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"That's where people are truly naked." And so – gurning or beatific– they are.What is at once most brilliant and terrible about sex is its capacity for self-exposure.
Someone's particular fetishes may be less knowingly laid down: the thumbsucker who yields to more graphic oral fixations; the squirming schoolboy who grows up ever hankering after a walloping; the News of the World journalist who goes hard at the prospect of a Mosley in uniform.And yet, in practice, sex is rather akin to dancing: something physical and exuberant that makes most of us look like arses.Tinseltown intercourse certainly packs a terrific bang for its buck: so many tastefully lit montages of deeply meaningful acrobatics.(What was sex like before celluloid, the post-modern citizen wonders, before orgasms become as platitudinous as Meg Ryan herself?) Back in the real world, we may dress for sex, hanker after it, thrill and scheme, but the reality is that the fist slamming, raw-faced, ululating meeting-of-minds-as-bodies phase can be frustratingly short-lived.A century on, the vernacular take on such dependency was more spade-calling, the afflicted deemed "cock-struck" or "cunt-struck". Something bestial crawls under the skin, rendering us moony, jittery, distraught and rhapsodic.
Overnight we have the energy for a range of behaviours we would hitherto have strained to accommodate: Herculean erotic feats, the trading of interminable biographical detail, cavernous sleep deprivation, texter's finger, shagger's groin.Somehow intercourse makes us feel as if we are revealing something at the very core of our beings; even if at this core lies merely more play-acting.Sex is the most resplendently subjective experience, which implies there is a subject, or so the logic goes.Consummation, as set down dispassionately by the Oxford English Dictionary is "the action of making a marriage or relationship complete by having sexual intercourse"; from the Latin verb consummare, uniting con- (altogether), with summa (sum total), the feminine of summus (highest, or supreme).An end, then, that may be no less a beginning and a lofty one at that, ripe with connotations that the act itself should prove consummate.As the American writer and wit Anita Loos decreed: "Sex, which has been acclaimed by too many misguided poets as an utopian activity, seldom attains that status in the human race." Like life, it has a tendency to be nasty, brutish and short, which may or may not be exactly how one likes it.