Woodynessby Brandon Edmonds, illustration by Jason Bronkhorst / 10.06.2010
I couldn’t, you know, perform recently. The hydraulics down there failed. She was too drunk to care, almost immediately rolling over and snoring to beat the band – but I was left to page through my entire erotic history, picking out triumphs to re-build my shattered sexual confidence. Which took about four seconds. Then I fretfully listed all the contributing factors to this instance of flaccidity: several glasses of red wine, beers, countless cigarettes, anxiety over performing well which became, as it turned out, a self-fulfilling prophecy, plus the Gulf oil spill, the tumultuous state of the Greek economy, Bafana Bafana’s lackluster attacking qualities, and my own mortality. No wonder hoisting the old petard was troublesome. Too much on my mind.
The excellence of Mark Wahlberg’s turn as well-hung porn stud, Dirk Diggler, in PT Anderson’s great family drama, Boogie Nights, lies in how little is on his mind. He’s an air-head. That air-headedness somehow enables him to re-do takes immediately after he’s climaxed. Retaining wood like a beaver. Sex is pure mechanics essentially – playschool level logistics, this goes in here, okay good, now move your hips like so. The great lovers keep it simple. Don’t over-think it, don’t make too much of it, and don’t forget to enjoy it. That robotic washed out faraway look men in porn tend to get when doing the business is not dissimilar to the look that would cross my uncle’s face when sanding down a table, a part-time carpenter, he’d go off to his Zen island of pure craft, of familiar technique, taking his mind blissfully out of the equation of the task at hand. The key to good sex, the mechanical aspect of it, I mean, the brute fact of remaining hard, and having the control and sensual acumen to reach the holy grail of mutual orgasm (never happened yet, but I’m holding thumbs), must lie in this ability to disappear into the physical act, to set the neurotic claims of consciousness aside, and simply… fuck.
Women are exempt somewhat from the forbidding rigmarole of wood. Of course, you need to ‘get wet’ and so on, but there are lubricants and sprays, there’s the frontier recourse of spit; men, on the other hand, are on display – men live in the commanding shadow of the phallus, it must stand proud or else she’ll tell her friends and they’ll tell theirs and, soon, you’ll be known throughout the land as one of the noodle-dicks. A fate worse than being bald, broke or bedeviled by bad breath.
Problem is I find it very, very difficult to refrain from mindfulness. I place a high value on remaining conscious and calculating in most circumstances. This has worked in life. I’ve never been duped. I’ve never been crossed. I’ve been able to hold my own against minds more expensively educated, better traveled, more content, against people with lives far more accomplished than my own. There are only two aspects of life where mindfulness (which we’ll take to mean self-consciousness, hyper-awareness, sensitivity to social dynamics, and so on) has proven a liability, apparently linked in the minds of women, one a suggestive analogue of the other: sex and dancing. My mind gets in the way of both. The first results in occasional hydraulic failure, the second in avoiding recording equipment at weddings. The last thing you want is permanent footage of your own ineptitude.
Which brings us to Viagra. While not as important as the pill, ultimately, here is a drug that accomplishes a similar grace essential to good sex: it removes cause for anxiety, it allows the body to take over by stilling the querying mind. It gets you to my uncle’s Zen island of pure technique. It also gives us an outstanding example of how life works in late capitalism. The removal of mindfulness through slowly evolved technique, the steady accumulation of experience, is how experts used to be minted: you’d have to work at being good at something. Now pills speed you to self-mastery. The mind doesn’t matter. It’s quelled by anti-depressants or sparked by enhancers. The body obviously doesn’t matter either: it’s integrity is easily toyed with – see the litany of doping outrages in professional sports. Drugs are obviously also so much a part of nightlife because they remove the dreary everyday self, its dull habits of mind, from the weekend imperative of fun. Viagra, and all the other less legal chemical compounds, are such colossal money-spinners as anything that lessens mindfulness and distances us from the sad reminders of the human condition, the crushing psychic weight of a limp dick, say, has a market.
Things went much better in the morning.
Image © Jason Bronkhorst