Nyla Matuk

Tell It To Me Once Again

Recently, a newspaper columnist friend who writes about relationships from the male perspective surveyed a few of the women he knows. He wanted to know what words we love to hear during sex. He also wondered if our men were vocal lovers or, on the whole, mute types. And he asked us to say, specifically, what things can be said and in which manner to get us aroused.

The song and video “Swimming in Your Ocean” by the Crash Test Dummies came to mind. Brad Roberts sings to an audience of captivated women — who show mild surprise or motherly understanding — confessing what it is like for him to be her lover. Sex is swimming in her ocean (a euphemism like any other, such as the one for giving birth: look what the stork brought); he kneels before her bounty; he hopes his seed will find purchase in her soil.

Crash Test Dummies, “Swimming in Your Ocean” (1993)

Decidedly, these are not the arousing words women long to hear, even from a man with such a deep, masculine voice.

I told my journalist friend that there is a tipping point when too many words from a man during sex became a turn off; talk should be limited to intermittent but powerful and definitely profane information; arbitrary judgments, orders and directives. And I think it’s arousing to hear just how I, as his lover, make him feel like a man. But for “seed [to] find purchase in my soil,” to “kneel before my bounty,” and to “float aloft on creams and scented lotions”? These words are not admissible in the ongoing and limitless project of arousal.

Just as bad writing makes the reader cringe, bad sex talk is deeply embarrassing to the listener. Lover, I feel shame that you fail to make even one aesthetically correct judgment in your pillow talk. But I am equally ashamed by your poetry, by your lousy prose. Perhaps bad sex talk could be included in a film like this one, on the subject of bad writing.

Vernon Lott, “Bad Writing: Trailer” (2010)

Bad writing is attributed in this film to dishonesty and falseness, and characterized as under-confidence in the idea that what you are is good enough. It makes me think of the orgasm scene in “When Harry Met Sally.”

When Sally questions Harry’s confidence that women always have a great time with him in bed, and his belief that their orgasms have always been real, it’s a nudge. Sally’s performance shows that a woman faking it isn’t nearly as hard to accept as a man deluded about his capacity to give pleasure. It’s as if he’s being told he’s going to have to work harder (perhaps with words, with something more than braggadocio) to get women aroused—that it is they who have been lying to him all this time instead of the other way around. Deflationary indeed!

Rob Reiner, “When Harry Met Sally: Trailer” (1989)

After all, if men walk the walk, they should talk the talk. Maybe it’s time they said something. Something good.

Captain and Tennille, “Do That To Me One More Time” (1979)

– Nyla Matuk

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Nyla Matuk is the author of the poetry collections, "Sumptuary Laws" and "Stranger." Her poetry, fiction, and essays have also appeared in numerous literary journals including Event, Room of One's Own, Descant, The New Yorker and Poetry Review. She has also contributed journalism on architecture and literary topics as a freelancer to the Globe and Mail and various magazines. She is editor of an anthology of poems, "Resisting Canada." For more Nyla Matuk, go here.