Let’s talk about sex.
Or, rather: Let’s talk about sex and how the price of its pleasure makes for great literary conflict.
Reproduction requires that we consider it, like it or not, and exercise sufficient effort around its potential consequences. It is pleasure’s specter, a looming prospect of love.
Conception can be a hope or a threat, depending on perspective: the ache to fill a womb, the endless pondering of whether to proliferate DNA, the ritual of taking a daily pill, the midnight rummage through the sock drawer for prophylactics, the nervous wait for the stick test. Only the celibate are lucky enough to rarely consider these things, though I can’t be entirely sure of this.
But we here at Atticus Review are not celibate. We spread our seed all over the internet. As careful as we are, we still grow rounder each week. We are inexhaustible creators. We can’t seem to stop ourselves.
Mike Hampton’s “Swimmers” speaks to reproductive hope and fear, both bordering on desperation. Alternating points of view, Hampton weaves together several stories, all of which contrast the idea of self with the propagation of self, and what it means to a human identity when fertility and love become incompatible bedfellows. Gender roles shift; quiet lives unravel. Fertility is a business, Hampton reminds us, and those in the business—the nurse who takes your sample, the doctor injecting you with eager cells—have their own desires. What happens when the potential of a new person threatens the people already in a relationship? Some of the characters rhythmically swim through the process, unsure, and some dive in and take the ring. Hampton offers them all grace and patience, easily working through their intimate thoughts on the page.
And, oh: the sticky-sweet sadness of Len Kuntz’s “Naked.” Would you ever imagine a pinup model carrying a burgeoning fetus the size of her thumb in her taut, tan belly? She is more than an object: she sells sex, yes, but she also has sex, has reproductive power. There are dimensions to her that extend beyond a still photo. Kuntz wraps layers into a tiny package, and he does it expertly.
With the gratification you’ll draw from the thigh-high images in Laura LeHew’s “Nympholepsy,” it won’t matter if the sex happened or if the bliss surged and singed, contained by clothes, the clock, a warbling conscience. The “to-be or not-to-be moment” is its own prize, and LeHew is unabashed as she holds it up.
So go on and find your pleasure in this week’s issue. No protection needed here.
Photo source: BBCPSite