Amidst the flotsam streaming out of the Kavanaugh hearing, I particularly noticed one tweet from a woman who wished to add her mite to the bulging dossier of male beastliness. She told the world that, on some bygone evening, she and a man had repaired to a motel room, and in said room said man had proceeded to masturbate on her. When they pulled in at the Budge It Inn, this woman may have been under the impression that they were simply going to consult a passage in the Gideon’s Bible, but I think it more likely that she was under the impression they were going to enjoy some “good sex.”
That it turned out to be bad sex is her cri de coeur. And at this cri de coeur, this damsel expects white knights to rise in wrath
“Saddle up and grab your lances, boys, this pistol did me wrong.”
Time was when a “damsel in distress” was a virgin in urgent need of assistance to preserve her virginity, and a “knight in shining armor” was a man who offered such assistance without expectations of carnal compensation. But nowadays, a Sir Galahad is expected to wait beneath the bug-light outside every motel room, listening for the lassie’s cry of dissatisfaction with her lunging lad.
When we call sex “casual,” we mean it is unplanned and outside the routine of a marriage or “relationship.” When I first heard the expression “casual sex” around 1970, the image of Hush Puppy shoes flashed into my mind, and the association has never entirely vanished. Young JMSmith knew from television advertisements that Hush Puppy shoes were “casual and comfortable,” and so he supposed that “casual sex” must be sex that did not need to be broken in, and that would not give one blisters or pinch one’s toes.
If young JMSmith had learned the word casual from a dictionary rather than television advertisements, he would have known that the word meant accidental, not comfortable. And if he had known the word meant “accident,” he would have associated casual sex with twisted metal, blood, and shattered glass. Casual sex would not have sounded like a pair of Hush Puppies. It would have sounded like a car crash.
If the utility of dictionaries needs further demonstration, you may add this to the pile.
An incident of casual sex is, by definition, a sexual accident. Because it is a sexual accident, we should not be surprised that policemen, paramedics and investigators are so often called to the scene. Because it is a sexual accident, we should not be surprised that the injured parties so often have liquor on their breath. Because it is a sexual accident, we should not be surprised that it doesn’t always go according to plan.
That was the mistake of the tweeting woman with whom I began. She went into that motel room with an idea that unplanned sex would proceed according to her plan. Or, to change our locution, she went into that motel room with an idea that what the libertines call “wild sex” is like domestic sex, just better.
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If I say that an act of accidental sex caused an “accident,” most people will suppose I mean an unplanned pregnancy. This is the “accident” to which a Lothario is referring when he produces his trusty condom and says, “we wouldn’t want to have an accident.” But to this “accident” in the procreative function of sex, we must add a more common “accident” in the unitive function of sex.
Sexual intercourse is a social glue, although it adheres to individuals with variable strength. Or, to put this another way, accidental sex sometimes causes only half of the couple to fall in love. That party rises from the unplanned encounter with a plan to domesticate this “wild sex” and make it into a routine. The other party does not.
The bastard child of this accident is rage, sadness and pain!
When the lad sticks and lassie runs wild, we call that lad a stalker. He is, as we say, “stuck on her,” and so he moons around hoping for another accident. I don’t suppose every stalker is a jilted lover, but the hopeless appeals of a jilted lover are indistinguishable from stalking. These hopeless appeals are pathetic, and jilted lovers are pests, but they are also a perfectly predictable consequence of widespread accidental sex.
When the lassie sticks and the lad runs wild, we call that lad a cad, or even a rapist. There is such a thing as retroactive rape, by which I mean casual sex that curdles into rape when the lad fails to call for another round. It is called “feeling used,” and it is a perfectly predictable consequence of widespread accidental sex. A lad is less likely to feel used, but if he does, no will give a damn unless he becomes a stalker.
You will notice a certain asymmetry in this program of sexual freedom. If she bids him be gone, he best be gone. If she bids him stay, he best stay. Otherwise the world will rise up to this newfangled damsel’s cri de cœur:
“He did me wrong!”