Writer: Lydia Strohfeldt Artist: Naiya Sornratanachai
I’ve always envisioned the end of the world to be incredibly sexy: me, smoky-eyed and sweaty against an incandescent background, wrapped in the arms of someone resembling Adam Driver. This rugged lover uses their last moments of life to finally admit the clitoris is, in fact, the powerhouse of the orgasmic cell, and not something they saw on PornHub that “worked for their ex”. As I whimsically exhale a super-profound quote from Audre Lorde, an array of erotic catastrophes sprawl across the land: volcanic eruptions, earth-shattering trembles — the whole world collapses into an exhausted abyss.
Alas, one can dream.
The saddest part of this fantasy is that Melbourne has literally witnessed an earthquake to top off these past two years of doomsday-ish events — but the experience of having a cis man confess his sexual shortcomings to me? Well, that might just be the only thing truly unprecedented at this point.
Which brings me to the core of whatever story I’m trying to craft here. It’s one of crisis, collective despair, of how our silly little bodies have clawed to feel connection while physical touch has lingered in exile. As social fabrics have watched their threads morph into tripwire, skin — once a merchant of desire — has bent its knee to disaster.
In short, at what has felt like (and sometimes literally been) the end of the world, sex has become far less about pools of lava engulfing my super cute bare bottom, and more a matter of, well… “don’t you dare bloody touch me”.
It wasn’t always like this. I remember stepping out for my first post-breakup, pre-Covid date in early 2020. Perched atop Father’s Office in Melbourne’s CBD, he ordered a Corona from the bar, which a few months later would’ve unveiled some degree of wit. We laughed and made excuses to unnecessarily graze one another’s palms, forearms and thighs. I’ve never been able to use the word chemistry with a straight face (repression, perhaps?), but there was a definitive mixture of timing, anticipation and, in hindsight, temporariness that made that evening feel like a forecast — it seemed it would be the first of many.
He was lovely, but it fizzled out as the restrictions ramped up. Little did I know, while our worlds shrunk to a 5km radius, parts of my body were also becoming forbidden territories. With such little space to store my thoughts, they went stir-crazy and dug up the insecurities which prevented me from feeling the slightest bit sexy. I’d spend hours just wandering around my own mind, until my flashlight would fall upon past sexual and romantic experiences I’d never seen so starkly before. It was ugly.
I argue that the pandemic has not acted alone, though. Let’s call it: The Four Horsemen of the Sexpocalypse, those being COVID-19, climate change, Trump supporters, and that compulsory toxic relationship in your early twenties that masquerades as a rite of passage.
In coalition, these forces have become the moat; my sexuality, the fortress.
Sex drive, or perhaps more poignantly, eroticism, often feels like the deepest reflection of who we are — the final say on our confidence, alacrity, freedom and passion. I sense it mapping my body, traversing the latitudes and longitudes of what I’m deeply yearning for. Without it, I’m all scattered coordinates and a suspended ‘X marks the spot’.
I didn’t think I’d be channelling the Liberal Party’s approach to sex education at the ripe old age of 23 (chastity belt, anyone?), but the eco-socio-cultural-political-medical-fantastical-antithetical-WHATEVER-ELSE-you-can-possibly-think-of calamities of the 2020s have proven they can break down and burn out just about anyone.
Let’s just hope the next cataclysmic event of our lifetimes is a lot more Lara Croft, and a lot less “oh cute, what Oodie is that?”.