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ISSUE 117 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/14/2003

Sex on the hill

By Jennifer Hancock
Online Editor


Friday, November 14, 2003

Does anyone remember laughter?

Sex is one of the most important acts we perform as human beings. Some people feel they reach the essence of their beings during sex. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it’s certainly serious stuff. That said, why is so much sexual experience virtually humorless?

In some Inuit languages, the word for "sex" translates directly as "laughing together." That makes sense to me. Assuming you and your partner laugh together in other parts of your lives, why shouldn’t you laugh while loving each other?

When considering popular images of sex, it’s no wonder we’re so sexually stern. Porn stars never smile or laugh. I don’t know if they’re too busy looking at the camera vacantly or panting through the money shot, but they are essentially humorless. In fact, unless it’s a psychotic Dennis Hopper in "Blue Velvet" choking on laughing gas while indulging in fetishistic sexual behavior, I rarely see sexual cinematic portrayals of people looking happy or laughing while having sex. Most portrayals of sex reflect an overarching sense of seriousness, almost desperation. While sex can get desperate (and fulfilling sex often does), it can also get hysterically funny.

Good sex is a balancing of different tensions. Often the tensions overpower us and we end up focusing on just one, but ideally, we should play with a variety. The problem is, when you start playing with too many, things inevitably go wrong. When things go a little wacky, you better be able to laugh about it.

I can’t help but think God had a sense of humor when deciding how sex would work: "I’ve got it: we’ll put these bizarre-looking organs on hidden parts of the body and make them interact in strange ways." Brilliant. On its own, the biological absurdity of sex is worth laughing over.

Also, laughter and humor can be tension relievers. Sometimes our feelings and sensations build up to the point that we NEED to laugh about something. I’m not suggesting a mid-thrust comedy routine, but a little humor might help relieve sensory overload. In addition, sexual "performance" makes many people very nervous, and some gentle humor can ease insecurities.

Some people think that humor may negate the sacredness of the sexual act. I disagree. Healthy humor is part of any successful relationship, be it with a co-worker, a friend or a lover. Humor is a deeply effective way to communicate your feelings and state of mind with someone.

Sexual phenomenon of the week: is anyone familiar with the laugh-gasm? It is the experience of having an orgasm while laughing hysterically. Not something I’ve known personally, but a friend told me it’s amazing and encourages us all to try.

A distinction: the category of sexual humor is a rather open one. Some people fancy ironic sexual humor, others delight in the funny joys of each other’s bodies. One kind of sexual humor that is absolutely NOT acceptable is sarcasm. While it may seem funny to pretend to be really bored or disappointed, only to admit the opposite later, it’s just no good. Sex is revealing, expressive and vulnerable, and we should do all we can to communicate affirmingly with our partners.

You may be thinking: "But I always have serious sex. I feel no need to laugh. What is she talking about?" Listen: even if up to this point you’ve had essentially serious sex and have enjoyed it, at some point something will go wrong, and you may find it funny. You might as well start laughing a little now.

Sexual relationships should ideally be fulfilling in the ways personal relationships are fulfilling: supportive, expansive, respectful, playful, trusting, sensitive, and FUNNY. What happened to laughter and smiling while doing the horizontal mambo? See? Even the language of sex is hilarious. Loosen, up people. It feels good.


– For laugh-gasms and giggles, e-mail sexcolumnist@stolaf.edu. She is available for comments and questions.


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