1. The hermaphrodite slug, during sex, often finds itself knotted to its partner — all slugs have both sex organs, copulation is confusing for them — and forced to double back, in a kama sutra, to chew off its own penis. It can continue to have sex, after surgery, but only as a female. Perhaps this new life is neither punishment nor release. We don’t know if the eunuch slug hopes to seize the cock of some other whole hermaphrodite, and refuse to let it go, or what happens to that sad penis left behind, excreted and unrecovered, unlike the penis on the side of the road of the famous porn star whose wife, after rape, brought a pair of scissors to their bed while he slept. He didn’t learn anything from his experience. He made a short career of his humiliation on video. But the emasculated slug, always free in the past to choose either to give or to receive, discovers, its teeth full of its own flesh, a new life as a woman.
2. We were listening to the radio in the car. “I like that line,” my girlfriend said (she later became my wife), “Taking time to make time.” I immediately thought of another song, by Sinead O’Connor, where she eagerly demands, “You don’t waste no time do you … put your hands on me.” As a man, I don’t think women maliciously invent this paradox. They are expressing what they want. It happens to be contradictory, insatiable, impossible to anticipate. It may be that women feel the same way about it. Simone de Beauvoir argues that “only in love can woman harmoniously reconcile her eroticism and her narcissism; we have seen that these sentiments are opposed in such a manner that it is very difficult for a woman to adapt herself to her sexual destiny.” There are thirteen sexes of slime mold (that we know of), and in order to reproduce, all thirteen must be convened. To me, this orgiastic model is just. But imagine the ambition, the creative horniness, of the entrepreneur who assembles this congregation. It is the New Age guru of that community of molds — who, upon microscopic inspection, look like blistered lollipops, or free-floating erections whose bulbous heads are covered with warts. This is the sexual genius of a preacher or a politician. Which brings me back around to the song my girlfriend likes: “The only boy who could ever reach me … was the son of a preacher man. The only boy who could ever teach me … was the son of a preacher man. He was, he was … oh yes he was.” I eye her with suspicion, and think of that scene from “Taxi Driver” when Robert De Niro takes Cybill Shepherd to the Swedish orgy movie. That’s what she really wants, I think. She wants me to be High Priest of the Slime Molds.
3. Anyone who has sat by the surface of a lake in the spring and waited quietly has seen the jeweled necklace of dragonfly sex. The mating wheel of the dragonfly occurs in flight, between different segments on their elongated abdomens (segment ten on the female fly and segment two of the male fly). Dragonflies like it rough, and when the species green darners mate, for example, the claws or fangs — their Latin name, ‘odonata,’ means “toothed” — of the male dragonfly may tear the female’s eyes, blinding her, or even puncture her skull. After impregnating her he then drops his useless dead emerald lover into the pond. I worry a little when, some early mornings in April or May, I go out to watch for dragonflies, because the Devil uses dragonflies to weigh a person’s soul, so the story goes, and if a dragonfly circles your head, you should expect a reckoning. The great American naturalist Aldo Leopold tells a story of canoeing down a river with his father and watching thousands of dragonflies mate, as though the air above the tumbling water had become motion itself, embodied in live electricity, gems in love with one another.
4. There is usually silence in the run up to sex, and a not knowing quite what to say afterward, though of course soon people try to have an ordinary conversation, as if, perhaps, to change the subject. There are many species of spider who feign interest in sex, beckoning their lovers with the female spider’s uniquely vulnerable posture before fucking, and then in an instant pounce on the partner, as he in haste and delight begins the mount. She wraps him up like a gift for herself and saves him to eat when she wants. In the male spider’s head, because he is wound too tightly to struggle, he whispers to himself: “She’s only playing. Soon she will release me, and we can have some real fun. Then I’ll show her what it’s like to get really fucked. I’ll give it to her like she’s never had it before.”
5. My wife came to the picnic table and said: “A bee just stung me, poor thing.” Imagine the terrible pleasure of the hive when the bee releases her poison in the sting: all the sex, millions of years of tension, thrust out in that knife stroke, that kills the little, soft, brown and yellow victim of her own weapon. She thrusts it in — at long last, release, after a life of lust, the burn and itch to strike, freedom: does she know, before she even tears herself loose, what it is to be lifeless? The high singing of the hive then is like the song of Medea: her first child dead, more on the way.
For Olivia Judson