Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Every night, for the better part of 2012, I would go to bed with four women at the same time. Of the four, two were nymphomaniac sociopaths, one would eventually be murdered in her sleep, while the remaining woman, Rose, was the only one who was not a figment of my imagination. Rose — my partner of seven years and the primary inspiration for the hardcore erotic, sci-fi, murder mystery novel I was writing — had no idea that I was plucking characters off the page and inserting them into our sex life.
From the day Rose and I met, our desire for each other was relentless, and sex quickly became the cornerstone of our relationship. With my Rose, I finally found comfort in a sexuality that was previously too unstable and overwhelming. Our great, weird, incendiary, soul-widening sex inspired me to write a story about the necessity of embracing of sexual positivity as a means of attaining world peace. But, the writing process was bringing chaos into my relationship.
I would show Rose passages I thought were particularly effective. It was a classic bait-and-switch; I seduced her with the erotic energy I had harnessed from writing scenes. Once our clothes were off, Rose would become a kind of sentient prop. I couldn’t help it — there was no way I could disconnect from the story.
Foreplay to her was research for me. A piece of me played the cerebral observer, watching our lovemaking with the same subjective fascination of a pool player watching a ten-car collision. Nothing but angles and velocity.
It got worse. I would project my characters on top of Rose’s body like live-action holograms, and she would vanish. From Rose’s point of view, I, too, would disappear into the forest of my head. She would be abandoned, forced to fantasize in order to squeeze any pleasure out of being humped by a drone.
For a while, I convinced myself that the sex was just as good as I’d written it. But, after a one-sided, somnambulistic orgasm, the last sparks of illusion faded. In the afterlight, Rose and I sat on the bed like strangers. Off was off.
I was becoming the very thing I was writing about — a sexual parasite. Giddy and selfish, I was sacrificing what we’d built as lovers for a work of fiction. The injuries were deep. It would have almost been preferable if I had been cheating with another, human woman. At least that way, Rose wouldn’t have to experience my betrayal from a front-row seat. (If it seems like I’m being melodramatic, know this: All I ever wanted was to make this woman feel sexy and powerful, and I was massively failing.)
Our pseudo-sex occurred less frequently. We began to argue over who was going to the dishes, answering each other in annoyed, monosyllabic grunts. We'd apologize for getting in each other’s way like strangers bumping carts at the supermarket. Both of us felt that something of deadly importance needed to be discussed, but knew that words alone would not do the trick.
Quitting writing wasn’t a solution. The only answer was better, truthful, more communicative sex. Sex that integrated the current problem instead of ignoring it. We discovered that somewhat clinical discussions of sexual mechanics could be potent dirty talk. I asked Rose to identify the response of each nerve and muscle like a sports commentator, and I was able to give her more intense orgasms than ever before. Instead of enlisting a cast of characters to live out intricate fantasies and fetishes, we purchased vinyl and ropes and eliminated any last remainders of fear of judgment that might stand in the way of being truly, beautifully naked.
It was not always spectacular. There is no such thing as making love in a vacuum. The incessant drone of clocks, responsibilities, and small frustrations that have accumulated over the course of the day can build into a pandemonium of distraction.
Of course, I put it all in the book. All the hideous ugliness of taking and betraying, the mundane, merciful kindness of momentary release. And, most of all: The spectacular conversation of bodies that makes being alive so damn sweet.