by Lisabet Sarai
I’ve been dreading Helen’s topic, “Laughter and Sex”, because, unlike most subjects, I don’t have much to say about it. I’ve never been the sort of person who could make others laugh – in the flesh or in my writing. When I was a kid, my brother and sister would tease me about my lame attempts at making jokes. “Lisabet made a funny!” they’d crow. Their ridicule should have made me reluctant to keep trying, but I really wanted to elicit chuckles rather than groans. Somehow, though, with all my degrees and my half-century of world experience, I have never quite mastered that skill.
Helen, on the other side, can be hilarious when she wants to. (She can also write heart-breaking, breath-stopping stories that are deadly serious.) Take for example, her recent tale “Over the Rainbow” in the Erotica Readers and Writers Association Gallery, in which a bored and weary immigration official encounters a highly irregular prospective immigrant. If you’re not familiar with her Cynical Woman cartoons, you’re missing some of the funniest commentary on a writer’s life that you’ll find on the web.
Okay, I’m cheating. It would be too easy to write about Helen, or all the other authors I know who do understand how to make sex humorous. I really don’t. In my entire ten years writing erotica and erotic romance, I’ve produced exactly two pieces with some claim to be funny. The first is “The Shadow over Des Moines”, an erotic H.P. Lovecraft parody which has never been published. The other is “Stiff”, a tongue-firmly-in-cheek story that originally appeared in Mitzi Szereto’s “sex and death” anthology, Dying for It. Neither of these stories is roll-on-the-floor-clutching-your-belly funny. In fact, they both depend on a certain level of specialized knowledge for their effects. They’re sort of “in-jokes”. If you’re not familiar with H.P. Lovecraft’s overblown style, you won’t understand what’s going on in “Des Moines” at all. “Stiff” will probably only make sense to authors – those of us who have struggled to smother our purple prose.
I believe that it takes a certain kind of comic genius to consistently elicit laughter. I just don’t have it. When I try to be funny, I end up working too hard, and the results show that. It seems to me that humor must spring naturally from the artist’s imagination – whether a writer, an illustrator or a stand-up comedian. Of course, since I’m not funny, I might be completely wrong. I do hope readers’ comments will enlighten me.
It suddenly occurs to me that in proposing her topic, Helen may not have been talking about sex and laughter in art, but in the real world. Aha! This I understand, at least a little. Viewed dispassionately, sexual intercourse is more than a bit bizarre. There are also ample opportunities for awkwardness and embarrassment that ultimately generate laughter. But I’d rather focus on the delighted laughter that flows from deep satisfaction and comfort with one’s partner. When you’re in love, or when you’ve just had the best sex you can remember (or even better still, both!), you float. Joy bubbles in your veins; everything is bright, beautiful, shimmering with possibility. Laughter comes easily, wells up naturally in response to the least provocation.
I’ve written about sex and laughter, in this sort of context, lovers who know each other well enough to tease and mock each other, all in play. Actually, that’s a key word, play. I mean this in the sense of children playing, not mind games or masquerades, but the light-hearted abandon that allows us to be ourselves without fear of being judged, even if that means being silly.
People in the BDSM scene often speak of “playing a scene” or going to “play parties”. My meaning is a bit different. However, I have often experienced this sort of playful interaction, laughter just below the surface or even breaking out loud, in the context of a BDSM relationship. I think that some people have the mistaken notion that BDSM is terribly serious, that it has to feel dark and dangerous to be thrilling. Sometimes. Maybe. But I’ve laughed with my master in the middle of a scene at least as often as I’ve cried.
Sneaky, aren’t I? Here I started with sex and laughter, a topic that left me completely uninspired, and brought my post back once again to one of my favorite subjects. But that was last week...
I’d love to be able to generate humor, but I really don’t want my readers rolling eyes and groaning the way my siblings did. I can at least enjoy it when other people are funny. I’m looking forward to laughing a lot this week.
Photo by Fred Askew, http://www.fredaskew.com.