): "'I don't want to come yet.' And then he says, 'Oh my God, I'm coming, I'm coming,' and then 'Ohhh. Ohh,' those big sounds he makes. And the relief, it's like they collapse almost."

I had to smile after reading that bit because it just seems so true to my experience: All men announce — in a way that sounds sort of childlike, sort of desperate, always very urgent, occasionally apologetic — when they are about to unleash themselves in you.

I always find this weirdly touching; it's a moment when men seem so vulnerable, and even kind of innocent. I always feel weirdly maternal in the moments after that, when they are spent and gasping for breath and physically weakened — like I just kind of want to pet them and tell them it's all right, take it easy.

Do I have some kind of point here? Or did I just want to talk about sex?

Well, maybe it's just that it strikes me as funny that when having an orgasm, every man is an everyman. There's surprisingly little variety.

Or do you disagree? Do Roth and I have it wrong? I mean, I know that when you settle into a more serious relationship, things change and you get to know another person's rhythms better. But I think, even then, it's fairly common that a man will let you know what's about to happen, almost as a way of making sure you're all right with his timing (or begging your forgiveness ahead of time if you're not).

What Do You Think?